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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!

If you have kids

Kids of all ages need to learn the proper respect and treatment of animals. A sweet kitty will turn into a mean cat if mistreated. Biting and scratching is a cats defense mechanism and is used when a cat is being mistreated, abused or doesn't feel safe. Important things to teach kids when you adopt a cat are...

  • A cat is another living being that has feelings and can be hurt.

  • Be gentle, use soft voices, and not pull or grab any part of the cat.

  • Let the cat come to them and not make any sudden moves.

  • Never tease or annoy the cat.

  • Close the door carefully and tightly when they go in and out of the isolation room.
  • Supervise younger children around the cat.

If you have dogs

Getting cats and dogs to be "friends" is not always an easy task. It will take time and patience, so don't rush it. Important ways to help in this "getting to know you" period are...

  • Bring the dog's bed into the isolation room so kitty can get to know its scent.

  • Bring the kitty's bed out for the dog to smell.

  • Isolate your dog while the new cat walks around and investigates its new home. It's best to do this one room at a time and under your supervision.

  • Introduce kitty to the dog indoors and while the dog is under control of a leash.

  • Don't tolerate any aggressive behavior from the dog.

  • Don't ever let the dog chase or corner the cat, even if it's being playful.

  • Reward the dog for good behavior with a positive comment and/or a treat.

  • Keep the dog confined until the cat feels safe in its new home.

  • Make sure the cat has a safe place to retreat, if necessary.
  • Don't leave them alone together until long after the transition period and once you're convinced they're friends.
  • Give the dog extra attention to avoid jealousy.

If you have other cats

Spayed or neutered cats are usually more accepting of other cats. Still, there is a pecking order in a cat household, especially if there are multiple cats, so don't rush the "getting to know you" period. With time, they will accept one another, or even become best friends. Have patience and keep these things in mind...

  • Let your resident cat(s) sniff the new cat's carrier while your new cat is still confined.

  • Let the new cat become acquainted and comfortable with its isolation room.

  • Bring the empty cat carrier out into the living area for the other cat(s) to smell.

  • Bring the resident cat's bed into the isolation room so the new kitty can get to know its scent.

  • Bring the new cat's bed out for the resident cat(s) to smell.

  • Isolate the resident cat(s) while the new cat walks around and investigates its new home. It's best to do this one room at a time and under your supervision.

  • Under your supervision, introduce your new cat to the others one at a time in a room where it has already become comfortable.

  • Let the cats become familiar with each other on their own terms. It will take time, so don't force it. Hissing is to be expected.

  • If a fight breaks out, either toss a blanket over one cat or squirt them both lightly with a spray of water.

  • Don't leave them alone together until long after the transition period and once you're convinced they're friends.
  • Do not disrupt the routine or your resident cats. Give them plenty of attention and treats for good behavior.

Additional things to know

When you adopt a cat, it's important to anticipate potential problems before they occur. Some additional things to know are...

  • Have your cat micro-chipped and use an ID tag as soon as possible.

  • After a few days or a week, get the new cat into the veterinarian for its first check-up and shots.

  • Cats need to scratch. Encourage the use of a scratching post as an acceptable scratching place.

  • Use claw caps on your cats claws to protect kids and furniture from scratches.

  • Do not have a houseful of guests while the new cat is in its "getting acquainted" period.

  • If you must have a busy houseful of guests during the "getting acquainted" period, be sure to keep the new cat isolated in a secure place so there's no chance of it escaping to the outdoors.

  • Have each family member spend quality, gentle time with the kitty to create relationships and feelings of trust.

  • Cat-proof your house of items that are dangerous to the cat if played with or ingested.

  • Cats will jump on furniture and countertops, so secure any items you don't want accidentally broken.
  • Keep cats from using large planters as a litter box by placing large rocks on top of the soil.

A FOREVER HOME

It's a lifelong commitment when we adopt a cat, or any pet for that matter. Let's make sure our new friend will easily and gently become a new member of the family. Chances are that pet will be a devoted and loving companion long after the kids have grown up and left home.

Photo Credits:  Nina Spitzer
Resource: PAWS and Pet Place

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