INTRODUCING A CAT TO A NEW TERRITORY
AND THE IMPORTANCE OF CONFINEMENT
When introducing Kitty into a new home, all cats need time to adjust to their new space. Make the adjustment period shorter by allowing Kitty to become accustomed to her new home slowly. Cats are territorial by nature, and their first priority in any situation is establishing and understanding their territory. Only once they are comfortable in their space can they feel comfortable eating, drinking, resting, and eliminating.
Kitty's safe space should be a small, quiet room such as a bathroom, small office or large walk-in closet. The room should not have any hiding spaces such as under the bed, or behind a bookshelf. Kitty shouldn't be pulled out of hiding to interact. That will just get the visit off to a bad start. However, provide Kitty with an acceptable hiding space by tipping a box on its side and putting a towel inside. Many cats also like cat cozies or tee-pee style beds.
Kitty's room should be set up with a litter box on one end of the room, and food, water and bedding as far away from the litter box as possible. Kitty should be given some safe toys with which to play and should be given visits while confined to this space. Start off slowly when visiting Kitty. Don't do too much petting or interacting until she has had some time to settle in. Sit in the room and watch if Kitty will approach. If not, offer her a hand to sniff and try some gentle face pets. Give Kitty frequent breaks and work up to more handling. Be patient and remember, the more love, the quicker she will adjust.
Confinement is especially crucial for shy or fearful cats as they may be overwhelmed when moving into a new home. This is very normal behavior. However, if Kitty is fearful by nature, it will be even more terrifying for her to be in an unfamiliar space. Given the free run of the house, a scared cat will often bolt around, looking for a safe place to hide. Many cats injure themselves running into furniture or walls in a panic. They may also hide somewhere unsafe, such as under the stove or inside a reclining chair, and stay hidden for several days. These cats may forego eating, and even urinate or defecate in their hiding space. A safe room will allow Kitty a small space where she will feel secure, and will also make her more sociable. The less she is worried about her territory, the more social she will become. By providing Kitty with a cozy or box in which to hide, she will feel safe.
Kittens also benefit from an initial confinement to a small room or even to a large cage/crate. This will provide time to kitten-proof the rest of the house. When left alone, a smaller kitten should be confined for three reasons:
1. It reinforces good litter box habits
2. It prevents accidents where the kitten might injure her/himself
3. It means no more searching for kittens hiding from view
When moving Kitty into a new home, it is best to confine her to a safe room before and after the move. The more Kitty is prevented from being exposed to the chaos of people and all things foreign in her new home, the better. If startled, there's a good chance Kitty might slip outside when doors are left open. Be sure movers know there's a cat inside or place a sign on the room in which Kitty is located.
Eliminate any chance of escape when transporting Kitty to her new home by placing her in a secure carrier while she is still in her safe room. In the new house, again give Kitty a safe room to adjust to before allowing her full access of the house.
Put a collar and identification tag on Kitty with name, current address and phone number. Even if Kitty isn't allowed outside, this is still a good idea because there's always the chance Kitty might slip through an open door or window and become lost. There are collars made especially for cats with a short piece of elastic. These break-away collars can be buckled snugly around Kitty's neck, but will stretch and let her escape if she should become hung up on a tree limb or fence. The first time a collar is placed on Kitty, provide her a new catnip-filled toy at the same time. The toy will distract Kitty's attention from the odd feeling of wearing a collar and by the time she's finished shredding the toy, she may have already forgotten about the collar.
When bringing Kitty into a home with resident kitties, Kitty should be confined to one room for a few days, or even weeks. This allows the resident cats and Kitty to get to know each other by scent and accept each other's presence without having to see each other face to face, which can be a very threatening experience for any cat.
For some cats, the confinement period will be only a few hours; for others it might be several weeks. Don't mistake one signal for readiness. Even a very scared cat may meow or scratch at the door for attention. This alone doesn't mean Kitty is ready to explore more space. The important thing is not to rush Kitty into being exposed to more space than she can handle. Be sure the following has taken place first:
· Kitty is performing her natural functions: eating, resting, grooming, using the litter-box
· Kitty is responsive, petting and playing
· Kitty is comfortable with normal activities in the room, and is not afraid
· Kitty is showing interest in leaving the room
When possible, expand Kitty's territory slowly, especially if she's fearful. Close all the doors to bedrooms and allow Kitty to first explore the hallway and rooms that don't close, such as the kitchen and living room. If at anytime Kitty seems overwhelmed, return her to her safe room for a few hours and try introducing her to the rest of the house later.
Don't feel bad about confining Kitty at first. It will help her relax and adjust to her new
surroundings much quicker. The sooner Kitty adjusts, the sooner she will have full run of the house, and the sooner she will feel comfortable in her new home!