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Introducing a new cat to your home

Nina Spitzer is a SheKnows.com columnist and a freelance writer living in sunny Cave Creek, Arizona.

Go Slow! Be patient.

People adopt a cat and then, excited about making it be part of the household, immediately let it loose into the house the minute they get home. The second it's out of the carrier, the poor thing is confronted by screaming, grabbing kids and snarling, hissing animals. What a welcome!


Kitty needs a calm introduction

The type of introduction to a new home described above is a frightening experience for a cat. It was probably taken from a familiar place of security, or possibly even a mother if it's just a kitten, and is now being bombarded with change. Both travel and change are not comfortable things for cats. Traumatized, the cat might scratch, bite, and possibly not eat or use the kitty litter. Unfortunately, a frequent outcome is that the new owner decides the cat is not a "good fit," and so returns it to the shelter. The poor kitty never had a chance. Properly introducing a new cat to your home will pave the way for a rewarding and long lasting relationship. It's important to remember, however, that this proper introduction to your home and family requires time and patience.

The trip home

The kitty's trip home is exciting for you, but a frightening ordeal for the cat. Things will go smoother if you...

  • Use a cat carrier or closed box with holes to take your new kitty home.

  • Never let the cat wander freely in the car. This is an invitation to an accident for either you or the cat.
  • Avoid loud, blaring music and fingers poking in at the new cat.

At home

It's important to NOT set the cat free into the household as soon as you get home. A new cat may need up to two weeks to transition into a new home, especially if there are other animals. Have a small room ready for a temporary isolation area. A spare bathroom works well, since the cat will feel more comfortable, at first, in a small space. Also, there's nowhere to hide in the bathroom and the cat will get frequent visits. In addition, the tile on the floor will make clean ups easier. An office or spare room can work, too.

  • Have the isolated space ready with a clean litter box, a bed, water and toys before the kitty comes home.
  • If possible, bring the bed and toys from its previous home for scents that are familiar.
  • Don't provide food for at least an hour so kitty can become comfortable with the room.

  • At home, open the cat carrier in the isolation room and let the cat venture out on its own when ready. It may take a little time. The cat will be less frightened if it hasn't been dragged out of the carrier.

  • Give the cat a few minutes to explore the room, and then show it the kitty litter.

  • Leave the room and give the cat time alone to become familiar with the new surroundings.
  • Return after about an hour with food and some friendly cuddles.

Importance of the isolation period

The isolation period makes the transition easier and more gentle when you adopt a cat. The kitty isn't overwhelmed by a new environment, noises, smells and other animals. The isolation period also gives you time to check if the new cat is healthy. It's common for a cat to be frightened and not eat or drink the first couple of days in a new home. If this persists, however, the cat is the danger of dehydration and kidney failure and would need medical attention, so keep a close watch on its physical state. Use this isolation time to...

  • Take note if the cat is eating, drinking, and eliminating in the kitty litter.
  • Look the cat over for signs of health problems.

  • Let the cat become familiar with the scents of other animals in the house.

  • Let the kids come in to meet the cat one at a time.
  • Grooming and acceptance of food are signs that your new cat is settling in and may be ready to meet other pets in the household.

next page: what to do if you have kids... dogs... other cats...


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