Whenever we send a kitty off to its forever home, we recommend that the adopter start the kitty off in one, small room. The reasoning behind starting the kitty in this one room is for it to be your “buddy room”—where the kitty can get to know you for the first few days until you have become buddies.
Additionally, when you adopt a kitten from Cat Tales, it’s almost always coming to you directly from a foster home. And the majority of fosters keep their kittens in just one room. So, you also don’t want to overwhelm a kitten that has spent all of her life in just one room. You want to start her out in a very similar living space.
Why the Bathroom, Though?
It’s preferable that this room be one without large furniture that the kitty can hide under, where you can’t get to it. Because most regular homes don’t have many rooms that fit this description, we always suggest that this room be the bathroom. We know that doesn’t sound like the warm, inviting, comfy haven you want to provide for your new furry family member. But, it’s the most practical. A bathroom is small enough and won’t have a bed and dresser that your kitty can crawl under.
We do recommend that you provide a deep cat bed, or a hut type bed, or even a small cardboard box or two for the kitty. This way, she won’t feel totally exposed and will have a “safe place” to hide in if she needs it. But, you can still easily get to her to pet her when she’s ready.
When You First Get Your Kitty Home
In our experience with bringing home new foster kitties, the best approach is to bring them into their new room and let them out right by their litter box, so they see where it is. Then, it’s best to just leave them in their carrier with the door open if they are afraid to come out and just leave the room for a while to let them come out and check out their new digs on their own.
It might be your instinct to stay in the room and try to make them feel safe and loved. But, while you may already love the kitty, it doesn’t know you yet. Especially if the kitty is frightened, it will feel safer to explore the new surroundings alone. You want the kitty to get familiar and feel safe to move about the buddy room. If a kitty is particularly shy or frightened, you might leave it for several hours so that it will feel comfortable coming out of hiding to use the litter box and eat.
On that note, don’t be concerned if your kitty doesn’t eat much the first day or two. Cats have sensitive stomachs and when nervous or stressed, they often won’t eat much or at all.
Especially Important for Kittens
There will certainly be some kitties who are more fearless and adapt very quickly to a new home. But, even if they are bold, it’s still important to introduce them to the new home a little bit at a time, especially for a kitten.
Imagine being a tiny kitten who has lived her entire life in just one room in her foster home with her food, litterbox, and her toys all within sight. Now, imagine her going from that to suddenly being uprooted from that little world where everything is nearby and familiar to an entire home where everything is new and different and unfamiliar and spread out.
We suggest you start them in the bathroom until you feel the kitten has become familiar with you and comfortable with you and the surroundings. This usually is a couple of days, but you need to just be in tune with the kitten and how quickly she is acclimating and don’t rush it.
Items for Your Buddy Room
You can certainly include other items, but here is a list of things we suggest that you have in the Buddy Room for your new kitty.
- Litter box with pad underneath to catch litter that gets tracked out
- Food and water (keep these as far away from the litter box as you can in the room)
- Deep pet bed something like this or hut/tee-pee style cat bed something like this
- Scratching pad or post something like this
- Small cardboard box that the kitty can play or hide in
- Toys that the kitty can play with on it’s own when you aren’t in with her
- Especially if your new kitty is shy or scared, consider a Feliway diffuser
- If you have other pets you will be introducing your new kitty to, after the first day, you could put a bed or blanket that pet has been sleeping on in the room for your new kitty to start getting familiar with your other pet’s scent.
Moving Beyond the Buddy Room
Once you feel the kitten is ready, you can use baby gates or other type of barrier to allow the kitten to explore the area just outside that bathroom, at her own pace. And then incrementally as she adjusts, expand that territory a little more at a time, ensuring she always remembers how to get back to the buddy room where she knows how to access her litterbox and food.
Let the kitty explore her new territory at her own pace until she’s fully familiar and confident with her new home.
What Happens if You Ignore This Advice?
It could be fine if you just let your new kitty loose with freedom to roam over the entire home right away. It wouldn’t be the first time and adopter ignored our advice of starting out with a buddy room. However, it’s really not a risk we think you should take, because we’ve also heard a myriad of stories about the negative outcomes of not heeding this advice.
We’d like to think that all the adopters we approve want the best chances of successful integration of their kitty into her new home. We make this recommendation of starting out with a buddy room because it offers the best chance at a smooth transition. We approve applicants because we feel they have good instincts and know good advice when they hear or read it. They selected to apply for a Cat Tales kitty because they have trust in our organization and therefore trust our advice.
From our many years of experience, we’ve seen some of the ways things can go very wrong when adopters don’t heed this advice. For example, some of the negative outcomes we’ve seen are:
- Litter box issues
- Kitty won’t come out from under the furniture for days
- Undo stress and resulting behaviorial issues
- Safety issues
- Negative interactions with other pets or small children
- Trust issues
Introducing Other Pets
A related issue we will discuss in detail another blog post soon is introducing your new kitty to your other pets. For now, we will simply say to not rush that and allow your new kitty the time it needs in the buddy room to get comfortable before starting that process, as it adds a whole other aspect that can cause stress to your new kitty as well as your established pets.
Just take it all one step at a time. Remember, you have your kitty’s whole, awesome life ahead to share in.