Introducing Your Cat To Your New House

Introducing your cat to your new house

So, the movers have gone. The visitors who brought a casserole for dinner have gone, and the house is quiet. You, your family and your cat are finally in your new house.

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The Safe Room

If you haven’t done so already, you need to set up your cat’s safe room. Think about what’s happening in the house for the rest of today and the next couple of days. Perhaps the laundry would be best? Or what about one of the bedrooms? It needs to be a room that is not in the hustle and bustle of unpacking, and the door needs to be able to be closed.

  • Close all external doors and windows.
  • Look for potential hazards for your cat. If you’re not using the chimney, it might be an idea to pile some packing boxes in front of it. Frightened cats have been known to climb into a chimney. Also check for indoor plants, which may be poisonous to your cat. And are there any pest control traps?
  • As you are going about your unpacking, keep in mind small gaps where your cat may hide, such as behind the washing machine. This was the place of choice for my Mum’s cat, Cordelia. The safe room was the laundry. She was quite safe behind there, and we kept checking on her until she felt confident enough to come out. If your cat chooses a spot such as this and they are quite safe, don’t try to force them out. They will come out when they are ready.
  • They will need their bed, food, water, toys and litter box in their safe room.
  • Give the room a spray with a synthetic facial pheromone, such as Feliway. Spray at "cat height", which is about 8 inches.
  • They will also appreciate somewhere to hide. You could leave a wardrobe door open, or they might like to sit under the bed. Also, leave the carrier in the safe room in case they want to return to it to feel safe.
  • You or one of your family can then let your cat out of the carrier in the safe room. Open the carrier door and allow him or her to come out when they are ready.
  • Have a seat and chat to them. Allow them to investigate the room. You could even place some treats around the room to encourage some exploration.
  • When they choose what they think is a safe spot to sit, they just need a bit of time to adapt. Leave him or her in the safe room.
  • Come back now and then talk to your cat. Let them hear your voice, especially if they are in hiding. Offer some food, but they may not be interested yet.

Getting Used To New Smells

Cats judge everything by scent. Their world consists of different clouds of smells. If the former occupant of your house had a cat or a dog, those clouds of aromas would be very obvious to your cat. Your cat needs to smell their own scent to get them started with their adjustment to the new house.

Get an old sock and place your hand inside. Rub your cat’s cheek and then rub the sock on doorways and furniture at a level of about 8 inches. When you see your cat rub on these surfaces, they have claimed this as their territory.

Letting Your Cat Out Of The Safe Room

  • Allow your cat to decide when they want to leave the safe room. You’ll know they are ready when they start to do normal things, such as eating.
  • Introduce your cat to the house one room at a time. Keep an eye on them and let them hear your voice.
  • Preferably stick to the same routine with your cat as you had in your last house. If that is not possible, start the new routine from day 1. Cats pick up routines very quickly.
  • Leave the safe room set up until you feel your cat doesn’t need it anymore. Put a second litter box where your cat will regularly use it in future. Keep the litter box in the safe room until they are happy using the regular litter box.
  • Cats are generally great at associating uses of rooms with their owner’s behavior. If the cat doesn’t get the idea of where the regular litter box is, keep the cat in the area of the house where the litter box is so they can get used to it.
  • Once again, your cat will pick up on your mood, so keep it all light and casual. My main mood in the first few days is the relief of the move being over, so this is no problem for me. As I unpack, I do what seems normal to my cat, such as playing Eagles CDs.
  • If you had ever considered turning your outside cat into an inside cat, this might be your opportunity.

Letting Your Cat Outside The House

Before letting your cat outside:

  • Ensure their vaccinations are up-to-date.
  • Their quick-release collar should have your phone number.
  • It would be best for your cat to be microchipped.

Keep your cat inside for at least 2 weeks. If you cat is timid a longer stint inside may be needed. Observe your cat’s body language. Are they feeling comfortable in their new home? Do you think that they know this is their home now?

All the cats I have had were rescued, and were definitely outside cats, so it was only a matter of time for them to show the signs of wanting to go out.

While your cat is staying inside, chase away other cats that appear in your garden. Also be aware of any potential risks, such as dogs and traffic.

