The good news is that younger kittens are able to adapt relatively quickly to new environments. If everything goes well, the kitten should adapt to the new environment within anywhere from one week to one month or more – depending on his temperament.
Remember that cats suffer from stress and anxiety just like humans do. Stress factors, such as changes in the environment, will take their toll on your newly adopted kitten and may lead to behavior problems.
Keep in mind that the kitten has just experienced a move when adopted from a different home or from a shelter. This is why moving with a kitten is different; you need to consider the fact that more moves equal more stress for the pet. Because kittens are fragile, they can develop serious health problems quickly when faced with stress.
You probably have to use the car to transport the kitten to the new apartment. Car rides are frightening for cats, especially if they never rode in a car before. This is why it is very important to make the kitten feel as safe and comfortable as possible during the car ride. Make sure the kitten is not frightened and not overly stressed during the ride to the new home. It is never a good idea to let the kitten loose in the vehicle, as he may try to hide in places where you may be unable to reach him.
Cats also often experience motion sickness, so they may feel anxious and even vomit in the car. This is why it is safer – and more comfortable – to place the kitten in his carrier. Kitty will start meowing and may attempt to get out of the carrier. Talk to him in a soft voice and make sure the kitten knows you are right there. A relaxed kitten may even fall asleep after some time.
Give the kitten his own space (initial territory) for a few days to a week. A small room, a bathroom, or even a larger closet is perfect for the initial space. All you have to do is place the litter box, the food and the water in his little space. The kitten will feel safe there and will start exploring the new environment knowing that he has a safe place to run back to in case of problems. Felines feel at ease knowing that they can quickly return to safety.
The first thing you need to do when you prepare the new apartment for the kitten is to place his litter box somewhere private. If possible, put some of the kitten’s old litter in the new litter box, as his own smell will ease a bit of the tension. In addition to the litter box, make sure there is food and water in separate bowls. The food and water should be placed far away from the litter box.
Get some blankets or items of clothing that have the kitten’s smell on them from the old home and place them in the new apartment. If the new apartment smells familiar, the kitten will settle more quickly. Smell is one of the most important senses in a feline. Finding his own scent in the new environment can help the kitten calm down.
Don’t expect miracles though. The kitten will still need time to explore all the new areas. However, you will notice that he will spend more time in areas that have his scent. It is not unusual for kittens to sleep only on specific pieces of clothing that they know and that have their smell on them.
Also, keep in mind that his old toys are very important. Take them with you and place them around the environment. Known objects that kittens associate with positive feelings will make them more comfortable. Your kitten may even start to play with some of his toys as soon as he finds them.
Your kitten will start exploring the new environment. He will meticulously explore every corner, every shelf, and every piece of furniture. Kitty does not know what dangerous objects are or that some substances may be harmful. It is your job to make sure the kitten is safe in your new home.
Any opening to the outside world, such as doors and windows, will eventually attract your kitten. Make absolutely sure he cannot get out.
Make sure you store small objects and sensitive items safely because your little feline friend may bump them off the shelves and break them. Also, ensure there are no dangerous items in the apartment. This means you need to check for hazardous substances, poisonous plants, loose wiring, etc.
The fireplace is also a danger for cats until they learn that it is not a safe place to play in. And whatever you do, never underestimate a curious kitten. Kittens are able to open cabinets and can fit in the most impossible places. They are also drawn to open windows, and love to climb curtains and get into all kinds of boxes.
Kittens are very energetic, so don’t take any chances with them around potentially dangerous places, objects or substances. Keep in mind that kittens are very fragile; unpacking heavy things with the kitten around your feet is very dangerous for the little fur ball!
Beyond the initial safe room, make sure Kitty can always get to a spot all his own where he can feel safe.
Cats like small places to hide; they feel safe there. The little feline should have a small, comfy place where he can retreat when he feels anxious. You can use the cat carrier or a box with a hole in it for this purpose. Make sure it is warm and cozy inside his little refuge and place it somewhere he can reach easily.
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In some cases, the kitten will refuse to use the box or carrier for sleeping purposes. He may prefer to sleep under the couch or inside one of your closets. This is normal, as cats instinctively choose the places where they feel most secure. Let him sleep wherever he wants and don’t force him into the box or carrier if he doesn’t want to go in there. Otherwise, you risk alienating the kitten and forcing him to associate the carrier with negative feelings; he will avoid it at all costs.
Have you noticed how cats tend to climb up to high places? They do this because it makes them feel safe. Kittens instinctively know that it is less dangerous somewhere high than it is on the ground.
What’s more, vertical space increases Kitty’s living area – always a good way to decrease stress. If possible, purchase a cat tower or otherwise arrange for some tall areas for your kitten to climb to.
Moving to a new apartment is very stressful for your feline friend, so you need to be patient. It is very important to not force the cat to do anything he does not want to do.
When you release the kitten in the new apartment for the first time, let him do whatever he wants. Just open the carrier and let the little fur ball exit on his own. If he wants to remain in the carrier for some time, you should let him do so because it means he feels safe there and that he is not yet prepared to go outside it.
Even if you may not like what the cat does or how he reacts to the environment, do not shout at him or make him feel frightened. He is already very anxious, so don’t give the kitten more reasons to be fearful. If he wants to hide under the sofa for some time, that’s OK. If he wants to meow, let him do it; he will eventually get tired and start exploring the surroundings.
As stated previously, cats feel safe around their owners. An exception to this is a recent adoption, where the kitten has not had time to form a strong bond with his new owner. This is one reason for you to spend as much time with him as possible, especially during the first one or two weeks after the move.
The other reason is safety. You won’t know how well you kitten-proofed your new home until you see your kitten spending time in it.
The younger the kitten, the more closely you’ll have to supervise him, even more so in a new environment. Kittens are curious, energetic and yet very fragile. You have to monitor Kitty’s movements to make sure he doesn’t get into serious trouble.
Because the move to a new apartment is so stressful, it is important to understand that your kitten will be anxious and frightened for a week or two. Whatever you do, do not add other stress factors. This is not the time to bring in a dog (even a puppy) or get daily visits from your friends and family.
During his first one to two weeks in his new home, your kitten must be allowed to feel safe. If there are other family members in the apartment, make this clear to them as well. Small children don’t understand the stress the kitten is going through and may accidentally frighten or startle him. This will only prolong the time it takes for the cat to adapt to the new environment.
Never punish your kitten, not even by spraying water. Read here more about why you should never spray water on your cat.