We know it’s exciting bringing a new pet home, and whether this is your first cat, or your fifth, it’s important that you are prepared. We wanted to share some important tips to help alleviate the stress for your new pet, and for you!
Some things to consider:
- Cats are generally territorial, and tend to prefer their own space. If you have another cat, is there enough space for each of your cats to have adequate territory?
- Do you have a cat with a chronic illness, and will adding a new cat cause them to have further health problems?
- Do you have a cat with behavioral issues, such as constant or inappropriate marking, and aggressiveness toward other pets?
Once you’ve considered the above, and feel you’re ready to add a new cat or kitten, here are some general tips that will help with integrating them into their new home, and with your other pets.
- Prepare a designated safe room. Having a designated safe space for your new cat will provide them with a quiet and safe area to become familiar with your new home. The new sights, sounds, and smells can be overwhelming for your new cat; so, having a secure space with a door and roof over their head is important.
- Ensure the safe room is cat friendly. Some general tips would be to “Cat-Proof” the room, making sure to remove any fragile/breakable items that can harm your new cat. Cats are very acrobatic pets, so anything that can break within reach should be secured and/or removed from the space. Make sure any plants in the room are non-toxic to your cat, remove plastic bags within reach of your cat, remove any handles from paper bags or loops to keep your cat from accidental strangulation. Blinds should have the cord secured out of reach, and any electrical cords should be secured to avoid electrocution. Another important note, is being mindful of any reclining chairs, as cats like to hide underneath. If you have a collar for your cat, we HIGHLY recommend a “break away” type to ensure your cat doesn’t get caught or snagged to anything in the room. Also, make sure the room is secured and any open windows are closed, window screens secured, and if letting the cat out, making sure the area is fully enclosed to prevent escape.
- Give your new cat a safe place to hide. New cats tend to get nervous around unknown guests and other pets, so it’s important that your cat have a place to hide. Giving your cats a nice cardboard box with a sheet draped over tends to be a nice starter spot. It also makes it easy to know where your cat will be when they’re in hiding. We also recommend removing any larger furniture items, such as beds or dressers with gaps underneath. This makes it easier to know where your cat is, and not needing to move larger items to interact with them.
- Ease your introduction to your new cat, and help them get to know you. This is as simple as giving them a recently worn clothing item, such as a shirt or sweater with your scent.
- Make sure there is food, water, and a litter box. Shy cats may not eat in the first day or two due to the stress of a new home. You may find some stress induced diarrhea within the first two days. Try your best to keep the food/water and an open litter box on opposite sides of the room. If you find your cat hasn’t eaten after 48 hours, try giving them some canned tuna or salmon. If they still aren’t eating, we recommend reaching out to your vet for some advice.
- Gift your new cat with a new scratching post. Cat scratching is a natural behavior and will often provide them with comfort. It’s very important that the scratching post be new, and not have scents from other cats. They don’t want to experience any stress from other cat smells/scents as they become accustomed to their new home.
- Give your new cat some new toys for entertainment. Toys such as mice and other cat toys to give them some entertainment when you’re not home. Make sure they’re new toys, to avoid the stress of scents from another cat.
- Spend some quality time with your new cat. We recommend only short, frequent, visits with your new cat with some play or light petting. Doing things in the same room, like reading a book quietly or taking some phone call with light chatting will help acquaint you with your new cat. It’s normal for your cat to get nervous and growl or hiss, as they may be unsure of your presence. It’s best to speak softly, and giving your new cat some alone time to calm themselves.
- Slowly transition your new cat to the rest of your home. Once you’ve established trust with your new cat, allow them to begin exploring the rest of their new home. Make sure to supervise them as they begin this process, and ensure you have all exterior doors and windows closed. Start room by room is possible, to allow them time to get accustomed to their new home in stages. If you already have cats, see the next section for some helpful tips.
- Allow them some time to explore their new home. Keep in mind that your new cats personality will really dictate how long it will take to integrate and get to know other pets and their surroundings. This can start within the first two days, or even take a week before your cat will be comfortable exploring. This is normal, and with shy cats may take a little longer.
Introducing your cat to other cats:
Introducing a new cat to the rest of your pets can take some time; so, try not to rush or introduce them too quickly. Here are some behaviors you may see as you integrate your new pets, and things to look out for.
- Cat will begin smelling your other cat(s). It’s important you try to not to have your pets all meet on day one, or even day two. This could have an adverse reaction, and keep your cat from establishing friendly relationships with your other pets as this incites fear and undue stress on them. Your cat will likely begin smelling around for the scents of your other pets. This behavior will repeat often before your cat tries to approach other pets, and shouldn’t be rushed. It takes some time for your cat to be comfortable around other pets. If you don’t notice any signs of aggression from your new cat, try organizing your existing pets into a secluded space and allow your cat to explore their new home. This gives your cat some time to begin understanding their surroundings and the presence of other pets may lead to anxiety or fear. We generally recommend doing this a couple of hours a day, for a few days.
- Cat will see your other cat(s). Try placing your cat in an enclosed carrier/crate, and place them in a room with your other cats. Allow your cats to see one another, and your other cats to sniff around the carrier. If you start to notice aggressive behavior, return you cat to their designated safe room. You may repeat this 2 to 3 times a day, if possible, until you start to see your cats ease around one another. This may take a few days, so don’t rush the introduction outside of the carrier.
- Cat will begin meeting with your other cat(s). Once you notice them become more comfortable approaching each other at the carrier door, and much less aggressive behaviors being displayed, it may be time for short introductions. Try leaving the cat in the safe room, and leaving the safe room door cracked open. This allows your cat to leave the room at their own pace, and begin interacting with your other cats. It’s important that you supervise this process to ensure aggressive behaviors aren’t turning into serious fights. You may also notice your existing cats attempting to visit the safe room. Make sure you’re supervising any visits, and remove any cats from your new cats safe room should things become aggressive. We also recommend having a spray bottle filled with water nearby that can be used to diffuse any aggressive situation. You may also find cat pheromone sprays helpful, especially if you find integration is difficult. Check with your vet or visit your trusted pet store for some sprays to try.
- Integration has completed. While you may notice the occasional hissing and swatting over the coming months, you shouldn’t worry as this is normal. Cats generally establish their own boundaries, and try to affirm their dominance from time to time. Just don’t allow them to escalate.
Introducing your new cat to dogs:
- Most of the steps above are similar, with a few exceptions.
- Dogs should be on leash when introducing them for the first time.
- Allow the dog to be seated during any visit, and limit any excited movements toward your new cat.
- If your dog is ignoring your commands remove them from the room. It’s vital your dog not recognize your new cat as prey, a threat, or a toy to play with. You should not allow your dog to chase your new cat around the room and discourage any aggressive behavior.
- You may need to perform the leash visit many times over the course of a few days to allow building of trust.
- If you notice your cat becoming uneasy, remove the dog from the area.
- Watch your dog and never leave them alone in the same space.
- Make sure your cats safe room allows for your cat to have some alone time.
- Once you notice a mutual trust and respect for each other, ease them into “hang outs” with each other. You can even try segregating the dog from the safe room with a baby gate, allowing your dog to visit your cat while separated from one another.
There is never an “established” time frame for any of the above, so it’s best to use sound judgement and get to know the personalities of all your pets to determine the best time frame. Be patient, and use common sense when integrating your new cat to your home. Establish a trusting relationship with your cats, and make sure to reach out to your vet if you notice any health issues arise.