Introducing A New Cat To Your Home

Introducing A New Cat To Your Home

First, congratulations on your new furry friend! Your new cat has SO much love to give and he/she can’t wait to share that love with you. Second, thank you for providing a home for a cat in need. Your cat is so lucky to have you!

At the Animal Adoption Center, we provide a warm, cheerful, and calming environment where animals can relax and play while we work to find them their forever home. Once the animal’s new owner comes along, we know it’s important to set the owner and the animal up for success in the period of time it takes for the cat to adjust to its new home. For some cats, the adjustment period is short (a few days) and for some cats, the adjustment period is long (up to a year). There is no way to predict the length of the adjustment period so we want to provide you with as much information as we can to foster the relationship between the new owner, the cat and home’s current animals.

In the post, we provide some general and some specific information to integrating a cat into your home with or without other pets. If you have questions before adoption or within three months of adoption, you can call or email our Adoption Advisor (Alyssa), Animal Behaviorist (Eva of Star Dog Training) and Cat Care Specialist (Hope). Your veterinarian will have great information and resources too!

Before you visit the Animal Adoption Center for a Meet & Greet, we recommend you evaluate your household. What lifestyle will you provide a cat? Relaxing? Active? Indoor? Outdoor? There’s no wrong answer here. We want you to come in knowing what lifestyle you can provide your new pet so we make sure you pick a cat that will thrive in that environment. Another question you can expect from the staff at AAC is what personality type will fit best with your current pets? Lazy? Playful? Introverted? Outgoing? We want to make sure your current pets’ needs are met when introducing a new friend! Our Adoption Advisor and Cat Care Specialist can provide information about our ‘adoptable cats’ personality traits such as outgoing, shy, plays well with other cats, prefers to be left alone, wants a sunny window to nap in, etc.

Here’s what you’ll need when you bring your new cat home.

Create a safe place for your cat to settle in. Somewhere quiet, with hiding places and natural light. A spare bedroom, guest bathroom or laundry room is a great place for your new cat to get comfortable in your house. It will become a place they can rely on for a comfortable bed, a litter box, food, and water. Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to be the place they spend the rest of their lives. We encourage you to spend at least one hour a day in this space with your new cat to create a bond and observe your cat for signs of stress such as excessive meowing, decreased appetite or diarrhea. If your new cat appears stressed, please consult your veterinarian, and consider adding pheromones to the space.

A litter box and litter. We use ‘World’s Best Cat Litter Multi-Cat.’ Locally, you can buy it at Teton Tails and Smith’s. If you decide to use another type of litter, we suggest you mix it with ‘World’s Best Cat Litter’ for 1 week to set your new cat up for success and to prevent accidents.

Food and fresh water. We give the cats at Animal Adoption Center ‘Merrick Purrfect Bistro Real Chicken + Sweet Potato Recipe Dry Food.’ Locally, you can but it at Teton Tails and Pets Place Plus. If you decide to use another type of food, we suggest you blend it with the Merrick food for 3 to 5 days so their tummy has time to adjust. Typically, we feed the cats 1/4th cup of kibble in the morning and the evening. We will let you know if your new cat has a special diet such as wet food for damaged teeth, Urinary SO kibble to prevent accidents or EN Gastrointestinal food for sensitive GI tract.

A scratching post. Scratching posts allow your new cat to stretch his/her body and tend to his/her nails. Also, providing a scratching post will prevent your new cat from scratching your furniture! To encourage good behavior, we recommend you give your cat praise and treats when you see him/her use the scratching post. If you see your cat scratch a piece of furniture, gently (and kindly) bring your cat to the scratching post to show him/her this is a safe place to scratch. If you get a horizontal scratcher, you can put cat nip on it and your cat will have a blast rolling around, scratching, and snacking. Vertical and horizontal scratchers are available for sale at Teton Tails, Pets Place Plus and sometimes at TJ Maxx.

Toys! Toy mice, balls, feather wands, cat nip, pet-safe lasers. Most cats love to play with toys. We call cat playtime ‘enrichment’ because it encourages overall health and well-being. Playing provides a safe outlet for your cat’s predatory instincts and encourages exercise. Playing relieves him/her of boredom which will prevent naughty behavior. We recommend you play with your cat for at least 30 minutes a day. This can be spread out throughout your day such as 10 minutes before breakfast, 10 minutes at lunch and 10 minutes before dinner. If your cat appears to be bored or starts to display bad behavior like scratching your furniture, meowing excessively at nothing, climbing your walls or biting (to name a few), increase the amount of time you play with your cat. You can also purchase battery operated lasers and toy mice that will entertain your cat for a pre-determined amount of time.

