When you get the news that your feline friend has successfully landed at their final destination, you’ll be so excited to smother them with love and introduce them to their new home—you might feel let down if they don’t act normal right away.
Try getting into the sweet little brain of your cat (or cats) for a minute! They just took quite a journey and landed at a new house or apartment with a new layout and thousands of new smells, probably piled high with boxes. They have no idea where they are now or why.
We, humans, have a leg up when getting our bearings in a new location: verbal communication. While many of our favorite movies and shows feature talking cats with the IQs of true intellectuals, we have yet to meet a chatty Salem, Cheshire, Garfield, Thackery Binx, or any of their verbal cousins IRL.
You may notice some strange behaviors when introducing a cat (or cats) to a new home. It's important to know what's normal, what's not, and how to help them settle in. They may have heightened cortisol for days from the journey, and they’re certainly smart enough to wonder, “What happened to my normal life?” New home acclimation is critical to help you and your cat get back into a trusting partnership and healthy routine.
How long can a cat or kitten get used to a new home?
We get this question a lot! The answer depends on your kitty. Are they anxious? Did they experience trauma before finding you? Did they experience trauma on this journey to their new home? Had they ever traveled a long distance before this big move?
It can take days, weeks, or even months for a cat to feel confident and secure in a new home. Following the tips in this article should help you shorten the acclimation period significantly so you and your furbaby can hit a happy stride within a few weeks of moving in. Some cats are simply more anxious—these acclimation tips are even more important for them.
Common signs of anxiety when introducing a cat or kitten to a new home:
When you first introduce your cat to its new home, you may notice the:
- Eating less or refusing to eat
- Going to the bathroom outside their litter box
- Chewing, scratching, or other destructive behaviors
These are all common signs of anxiety. If your cat isn't typically prone to these behaviors, they should subside within days or weeks if you commit to a consistent routine and introduce new stimuli slowly, one at a time.
Alternatively, these are more concerning signs that your cat may have contracted an illness while traveling:
- Ongoing diarrhea or constipation for more than a few days
- Prolonged lethargy
- Eating less or refusing to eat for more than a couple of days
Call your new vet immediately if you think your cat could be ill!
How to acclimate your cat to their new home:
- Stick to the daily routine they’re used to. Fee and play with your cat(s) at times they’re used to. Routine makes them feel safe!
- Keep their old things. You may feel inspired to buy new beds, toys, and accessories... but you should keep your cat’s familiar comforts around and replace these items one at a time.
- Create a little sanctuary and give them space. Where did your cat(s) love to retreat in (or near) your old home? Can you create a similar setup for them at your new home? Even the most social cats need alone time, and you may notice they want to be alone more while adjusting. A familiar rug, bed, or other items that smell like their previous pad will help.
- If they need to start eating new food, go slow. Keep your cat(s) on the same food after the move, if at all possible, at least for a few weeks. Adjusting to a new food can upset their stomach, especially if you’re introducing a new protein. If needed, you can find many good tips online for transitioning your cat(s) to a new diet.
- Use calming pheromones. Calming pheromones can work wonders to make cats feel at ease in a new environment. You can purchase calming pheromones either as a spray or a wall plugin. This method brings many scared cats out of hiding in their new homes!
We also recommend scheduling a visit with your new vet within a week of arrival. If you hire PetRelocation, your dedicated coordinator will remind you about this. It’s a good idea to get on your new vet’s schedule immediately to ensure your cat is healthy after their travels. They may also need vaccinations in their new home country or state.
Congratulations on the big move! We hope your kitty can settle in quickly and enjoy their new location with you.