How to Introduce a Cat into Your Home
If you are thinking of adopting a cat or have already brought one home, you will want to make the transition as smooth and stress-free as possible. Cats are territorial and sensitive to changes in their environment, so introducing them to a new home requires some patience and planning -- especially if there is already a cat in the house. Here are some tips on how to introduce a cat into your home and help them feel comfortable and happy.
Make your home cat-friendly. To help your cat feel at home, make sure you provide them with everything they need and want in your house. Provide multiple litter boxes in different locations and keep them clean and fresh; for homes with multiple cats, a good rule of thumb is to provide one box for each cat plus one extra, so that your cats are never without a box. Provide scratching posts or pads in various rooms, and encourage your cat to use them instead of your furniture. Provide cat trees, elevated perches or window sills where your cat can observe their surroundings and relax. Provide fresh water bowls in different spots and refill them regularly.
Prepare a “safe room” for your cat. Before you bring your cat home, choose a quiet and cozy room where you can keep them for the first few days or weeks. This room should have everything your cat needs, such as food, water, litter box, bedding, toys, scratching post, and hiding places. It should be free from any toxic substances or anything a cat could chew, such as exposed electrical cords. You can also add some items that smell familiar to your cat, such as a blanket or a toy from their previous home or shelter, as well as the same kind of food, litter and litter box they had previously (you can introduce different foods and litter gradually). This will help your cat feel more secure and confident in their new territory. If your cat seems particularly shy or scared, use a pheromone diffuser that plugs into a wall outlet.
Let your cat explore at their own pace. When you arrive home with your cat, place their carrier on the floor and open the door. Don’t force your cat to come out or pick them up. Let them come out on their own and start to explore the room as they feel comfortable. Some cats might hide during the first few days -- this is normal. Sit quietly in the same room and talk softly to your cat, but don’t overwhelm them with too much attention. Give your cat some time and space to adjust to their new surroundings.
Visit your cat regularly and bond with them. During the first few days or weeks, spend quality time with them. Offer them treats, toys, and gentle petting if they seem interested. Give them a variety of foods, both canned and dry, and take note of which ones they prefer and whether they have an adverse reaction to any. Play with your cat using interactive toys, such as a wand, feather or laser pointer, to stimulate their natural instincts, provide fun and exercise, and build trust. Avoid loud noises or sudden movements that might scare your cat. Remember that every cat is different and some may take longer than others to warm up to you.
Introduce your cat to other pets gradually. If you have other pets in your home -- especially dogs or other cats -- you should introduce them to your new cat slowly and carefully. Keep them separated at first and let them get used to each other’s scent by swapping bedding, toys or a towel. Then, let them see each other through a baby or pet gate or a cracked door and reward them with treats or praise for being calm and curious. Finally, let them meet face-to-face under your supervision and intervene if there is any sign of aggression or fear.
Expand your cat’s territory gradually. Once your cat seems comfortable in their safe room and with other pets, you can start to let them explore the rest of the house slowly. Open the door of their room and let them come out when they are ready; don’t force them to go anywhere they don’t want to go. Let them roam around at their own pace and follow their lead. Make sure they have access to their safe room at all times in case they want to retreat. Until you are fully confident in your cat’s behavior around the house, confine them to the safe room when you go out.
Be patient and positive. Introducing a cat into your home can be a challenging process that requires patience and positivity. Don’t rush your cat or expect them to behave like a dog or a human. Respect their personality and preferences, and let them set the pace of the introduction. Reward your cat with treats, toys, praise, or affection for being brave and curious. Avoid scolding or punishing your cat for being scared, for hiding, or for jumping on furniture.
By following these tips, you can help your cat adjust to their new home and become a happy and healthy member of your family.
Updated February 23, 2024
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