Here are some tips for introducing your cat to the garden:

  • Obviously, if your cat is still making use of the safe room, this is not the time to introduce them to the outside world.
  • Give your cat a gradual introduction to your garden. Give them a look through the window, a look through the screen door.
  • When you’re ready to let your cat out, do it on a day of nice weather when you’re home all day. Do it about half an hour before their normal meal time.
  • Offer your cat the opportunity to go out the door. Don’t force them, wait for them to decide.
  • Go out with your cat the first time, and be prepared for them to explore.
  • Leave the door open for a quick retreat inside if something scares them.
  • After half an hour, or when your cat decides, you can take him or her back into the house for their meal.
  • Some cats may adapt immediately. If your cat is anxious, you may need to accompany them the first few times that they venture outside.

If another cat has already claimed the garden, in the future your cat will need to take back that territory. This may involve some spitting and arched backs.

Do You Need A Cat Door?

  • Consider installing a cat flap if you own the house, or if you have permission from the owner. SureFlap is a great choice. It reads the cat’s microchip and keeps other cats and wildlife out.
  • If you are or a member of your family is home most of the time, you can let them in or out on demand.
  • Or you could leave a window open a few inches. Some windows can lock at the size of the opening that you choose for security.

The very fancy cat door when Pruney and I moved to Wentworth Falls.

My New House Story

When I moved house with Pruney, it was always my bedroom that was his safe room. I would set up his bedding underneath my bed so he could feel secure. I would have an unwashed t-shirt of mine ready to put on his bedding. Then I would put everything he needed around the perimeter of the bed, such as food, water, and his litter box. I also placed the litter box that he would be using in the future in its spot, and that was usually in the laundry.

I would then open his carrier and let him retreat to his bed. After getting down to see that he was comfortable, I would leave the room and close the door. I would start some unpacking, usually in the kitchen.

After a while, I would go to my essentials box and retrieve my sheets, pillows, and blankets. Then I would go to make the bed. They say that you should do that earlier in the day and not leave until you are so tired that all you want to do is lie down. I completely agree with that. It’s lovely to have a clean bed already made to crawl into at the end of the day.

First, I would sit on the bare mattress and chat to Pruney. Sometimes he would come out from under the bed to say hello. But usually he would stay under the bed. After having another look at him, I would make the bed and chat to him while I am doing it.

Having ensured that all the windows and doors were closed, I would then leave the door almost closed. Sometimes he would come out to explore, and other times he did not.

Pruney and I at Wentworth Falls

I would go back and forward, packing and checking on him every half hour or so. I would tempt him with this favorite food, but he normally did not want to eat. He would be sitting on his bed under my bed, staring at me, silently asking why on earth we left a perfectly good home to come here to this strange place.

At last, when I wanted to go to bed, I would turn out the light, snuggle down and wait. Within 60 seconds I would hear Pruney moving, and then he was up beside me, sitting as close as he possibly could.

My Mum came to visit me on my second day at Turramurra. Pruney was up and walking around. My bed was unmade, and he jumped up there and made himself comfortable. I rarely made my bed in those years; Pruney loved an unmade bed. Mum had a chat to him, and then we let him have the room to himself. Mum said all he needed was my things around him with my smell, and he would be fine.

After we moved to Wentworth Falls, we got to the stage where it was obvious that Pruney wanted to go outside, but he was afraid. On a Saturday morning, I put my coat on and went and stood in the cold, and left the back door open.

Pruney watched me from the safety of the back door. He slowly came outside and then he joined me, giving my legs a rub. I stood there for twenty minutes and allowed him to inspect this little section of his new back yard. Then we went back inside. After that, he didn’t mind going out by himself, but only for short trips at first.

The girls at work had been asking why I had not let him out yet. It wasn’t up to me. Pruney needed to be comfortable with the idea, and we got there eventually.

I unblocked the cat door for him. It was not a very lavish cat door – it was a not quite square shape cut out of the wooden door. It worked for us. At night I had a small piece of furniture that I would move in front of the hole in the door. That was my version of closing the cat door.

Cats are so smart. They will adapt, they just need time and consideration. Try to observe your cat, and provide support where you can. In a little while, your lives will have “a new normal” in the new house.

What's Your Story?

If you have any stories about settling into your new house with your cat that might help someone else, please leave a comment below.

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