How Do Adopted Cats Adjust?

Make your kitty's major life change as smooth and easy as possible.
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Adopting a new cat into your home is a major commitment, and one that isn't always easy as pie, as wonderful as that would be. Some felines adapt rather seamlessly into new surroundings, while the process might be significantly harder and longer for others. Change is hard on some kitties.


Most cats thrive on habit, as a general rule. Everyday routine and felines go together like peanut butter and jelly. Because of this, adopting a new cat into your house is often a tough situation. Whether your cat is leaving a no-kill animal shelter or a previous owner's house, the transitional process is often stressful. However, all cats are individuals and not all of them respond to unfamiliarity in the same exact way. Some cats may bounce back to their old selves within hours or less. At the other end of the spectrum, it could take others weeks or more to get their bearings.


Time is key for feline adjustment to a new place. The organization PAWS recommends that all new owners allot their adopted cats a few weeks to get used to all of the scary newness. Don't expect your cat to be acting like a perfectly relaxed lap cat instantly, even if she was on her finest behavior during your initial meetings. Keep your expectations realistic right after you bring a cat into your home.


To make adjustment as easy, smooth and natural as possible for your kitty, PAWS advocates confinement for the first couple of weeks. During this important time, it's vital for your new pet to get used to you and to develop positive and comfortable associations of you, whether due to food, petting or even the soft tone of your voice. Since your kitty understandably may be timid and fearful at first, make a point to keep all of your windows and doors securely shut and locked if possible. Also make your cat as comfy as possible in her confined space. Give her a cozy bed, toys, scratching posts, food, water and perhaps even a sweater with your scent on it.

Other Household Pets

The presence of other household pets is frequently a source of tension and discomfort in newly adopted cats. Because of this possibility, it's very helpful to keep new additions isolated from other pets for the first few weeks. Your new cat will likely adapt better if she's allowed time to grow and learn in a comfort zone, at her own pace. Cats with seniority in a home are often threatened by newbies and may try to intimidate your new cat -- the last thing you want during the fragile introduction process. After a couple weeks, once you feel your new cat is becoming used to her situation, allow her to meet your other pets. Closely monitor the interaction, however, and keep a barrier between fluffballs if possible. If you notice even a hint of aggression coming on, separate all pets and try again in a few days. Try to get all of your cuties as relaxed as possible before the meeting. Perhaps try using a handful of tasty treats for calming purposes.

Frightened Behavior

Behavioral issues are the name of the game during the adjustment period. Don't be shocked if your cat hides behind your refrigerator for 8 hours at a time. If you notice any of this behavior, "speak" to your kitty in a calm and relaxed manner. Getting a cat to trust you often is a slow process, one that requires a lot of love, patience and -- you guessed it -- yummy food. Take things slowly and remember that all felines are made differently. Even if your first cat never had a problem with major change a day in her life, that in no way means that your second will respond in the same way.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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