The Safe Space for Cats - Cat Info Detective

The Safe Space for Cats

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Welcome feline lovers! Skye Blake here with something interesting you might not know… we cats need a space space to go when we feel threatened or overwhelmed.

Let’s discover more about space spaces and why they’re important…

paw prints coming in from a distance

The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs.

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian or behaviorist) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page. 

All sources are at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping… 

The Safe Space

guest bedroom, safe space

The New Cat

Before you bring in a new cat or when separating warring parties, you must set up a safe space, a.k.a. “sanctuary” or “basecamp”.

“Why is this important?”, you say…

Think of it this way, how would you feel if somebody put you in a box and dropped you off in a country on the other side of the world?

fearful cat hiding, safe space

You don’t speak the language, have no home, everything’s strange and frightening!

That’s how a cat feels when you first bring her into your home.

She doesn’t know it’s safe and won’t feel safe if she’s dumped in with unknown cats who will see her as a threat.

Silver tabby kitten looking scared - on sofa by pillow

A safe space gives a cat a quiet place to get her bearings, explore new scents, and get to know you.

She will come back to it whenever she’s overwhelmed by people, noise, or other animals.

We can all relate to that!

Type of Room

bathroom cabinet furniture, introduction, safe space

Exploring a big house is a tall order for a small animal like a cat or kitten.

The new kitty won’t know where her litter boxes or food and water bowls are located.

This is especially true for kittens who are still learning how to be a cat!

tabby kitten on top of barrel, safe space

It’s easier in a small apartment but is still better to start in a room with a closed door as that safe space.

Make it a quiet room (with a door) that other cats don’t use much, like a guest bedroom or bathroom.

Setting Up For Success

elevated food bowls

Set up two uncovered litter boxes, food and water bowls, and hiding places like a cat cave, tunnel, boxes, or paper bags with no handles (fold it back a bit to keep it open).

Whatever hiding spots you provide, line them with a towel or t-shirt that has your scent.

This will help your cat feel secure and accept you as a trustworthy friend.

enclosed patio/sunroom

Block off the underside of any beds or other large or awkward hiding places in the room.

You want them to have cat caves or other manageable hidey holes, not major ones that can become a problem.

cat in bed, cocoon, introduce

If the safe room you’re preparing is small (like a bathroom), do the best you can to provide these things.

Remember this is only temporary and you’ll be able to provide a better situation once your cats are properly introduced and the new kitty can be part of your home.

Litter & Boxes

white cat squatting in litter box

Litter boxes should be on the opposite wall from the food and water bowls because cats don’t like to eat or drink near their potty area.

If you know what type of litter your cat was using before coming to your house, use it in the boxes.

clump-of-green-litter-in-scoop

If you want him to use another type, mix the new litter into the old gradually, starting with a small amount and working up until it’s all the new litter.

Don’t underestimate the power of the litter box to a cat… it’s the greatest signpost of territorial ownership.

Your cat feels safest when her space includes at least one box that belongs to her.

Scratching Surfaces

british shorthair using sisal scratching post

Provide at least one vertical and one horizontal scratching surface so the cat can use whichever she prefers.

Use only new scratchers, not one of your other cat’s posts.

This is important because a new cat will feel insecure and threatened if there are other cat’s claw marks and scent on the scratchers.

orange, white cat lying on horizontal scratcher, introduce, safe space

A new scratcher will give the cat a comforting signpost where she can see her claw marks and smell her scent.

This gives her ownership of territory that she’ll be able to continuously re-mark and feel safe.

Discover more about the importance of scratching at ‘Why Do Cats Scratch Furniture?

Toys

Bengal cat playing with toy on couch

Toys are important for the new cat to have, with the same caveat as scratching posts… they must be new so there’s no scent of other cats on them.

Include a wand toy that you bring out only when you play with her.

Discover more about play that builds trust and fulfills the inner cat at “Playing With Cats the Right Way!

Beds & Perches

Orange, ginger tabby cat sleeping in cat bed, introduce, safe space

If possible, give the new cat places to perch off the floor… in front of windows or on furniture.

Use cat beds or folded towels for watching cat tv or snuggle comfortably where her scent is familiar.

A cat tree in the space will give her safe perches… if you have room and can afford one.

Be sure younger kittens have beds on the floor or easily accessible.

Catproofing

Colorful mosaic figurine of cat

Catproof the room the way you would baby proof it.

Examine every nook and cranny from a cat’s point of view.

Remove or secure dangling cords, breakable knickknacks, lamps, bookshelves, or similar heavy items.

black cat playing with computer cable

Put something bitter on electric cords like bitter apple spray to discourage chewing. Another option is to hide them in cord covers.

Plug in a nightlight or keep your lights on dimmer so when you check on the new kitty, you’re not suddenly flipping on a bright light.

This is especially important for rescue and timid cats.

Pheromones

pheromone spray, air freshener, safe space

Pheromones are in the scent that cats release when they mark with their paws, heads, and bodies.

Calming, happy pheromones are released from glands in the head, face, and sides.

Stronger, more threatening pheromones are released through pee marking.

2 White/orange, ginger cats rubbing heads, introducing

Synthetic facial pheromones are calming and good in both a safe space and where the resident cat lives.

Feliway® is a popular one available as a plug-in and in spray form.

Others are also available at pet stores, Amazon, Chewy, and other suppliers.

grey cat half asleep on back of a sofa, couch, safe space

Spray is good for using on furniture and when you only need it occasionally.

Plug-ins are good for when it’s consistently needed, such as in a safe room or near litter boxes.

Any brands or products mentioned on this page are for your information and convenience only. I make no money from them.

This video has everything you need to know about the basecamp safe space…

“Basecamp – THE Secret to Your Cat’s Happiness, Jackson Galaxy, May 25, 2019

Moving Forward

cartoon signpost, this way, that way, decision

Once you have the safe space set up for the new cat, you’ll be set up for success when introducing a new cat to your home and the future.

Discover more at “Introductions“.


Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.

However, sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

“Animal House”, Chapter 10, Cat Wise by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Penguin Books, Penguin Random House LLC, New York, pp. 162-172

“Living with Multiple Cats” by Leticia Mattos De Souza Santas, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVB, Decoding Your Cat, by Editors, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co., New York, hmhco.com, pp. 93-114

“Cat Etiquette: The Art of Introducing, or Reintroducing, Cats to Each Other”, Chapter 4, The Cat Whisperer by Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Bantam Books, The Random House Publishing Group, New York NY, 2013, www.bantamdell.com, pp. 125-170

Cat vs. Cat” by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, New York, NY, 2004, pp. 43-71

“New Kit on the Block”, Tiny But Mighty by Hannah Shaw, Plume, Penguin Random House LLC, penguinrandomhouse.com, pp. 257-8

“The Trainable Cat” by John Bradshaw and Dr. Sarah Ellis, Basic Books, Hachette Group, New York, 2016, pp. 115-160

Think Like a Cat, How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat – Not a Sour Puss” by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, New York, NY, 2000, 2011, pp. 216-236

Total Cat Mojo“, by Jackson Galaxy with Mikel Delgado, PhD, Tarcher Perigree, Penguin Random House, LLC, penguinrandomhouse.com, New York, NY, 2017, pp. 156-246

Updated December 27, 2023

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