Brush. Cats are proud creatures. They love to be complimented such as ‘you are soooo beautiful.’ ‘You’re such a handsome feline!’ Brushing your cat is a great way to interact with your cat and encourage them to groom themselves. Brushing prevents shedding, dandruff, furballs, mattes and dreadlocks. If you have a long-haired cat, brushing is especially important. We encourage you to brush your long-haired cat twice a week to prevent mattes and dreadlocks. Mattes and dreadlocks are painful for cats and will eventually cause bad behavior such as feistiness (not the cute kind), biting and hiding. Sometimes, folks surrender their cat because the cat is no longer friendly or interactive. Once we do an evaluation of the cat, it appears the cat hasn’t been brushed in years and is covered in painful mattes and skin tugging dreadlocks which mean the cat needs to be sedated and shaved to have a fresh start. 100% of the time, the cat feels fabulous after being shaved and has a new outlook on life. For short-haired cats, we encourage you to brush your cat once a week. Many cats love to be brushed and will start purring immediately. If your cat doesn’t love to be brushed, that’s okay! If that’s the case, we recommend using ‘Cat Grooming Gloves,’ which allows your brush while petting.

Helping your new cat settle into your home.

If you don’t have any other pets in your home:
– After 3 or 4 days in the Safe Place, at a quiet time of day, open the door and allow your cat to explore a little more of your house. Make sure your new cat has access to his/her Safe Place (leave the door open or the room accessible). It is important that a cat always has an exit strategy if someone new walks into your home or you accidentally drop something and make a loud noise.

If you have other cats:
Step 1: keep the door to your new cat’s Safe Place closed for 3 or 4 days. Encourage your other cats to smell one another through the gap of space under the door.

Step 2: After 3 or 4 days, you can open the door 2 inches and allow the cats to greet one another. One or both cats might be shy so please don’t rush this step. If there are obvious signs of aggression, close the door and only allow the cats to smell one another thought the gap of space under the door for a couple more days. If the cats appear comfortable or unbothered with the door open just 2 inches, you may open the door to allow the cats to have a full interaction. After a few minutes of smelling and greeting, separate the cats again so the new cat still has his/her safe place. Repeat Step 2 twice a day for 2 days (this will vary per household). Keep a close eye on the first few interactions like this. If the cats begin to show aggression such as hissing, claws out swatting or chasing, separate the cats and go back to step 1 for a few days. Remember, the cats most likely won’t be best friends immediately. If the cats don’t appear to care about one another, that is okay!

Step 3 if the meet & greets are going smoothly: you can allow the cats to interact freely. Continue to honor your new cat’s Safe Place for at least one week before you move his/her litter box, food and water. We encourage you to move it slowly, about 10 feet at a time, closer to the place it will be long term.

Step 3 if the meet and greets are NOT going smoothly: if the cats are not having peaceful interactions, it is time to incorporate store bought pheromones. Pheromones are a chemical substance naturally created in a cat’s cheek glands that alleviate anxiety and share information about the cat’s personality. It’s helpful to provide artificial pheromones to alleviate anxiety at this stage of integrating a new cat into your home. You can do this several ways. First, we recommend the ‘Sentry Calm Collar.’ It’s exactly what it sounds like, a collar with pheromones on it that calms the cat down. Put a calm collar on both or all the cats (they usually come in a set of 3). Within a few hours, the stress of a change to the environment will be alleviated. Second, we recommend a ‘Feliway Classic Calming Diffuser.’ By diffusing the air with cat pheromones, you create a sense of security and familiarity that allows cats to relax. Calm Collars and Calming Diffusers can be purchased at Teton Tails and Pets Place Plus. Once you’ve introduced the calm collars and/or calming diffuser, wait at least three hours before repeating Step 2.

*It can take months for cats to become friends. Like dogs, some cats will become friends immediately and some cats need time to learn to share space. Be patient and don’t feel discouraged! Repeat Step 1 and Step 2 for as long as necessary.

If you have dogs:
– between Step 2 and Step 3, put a gate in the doorway of the cat’s Safe Place for a week or more so the cat can continue to venture into the house and still escape into its Safe Place. The dog and cat will naturally want to interact through the gate and it’s up to you to encourage good behavior here with high reward treats and praise for both animals.

More Resources:

Introducing a New Cat into your Home

*All of the products below are approved by the cats of Kitty City

Cat Litter

Cat Food

Canned Wet Food

Popular Cat Treats

Cat Scratchers

Calm Collar

Feliway Diffuser

Cat Nip

Battery Operated Cat Toys

Cat Brushes and Gloves