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Introduce a Cat to a New Home: This is How it Works!

  • 14 min read

A cat is coming into the house as a new family member or a move to a larger apartment or another city is imminent: what you should know to successfully introduce your new cat to a novel habitat.

The best tips for getting your cat used to a novel habitat

10 tips for a young new cat

1. Take a vacation: Take a few days off to help your cat settle in.

2. Cat Rest Room:  Prepare a “cat quiet room” that is initially locked and where she has time to discover everything without hustle and bustle and get used to the new smells. Create a cat-friendly atmosphere.

3. Pick them up with a transport box: Place it in the prepared “cat rest room”, open it and wait.

4. Let them choose their own pace: She should decide for herself when she leaves the transport box, how quickly she wants to explore her new home and also how much cuddles she wants to receive. Don’t overwhelm them. Don’t worry, if she wants to play or be petted, she will voluntarily seek your attention.

5. Avoid loud music and restlessness: Make sure the atmosphere is relaxed and calm. Also ask children present to give the cat “their” time.

6. Increase their range of motion: Once the cat has successfully settled into its “cat quiet room”, let it gradually explore the entire apartment or house. However, before her freedom of movement is increased, she should clearly feel comfortable and trusting towards those around her.

7. Cuddle and play: Cuddling and playing can shorten the adjustment period: take time for your cat and play with it. Cat toys can work wonders when it comes to getting used to it.

8. Change affects cats: Your kitten may eat less for the first few days. Don’t worry, this is normal. But observe their eating behavior. Offer her lukewarm, easily digestible bland food several times a day. If your cat eats little or hardly anything for several days , other causes could also be responsible.

9. The litter box trick: If you bought the cat from a breeder, have them give you some old litter for the new litter box so that the litter box smells like its old home. This way she will find it and accept it more quickly.

10. Arrange food, water bowls and litter boxes: Your cat has successfully settled in and is now roaming all over the house and apartment? Now you can gradually move the food, water bowls and litter boxes to the places where you would like them to be.

Kitten sitting on sofa
Source: Elanco

5 tips for an older cat

1. Cat rest room: Prepare a place for her in the novel habitat: As with settling in a young cat, it makes sense to prepare a “cat quiet room” where she can get to know her new surroundings and the new smells in a relaxed manner.

2. Get them used to a transport box in advance: This gives her enough time to prepare for the move.

3. Better to start with old furniture than new ones: Getting used to it is easier with old, familiar cat furniture that is arranged in a similar way to the old home. Don’t buy everything new right away. Cats are creatures of habit. Better one change at a time than all at once.

4. Toys: Don’t forget to take her usual toys with you. This will help her adjust more quickly.

5. Give it time and take your time: This means nothing stands in the way of a relaxed move and your cat will quickly get used to its novel habitat.

Checklist: This is what the cat relaxation room should look like

Every cat needs a cat relaxation room to help them get used to their new home. Keep these 5 things in mind when setting up this special room:

  1. Create a cat-friendly atmosphere with climbing and scratching opportunities. Let your cat have some fun
  2. Make sure that there are no poisonous plants in the room or household.
  3. Clear the window sill to give her the opportunity to observe her surroundings. Let the cat enjoy the environment while sitting in home
  4. So that she can find her way around more quickly, it makes sense to choose rooms with few hiding places.
  5. Food, water bowls and cat boxes should be available in their “new kitten kingdom” at the beginning.
Cat's relaxation room design
Source: Kritter Kommunity

Checklist: Your cat’s first time out in the new home

A novel habitat always means a new territory for the cat. Before you let it outside for the very first time, the cat’s adjustment phase to its novel habitat should be completely completed. Periods between at least 4 and 8 weeks are recommended . If your cat has previously been an indoor cat, you will need a little more time to get your cat used to going outside .

