Introducing a New Cat
How do I introduce a newly adopted cat/kitten to my home?
General Tips for Bringing a New Cat or Kitten Home
Prepare a safe room. A safe starter room or sanctuary for the new cat will provide the cat with the quiet and safety s/he needs while becoming familiar with the scents and sounds of your home. The starter room can be any size but must have a secure door and ceiling.
Cat-proof the safe room. Check out our Cat Safety Tips and Escape Prevention sheet for more information.
Give kitty a place to hide. New cats are often nervous and like to hide. Cardboard boxes or sheets draped over chairs make ideal hiding spots when you first bring kitty home. If you’ve adopted a shy cat, we recommend removing large items of furniture from the room, such as beds and dressers. It is much easier to interact with a cat hiding in a box than a cat hiding under a bed.
Help your new cat get to know you. Place a t-shirt or a piece of your clothing that contains your scent in the safe room.
Equipt the safe room with cat food, water and litter. Place food and water on one side of the room and an open (unenclosed) litter box on the other side. Shyer cats may not eat much during the first 24 to 48 hours and may experience temporary diarrhea from stress. If your cat has not eaten in 48 hours, try some extra tasty treats such as canned tuna or salmon. If this is not successful, you may want to consult your veterinarian for advice.
Give your new cat a new post. Put a new scratching post (at least one metre tall) inside the safe room. Scratching is a natural and comforting behaviour for cats. It’s also important that the scratching post is new and has not been used by other cats. Your new cat does not want to be stressed by the smells of other cats while s/he is first adapting to his or her new surroundings.
Feliway saves the day. If your new cat is an adult, you can use a store-bought product called Feliway. Feliway imitates natural cat pheromones and helps a new cat feel more comfortable. Feliway comes in a spray and diffuser form.
Give your cat some cat toys for entertainment. Provide toys such as mice and balls in the safe room for when you are not around.
Spend time with your new cat. In the beginning, visit frequently for short periods of time. Visiting can mean interacting directly with the new cat in the form of play or petting, or quietly reading a book or chatting on the telephone in the same space as your new companion. Keep in mind that a nervous cat may growl, hiss, twitch its tails or pull its ears back. The best response is to speak softly followed by giving the cat some time alone.
Transition beyond the safe room. When you and your new cat have established a trusting relationship, the cat is ready to begin exploring the house. Be sure to begin this process when you are home to supervise. Close most of the doors so the cat begins its orientation in stages. Too many new spaces at once can be stressful and frightening. If you’ve adopted a shy cat, be sure not let it in the basement for many weeks. Most basements have many hiding places—some inaccessible to humans.
Ready to explore the roost. Remember, integration into the rest of the house is dependent on the personality of your new cat (as well as your existing pets). Sometimes the integration process can begin in just two to four days; however, sometimes it is best to wait a couple weeks. Shy cats in particular may need a longer integration period.
How can I introduce my newly adopted cat/kitten to my resident cat?
How to Introduce Cats to Cats
Phase 1 – Cat Smells Cat
Successful introductions take time. DO NOT and we repeat DO NOT try to introduce the new addition to your resident cat(s) immediately upon arrival. You may damage the new relationship irreparably and initiate fear, anger, aggression, spraying and litter box problems in the new cat and/or resident cat(s). Successful introductions take time.
Let the cats sniff out the situation. Let “smell” be the first introduction as the cats sniff each other from under the “safe room” door. Within two to four days, begin exchanging the bedding between the new and resident cat(s) daily. This helps familiarize the cats with each other’s scents.
Phase 2 – Cat Continues to Smell Cat
Let the sniffing continue. If there are no marked signs of aggression from the cats, such as hissing and growling, the next step is to confine your resident cat to a room and let the new cat explore your house for a couple of hours each day for several days.
Phase 3 – Cat Sees Cat
Organize a carrier meeting. Place your new cat in a carrier and put the carrier in a location of your home outside of the safe room (for example, the living room). Allow the cats to look at each other and sniff through the carrier door.
Any signs of aggression? Keep the visit short and return the new cat to its safe room.
Repeat this phase 2 to 3 times daily (if possible), until cats appear to be more comfortable with each other.
Phase 4 – Cat Meets Cat
Let the cats meet at their own pace. If there are no signs of aggression between cats, leave the door to the safe room open a crack. This will allow the new cat to explore and/or your resident cat to visit. Supervision is necessary for the safety of both cats.
In case of aggression, have a spray bottle filled with water or a towel handy. Always stop serious threats and/or aggression immediately, as a serious fight may damage the potential for successful integration and relationship.
If over a period of weeks your integration plan is not going well, consider the installation of an inexpensive screen door from a building supply store. The screen door allows the cats to continue to get to know each other by sight and smell, while keeping both parties safe. Each cat can take turns in the screened room.
A Feliway diffuser may also prove helpful when integration is difficult.
Phase 5 – Integration Complete
You may notice some occasional hissing, swatting and grouchy behaviour over the next few months (and years). This is normal. Cats are hierarchical by nature and must establish and affirm the pecking order within your household. Plus, much like humans, all cats have the occasional “off” day.
Please note: The 5 phases detailed above offer only approximate timelines. Some integrations may proceed faster or slower and integration is dependent on the personalities of the cats involved. Remember, you know your cat(s) best. Use common sense and patience when integrating a new cat or cats.
What is the best way to introduce my newly adopted cat/kitten to my dog?
