How to Introduce Your New Cat to Your Home
Bringing home a cat is a fun experience that should be the start of a beautiful relationship with your new feline friend. My husband and I recently decided to adopt two kittens, and we worked ahead of time to prepare our apartment for our new cats. Although we did a fairly good job of preparing, we learned a few important things that would have made the process smoother. If you're planning to bring home a cat, consider a few of these tips to help reduce the stress of the transition for both yourself and your cat.
Before you bring home your cat, follow this checklist:
Clean Up Obvious Kitty Spots
Your new feline friends are likely to go exploring the second they arrive home, including into small gaps and spaces you didn't even realize your house had. Spend some time cleaning up difficult to reach areas, such as the gaps between your furniture and walls and the floor under your bed. Dust can make your kitty friend sneeze repeatedly, and sneezing is not something that cats enjoy! You may also have dangerous spots of mold in these hidden corners, so make sure to clean thoroughly to minimize any possible dangers.
If you don't currently have any cats, your home may have a few hidden dangers for your new feline friends. For example, dangling blind cords look like a tempting toy to a young kitty. A careless kitty can get itself tangled in these dangling cords, especially if it hasn't properly learned how to cat yet. Although this usually won't hurt a cat, in rare cases it can hurt or even kill a kitty.
Other dangers include the endless collection of electrical cords powering your home's devices, including your computer and your television. Dangling cords can be fun to bat at, and the rubberized coating on cords can be an appealing surface for a teething cat to chew on. Make these cords look as unappealing as possible; keep cords low to the ground and hidden when possible. You can also invest in cord organizing kits or spray some bitter apple on each cord. Try not to leave unplugged cords lying around, especially from chargers. Our own kitties ignore cords that are plugged in, but can't resist the shiny ends of unplugged chargers.
Be Prepared With Essential Cat Items
An effective way to make your cat feel welcome is to have all of the essential cat items already set up and ready to go. These basic items include:
- Litter box filled with litter (use the same brand the cat has been using if possible)
- Bowls for food and water
- Cat food (preferably the same cat food the cat is used to)
- One or more comfortable places to sleep
- Scratching posts – the more, the better!
- Toys for playtime
Your cat will probably feel stressed if she cannot find these items. Many shelters offer essential cat supplies to purchase during the adoption process. If you don't have these items, buy them after you finish the adoption process and before you go home.
How to Encourage Cat to Leave Small Space
If your cat does slip through your defenses and get into a space you don't want them in, try to coax him out with some tempting foods. You can try cat treats or canned cat food. If those fail, try to lure the cat out with an open can of tuna or chicken meat. As long as the cat is not in distress, he will likely leave his hiding place once he's hungry. If he is acting stressed, however, you may have to physically get him out. Whatever you do, don't try to scare him out of his hiding spot; scaring the cat will only make him more determined to not leave his hidey-hole.
Block Dangerous Areas
Scared cats may try to run and hide in smaller areas that could be potentially dangerous. When I brought home my two cats, they both managed to hide in a small opening on the back of the fridge,. It took my husband and I a lot of time and work to free the cats. The experience did not help the anxiety level of us or the cats.
Before you bring home your cat, look around your home for any small openings that your cat may find appealing, including vents and entrances to crawl spaces. Block these openings with heavy boxes so that your cat will stay out of these areas. Watch your cat carefully after coming home; she may find some tiny opening you missed.
Create a Safe Haven in a Small Space
Letting your new cat roam freely in your house may seem like a good way to help her quickly become familiar with your home. However, large spaces are often too overwhelming for a stressed cat. If possible, limit your cat to a small space, such as a bedroom, bathroom or office, so that he can fully explore his new environment and become comfortable. A room with a door will help you control your cat's surroundings and help him feel safe. Equip this room with a safe place to sleep if you can. Even something as simple a box with a blanket will meet most cats' needs.
Talk to the Adoption Specialist
Before you head home from the adoption, talk to the person in charge about any specific information regarding your cat. If you're adopting a kitten, you probably won't be able to get more information, However, if you're adopting an older cat that was living in a foster home, you can probably find out plenty about your new furry friend, from favorite treats to sleeping habits.
Ready to Bring Your Cat Home?
Once you've prepared your home for your new cat, you're ready to head the shelter to pick him or her up. After bringing home your new kitty friend, these tips can help your cat have a smooth transition:
Let Your Cat Set the Schedule
When you arrive home with your cat, do not immediately pull him out of the carrier. Instead, open the carrier and let him make the first move. Give him some space as he considers whether or not to leave the carrier. Once he leaves the carrier, don't take it away. He may want to return to hide in it if he gets scared.
Keep Other Pets Away
If you have other pets in your home, setting aside a room with a door is essential to keeping each animal happy. Before letting your cat meet your other pets, give the cat some time to get used to your home. Keep the new cat in a safe space for a few days before making any introductions.
Keep it Quiet
Bringing home a cat the day of a big party is not a wise idea. Your new cat will probably be skittish and want to run away at any unusual or loud sounds. Try to keep the noise in your home low, including talking and running loud appliances, such as your dishwasher. If you have young children, stress the importance of keeping quiet when near the new cat. Within a few days, your cat will start to adjust to the normal sounds in your home.
Once your cat begins to explore the safe space you created for him, stick close by to let him become more familiar with you. For best results, don't plan to bring home a cat if you're going to be gone all day. Instead, plan to spend some time sitting quietly in the room with your cat. When we first brought home our cats, one of them was particularly shy. My husband sat with her in her room, allowing her to crawl over him as if he was just a lump in the floor. Once she started walking around him without fear, he started interacting with her, and she soon became an absolute sweetheart.
Few cats, especially shelter cats, will adjust to your home quickly. Your home is full of new sights, unusual sounds and interesting smells. Giving your cat the time it needs to adjust can be hard, especially if your family is excited to play and spend time with the cat. Resisting the urge to speed up the adjustment process by forcing the cat to go into new rooms or meet strangers is essential to your cat's well-being.
Successfully integrating a feline companion into your family requires more than just getting a litter box and some toys. To help your cat feel wanted and comfortable, you'll need to take some time preparing your home and family for the new addition. By starting your new relationship off on the right foot, you and your new feline friend will enjoy each others' company for years to come!