You’ve just adopted a new kitty and are excited to bring her home. You’ve been told to make a safe room for your new four-footed baby but aren’t sure you want to designate a whole room to her. What is a safe room and why is it so important?
Congratulations on the new furry addition to your family! Cats are wonderful companions, but they are also creatures of habit. Change is stressful for them. They do best with one new thing at a time.
Introducing your new cat to your home all at once is overwhelming. Creating a safe room will allow her to happily settle into her new home with as little stress as possible.
A safe room is a separate room where she can start to explore her new home, such as an office, a spare bedroom, or even a bathroom. Some people like to use a utility room; however, we don’t recommend using a utility room because noise from the washer or dryer can scare your new cat.
You’ll need to make sure she has access to bedding, food, and water as well as a litter box in the safe room. Something from her previous space, like a blanket, scratcher, or toys, will also help her feel safe.
Hiding is normal, and you should provide hiding places for her. A blanket draped over a chair or a cardboard box make excellent hiding spots. Don’t be discouraged with her hiding. As she adjusts to the sounds and scents of your home, she will start to come out. Some cats just take more time than others.
Be patient. Let her initiate contact with you in the safe room, and then add treats, petting and playtime. Pay attention to your new kitty when you interact. Your new cat may fear certain toys or not tolerate petting in certain places, for example, because of her past. Eventually she will display positive behaviors like stretching, grooming, and purring.
As she becomes confident, you can introduce her to more of your home. Ideally, you’ll want to let her explore one floor at a time.
If you have other cats or dogs, use a soft cloth to repeatedly pet one and then the other to mix their scents. Then, switch them to the safe room while she explores. This will ensure your home smells like all the animals, allowing everyone to get familiar with each others’ scents before they first meet. To a cat, this is like meeting someone over the phone before meeting them in person.
Please leave the door to the safe room open so she can return if she becomes nervous or scared. Territory is very important to cats, so they bond to a location. In stressful situations, the safe room can be your cat’s panic room, a place your cat will return to if she becomes anxious. You can put her there during disruptions in her normal routine such as a summertime home remodel or noisy parties, especially the night of Independence Day.
The safe room is also a good place for your cat to retreat to during thunderstorms, if they make her afraid. For any animal with thunder fear, it’s best to go act as normally as possible, going about your regular routine. You don’t want to accidentally reward your pet’s fear by either coddling her too much or punishing her for a very normal response to scary things.
Remember, cats can’t hold fear and play in their brains at the same time, so if you can get a good play session going, that will help calm her. Clicker play is also a good way to get her out of her fear state and what better place to do that than her safe room?
Make your new kitty’s safe room a happy place and she will probably always like being there—remember cats are creatures of habit!