Otherwise, there is a risk that the cat may return to its old home, because cats are equipped with a particularly strong sense of direction . Going outside for the first time can be just as nerve-wracking for cats as it is for their owners. Follow this checklist when your cat goes outside for the first time:

  • Therefore, make sure that she can return to her home immediately if she is afraid.
  • Just let them out for a few minutes at first and increase the length of time day by day.
  • The early afternoon is ideal for the first outdoor activities.
  • Don’t give her too much to eat beforehand, so that if she does get the urge for adventure, she returns to eat in the evening at the latest.
  • Your cat should also be healthy, vaccinated and, ideally, already neutered.

Moving with your cat – the adventure of changing your place of residence

Cat or kitten are very loyal when it comes to their territory and do not like to leave their familiar surroundings. It is not uncommon for a free-roaming person to start looking for “her” house after moving. One thing is undisputed: moving means even more uncertainty and adjustment for cats than for humans. But with a few tricks, the change of scenery can be easy for everyone involved.

What should I consider when moving with my cat?

If you have ever moved, you know the inevitable stress: all the household goods are cleared out and packed, nothing is in its usual place. In addition, there are countless preparations that you take full advantage of. Many self-confident cats take part in the moving process with as much interest as if they wanted to get involved themselves. For sensitive or fearful cats, the hustle and bustle can often be threatening: familiar things disappear little by little, the territory looks different every day, people are excited and nobody has time to play and cuddle. It’s clear – an apartment that is currently being moved in or out is a crisis area for many cats.

Cat looking inside the cardbox

Take action before your cat panics, accidentally packs things up while exploring the moving boxes or completes the chaos with protest reactions such as uncleanliness and aggressiveness.If possible, send the cat on vacation during the hot moving phase. A change of location is always stressful for a cat; This also applies to temporary accommodation in a foreign environment. However, it is still the lesser evil. A short stay with friends or in a cat boarding facility takes away the additional worry about your cat. If it is not possible to relocate the cat, it is best kept in a separate, already cleared out room such as the bathroom on the day of the move. Equip the room with food, basket, toilet and toys.

How do I prepare the new environment?

Once everything in the new apartment has been unloaded and at least mostly put away, the cat can come along.Prepare the cat’s arrival well:

  • Fasting day:  On the day of the move, the cat should only be fed sparingly so that the excitement does not upset its stomach. Of course, this does not apply to very long moving trips.

  • First visit: Pick up the cat personally from its makeshift quarters and explore the new apartment with it.

  • Calmness and patience: Especially if there are many kilometers between the new and old place of residence and the cat has had a long car ride or plane ride, you should first prepare a place for it to retreat to in a room that has already been arranged, in which it can acclimatize.

  • Familiar inventory: Make sure that all of the cat’s utensils go with the move. Moving is the worst possible opportunity to renew your cat’s equipment. The cat absolutely needs familiar objects and smells.

  • Furnishings: If possible, arrange the furniture you brought with you similar to how it was in the old apartment. This means the cat has familiar clues for orientation.

  • Company: Leave the cat alone as little as possible in the first few days after moving. Cuddle and play with her a lot, even if your time is short at this stage.

  • Stock up: Make sure that food and cat litter are already available at the cat’s new location if there is not enough time for shopping in the first few days.

Why do cats return to their old apartment?

Cat owners who have moved in the local area often report that their outdoor cats stubbornly try to return to their old house. If the move took place within a few streets or kilometers, i.e. an area that the outdoor animal knows well from his trips, it is actually difficult to make him understand that he belongs in a different house from now on. The cat’s motivation is clear: once it has occupied its territory, including the house, it must continue to check and walk through it regularly before another member of its species “invades” it. For this reason too, it is important to initially prevent outdoor animals from going on excursions for a while.

How long should the cat be “grounded” in its new place of residence?

Cats that are to continue to enjoy freedom must spend at least four weeks in the new house without going outside. This is necessary so that the animal internalizes the new environment as its base territory and does not try in vain outside to find the old house again. It is ideal if the cat is used to wearing a  harness – this way you can first explore the surrounding area together at your new place of residence.When the cat is finally allowed outside alone again, change the feeding time to once a day when she returns. This is how the velvet paw connects location and supply. Limit the exit time: After a long walk, the cat should stay in the house for a while. Keep registration current with the microchip or tattoo with the new address.If the new living situation no longer allows freedom of movement, ensure that the tiger is sufficiently occupied by providing plenty of employment opportunities, but expect persistent protests.

