I Just Adopted a Cat and Now What? (Checklist and Solutions to Common Problems)

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If you’ve just adopted a cat, then it’s gonna be an experience that you won’t likely forget. Both you and your cat(s) are going to learn a lot from each other. Some of it will be through good experiences, and some of it will be through more difficult or stressful experiences.

Picture 1. It’s a new world for your newly adopted cat. Take it slow and enjoy these moments as this is the chance for both you and your cats to discover each other.

However, no doubt, living with a cat is going to be an exciting time. Therefore, it’s important to know the next steps for both cat owners and their cats and also what to do when problems arise (and they will arise).

I always recommend that new cat owners go through an ‘after adopting’ checklist to create some structure for their cat’s life. Creating structures means introducing good habits for your cats to follow and thus, minimizing any unwanted behavioral issues that might appear later in their lives.

After Adopting a Cat Checklist

After adopting a cat, please go through this checklist to help your cat or kitten adapt quicker to their living situation and environment. This checklist goes beyond the basic physical stuff that your cat needs.

Clicking through on each point will bring you to more in-depth articles on my website to show you exact methods and reasonings for that respective point.

  1. Catification of the living area. A cat is an animal that deserves their own space to play, lounge, and navigate. The way a cat navigates and views their environment is very different than a human does. It also keeps them out of trouble by leading them away from more cluttered areas if cat owners think about it carefully.
  2. Don’t free feed your cat/kitten. A hungry cat is a cat that is malleable cat in terms of the behaviors. Cat owners can strengthen habits or relationships using the power of food – in addition to managing their energy levels throughout the day.
  3. Have a play regimen for your cat. All cats need to have a play regimen. About 20-30 minutes of play a day using some sort of interactive toy is typically enough (since outdoor cats typically hunt for about 30 minutes at a time). For more energetic breeds, more playtime and activities might be needed.
  4. Spread out scent sign-posts (scratching posts, litter boxes, blankets, cat towers, etc). A lot of a cat’s actions and their perception of their environment is affected by their sense of smell. Spreading out sign-posts is a good way of increasing their feelings of security in their surroundings since cats are naturally comforted by the scent of themselves.
  5. Cat-proof the living area (Whether it’s catproofing the office area or teaching your cats boundaries). This is different from catification, cat-proofing means to make sure that they can’t do anything that cat owners don’t want to. Wherever you might be living, there are a lot of ways that your cats can get into trouble which can cause injuries to both parties or even destroying some valuables – as such, it’s critical to keep your home as cat-proof as possible to prevent any bad habits from forming.

    Here are some more basic ways to catproof your home:
    -Block off small holes or cubbies that kittens and cats can get into
    -Put all loose items into drawers/cabinets
    -Apply sticky tape to all the places that you don’t want the new cat to scratch.

Still, deciding on whether to purchase or adopt your cat? Read: Should I Buy or Adopt a Cat/Kitten?

Common Problems After Adopting a Cat

Again, the relationship between cat owners and their cats won’t be completely smooth at all times. Therefore, it’s important to be prepared for whatever might go wrong during your time with your cats.

By following the above checklist, cat butlers/owners can minimize and prevent many of the below issues and problems.

Picture 2. Cats are habitual creatures. Tackling habitual problems can be difficult, it’s much easier to prevent bad habits rather than fixing bad habits.

Usually, however, most cat and pet owners always search for solutions after the cat has already exhibited some unwanted behavior. The situation becomes more difficult because after a cat does something once, it requires more effort to fix the habit. Therefore, cat owners have to act quickly to prevent any repeated reoccurrence of that behavior.

Below are some of the solutions for the common problems that might arise after you’ve adopted your first cat or kitten.

I Just Adopted a Cat and It Won’t Stop Meowing

Cats will meow for many reasons, and they have distinctive types of vocalizations depending on how they’re feeling or their desires. Below is a reference chart to get a general idea about the meaning of cats’ sounds. Just remember that it’s a reference, and some cats can actually make a variety of sounds that are different from the below chart.

VocalizationDescription of VocalizationMeaning/Context
YowlLong, drawn-out vocalizations with variable pitch, intensity, and tonalityReproductive, hormonal influences
ChatterJaw vibration, creating low amplitude taps or chatterDesiring prey when out of reach or difficult to catch
GrowlLow pitched, throaty growlsMild aggression and warning
ShriekShort, intense cries and yells. Hoarse with strain on the mouth and throat.Active fighting or sudden pain
Trills **Vocal garnishment, produced with some vibration or purrGreeting or desire for something
Tweedle **Prolonged chirp or tweet with some voice garnishment (like a trill) or modulationWhen something is desired
Tweet **Soft, weak chirps, very airyWhen something is desired
Common Pet Cat Vocalizations and Meows. ** Most common sounds.

A lot of the time, especially for kittens, it can be a form of separation anxiety.

