Introducing a new cat to your home is an exciting experience for pet owners. However, adapting to a new environment can be challenging for cats. So, how can we ensure that our feline friends feel safe?
There are numerous strategies to make an anxious cat more comfortable in their new surroundings, such as providing hiding spots, utilizing pheromone sprays, considering the vertical space of your home, and strategically placing water bowls. Continue reading for our 7 straightforward steps to achieve a more relaxed and content cat.
Why Doesn't My Cat Feel Safe?
We perceive our homes as secure spaces. They are shielded from the elements, warm, and filled with our belongings and loved ones. However, do cats share this perspective? Why would a cat feel unsafe in a home?
While cats were domesticated thousands of years ago, they still possess traits inherited from their wild ancestors. Cats are highly territorial, and being introduced to an entirely unfamiliar environment can be frightening.
Cats also heavily depend on their senses, and adjusting to the smells and sounds of their new home can take time. For some cats, particularly rescues or strays, adapting to a domestic environment can be even more challenging.
Factor in other pets, people, noises, and the general bustle of everyday life, and it becomes apparent why new pets might face stress.
Indicators Of Stress In Cats
All pet owners want their animals to feel peaceful, secure, and content. While our cats cannot verbally communicate their struggles, they can certainly exhibit signs.
Here are some key indicators of stress in cats:
- Excessive meowing or vocalizations
- Fearful body language: crouching, puffed-up fur, wide eyes, swishing tail, hunched posture
- Hiding away
- Eliminating outside the litter box
- Scratching at inappropriate surfaces
- Hissing, scratching, biting
How To Ensure Your Cat Feels Safe
As a cat enthusiast, I have compiled my top recommendations for providing everything necessary to help your new cat acclimate and feel secure.
1. Preparation Is Key
Ideally, assemble everything your new cat requires before bringing them home.
Create a secure room equipped with their necessities and resources before your new pet arrives. You don't want to be rearranging furniture to accommodate a litter box or rushing out to buy new food bowls while your cat is attempting to adjust.
2. Designate Their Own Area
Cats benefit from a smaller space to become familiar with as they adjust to your entire home.
Cats are territorial, and being placed in an unknown area with no familiar scents or locations can be stressful. Giving them a dedicated safe space is crucial for their sense of security. This could be a room, a snug den, or a secluded corner where they can be alone and comfortable.
3. Hideaways And Perches
Cat trees with hidden spots are excellent for cats feeling uncertain in new environments.
Cats often seek refuge in a safe area when they are scared, unsure, or unsafe. For a cat, elevation provides security, allowing them to escape predators and observe their surroundings from an advantageous viewpoint. Providing accessible perches, cat trees, or shelves for your cat will foster feelings of safety.
Numerous hiding spots throughout your home, such as a cat bed or even a cardboard box in quiet areas, offer retreats when things become overwhelming. The option to hide has been proven to decrease stress in cats.
4. Essential Items
Keep food dispensers and water fountains separate from the litter box.
Most pet owners understand the necessities for their cats: food, water, litter trays, beds, toys, and all the fundamental elements of cat care. However, carefully considering the placement and accessibility of these resources can greatly impact your cat's perception of their environment and their sense of safety and security.
For example, cat food should be placed in a wide, shallow dish to prevent the cat's whiskers from touching the sides. Food and water should not be too close together, and bowls should be positioned so that your cat doesn't have to turn their back on their surroundings while eating, which can make them feel vulnerable.
Provide multiple litter boxes in different, quiet locations. The litter boxes should not be near food and water sources. To learn more, read about optimal litter box placement.
If you have more than one cat, ensure that access to resources such as food, water, and litter trays is not being limited by other cats, and that there are sufficient quantities of each.
Cats find comfort in knowing what to expect each day.
Cats appreciate routines! They enjoy familiarity and predictability, with events occurring in the same manner and at the same time. Establish a routine with your cat, scheduling feeding, grooming, and playtime so that your cat knows what to expect, which in turn helps them feel secure.
6. Enrichment Activities
Playtime is an excellent opportunity for bonding, and it stimulates your cat's mind and body.
Providing mental and physical stimulation through enrichment activities can reduce stress in cats and help them bond with you while feeling more comfortable in their home environment. Gradually introduce new items such as toys, puzzle feeders, catnip, and interactive games to keep your cat engaged and occupied.
Building a strong cat-owner bond is vital for a fulfilling relationship and for helping your cat feel safe and comfortable in their home.
7. Consult A Professional
If your cat isn't adjusting well within a few months, or if their behavior or other symptoms are concerning, seek professional help.
We must always be vigilant for signs of stress or illness in our pets. Some stress symptoms, such as aggression, vocalization, inappropriate toileting, and hiding away, can also indicate health issues, such as:
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Urinary problems
If you're concerned about your cat, it's always a good idea to schedule a checkup with a veterinarian. If medical causes are ruled out, but you and your cat continue to struggle with stressors, the next step is to consult a behaviorist who can offer expert assistance. Always choose a certified cat behaviorist consultant, and be prepared for the fact that resolving behavioral issues may require time and patience.
In conclusion, following these 7 simple steps can significantly help your cat feel safe and secure in their new home. Be prepared, provide your cat with their own space, offer hiding places and perches, and carefully consider the placement of resources. Establish a routine, introduce other pets and people gradually, and engage your cat with enrichment activities. Utilize pheromone assistance when needed, and seek professional help if necessary. By taking these steps, you'll be well on your way to creating a calm, comfortable environment for your feline friend.