The cat doesn’t eat, hides or seems disturbed: what to do?

Sometimes changing clothes is just too much for cats: the kitty is not “itself” and exhibits strange behaviors. For example:

The cat doesn’t eat: This isn’t a problem for healthy adult cats for one to two days, as long as they drink. If the refusal to eat lasts longer, you should go to the vet.

The cat hides: This is also normal after the excitement of moving. There are very shy cats that need weeks before they can move around safely in their new surroundings. If you have the feeling that the cat is otherwise doing well and is eating and drinking, give it the time.

The cat appears disturbed:  panting or piteous meowing are signs of stress. Make sure the environment is as quiet as possible and give the cat the closeness and peace it needs. If extreme signs of stress persist for more than a few days, seek veterinary advice.For very restless cats, scent plugs with pheromones can  help them get used to their new apartment. The vet can advise you on this.


Q: How can I introduce my new cat to my home?

A: When bringing a new cat home, it’s important to set up a designated “cat room” where they can feel safe and gradually introduce them to the rest of the house. This allows your cat to adjust to their new environment at their own pace.

Q: What steps should I take to let my cat adjust to a novel habitat?

A: To help your cat adjust to a new home, create a safe and comfortable space for them, such as a quiet room with their essentials. Gradually introduce them to the new surroundings and provide plenty of reassurance and affection.

Q: How can I make sure my new cat feels safe in their new habitat?

A: Make sure your new cat has access to hiding spots and high perches to help them feel secure. Additionally, provide familiar scents and objects from their previous home to ease the transition.

Q: What should I do if my cat seems hesitant to explore the new space?

A: It’s important to give your cat time to adjust and not force them to explore. Encourage them with treats and toys, but allow them to approach new areas at their own pace.

Q: How can I introduce my new cat to my resident cat?

A: When introducing a new cat to a resident cat, start with scent swapping by exchanging blankets or toys between them. Gradually allow visual and supervised physical introductions in a neutral territory.

Q: Should I keep my cat in a carrier when bringing them to a novel habitat?

A: Using a cat carrier can help keep your cat safe and secure during transportation. Once home, it’s best to release them in their designated “cat room” to minimize stress.

Q: Is it uncommon for cats to experience behavior problems when adjusting to a novel habitat?

A: It’s not uncommon for cats to exhibit behavior changes, such as hiding, hissing, or avoiding food, when adjusting to a new habitat. Patience and reassurance are key during this transition phase.

Q: How can I make sure the cats in my household get along when introducing a new cat?

A: When introducing a new cat to a home with existing cats, provide separate resources, such as litter boxes and feeding stations, and monitor their interactions closely to prevent conflict.

Q: How can I allow my cat to explore the novel habitat while keeping them safe?

A: Gradually expand your cat’s access to different areas of the home while ensuring that windows and doors are secure to prevent escape. Supervise their exploration to ensure their safety.

Q: When is the right time to allow my cat to go outside in the new habitat?

A: It’s best to wait until your cat has fully adjusted to their new home before allowing them to explore the outdoor environment. This helps prevent them from becoming disoriented or attempting to return to their previous location.

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Hamna Nasir is a dedicated cat lover, avid traveler, and accomplished author. Born and raised in the bustling city of San Francisco, Hamna's education journey led her to Boston where her interests expanded and intersected in unexpected ways. Hamna's ontent explores a multitude of topics, from preparing your cat for its first trip and choosing pet-friendly accommodations to understanding feline behavior in different environments. Her first-hand experiences, love for storytelling, and unwavering commitment to enhancing the bond between cats and their owners have earned her a devoted following. Her insights have been celebrated by pet lovers, adventure enthusiasts, and travel bloggers alike.