If you’re bringing in a stray or a cat who hasn’t had much contact with you, confine her to a smaller area to allow you to start getting to know each other.
The Cat’s Sanctuary Room
I’ve talked and written so much about how to set up a sanctuary room, especially as it applies to introducing a second cat to a resident cat. For a cat who has never set foot inside your home, setting up a sanctuary room will also be needed to help speed up the acclimation process.
The sanctuary room is just a room you can close off – such as a bedroom. This is where all of kitty’s necessities will be located – her food and water bowls, litter box, scratching post and toys. There are also some extras to put in there as well that will be very helpful: hideaways and a cat tree or some kind of perch.
Hideaways for the Cat
The first thing the former outdoor cat may do when inside is to immediately seek out a hiding place. This is important because once she feels securely hidden, she can use that hiding place as her home base as she begins to get to know the environment. The hideaways can as simple as open paper bags placed on their sides, boxes on their sides, boxes turned upside down with an entrance hole cut in one side, soft-sided pet tunnels, etc. The more hideaways you spread around the room, the less likely kitty will hunker down under the bed.
If the cat has never used a litter box then you have to make the set-up as easy for her to figure out as possible. Use a large-sized open litter box and fill it with unscented, soft litter. Initially, the box, although large in size, shouldn’t necessarily be too high. The litter substrate should resemble what kitty would use outdoors (garden soil, sand, dirt). This isn’t the time to experiment with alternative litters or a high-tech self-cleaning litter box. Make the set-up appealing and obvious – almost as if there’s a big sign above it saying “restroom.” Don’t use a covered box and don’t place the box in the closet. Keep everything convenient. In some cases with stray cats, you may even have to start out by filling the box with a sand/dirt mixture so it more closely resembles the substrate she would normally use outdoors for elimination. Once your cat understands what the litter box is for, you can gradually start adding scoopable litter and reduce the amount of sand/dirt.