Phase 1 – Cat Smells Dog
Successful introductions take time. DO NOT and we repeat DO NOT try to introduce the new addition to your resident dog(s) immediately upon arrival. You may damage the new relationship irreparably and initiate fear, anger, aggression, spraying and litter box problems in the new cat and/or resident dog(s). Successful introductions take time.
Let the cats sniff out the situation. Let “smell” be the first introduction as the cats/dogs sniff each other from under the “safe room” door. Within two to four days, begin exchanging the bedding between the new and resident dog(s) daily. This helps familiarize with each other’s scents.
Phase 2 – Switch Spots
If there are no other cats in your home, confine the dog to one room and let the cat begin to explore the rest of your house for one to two hours each day until the cat is familiar and comfortable with the layout of your home.
Phase 3 – Cat Meets Dog
Bring the dog in on a leash. Once the cat is used to your home, let the cat roam loose in one room. Keep the dog on a leash and have dog treats ready in your pocket. If possible, have another person the cat is familiar with on the other side of the room to reassure and distract the cat from the dog.
Sit and meet. Keep the dog seated and focused on you as the leader. Try offering the dog a toy. If the dog focuses on or accepts the toy, reward the dog with a treat. If the dog tries to stand and move towards the cat(s), correct the dog slightly with the leash and reward him or her with a treat. If at any point the dog is not responding to your commands or the cat’s stress level appears elevated, remove the dog from the room. Keep repeating this process until the dog is responding to you and either ignoring or accepting the cat(s). This process helps teach the dog that cats are not prey, toys to be chased, or threats.
Watch. Never leave the dog and cat(s) unsupervised until you are absolutely sure they have built up a mutual, trusting and respectful relationship.
Make sure kitty has some space for alone time. Even once the cat(s) and dog(s) are comfortable with each other, cats still like having the option to retreat to a space away from the dog. Place a baby gate across the doorway of a room in the house where the cat or cats like to hang out, or buy or build a tall cat tower so they can retreat when needed.
Note: The length of time required to successfully integrate cats with dogs varies depending on the previous experiences of the animals involved. For example, your dog may have had previous encounter with a cat or the cat may have had prior experience with a dog. Often, when the cats and dogs are used to being around the other species, integration can be quicker.
What are tips for introducing my newly adopted cat/kitten to my child?
Cats and Infants
There’s an old wives’ tale that a cat can become jealous and suck away a baby’s breath. This has no basis in fact. Most cats will steer clear of a new infant, whose sounds and smells seem altogether alien. Your cat is more likely to be upset by all the changes around the house than by the baby itself. New parents are often busy, tired, and much less focused on the family pet than they used to be. Here are some suggestions to make things go smoother when baby makes four:
Cats and Toddlers
When baby goes mobile, the real fun begins….but not for your cat! Your toddler regards a cat as an animated stuffed toy just waiting to be squeezed, prodded and chased. Young children don’t have the ability to read a cat’s body language or reign in their own angry or aggressive feelings. Toddlers operate at your cat’s eye level, move erratically, and emit unearthly giggles and squeals. Even the most confident cat can sense danger. And the gentlest feline may strike out when cornered or hurt. It can take a while to teach your child to interact appropriately with your cat, but it’s never too early to start.
Because of risk of suffocation, never allow a cat to sleep with an infant. Simply close the nursery door and use a baby monitor. If your prefer leaving the baby’s door open, consider installing an inexpensive screen door.
Gradually introduce new baby furniture, bedding, and equipment before the baby arrives. While your newborn is still in the hospital, consider bringing home a nursery blanket or onesie with the baby’s scent. This will lessen the shock to your cat when the baby finally comes home.
Busy as you are, set aside a few minutes a day to groom and play with your cat, just like old times. This will reassure your feline that some things haven’t changed.
Encourage your cat to investigate as you hold or feed the baby. Gently reassure your cat and encourage her to sniff and investigate. Help your cat satisfy her curiosity while forming positive associations with the new family member.
Cats and Older Children
School-age children are more reliable and are ready to start learning important lessons about caring for their feline family member.
To protect both your toddler and your cat, never leave them together unsupervised.
Teach your child the proper way to interact with a cat. Show her how to gently stroke her head and back, avoiding more sensitive areas such as tail, feet and belly. Stroke your toddler’s arm gently to show how good it feels. Explain that poking, squeezing or pulling fur, tails, and ears aren’t OK.
Quiet voices are a must as well.
Teach your child never to put her face near a pet. Scratches and bites of the head and neck are both most common and most dangerous.
Never touch the cat when she is eating or sleeping.
Do not chase the cat. If she runs away, it means she’s had enough.
Make sure your cat has many safe escape perches. The top of a bureau, under a bed, or a gated-off room work well.
Watch body language. If either child or cat are getting overly worked up, it’s time to separate them.
Do not allow rough play. This only encourages the cat to use teeth and claws. Teach your child appropriate ways to play with your cat using safe cat toys.
Do not allow children to tease the cat. Teach the difference between teasing and playing.
Teach children to properly handle a cat. An adult cat should never be picked up by the scruff of the neck. Show children how to support the cat under the chest with one hand, while supporting the hindquarters with the other.
Model the proper behavior by treating your cat with affection and respect at all times.
Involve older children in caring for your cat. Seven- to eight-year-olds can replenish food and water bowls; ten year olds can gently brush the cat and even help keep litter pan clean. This is a great way for children to start learning responsibility for other living things.
Educate your child. Borrow books about cats from the library. Download age-appropriate information from websites.
Teach children to close the door! Many an indoor cat has gotten injured or lost when children inadvertently left the outside door open.