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How to Introduce a Cat to a New Home

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Bengal kitten curled up on a fluffy white blanket being kissed on the head by a man

Are you considering taking in a new cat? Remember, you’re introducing them to a whole new environment, and they might need some time to adjust. With a little forethought and advanced prep work, you can help make the transition a smooth one for your whiskered friend. Read on to learn how to get a cat used to a new home.

Look into Adoption

There are so many adorable cats and kittens in shelters across the country just waiting to find loving homes. If you’re thinking about bringing home a new cat, please consider adopting from this deserving bunch.

You can search the ASPCA’s national database to see cats and kittens up for adoption at shelters near you. If you live close to the New York City area, you can visit their shelter in Manhattan. Visit the ASPCA’s website for details.

You can also learn more about adopting a cat or kitten—from the adoption process to basic kitten care–by checking out Bringing Home a New Kitten.

Spay or Neuter, Please!

Speaking of adoption and shelters, please make sure your new cat or kitten is spayed or neutered to avoid contributing to the cat overpopulation problem with an unexpected litter.

Spaying or neutering also has significant health and behavioral benefits, such as preventing certain types of cancer and eliminating behaviors associated with mating, like yowling or trying to escape from the safety of your house when in heat.

Taking in a Stray Cat

Sometimes a cat finds you rather than the other way around. If you have a stray cat coming to your door, you should think about it carefully before you decide to keep them as your own.

First off, you need to be sure this cat doesn’t already have a home by checking for a collar and ID tag. A veterinarian can scan the cat for a microchip, which would have identifying information. You also might want to post a picture of the cat on social media or a neighborhood message board to see if anyone knows them.

You should also assess the cat’s behavior. Some stray cats enjoy their independence and are looking for a quick meal rather than a new place to live. If the cat seems to be scared of you or shows signs of aggression, you should contact animal control or a local animal shelter for professional help in dealing with the situation.

If you’re unsure if you should take the cat in, you can discuss it with your vet, who can offer medical insights and experience to help determine the best course of action. If you decide to welcome the cat into your home, be sure to get a full medical check-up right away. Stray cats can have fleas, parasites, or diseases that need to be treated. You should also find out if the cat is spayed or neutered and speak to your vet about vaccinations.

young woman in a chair holding an orange tabby cat

New Cat Checklist

Wherever you get your new feline from, you will want to stock up on essential cat supplies. Use this checklist to help make sure you have everything you need for having a new cat in the house.

  • Brand Name Cat Food – Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation if you’re confused by all the choices.
  • Food Dish and Water Bowl – Keep these bowls clean and make sure fresh water is always available.
  • Cat Safe Interactive Toys – They’re a great way to keep your cat active and engaged. Buy some at a store or create your own from common household items, like ping pong balls or empty paper bags.
  • Scratching Post – This is a must-have to help keep your cat from scratching up the furniture.
  • Comb or Brush – Cats generally groom themselves, but they still need to be brushed to keep their coat in top shape, reduce shedding, and cut down on those nasty hairballs.
  • Collar and ID Tag – Even indoor-only cats can get out unexpectedly, so be sure to put an ID tag with up-to-date contact information on their collar. You may also want to consider microchipping your feline friend.
  • Litter Box and Clumping Litter – Place the litter box in a somewhat private space that your cat can access easily. Scoop it out at least once a day and clean it out completely every week.
  • Pet Bed – A cozy pet bed can help keep your cat out of places you’d rather they not sleep and leave all that fur behind.

Learning how to acclimate a cat to a new home can, at times, be a little stressful. However, by marking off each item on this checklist, you can be better prepared for your new four-legged family member, and you can help the new transition go as smoothly as possible.

Choosing a Veterinarian for Your Cat

You’ll need to find a veterinarian – preferably before you bring your cat home. This way, you’ll know who to contact if your furry friend gets sick or hurt unexpectedly. Remember: even indoor-only cats can get injured. Plus, your cat will need regular check-ups, annual dental cleanings, vaccines, and other routine preventive care.

Need help finding a vet? Use our Vet Finder to search for one in your area.

Getting Your Home Ready for a Cat

To keep your cat safe and sound, check your home for any potential hazards. For instance, make sure you don’t have any plants or flowers around the house that can be toxic to cats. Lilies can be particularly dangerous to cats and cause kidney failure if exposed. You can use this list of toxic plants at the ASPCA’s website for reference.

