Introducing A New Cat

Following the steps listed below will ensure a smoother transition for any cat. It’s better to be safe and go slow than to rush things and have a “scaredy” cat on your hands (or under the sofa). Information taken from 4 Paws Rescue Team.

  1. In all cases, start your new cat in a “safe room” that is closed off from other pets if you have them. Cats like smaller, more confined spaces. Your new pet will acclimate better if started in a single room instead of being given access to the whole house right away.

    The “safe room” should have a secure door and be away from the noise and activity of the rest of the house. Generally, you want to choose a room that does not offer a lot of hiding places (like under a bed). The room that you choose should be a place where family members can easily interact with the cat—usually a den works best.

    Set up the “safe room” before bringing your new cat home—have food, water, a litter box, scratching post, and toys.

  2. When you bring your new pet home, leave him/her in the carrier until you get to the room where he or she will be staying. Once in the room, open the carrier door and let him come out at his own pace. Remember, everything is very new and could be scary for your cat—new sounds and smells, separation from the familiar, etc.

  3. Give your cat time to settle into his new surrounds before lavishing him with attention. It may take a few or several days before he becomes comfortable with you…be patient and compassionate. It may help for you or other members of the family to just sit in the room with him and talk to him.

  4. After a couple of days, try playing with an interactive toy, such as a laser light or feather toy. Also, offering smelly fishy food is always a good way to go. To paraphrase—the quickest way to a kitty’s heart is through his stomach.

  5. Once your new furry friend seems comfortable with family members, this is where the process differs:

cat

I don't have other pets.

After following the above steps with creating a “safe room” for your new cat, you’re ready to start introducing him/her to the cat(s) already in your home:

  • You can start introducing your new cat to the rest of the house or apartment. In general, your cat should stay in his “safe room” for at least the first week. He will probably walk around carefully smelling every nook and cranny.

  • Kitty should continue to stay in his room when you are not home until you are comfortable that he feels at home outside of his “safe room”— usually a second week will suffice for an adult cat, but longer for kittens.

  • Once your new pet gets free roam of the house, you will most likely want to move the litter box to its permanent location. Any time you move the litter box, you should put the cat in the box (at the new location) and let him explore from that reference. Some cats will acclimate to a new home faster than others.

cat

I already have another cat(s).

  • The new cat and the resident cats should have no face-to-face interaction for the first week while the new cat is in his/her “safe room.” Their only interaction should be playing paws under the door.

  • Start introducing the smells of each cat to the other. You can do this by brushing all of the cats with the same brush to get their scents on each other. Also, try feeding them each a special treat on either side of the door. Doing so will help each cat to associate the smell of the other cat with the positive experience of eating the treat (usually wet food works best).

  • After introducing smells for a few days, when you are ready for the first face-to-face introduction, put the new cat in his carrier and let the resident cats come into the “safe room.” Usually with this initial meeting, there will be some hissing and/or posturing. If the interaction seems as though it could lead to aggression, you will need to do this controlled introduction using the carrier a few more times before removing the barriers and allowing the cats to meet face-to-face.

  • If the cats all appear to be curious or simply wary with no outward signs of aggression, then you can open the carrier door and let the new cat walk out into the territory of the resident cats. Do not rush this process. It is very important to the long-term harmony of their relationship that the introduction process proceed at a pace comfortable for each of the cats.

  • Monitor all interactions closely during the first weeks. Do not leave the cats alone unsupervised until you are comfortable that there will not be aggressive behavior displayed by any of the cats. During the first few weeks, the new cat should stay in his “safe room” when no one is home to supervise.

  • If interaction among the cats deteriorates instead of improving, return the new cat to his “safe room.” At this point, you will need to start the introduction process again—this time, taking more time at each stage.

cat

I have a dog.

When your new cat seems to be comfortable with you and has met your other cat(s) if you have any, it is time to start the introductions with your dog. During these introductions, the dog should always be crated or on a leash, allowing the cat to approach the dog on his own terms. This may well be the first time that the cat is outside of his “safe room.” Allow him to explore at his own pace and approach the dog if he is comfortable doing so. All introductions should be supervised and conducted during quiet times of the day.

  • Carefully watch the first contact between cat and dog. Let them sniff each other. Be ready with a towel or squirt gun in case of aggressive behavior. If either animal displays aggressive or fearful behavior, separate them immediately. Try again later (possibly the next day) after things have calmed down.

  • If the initial meeting goes well, repeat the encounter several times under controlled circumstances before letting the animals roam freely in the house or leaving them together unsupervised. If your new cat is a small kitten, take special precautions whenever the cat and dog are together—a large dog may not intend to harm a kitten, but may not know his own strength or understand the fragility of a young kitten.

  • Be sensitive to the fact that some dog breeds are naturally not good at cohabitating with cats—certain breeds may instinctually be driven to chase or act aggressively toward a cat. Take extra time and care when introducing the two animals—always under close supervision. Be aware that your dog may behave better when you are present, so allow ample time for supervised interactions before letting them to be alone together.