PLAN AHEAD: TIPS ON WELCOMING A KITTEN OR CAT TO YOUR HOME
Adding a kitten or cat to your home? Let’s talk about a few tips on how to adjust a feline to a new home environment. It’s all about ensuring the new kitty that they will not only have a space to call their own, but also how to go about slowly getting them familiar with other members of the household, including pets.
Whether this is your first cat, or your fourth, it’s extremely important to prepare in advance. Prior to making the decision to welcome a feline friend, consider the following:
- If you have more than one cat, or other pets, is your home large enough to give the new cat enough of its own territory?
- Are there issues with your current pets (behavior and/or medical) that may be challenging?
- Will the new kitten or cat bring added stress to the current family dynamic?
Once you have fully considered the above, and are ready to move on with the introduction, here are a few general pieces of guidance to help to ensure a smooth integration for all family members, including the new fur baby.
Initially, it’s best to provide a “safe haven” for the new kitty. This designated space may be needed for a day, or up to several weeks.
The safe area will afford the new cat with a quiet place to seek comfort and peace as she becomes familiar with the sights, sounds and smells of her new environment.
This haven can be any size, but should have a secure door and ceiling.
Cat-proof the sanctuary
Just like baby-proofing, when introducing a new cat to your home, consider the following to not only keep the new kitty safe, but also other family members and belongings:
- Remove breakables
- Be mindful of toys that can cause harm if in use while unattended
- Secure garbage cans (contents can make the new kitty ill, or they may ingest objects that can lead to obstructions)
- Keep toxic plants and household products out of reach, or remove from your home (refer to this list of toxic substances to pets)
- Be mindful of cords, curtain tassels and blind adjusters (can cause strangulation)
- Consider the use of breakaway collars (if your cat wears a collar)
- If you leash your cat, NEVER leave them unattended
Some cats are “escape artists.” Be very mindful of this during the first few weeks of introduction:
- Keep windows closed
- Secure any broken or torn window screens
- Lock doors, if needed
- Keep the kitty in an enclosed area during heavy traffic periods (meaning family coming home from work, or school, while having work done in the home, etc.)
- Only place cats in enclosed balcony areas with no room to escape (they are quite clever)
CATS LOVE TO HIDE
The general nature of some cats, is to hide. This may be caused by nervousness, or a myriad of other factors. Give the new cat a place to do what they do best…HIDE! A box, or blanket just may do the trick.
A FEW MORE TIPS…
The following are a few more tips to help transition your new feline friend into a warm, and safe environment:
- Add a piece of your clothing to their safe room (the scent will help the kitty become familiar with you)
- Place the cat’s necessities in their safe room (water and food on one side, litter box on the other)
- Expect the new kitty may not eat for the first few days, or may have an upset tummy. This is OK! (However, if this continues beyond a few days, make an appointment with your veterinarian)
- Give the new kitty a NEW scratching post (scratching is innate and will provide the new kitty a sense of calm and comfort)
- Add toys to the “safe” room (only those that do not need supervision when used)
- Spend time visiting with your new kitten in their safe place.
TRANSITIONING OUT OF THE SAFE ROOM
So, a few days or weeks have gone by, you have built trust and feel the new cat is ready to transition from his safe area to the general population! Consider the following:
- Transition while you are home
- Slowing transition by closing off some of the doors to rooms in your house (too much open space can be overwhelming to the cat)
- Keep in mind that integration is mostly centered around the personality of your cat (and existing pets)
- As your new cat explores their new environment, keep other pets confined for a few days (if possible)
HOW TO INTRODUCE A NEW CAT TO CAT
What is the best way to introduce a new cat to an existing family cat? Try the following:
- Do NOT introduce the new cat immediately as this may damage the relationship from the onset and can initiate aggression and other behavioral issues
- The first introduction, should be a “smell test.” (This can be done while the new kitty is in their safe space through the door)
- The first introduction could be a carrier to carrier situation
- Any signs of aggression should be a sign to keep the initial visit short
- Keep repeating the introduction process until the cats become comfortable with each other
HOW TO INTRODUCE A NEW CAT TO A DOG
Basically, the same steps apply when introducing a new cat to an existing dog. Bring the parties together, cat in his crate and dog on his leash. The following tips may also help with integration:
- Supervise the initial meet
- Do not leave the pair alone for a few weeks
- Use treats, if necessary
TIPS FOR CHILDREN
Introducing a new pet of any kind to your family with children, can be difficult without a few rules and/or guidelines in place:
- Show your children how to gently hold and pick up the new pet (using a stuffed animal would be a great idea)
- Initial chasing should not be allowed, but can quite possibly be ok after transition
- Be considerate of not making extremely loud noises that can scare the new kitty
- Stress the importance of the kitty needing quiet time and time to use the litter box alone)
- Explain to your children that cat play, may come with scratches
- Have your children be mindful when opening and closing doors to the outside.
We hope these tips help to transition your new kitty in their furever home. Once the integration is complete, you may still experience some behavioral issues. This is absolutely, NORMAL.
Cats have a hierarchical nature and need to establish themselves in the pecking order. Be patient with your new cat and other household members. Have fun and enjoy one another’s presence and company for a lifetime!