Here are some other steps you can take to cat-proof your home:

  • Lock up your cabinets – Cats are clever and can sometimes open cabinet doors by swiping their paws underneath. Consider using childproof locks to help keep your cat from getting into cleaning supplies and other harmful chemicals.
  • Store human medications out of paws’ reach – Avoid leaving prescription or over-the-counter medications where your cat can get at them, like a low counter or nightstand. Cats are very sensitive to common medicines, such as Tylenol and aspirin.
  • Stow away breakable items – Do you have fragile treasures out on your mantle, table, or bookshelves? It’s best to put them away where your cat can’t knock them over and break them.
  • Secure window screens – Cats love to sit in a sunny windowsill, but they can push it open and fall out if the screen isn’t secure.
  • Tie up cords – Cats can get tangled up and even strangled in the cords hanging down from blinds. Carefully tie them up and out of the way.
  • Close the lid – Keep toilet lids down so curious cats won’t climb up and fall in. Small cats or kittens may not be able to get back out.

It can also help to get down to your cat’s eye level and look around for anything that might cause a problem, like cords or wires that could be tripped on or get chewed up.

young boy saying hi to a kitten resting under a white couch

Cat Introductions

When you bring your cat home, you may need to make a few introductions to other cats, dogs, or children who live in the house. How these introductions go will depend partly on the personality and temperament of your new cat.

Some cats will be completely comfortable right off the bat, acting as if they own the place the minute they step in the door. Others will be nervous and may go into hiding for a while. That’s okay. Just give them plenty of time to get acclimated and start exploring at their own pace.

Cat Plus Cat: How to Introduce Cats to Each Other

If you have another cat in the house, it’s best to take a slow, staged approach to introductions. When you first bring the new cat home, put the resident cat in a separate room to give the newcomer time to check out the house without interference. You should keep the cats in different rooms for some time, so they can get used to the sounds and smells of each other before meeting face to face.

After a while, you can start letting the two cats spend time together in the same room, but only under careful supervision. If you notice any signs of aggression, such as backing away, arching the back, or hissing, separate the cats and try again another time. If they seem to get along, you can let them interact for increasingly longer periods.

If you are wondering how to introduce a kitten to a cat, you can follow these same steps and process.

Cat Plus Dog

With this combination, it’s best to do everything you can to make the introduction as calm and stress-free as possible for everyone involved, especially the cat. If your dog is rambunctious, you may want to tire them out with a long walk beforehand. It would be best if you also use a leash during the first encounter to keep control of the dog so that the cat can set the pace of the engagement.

If the dog acts aggressively or the cat seems distressed, separate them and take a break, but don’t give up hope. It can take time and patience, but cats and dogs have been known to live happily ever after. If you have any issues or concerns, don't hesitate to talk with your vet or an animal behaviorist who can offer advice on your specific situation.

Cat Plus Kids

Introductions between cats and kids will vary depending on the age of the children. If your kids are old enough to understand what’s going on and follow instructions, you can explain that they need to give the cat time to get used to new people and surroundings. Tell them to approach the cat slowly rather than scooping their new furry friend up in their arms right away.

If your kids are too young to follow instructions, show them by example. For instance, have them stand a safe distance away as you interact with the cat gently, and then let them have a turn under your watchful eye. If the cat seems distressed, get them to back away and give the cat more time to get comfortable.

Some cats will acclimate to kids quickly, while others (especially older cats) may take a while to get used to the high energy and noise of children. Senior cats who can need more quiet time may not be a good match for a houseful of rambunctious kids.

Behavior Issues

While many cats make a smooth adjustment to a new home, some may have a more challenging time adjusting to an unfamiliar environment. These cats may start exhibiting behavior problems, like constant meowing, going outside the litter box, or scratching at the furniture even though there’s a perfectly good scratching post waiting for those claws.

Issues like these can be caused by stress, but they can also result from an underlying health issue. For example, not using the litter box properly can be a sign of a urinary tract infection. It’s a good idea to take your cat to the vet to see what’s going on. Your vet or an animal behaviorist can also recommend treatment, such as an anti-anxiety medication if the issue is due to stress.

Behavior issues can cause big headaches for pet parents and result in the cats being brought back to a shelter. If your cat is having a behavior issue, please seek professional help.

And of course, most of all, enjoy your new cat. Cats are wonderful companions who can add lots of love and fun to your home.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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