Bringing Home a New Cat
Whether you are adopting your first or fifth cat it’s important to prepare ahead of time. Here are some things to consider:
- Are you and your family ready to make a 15+ year commitment? The average lifespan for a cat is 15 years. Throughout their life they will need regular veterinary care including vaccinations, wellness visits, and possibility dental procedures.
- Are there any existing behavioral problems with your existing pets like litter box avoidance or bullying?
- Do any of your current cats have health issues where the stress of a new cat will exacerbate their condition?
- Do you have adequate space for each cat to claim their territory?
Once you have considered the above and are ready to adopt, be sure to review our resources to ensure a smooth transition and integration with your existing family members- human, cat, and dog!
- Cat carrier
- Litter box, litter (we recommend unscented), and scooper
- Water and food bowls
- Food (canned and/or dry- we recommend both!)
- Scratching post
- Cat bed
- Cat toys (our favs: wand, catnip filled, interactive)
- Treats (our favs: temptations and tube treats)
- If purchasing a collar make sure it’s a “break away” collar!
Prepare the Space:
- Create an acclimation room. Starting your new cat off in a quiet room while they become acquainted with their new family and space will help them adjust more easily. This room will contain everything they need including a litter box, water and food bowls, and toys.
- Cat-proof the space. Make sure breakables and household products are put away and that you do not have plants or flowers that are toxic to cats. The cords to blinds or curtains should be shortened and placed out of reach. Make sure trash cans are secure and that plastic bags or bags with handles are out of reach.
- Escape prevention. Cats can be nervous in their new space and given the opportunity may escape. During the first few weeks do not open windows more than 1-2 inches. Ensure that window screens are secure and repair torn screens.
Congratulations on adopting your new feline best friend!
Moving to a new home can be stressful for even the most well adjusted animal. It’s important to give your new cat time to adjust to their new family and home. Below are tried and true tips to help your new cat(s) acclimate to their new life!
- Many cats are fearful when introduced to new spaces. We recommend starting your new cat(s) off in an acclimation room (see above). This space can be a spare bedroom, office, or even a medium sized bathroom. The room should have everything they need: litter box, water & food bowls, toys, and a bed. Providing a hiding spot like a covered bed or box tipped on the side can help them feel more secure and reduce the chances of them hiding under a bed or dresser. It’s important to make sure the room is secure (see above). A frightened cat can put through window screens or quickly slip past you and out of the door. By starting your new cat off in a secure space it will make the transition and socialization process a lot easier by eliminating their ability to hide some where in your home where you can’t find them. Cats are great at hiding!
- During the acclimation period it’s important to give your new cat(s) time to adjust to their new space and you. We recommend making frequent visits and providing positive reinforcement with treats. Never try to force a cat into being petted or picked up, instead, interact with him/her by engaging in play using an interactive toy like a cat wand and rewarding with treats. Cats bond through playing and positive reinforcement helps them associate you with something good. We are proponents of positive reinforcement– reinforce the behavior you want rather than punish the behavior you don’t!
- Once your new cat(s) are comfortable walking around and being in their acclimation space, expand his/her access to the entire home. For some cats it make take several weeks for them to adjust to more space and that’s OK. We suggest keeping the door open to their acclimation room so that they can return when they’re feeling overwhelmed. Give your new cat(s) the time, patience, encouragement, and positive reinforcement they need to acclimate and we promise they will own their new home in no time!
Signs of Stress: Not every cat will exhibit signs of stress; however, it’s important to observe your new cat(s) and make sure that any signs of stress are decreasing over time. Signs of stress can include decreased appetite, decreased grooming, panting, eliminating outside of the litter box, and pacing. Some cats may not eat for a day or two after arriving to their new home. When in doubt, contact your veterinarian or Ten Lives Cat Rescue for help.
Slow and steady wins the cat introduction race!
It’s important to allow your newly adopted cat to acclimate to his/her new space before introducing him/her to resident cats. Quick introductions can lead to fear, anger, aggression and sometimes cause irreparable damage. It can also lead to behavioral issues like litter box avoidance. Cats are notoriously territorial, so Ten Lives believes that slow introductions is the best way to go. It can take weeks or months for cats to learn to live together harmoniously, so don’t get discouraged if they aren’t best friends right away. Hissing, low growling, and light swatting can be normal behaviors; however, don’t allow these behaviors to escalate and don’t hesitate to separate your new and resident cat if needed. Below are tips and tricks that our fosters use in their home!
- Give your new cat some time to adjust to their acclimation space and then start by exchanging blankets, beds, or bedding so that the new and resident cat can get used to each other’s scents.
- Allow the cats to explore each other’s space in the absence of the other cat and increase the amount of time over several days.
- When you are ready to start introductions, we suggest stacking two baby gates in the doorway so that the cats can sniff, play paws, and interact in a safe manner. Reward positive behavior with treats so that they learn to associate each other with something tasty! Feeding on opposite sides of the gates is also a good way of helping your new and resident cat associate each other with something positive.
- Start by doing introductions for short periods of time and always supervised. There may be some hissing, low growling, or light swatting. This is how cats initially define their boundaries, but they should be monitored to ensure the behavior does not escalate. Do not hesitate to separate your new and resident cats when needed.
- Encourage mutual play time with wand or interactive toys and reward wanted behavior with treats.
- Continue to increase their time together, but do not leave the cats unsupervised until they are mostly living together harmoniously.
- Having enough resources in your home can also help prevent conflict between cats! Make sure you have multiple water bowls or fountains, litter boxes, and accessible vertical space located throughout the house.
Unwanted Behaviors: Chasing, cornering, or bullying are behaviors that you should be concerned about. If these behaviors are occurring it is best to separate and continue with slow introductions and positive reinforcement. These behaviors can quickly escalate and lead to injuries, a permanently damaged relationship, or unwanted behaviors like litter box avoidance.
- Follow steps 1 and 2 as listed above in cat introductions.
- Start introductions by stacking two baby gates in the doorway so they can sniff and “meet” each other safely. If possible, have another person the cat is familiar with on the cat side of the gate to provide treats and reassurance to the cat.
- First introductions should be done with the dog on a leash and the cat loose and free to explore. Have lots of dog treats on hand and encourage the dog to stay seated. If the dog becomes over excited and tries to charge at the cat separate them and return to introductions once the dog has calmed down.
- If the initial introductions go well and the cat does not seem stressed, allow the leash to have some slack so that the dog has more freedom to interact with the cat. If the dog becomes over excited or the cat becomes stressed reduce the slack and continue to work on step 3.
- Continue to work on introductions until a harmonious relationship is formed. The cat should not be stressed and/or hiding and the dog should not be overly excited in the presence of the cat. Do not leave the dog and cat unsupervised until both animals are comfortable and safe. It’s important that the cat has vertical space to jump up and get away from the dog. This can be provided with cat condos, window perches, or wall steps.