Deciding to grow or start your fur family is exciting, but bringing a new cat into your home can be unsettling and scary for both your new feline friend and other pets already living in your home. Regardless of if you have other pets or not, it’s important to take the necessary steps to make sure your new cat or kitten is comfortably transitioned into its new home, as well as making the other members of your fur family comfortable with the new addition.
With a good amount of patience and understanding, your new cat will settle into its home in no time and it will also help to reduce the risk of behavioral problems down the track. We have put together a quick article with our top tips on introducing a new cat into your household, by following these steps it will reduce the risk of relationship problems down the track, so let’s get into it!
Most importantly, which is why we want to mention it first, we must show empathy towards a cat who is being introduced to a new home. Take into account everything your new cat has gone through recently, whether they have just been separated from their mum & siblings, been living in a shelter, abandoned by their owner, lost their owner or had recent surgery. Arriving in a new home comes with a lot of change, so remember to be patient and put yourself in your cat’s boots (no puss in boots pun intended!).
Prepare A Safe Room
Having a room prepared for your new cat to have as their safe sanctuary is really important and is a great step to slowly introduce your cat to their new home, smells and a changed environment.
Make sure there are some places for your new cat to hide in the room, comfortable bedding, boxes, blankets, a scratching post, and dark corners. Cats love to find dark small spaces to hide when they need to feel safe.
Make sure this place is a “neutral zone” such as a spare bedroom, office, or laundry, not a place where your existing pets like to spend time. Ideally, it should have a view to outside, and sunny places for your new cat to sunbathe. The aim is to make this your new cat’s “core territory”, i.e. a place they can feel safe in and belongs to them.
Pop a piece of your clothing in the room for the cat to slowly adapt to your scent and feel comfortable around you.
Fit the room with water, food, and a litter tray. If you already have a cat, purchase an additional litter tray so that you have one per cat plus an extra.
Provide your cat some new toys, not another pet’s toy as they will smell like them, to play with when you’re not home.
Make sure loose cords are tied up, remove fragile or toxic items.
Consider buying a pheromone spray or diffuser (available from your vet or pet stores). This synthetic form of cat pheromones can help to calm cats. This special scent, that only cats can smell, helps them to feel at ease in their environment.
The Ride Home
Being in a moving car can be quite scary for some cats so make sure you make it a comfortable ride to your cat's new home. Definitely don’t let your new feline friend wander around the car because it may become scared, making the experience traumatic for your cat and possibly dangerous for the driver & other passengers. Get yourself a cat carrier or confined box with comfortable blankets for your cat to ride home in. It could be helpful to have something from their old home in their carrier, such as blankets or toys, to help make the transition easier. Go straight home, don’t stop off anywhere to visit people, or show off your new cat, make this process as quick and comfortable as possible for your cat.
Put the cat carrier in their new safe room, open the carrier, and let the cat leave the carrier when they feel ready.
Let your cat settle in and explore their room.
Don’t allow other pets to enter the safe room, but slowly and quietly introduce other humans of the household to the cat in their safe room without overwhelming or scaring them with too much energy.
Put a sign on the door, or lock it if necessary, to prevent other people from entering the area and letting the cat escape.
Spend time with your new pet. Make sure you’ve enough time to gently play and interact with your new cat, without upsetting the routines of your existing pets.
Slowly Introduce Them to The Rest of The House
Depending on your cat, the settling-in period could vary from several days to several weeks. Once your cat is feeling comfortable with you in the safe room, if you don’t have any other pets you can slowly start to let your cat explore more areas of the house. Close most doors to other rooms so they can slowly learn the house and not get too overwhelmed. Over time you can start to open other doors and introduce your cat to the rest of the house.
Introducing Your Cat to Another Cat
Now, this can be a challenging task, cats can be very territorial, but when done right your cats may soon become feline besties or at least tolerate each other.
DO NOT introduce the cats to each other on arrival.
