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Dear Doctor - Looking for ways to transition cats into her home

Relocating cats into a new home

[From Tufts August 2011 Issue]

My neighbors have two domestic shorthaired cats, ages 10 and 14. I have taken care of them in the past, in their own homes, when my neighbors have gone on vacation. Now my neighbors have both retired and want to travel more, planning to be gone for months at a time, and want to find a new home for their cats. 

My 16-year-old cat died in March, so we have agreed to “adopt” the cats. Do you have any suggestions about easing the transition to a new environment? We have no other pets and no children. I did clean the carpets after my cat died, so hopefully any “cat scent” will be lessened. The two cats are in good health, even though they are senior cats.

I would guess the transition will be harder for older cats than younger cats. Obviously, we will keep the food the same, the litter the same, and their feeding schedule the same. Can you think of anything else we should do, or problems we may encounter? Thank you in advance for any advice. We are planning to make the move this fall.
Charlotte Strub

Dear Charlotte: Based on your description, I believe the transition to your home should proceed quite smoothly. You do not mention any issues with litter box usage, timid temperaments or aggression. Both cats are already familiar with you and they will not have to contend with competition from other pets in your household.

In addition to maintaining the same diet, feeding schedule, exercise regime, using the same litter and litter boxes, I suggest you also retrieve their favorite toys, perches and scratching posts when they move into your home. Set aside specific play and interactive time so the cats learn when they can look forward to your company. You’ve probably already planned on this.

For the first couple of days, you might keep both cats confined to one cozy room outfitted with all their needs until they acclimate to the sounds and smells of your home. Spend time with them in this area and provide food, treats, petting, play and grooming — whatever constitutes pleasant experiences for them. After that, I suspect you can quickly give them free access to your home.

Good luck with the adoption. What lucky cats and neighbors to have you available to provide companionship and shelter during the cats’ golden years.
Alice Moon-Fanelli, PhD, CAAB
Certified-applied animal behaviorist
Animal Behavior Consultations, LLC
Brooklyn Veterinary Hospital, CT

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