If you’ve just adopted a cat and it won’t stop meowing – as long as the cats are healthy and have everything they need, sometimes the best course of action is no action at all. Invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones/earbuds or earplugs. The cat/kitten will learn meowing is not the answer to getting what they want.

More than a butler, cat owners have to be aware of how their actions might create habits. If cat owners give into meows, then it just reinforces that behavior.

For additional strategies and tips on stopping constant meowing behavior, click here to read my article!

I Just Adopted a Cat and It Won’t Stop Hiding

It’s normal for a newly adopted cat to be a bit timid and shy. As with any animal, it will take some time for cats to adapt to their environment. Before you get concerned, it really depends on how long they have been hiding.

Picture 3. Cats in the wild are both hunters and prey. They have to be comfortable in their environment before they start exploring and acting like themselves.

It will take a couple of days at least for cats to adjust completely to their new environment. Younger cats will adapt quicker than adult cats. It also depends on the cat’s socialization level; cats used to human interaction will be much quicker to adapt to their environment. Below is a useful adjustment chart based on the cat’s age and environment.

Cat TypeExpected Introduction Time (With Environmental Preparations)Expected Introduction Time (Without Any Environmental Preparations)
Most Kittens (Under 6-7 months of age)2-3 days3-5 days
Domestic Adult Cat (1+ Years)3-5 days5 days-1 week
Feral or Stray Cats4-7 daysDepending on the cat, up to 1 week+
Table 1. Type of Cat and Their Adjustment Times.

Luckily, there are a few ways we can speed up that process through environment preparation, such as catification and other ways discussed in this article (How Long Does It Take a Cat to Adjust to New Home).

Recalling point number 4. After Adopting a Cat Checklist – remember that cats are comforted by the scents of themselves. Having many different scent-soaking items nearby (scratching posts, blankets, cat beds) around lets them deposit their scent easily – afterward, spread them throughout the home.

I Just Adopted a Cat and It Won’t Eat

If your new cat is not drinking or eating after arriving in their new home, that’s perfectly normal since they’re not sure of their environment. Cats will generally avoid eating after the stress of a big move or a drastic change in their environment.

Also, cats will actually eat usually when they know we’re not around. So it’s likely that they have eaten or drank at night time when you’ve gone to sleep (or maybe you are unable to sleep because of the cats? This article might help) (or maybe you are unable to sleep because of the cats? This article might help). So it’s actually a good idea to take a picture of their food and water bowl to know exactly if they’ve touched it.

Wet food is also a lot more effective than dry food. It’s always hard for a healthy, hungry cat to resist wet food.

Anyways, It’s not a cause for concern until the cat hasn’t eaten or drank anything for 2-3 days – in which case they need to be brought to the vet.

This point is similar to the above. The new cat needs time to adjust, and some cats will adjust quicker than others.

I Just Adopted a Cat and He Has Diarrhea

Depending on what food was fed at the shelter or their previous home, switching to another food might bring some gas or indigestion. It might take some time for the cat’s digestive tract to get used to its new type of food.

It’s important not to be too experimental at first when you adopt your new cat. The reason for this is to allow you, as their cat butler, to know a food type or brand that they don’t have problems with. After that, you can start to vary their diet with snacks/other foods if you want. Doing it this way makes it easy to pinpoint issues. I would recommend waiting a full month before going crazy with other food/snacks.

For example, if you know that your cats are 100% okay with A Brand but all of a sudden, they have issues after a day of a certain food – then you can rule out that the snack or the specific food was the culprit.

In general, however, grain-free dry foods will be less irritating for a cat’s digestive system. However, if diarrhea persists for longer than a few weeks, it’s time to switch to another food brand or type. If it persists after that, then it might be time for a fecal exam done by your local vet.

I Just Adopted a Cat and He Won’t Use the Litter Box

Ah, litter box issues, the most difficult and frustrating one of them all. If a newly adopted cat hasn’t used the litter box – it’s possible that the cat does not know where it is, doesn’t like the litter, doesn’t like the litter box, or doesn’t like the placement of the litter box. As you can see, many variables and factors can cause a cat not to use the litter box.

Picture 4. No matter how nice the litter box is, cats can sometimes have their own preference…much to the chagrin of their human butlers.

A new cat should be introduced to the litter box by putting them near or in the litter box. After that, if the cat hasn’t used the litter box or has eliminated outside the litter box, it’s time to pay attention to where the cat has eliminated. The location may have some importance for the cat. Therefore, placing the litter box in or near that location could be the solution.

The type and size of the litter box have a big effect on cats too. Unfortunately, this issue will contain a lot of trial and error that will depend a lot on the cat’s environment. For more about this and more litter box solutions, see my complete litter and litter box solutions article!

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With a science background and years of experience including learning, observing, and training cats - increasing our beloved feline's welfare and wellbeing is the priority and passion.

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