You’ve been approved to adopt an adorable cat. You’ve picked out a name and stocked up on supplies, and now it’s time to bring your new cat home.
While opening the cat carrier and setting your new feline friend free to explore the house and meet their new family might be tempting, making slow introductions is important. After all, introducing cats to a new home, family, and other pets too quickly could lead to behavioral issues and cause undue stress. By taking it slowly and making gradual introductions, you can comfortably help your cat adjust to its new home.
Here, we offer seven tips for introducing a cat to a new home.
1. Set up their space
Your new cat needs a safe space to decompress. Setting them up in their room — a spare bedroom or bathroom that can be closed off for privacy is perfect — will give your cat time to get used to the sights, sounds, and scents in their new home.
Be sure to “cat-proof” their space, too. Specifically, remember to remove breakables and install outlet covers and electric cord protectors. Remove the trash can and keep the toilet lid closed if your cat is temporarily bunking in the bathroom. Make sure the windows and doors are closed so your new cat stays safely inside.
To help your cat adjust to their new home, spend a few hours with them, and over the next few weeks, gradually allow them to explore the rest of the house.
2. Offer the essentials
Provide your new cat with food and water dishes, a litter box, a bed, a scratching post, and a cat tree. Experts recommend you have one litterbox per cat, plus an extra, to help prevent unwanted house soiling.
“In my experience, unwanted bathroom habits are the number one complication when introducing new pets to each other,” said veterinarian Dr. Fiona Lee. “Ensuring adequate space and privacy around litter boxes will help mitigate this.”
Setting these items up in their room will ensure your cat has everything they need to feel at home while they get acclimated.
Since your home is unfamiliar, setting up hiding spots is important. Cubbies, cat tunnels, and covered beds are great ideas for feline-friendly hiding spots in a cat’s new home.
3. Help them make furry friends
Just like your cat needs a gradual introduction to your home, they also need slow introductions to other pets if you have a multi-pet household.
Start by letting the new cat and resident cat or dog sniff each other from opposite sides of a closed door. You can exchange their blankets, beds, or toys, give the new cat items from the current residents, and provide existing pets with items that smell like the new cat. Also, consider using catnip on items that can help relax cats.
After a few days, put the resident cat or dog in the room where the new cat has been hanging out and let the new cat out to explore the rest of the house. Repeating this process is important until all animals are comfortable with the others’ scents.
“While two cats may never become best friends, in my experience I find most cats will eventually tolerate each other using this method,” added Dr. Lee. “Additionally, most dogs will learn to respect the new cat’s space.”
Allow supervised interactions through a barrier (like a baby gate) and watch for signs of aggression. Barking, hissing, and posturing is normal, but if behavior escalates, stop, and try again later. If the animals appear to tolerate each other, allow them to meet. You should always monitor your animals until you’re confident everyone is getting along.
4. Manage bad behavior
When introducing a cat to a new home, watch your animals for signs of stress. If there is consistent hissing or growling, they have flattened their ears against their heads or the hair on their backs is standing up, separate the animals. Reward positive or neutral interactions with treats or toys.
5. Keep stress in check
You can avoid conflict over resources by providing enough food, bowls, water, litter boxes, scratching posts, and beds so animals aren’t fighting for space. Ensure you offer each animal sufficient attention, so no one feels stressed about being left out.
“[We] diffuse exam rooms with a calming pheromone spray to help with the stress of vet visits,” said Dr. Lee. “This can be helpful in the home too! Consider using a cat pheromone diffusing product, such as Feliway, which has been shown to reduce the stress response in cats.”
Cats also need their own space. Provide beds, perches, cat trees, tunnels, and other spots for cats to retreat for some alone time. Giving them their own space will help them feel safe and encourage a peaceful existence.
6. Promote good behavior
Don’t want your cat to jump onto the kitchen counter or scratch the furniture? You’ll need to train them to prevent these unwanted behaviors. Yelling at cats can make them fearful, so training should focus on positive reinforcement.
When the cat scratches the furniture, take them to the scratching post and reward them with pets and praise for scratching there instead. Redirecting them to more acceptable behavior and rewarding them will help your cat associate positive things with the desired behavior.
7. Ask for assistance
If introducing a cat to a new home isn’t going as planned, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your veterinarian can offer suggestions or make referrals to behaviorists or trainers to help with the adjustment and ensure it’s a happy home for your new feline and your family. Pets Best policyholders can also speak to a veterinary expert anytime through a 24/7 Pet Helpline.
Progressive Advantage Agency, Inc. (PAA) refers consumers to Pets Best Insurance Services LLC (Pets Best), which offers and administers pet insurance coverage underwritten by American Pet Insurance Company, a New York insurance company headquartered at 6100 4th Ave. S. Suite 200 Seattle, WA 98108, or Independence American Insurance Company, a Delaware insurance company located at 11333 N. Scottsdale Rd, Ste. 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85254. Pets Best (CA agency #0F37530) is a licensed insurance agency located at 10840 Ballantyne Commons Parkway, Charlotte, NC 28277. Each insurer has sole financial responsibility for its own products. Please refer to your declarations page to determine the underwriter for your policy. Terms and conditions apply. See your policy for details.