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Do Older Cats Adjust to New Owners?

Adoption rates for older cats are low because many families want to start fresh with a new kitten. They are cute and cuddly and often don’t come with the same baggage as an older cat can. Since they have dealt with previous owners, the new owners worry about helping their older cat adapt.

An older cat can adjust to a new owner. Most older cats can adapt quickly, in one to two weeks. Some older cats who have undergone traumatic experiences may take up to two or three months. Providing an open and loving environment and giving the cat room to explore will help make adapting easier.

In this article, we will take a look at some of the steps that a new owner can take to help their cat feel more comfortable and to help them adapt easier.

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Will My Older Cat Adapt?

Yes, an older cat can adapt to a new owner. It will take time and some special considerations from the new owner and family. But after a few weeks, the cat may be comfortable and excited about their new living arrangements.

Even though an older cat can adapt and get along with a new owner does not mean they forget their previous owner. It also doesn’t mean they love their previous owner any less.

Many cats will still remember their previous owners, and if they do run into them later, they will show excitement.

Previous owners should stay away from the cat and new owners for a few months after rehoming. While the previous owner may miss their cat and want to check in on them, reserve this to a phone call.

The new owner needs a chance to bond with the cat, and the cat needs time to adapt. This is much harder to accomplish if the previous owner keeps interfering.

How Long Does It Take the Cat to Adjust?

This will depend on the personality of the cat and what experiences they had before. If your cat came from a traumatic situation, it would be normal for them to feel suspicious and not want to venture out.

When this happens, the new owner will need to be extra careful and comforting to make the cat feel safe.

The adaptation period for a cat who was not traumatized and isn’t suffering from socialization problems will be about a week to two weeks. Some shy cats will take a bit more time.

But taking it slowly, letting them have time to explore and learn, and giving them a lot of love and attention can help shorten this period.

If you were moved to a new home, you would feel nervous and need time to adapt. This is the same for your cat. They are evaluating the situation based on their past experiences and need comfort and safety to do this.

The more support you can provide your cat during this time, the faster they will adapt to their new home.

Moving a Cat to a New Owner – The First Encounter

Cats, like many other animals, love routine. Even the smallest change in their routine will affect them. If you have just adopted an older cat, be aware they will feel a bit mistrustful and nervous at these changes.

They don’t know what your motivations are, and they are in a new environment.

Arriving at your home and following the right steps will make a difference in helping your cat get comfortable and ready for your family, starting with the cat out in a special room or a corner of a room that will be special for them.

This gives them somewhere safe to go when they need to rest or get scared and overwhelmed.

How Can I Help My Older Cat Adapt?

There are a few steps that you can use to help make it easier for your cat to adapt to their new home.

Provide a Safe Place

Before you even bring the cat home, set up a place for them that is only for them. Make sure that no one in the family will intrude. A laundry room, a second bathroom, or a nice corner will work for this.

Add a crate, like this MidWest Home for Pets, with some blankets inside to provide your cat with a safe place to go when scared.

Prepare the Spot

Always have this spot set up before the cat comes to your home. You do not want to have a lot of excess movement and preparation once the cat is home. This may cause them to panic. Set up space ahead of time.

Then when the cat gets there, they can sit quietly with you in the room. They can choose to explore when they feel comfortable.

The First Day

The first thing you should do when bringing your cat home is to place them in their safe spot. Don’t show them off to the neighbors or let everyone else in the family to hold them.

This can cause panic. Bring them right to their safe space, close the door, and open the door to the carrier.

Let the cat decide how much to explore. Sit down on the floor and wait. Let the cat come to you when they are ready. If the cat does come to you, gently pet her. Let the cat have time to look around and explore their new home.

Be Careful With Petting

Since you are a stranger, hold back on the petting. Wait until your cat has time to get to know you. You may want to wait a few days before even touching them.

Once you feel the cat is comfortable with you, go ahead and touch them with one finger at a time. Within a week or two, you should have gained enough trust with your cat to pet them more. Take your cues from the cat before petting often.

Bring in the Toys

If the cat was rehomed, you could ask their previous owners for some of their favorite toys to make the cat feel more comfortable. If you do not have any provided, then pick out a few different types that your cat may like.

This helps relieve some of the stress your cat may experience and can put off extra energy during those first few weeks.

Your older cat will enjoy a lot of different types of toys. Consider options like feathers, balls and bells, paper bags, and cardboard boxes to make it easier.

The JIARON Feather Teaser Cat Toy can combine a few of these in one while keeping your cat entertained. After your cat has lived with you for a bit, you will have a better idea of what toys they like the best.

Introducing Other Animals

If you have other animals in the home, at some point, you will need to introduce them to the cat. Do this slowly to prevent issues with social status, aggression, and fighting.

Once your cat has had time to adjust to their new surroundings, give them some time to meet the other animals in the home. Never leave the pets alone in a room in case fighting does happen.


Older cats can adapt to a new owner. It just takes some time and patience. It is normal for the cat owner to want to jump right in and start bonding with their cat.

Depending on the cat’s past experience, though, they may need time to warm up first. Giving your cat time to adjust to the new settings and explore, while getting comfortable with you is the best way to help them adapt.