How To Introduce Your New Cat To His Forever Home
He’ll be running the place in no time.
Bringing a new cat home can be stressful. Cats are known for being creatures of habit, so being thrown into a whole new environment can be a lot for them to handle.
So you’ll want to make the transition as smooth as possible so your cat will feel comfortable in your house.
The Dodo spoke to some experts to get all the tips you need for introducing your new cat to your home.
Cat-proof your house
“Cat-proof the [house] by removing any cleaning supplies, wires [and] anything with sharp edges or that can break easily,” Susan Courtney, a rescue partner with Kitt Crusaders, told The Dodo.
Prepare a cat room
Once you have all your supplies, decide where your cat’s going to stay for the first few weeks.
“When cats first go to a new place, they like small and safe places, such as the bathroom or [a] small bedroom,” Courtney said.
So for the first week at least, make sure your new cat stays in his separate room to let him get used to his new environment.
When you get home, have a meet-and-greet with your cat.
Bring him to his new room and place his carrier on the floor. Rather than taking him out of the carrier, let him come out on his own and start to explore as he feels comfortable.
“Sit quietly in the same room, but don’t force the cat to come out,” Courtney explained. “Go at the cat’s pace, not yours.”
Let your cat come to you, and if you notice any signs of stress — like hiding, hissing, crouching or flattening his ears — take a break. You’ll have plenty of time to get to know him, and you don’t want to make a bad first impression.
Let your cat explore
After some time, if your cat’s eating, drinking, exploring his room normally and seems relaxed, you can let him out of the separate room so he can familiarize himself with the rest of the house.
Adapting to a new environment can take a while, so you’ll have to be patient with your new cat. It might even take a few weeks for your cat to feel fully comfortable in his new home, and that’s totally normal.
“[Having] patience and understanding how scary a new home can appear to a cat goes a long way [toward] building trust and a lifelong relationship together,” Courtney explained.
How to introduce your new cat to other pets
Get them used to each other’s scents
Let your pets smell each other through the door while your new cat’s in his separate room. This will let them get used to one another’s scents.
“The resident pet should have the run of the house while the newbie is in their own room, where they have their food, water, a soft bed, a litter box and scratching post,” Mary Molloy, a behavior consultant at Behavior Vets of NYC, told The Dodo.
Switch their beds or a towel they’ve slept on to let them get even more familiar with each other.
“While they're getting acclimated, put a towel where they sleep, and after a couple of nights, swap the towels — the one with the [new cat’s] scent goes to [the resident pet’s] and vice versa,” Molloy said. “Carefully observe the body language of each pet when they encounter the new scent. Is it positive, negative or neutral?”
Once both pets are calm smelling the other, you can replace the door with a baby or pet gate so they can finally see each other without any physical interaction.
Give them treats while they’re meeting so they begin to associate one another with positive things.
And if you see any signs of stress or aggression while they’re interacting through the gate, stop the introduction and try again another time.
If your pets have checked each other out multiple times through the gate without any issues and seem relaxed around one another, it’s time for a supervised interaction. Let them out in the open to interact while you’re there to chaperone.
At first, keep the intros short so they don’t get overwhelmed.
“Start with five-minute sessions and gradually work up to longer and longer times,” Molloy said. “For the first month, at least, they should never be out together when you can't be there to supervise.”
Eventually, when they’re both calm and comfortable, you’ll be able to leave them alone together.
How to introduce your new cat to your kids
Children can sometimes get overexcited, which can frighten a cat, but if you take the time to introduce them carefully, your kid and your new cat can be best friends.
Look for a cat who’s good with kids
When you’re searching for a cat to adopt, look for one who’s good with children so you won’t be starting from square one when introducing him to your kid.
Many shelters and rescues can tell you a cat’s background, including if he’s lived with children previously, so be sure to ask. If you’re searching online, descriptions for adoptable cats will often say if they have any experience with kids.
Educate your kid on how to properly interact with cats
Before you bring your new cat home, start teaching your kid how to interact with him.
“Teach your [child] areas to pet (and avoid) and how to pet gently,” Nicole Ellis, a certified professional dog trainer (CPDT-KA) who also works with cats, told The Dodo.
That means telling and showing your kid how to:
- Be gentle with the cat
- Where to pet (and not pet) him
- Not pull his tail
- Pick him up
- Speak quietly around him
- Not pet him while he’s eating
- Not pet or try to play with him while he’s sleeping
- