Bringing home a new pet can be one of the most exciting times in someone’s life. However, it can also become very stressful if your current residents aren’t exactly welcoming or you’ve never owned a pet before. To better understand the needs of your new pal and to make this process easier, check out this guide to introducing a new feline into your life.
Photo by Adrian Scottow
Cats are extremely different than dogs, and it takes them a lot longer to adapt to new situations. They are sensitive and easily scared, so it is important to remember to give them lots of time and patience while providing a calm and consistent environment for them over the next few weeks as they adjust.
To fully get a good grasp on what it is like to be a newly adopted cat, we must first imagine what it must be like for them. Firstly, they may have been taken in off the street where they combatted with the weather, other animals, and had to scavenge for their food. Other times, they were brought in by a previous owner, in which case they may be suffering from abandonment. Maybe you bought your kitten from a breeder. Now they’re separated from their siblings and their mom, and that can be just as stressful.
Photo by Lynn Willis
Shelter cats sometimes have the hardest time adapting, in my experience, but they give the most love. Whether they spent weeks or months there, their time was spent constantly bombarded with the realities of shelter life: barking dogs, screaming kids, weird smells, and constant prodding and poking from potential adopters. Not to mention the many hours of the day they spent cooped up in the same cage. Then, they are stuck inside a carrier, taken for a car ride, and plopped down into an entirely new place with owners who expect them to be adjusted automatically.
It is imperative that cats are given a grace period to adjust, and these steps can help you ensure that their transition into home life is a relatively easy one.
Before You Bring Your Cat Home
Make Sure You Are Ready
Before deciding to adopt your new cat, you’ll need to ensure that your current family is all in agreement. Do they have any allergies? Are they nervous about a new cat? Is your landlord okay with a cat? Do you need to pay a pet deposit? Can you afford the upkeep for a cat? Cats cost a lot of money. There are adoption fees, vet bills, money for monthly treatments, food, litter, and toys to make your cat happy.
“Abby” by formatc1
Ensure that you are fully prepared for the responsibility of pet ownership. If you are truly equipped to take on the task of caring for a cat, you’ll want to get your house ready for your new family member.
Purchase Your Supplies
You will also want to make sure that you have all of the supplies you need beforehand. This includes:
- Food and water bowls
- Cat food
- Litter box
- Cat attract
- Flea Medicine
- Scratching posts**
- Collar with an attached ID tag (if you microchip your kitty, you won’t have to worry about this)
“Quiet Please!” by bertk212
Set Up His Sanctuary
Before you bring your new furry friend home, set up a sanctuary for him. This should be a quiet space where they can find solitude and be left alone for a while to get used to being in a new place. The quiet area should include their litter box, food and water, toys, and an article of your recently worn clothing. Your clothing will help them get used your smell. If you have dogs or kids, keep them separated for a while and ensure that they all understand to treat the animal with respect and to give him space as he adjusts.
Photo by Jennifer C.
Kitten Proof Your House
Kitties are notorious for getting into trouble. Make sure that your new buddy is safe by hiding any electronics’ cords, securing wobbling furniture, securing curtain rods, and making sure no toxic foods are left out for him to find. You will also want to close off any rooms that will be off limits to the cat.
Update Your Current Cats On Their Shots
If you already have resident kitties, you will want to make sure that they are spayed or neutered and updated on their shots. You can check with your vet to see what they recommend for your pets. You don’t want your new kitty getting sick or getting your current cats sick.
“Sally at the Vet” by Lindsey Turner
Set Up a Vet Appointment For Your New Cat
While you are making sure that your current cats are updated on their shots, go ahead and schedule a vet appointment for your new kitty within ten days of him arriving home. Though shelters typically update shots upon a cat leaving their shelter, it’s important that you get them checked out to ensure they are healthy. You’ll also want to schedule appointments for their booster shots and any other appointments they may need in the future.
Upon Arrival Home
When you arrive home, it can be tempting to want to release your new friend out into the world that is your house. However, this can be intimidating and frightening for your little fellow. Instead, take him straight to his quiet room, set down his kennel, and unlatch it. Then, leave. Yes, you may want to cuddle and love on him, but it’s important to give him some solitude for a little bit. Make sure that your other animals are not left in the same room and leave him be for a few hours, making sure he has food, water, and clean litter. You may also want to show him where his litter box is before you go.
For the next few hours, try your best to keep noise in the house at a minimum. If you have a typically noisy residence, you may want to turn on a radio or play some white noise in kitty’s quiet room to help destress and drown out the background noise.
“Girl with her cat” by barnimages.com
Try going in and sitting quietly in a corner of the room. If he is ready, he will come to you for pets. If he is still hiding, he may need more time. Talk quietly to him, touch him gently, and start to build the bond together. You’ll want to keep him in his quiet room for a few days, letting him explore the rest of the home in short bursts as he grows more comfortable with you and your family; but you can visit him as much as you want as long as he is not totally overwhelmed.
Once he is used to you, you can brush him, clean his teeth, trim his nails, and give him his flea treatment. Go slowly until you know how he reacts to these things.
Introductions with Other Animals and Children
The Introduction Process Between Cats
If you have other animals, you will need to follow the introduction process which can take a few weeks. To do this, keep the animals separated, but feed them on opposite sides of the door. You may also swap bedding and things with the cats’ scents on them every few days to get each cat used to the idea of a new kitty resident in the home.
Eventually, after a few days of this, you can supervise face-to-face visits, watching for hissing, flattened ears, swatting tails, and hair standing on end. If you don’t notice any negative signs, try playing with both of them (a cat wand works great for this) at the same time and see how they interact. Keep an eye on their body language for any tenseness that may pop up.
“Zuki’s Hiss” by moohaha
If fighting occurs between two of the cats, you may need to restart the reintroduction process. After separating them again, go slowly, as it is a huge change for both of your cats. They just need time, patience, and love. Don’t rush them or you’ll ruin all the progress you made.
When They Are Getting Along
If everything goes well in the face-to-face meetings, you will still want to supervise visits over the next few days. However, as they gain confidence, trust, and are friendly with each other, you can begin to leave them alone for longer and longer periods until they are adjusted. Positive reinforcement with treats and toys is also a great way to help two kitties bond. Eventually, your two purr babies are bound to be inseparable!
“Together” by Alessandro Valli
The Introduction Process With Dogs and Children Involved
You will want to adjust cats slowly to dogs and children as well, making sure that your dogs have manners and your kiddos know how to treat animals with kindness and respect. Supervise visits and have children go slowly at first. Cats may first hiss at the dogs, but as long as they are not reactive, they should get used to each other pretty quickly, even if they avoid each other. Do not leave your dog or child alone with your new cat until you are confident in everyone’s behavior.
Introducing a new cat can be a tricky process, but one that is definitely worth the trouble. Though no two transitions (or cats) are the same, these tips and tricks can help you make this crucial period smoother for your entire family. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to enjoy the company of your new purr baby and you’ll see his personality bloom right before your eyes!
Have a pawsome day!