How To Help a Newly Adopted Cat Feel At Home


Did you know that June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month? And as lots of older cats are hopefully finding their forever homes this month, we wanted to help all the new pet parents with their new cat's transition from shelter to home. If you've adopted a cat and you're wondering, "What now?" ... Well, Congratulations on adopting a new furry family member! As for the "what now," let's get into it! Here are 4 ways to help your new kitty feel at home. 

1. Be prepared 

A big step in adopting a new cat is making sure your house is prepped and ready to go when they get there. 

Cats are predators, sure, but they're also small enough to be considered prey in the wild, and their instincts tell them this! That's why many cats regard a new environment with fear, as they are unsure if there are larger predators lurking. To help combat this new environment anxiety, set up a safe space for your new kitty that will be just for them. Ensure this space, like a guest bedroom or even a second bathroom, is set up that no other resident animals can intrude. Outfit the room with all the basics: food, water, toys, and a litter box. Be sure not to place the food and water bowls next to the litter box, though.

Ask the shelter or adoption center where you got your new kitty what brand of food they were being fed, and what type of litter they were using - at least until they've settled in and you can introduce these changes slowly instead of all at once, which can be jarring to some cats. 

Make sure to include some safe, comfortable places where your new cat can hide, like a cat bed or a covered cat tree that offers shelter; there are even collapsible tunnels that allow your cat to safely hide. This will give your new cat a chance to calmly observe her new environment, through sights, sounds, and smells, from a safe spot. 

2. Take it slow

Don't try to rush things. As exciting as it is for you to have a new best friend (and a new cuddle companion), all the new sights, smells, and sounds can be intimidating and often frightening for newly adopted cats. All cats are different, of course, but you should let the kitty set the pace! When you bring them home, release them into their private kitty room you've already set up. 

Just sit quietly and watch the cat as they explore their new environment and don't try to cuddle or hug them if they're not feeling lovey-dovey. Watch them for signs of anxiety or fear, such as a lashing tail, wide pupils, and flat ears. If they're exhibiting any of these, try backing off for a bit and give your cat some space to chill before trying again. You can offer them a shirt or towel with your scent on it so they can adapt to your new smell in the meantime. 

3. Encourage bonding through treats and toys

Once you've given your cat a day or so to explore and adapt to their new environment, it's time to bring in the treats and toys! It goes without saying that a majority of cats are food motivated, but some might be more willing to explore when there's yummy food in the mix. Try hiding treats in different areas of their "room" so they're encouraged to explore and are rewarded for it. Offering your new kitty treats by hand also will help your new cat to associate you with positive things (like yummy treats!) and emotions and fosters bonding. 

Toys are another wonderful way to not only bond with your new cat but also help with stress relief. You might have to try a few toys to see what your new cat's preferences are; we all know that, like humans, cats can be notoriously picky!

If your new kitty seems to like things that "fly" or flutter, try a feather wand or teaser toy to entice them to play. A cat that seems to like to kick and bite would benefit from a kicker toy so they can grab ahold and bunny kick away!

As a note for establishing rules with your new kitty, it's important that you don't let your cat play with your hands, as this will tell them it's ok to bite and kick your hand whether you intend that or not! 

4. Keep expectations realistic

Adopting a new cat is an exciting experience - but just remember that for your kitty, it can be a bit overwhelming. Don't expect everything to be perfect straight away, or for them to be ready to cuddle 24/7. Cats are as unique as people, and each has their own personality - and their own experiences. Some cats may come from abusive or neglectful situations, making them more frightened. Some cats may be more well-adapted to handling new situations than others.

It's important to remember to be patient and understanding - to both your new kitty, and yourself! Especially if you're new to the world of pet ownership. You won't get everything purrfect the first time around. But you and your new kitty will learn and grow together! 

With a little patience and a lot of love and understanding, your new kitty will feel at home in no time at all.



  • Claudette

    Hi, thank you for this post. I got a female 1 yr 4 months, she gave birth to 6 babies on July 2021. She was getting a bit aggressive with the other cats in the house and with her own babies, so the owner gave her for adoption and I got her on January 21, 2022, first thing I did was to bring her to the VET for her to receive the basic needs and my house was ready with all kinds of fun stuff, trees to climb and other little beds in the house. But since she’s got home she’s been hiding ever since and places you wouldn’t believe, she’s the queen of hiding. I notice that, yesterday she eat, drank and used the litter box for the first time since she’s in my house. I cannot approach her, she’s not aggressive with me, she simply hide. Is there something else I should do to help her feel at home? Thank you for reading my message.

  • Meowingtons

    In response to Elizabeth zbrignoni -

    Thank you so much for caring for the cats in your neighborhood and doing all you can to help them. There are some amazing resources on Alley Cat Allies’ website that may offer some more thorough tips in trapping a cat who is eluding you:

    You may also be able to use their “Feral Friends” system to locate other TNR rescuers or organizations in your area:

  • Elizabeth zbrignoni

    Hi any advice n bringing home a two month old feral baby taken to shelter n adopting after. If you have advice on how to capture pregnant mama. I’d appreciate that too. I’ve lived here short of a year now and she gotten pregnant three time. Only two babies have made it. She’s pregnant again. The Teo that I caught she made sure they could fend for themselves n left. She’s due any day but she alluded the cages. Can’t seem to catch her. I’d love to help get her fixed n have the babies adopted n not be born outside. We’ve caught about 6 males and 5 babies all pregnant. She’s the last one now but if she gives birth before I could catch her n it’s looking that way. I’m bk to square one. Waiting for them to be old enough to catch and she just might get prego again. I fear for her life this way.
    Anything you can tell me I’d apprciate it. This is not a no kill shelter here. TNR is three hours away. 😔.

  • Larry A. Jose0h

    Thank you this has been helpful.

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