Introducing a new cat into your household is exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. Although you can’t wait to welcome your new fur family member, you’re worried about how your kitty will react to the change.
Whether you’ve got a kitten, adult or senior cat, felines are known to get anxious easily. That’s why you want to make the transition as smooth as possible.
What do I need before I bring my cat home?
Besides all the regular pet essentials, you’re going to need to check off the following items before introducing your new cat to your pets and family members.
For the journey home
Get a good cat carrier before the big day. Not only is this a good investment for future vet visits, but travelling home in a carrier will make your kitty feel safe, especially when there are other people in the car. Avoid making any pit stops on the way home. Your cat’s anxiety levels are already high, and any new environments or scenarios might make them head for the hills.
For the nerves
A Feliway diffuser is a great way to help your cat manage the stress of being in a new environment. It does this by releasing a ‘happy’ pheromone that mimics the one cats release when they rub and purr against things. This comforts your kitty while keeping anxiety, spraying and scratching under control.
For the loo
If you’ve got more than one cat, it’s always best to get a new litter tray. Cats DO NOT like to share toilets, and they already think the other 4-leggeds are the enemy (guilty until proven innocent). Give your kitty the freedom to do business in peace. Place the tray away from your other pets (if there are any) to avoid any discomfort or arguments.
Where should my new cat sleep on the first night?
You’ll really want to snuggle up to your new fur baby at night but you have to RESIST the urge. Unless your cat is going to spend the rest of forever sleeping in your bed with you, avoid building any false expectations.
For the first night, it’s best to keep your kitty in an isolated area such as the laundry or bathroom. Get a nice, comfortable cat bed and place it in a comfy area in the room. Throw down one of your sweatshirts or blankets to make it extra cosy. The smell of your clothes will comfort your kitty, especially as you’re the new source of food and love.
How long does it take for a cat to get used to a new home?
This is dependent entirely on your cat’s personality, the people or animals in your home as well as your cat’s mental health. As a general rule, your cat shouldn’t take longer than four weeks to start adjusting. However, if you don’t see any change in behaviour, then it might be time to call in an animal behaviour therapist.
How to introduce your cat to a new home
Step 1: Give your cat a private place to relax
A secure place to retreat is a great way to acclimatise your cat to everything. It deters any feelings of restlessness or unease while introducing all those new smells.
As soon as you’ve arrived home, set down the carrier in the location you’ve chosen and open up the gate. Wait patiently for your cat to explore the new environment. Avoid reaching in and forcing your cat to come out.
Cats need to introduce themselves to you, not the other way around.
Once your kitty has successfully sniffed and pawed at everything, be careful not to leave that door open. Your cat should stay indoors for the first month or so, as you don’t want those little legs carrying themselves over to a new house or any trees.
Set down all the essentials and creature comforts, such as a litter tray, bowl, drinking fountain and toys. Amp up those comfort levels by bringing in items from the place where you adopted your kitty to make things feel extra safe and secure.
Having those old scents around will remind your cat of “home” and it’ll be easy to associate all those cosy smells with the new safe space you’ve given.
When shopping for cat beds, you might like to choose one that has a hideaway kitty can scurry to when those anxiety levels rise.
Introducing the household
Don’t bring everyone into the safe zone all at once. Start slowly by letting one person in at a time. They need to spend time holding and playing with your new cat.
If you’ve got another feline, providing a “safe zone” will also allow all the kitties in the house to get used to each other’s scent without being scared off. Start by swapping your one cat’s bedding with the others. You can also feed your cats together by putting their bowls on opposite sides of the door.
The more familiar they get with each other’s scent, the easier it’ll be for them to accept one another. After swapping bedding and combining feeding time for about a week, you can finally let your cats meet.
Step 2: Make positive associations
Cats are known for being loners, which means they won’t exactly welcome your existing fur family as a new friend right away.
Put your cat in a separate room and leave the door slightly ajar. Observe your other pet’s reaction. If everything seems good in the hood, you can open the door a bit wider so they can see each other. Do this a couple of times a day until they get used to one another.
During feeding time, get a barrier and place it between the two kitties. Ideally, you’ll want to use something like a baby gate or even a carrier. This will allow them to see each other but will still provide enough security in case anything goes wrong.
If things are going well, or you’d like them to bond even faster, you can start creating positive associations. For example, whenever another 4-legged is by your kitty, give both of them a treat. Your new cat will start to associate yummy feelings of joy whenever the other pet is around.
If you’re trying to introduce another cat, try playing with them both, which might encourage them to play with one another. Bring some toys into the mix and see how they react. If there’s a positive interaction, remember to praise them with treats and lots of love.
If you notice any hair raising or hissing, separate your cats for a few days and repeat the steps above. Once you’ve done this, try introducing them again and observe their behaviour.
Do not punish your old cat for hissing or swatting at the newcomer, as this only makes things worse. Take note of any fighting behaviour such as raised hair, flat ears, batting, spitting or biting. Separate any brawls with a distraction, such as throwing a soft pillow or clapping your hands.
Step 3: Supervise your cat
Remember, all cats are different and each one will adapt at a different pace. Always supervise your cat to see any changes or worsening in behaviour. For example, if your furball is unhappy, they’ll see the litter box as more of a suggestion than fit for purpose and will poop on the floor instead.
If your cat is adjusting well, you’ll notice the following signs:
- Routine use of the litter tray: Cats that are angry or sick will use anything but their litter tray (they’ll opt for your floor). So if they are using it regularly, it’s a sign that they’re comfortable.
- Increased appetite: Happy cats are hungry cats. If your kitty is chasing you down for a share of your tuna sandwich, then things are good.
- Playful behaviour: If your feline is playing with the other cats, pets and people, things are good.
- Purring and rubbing: Cats feel comforted by their own smell. That’s why they’ll rub and purr against furniture and legs to mark their scent on items they consider to be “theirs”.
- Sleeping in the same bed every night: Cats will flee from stressful situations. So if they’re routinely returning to their bed, this is a good sign that they’re content.