How To Help Your Older Cat Settle In

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A newly adopted adult cat needs time to settle in a strange new environment. It will be more cautious (and less destructive) about this than a kitten and requires a few weeks to adjust. Be gentle and be consistent about applying house rules during this settling-in period. Regardless of their age, cats are adaptable creatures and a cat’s reaction to moving into a new home is related to its personality not its age.

When you bring your older cat home, make sure it knows where the litter tray is and use a litter that it is familiar with, such as the one used by a previous owner or the rescue shelter. Cats are generally clean creatures and most accidents are due to a cat not being able to find the litter tray or not recognizing an unfamiliar litterbox. Keep the cat in one or two rooms to begin with and when you do move the litter tray to its permanent place, do so by moving it a few feet at a time over a period of days so as not to confuse the cat.

Don’t feed too many rich foods or gourmet treats early on. The cat has enough new things to contend with and feeding a plain diet will prevent stomach upsets (like humans, cats can suffer “nervous tummies”). There will be plenty of time for treats later on.

The cat will need time to explore your home and may be shy at first. Spend time alone with it, offering small bribes, to build up its confidence. Make sure your house is secure and escape-proof and allow the cat time to explore on its own. Some cats complete their initial explorations after only a few hours, others take days or weeks.

If you already have other cats, don’t expect them to make friends instantly. Introductions between pets must be done gradually in a supervised environment until you are certain they will get along without fighting.

If you intend to your older cat to be an indoor-outdoor pet (this is more common in Britain and Europe compared to the US), make sure it has settled down indoors before introducing it to the outdoors. Though older cats are more home-centered than kittens, the move to a new home may be confusing. It must be kept indoors for several weeks, even if it shows interest in going out. Make sure it is wearing an elasticated or break-free collar and an address tag in case it does escape. It is unlikely to deliberately run away, but it may panic and become lost. Initial trips outdoors should be supervised and you may wish to use a cat harness and leash for extra safety. If his first trips outdoors are before mealtimes he is not likely to wander far before returning for food.

Many owners prefer to keep their cats indoors away from traffic and other outdoor hazards. Older cats may be less able to cope with certain outdoors hazards and a safe outdoor environment is not available to all cat owners. A less energetic older cat is more likely to accept the indoors-only restriction than an active and playful younger cat. Many older cats like to spend much of their time indoors even if they have access to a garden. If your cat is to be an indoor cat, provide him with a scratching post so that he can exercise his claws; some toys and a pot of grass for him to chew.