Make sure your current cat is locked in a separate room while you take your new cat to their safe room.
Once your new cat is comfortable with you and their new room, interchange both cats’ bedding so they can get more used to ‘sharing’ and the scent of each other.
Introductions can happen in a variety of ways and depend on your cats. Most adult cats are quite tolerant of kittens and can be introduced when they are eating or playing providing there is plenty of space.
It is best for introductions to occur at a calm time of day; bring your new cat into the living room in a cat carrier and place the carrier on a bench, to prevent your cats from challenging each other by staring at one another. This allows your cats to exchange smells and observe each other.
Keep introductions brief, 5-minute sessions several times a day is better than a long stressful encounter.
Help make the experience positive by stroking, talking, and feeding your cats delicious treats. If there is any aggression, separate them and reattempt later when everyone is calm.
Gradually feeding and petting in the same room can take place without the carrier as they learn to associate good things with each other’s presence. This could take hours to weeks. Watch signals really closely. Subtle signs from cats include a direct stare, a raised bottom, and tail, or crouching low, and fluffed up hair.
Introducing Your Cat to Your Dog/s
Now it’s important to understand just how scary a dog can seem to a cat. You may think your dog is completely safe and wouldn’t harm a soul, but it’s never worth taking risks and for your new feline friend’s sake, it’s best to take a slow approach with this.
Follow the same steps as above when introducing a new cat to a dog.
When it’s time for the official meeting, exercise your dog prior and spend ten minutes or so with your new cat.
Subtle signs from dogs to watch out for include raised hackles, staring, snarling, and stalking.
After the initial introductions with your cat in its carrier, allow the cat to be able to wander around and bring your dog in on a lead.
Distract your dog from the cat by using a toy or treats and help the cat understand the dog is not a threat.
As they begin to feel comfortable with each other, allow them both to do their own thing under supervision, your dog may still need to have the leash attached, but dragging it around, so you can interrupt any chasing. This could take hours to weeks.
Never leave your new cat and dog in a room together until you 100% trust both of them.
Don’t try to break up a fight by getting in the middle of it. To stop your cats from fighting, you can try to distract them by clapping your hands and using your voice to make high pitched sounds, or placing a barrier between your pets such as a large piece of strong cardboard. Then separate them for a while to see if things calm down. A careful re-introduction may need to take place.
Remove competition between pets. Fighting over access to valued things such as sleeping areas, human attention and food is the most common cause for poor relationships. Keep routine times for one-on-one play so no one feels left out. Cats like to have their own retreats, up high, where they can sleep or observe the world and hide when afraid.
Introducing Your Cat to Kids
Kids can be pretty energetic and touchy, something a lot of cats aren’t a fan of! It’s important to discuss with your children that they need to be gentle and calm around your new cat.
Firstly, give your cat the opportunity to make the first interaction, don’t force them to sit on your child’s lap or allow your kids to run after them.
Always supervise children playing with cats. Cats can get overstimulated with too much high-energy play and can lash out as a result. Encourage children to have short bursts of play using wand-toys or throwing toys/balls, and to intersperse this with periods of calm. Teach children that when cats are sleeping, eating or toileting, they should be left alone.
Be patient and observant. It’s easiest to let your pets set their own pace and not to force contact between them as they set up their social system.
Sometimes cats are content to just share their space with another but won’t actually become the close friends you may be hoping them to be. Knowing that normal social cat units consist of the family; the queen and her offspring (of many generations), you can imagine that having to share space with unrelated cats or other species can be a rather threatening situation! The good news is that with the right attention, most cats will make themselves truly “at home” with the rest of your family!
If you are having ongoing trouble, seek professional advice from your vet or a cat behavior consultant.
If you would like to learn more about how to be a great cat owner, keeping your cat healthy and helpful information for cat owners, remember to follow us on Facebook to see our regular tips, cute pics, and updates on new blog posts like this one!
Thanks to Dr Katrina Ward for some of the tips in this blog.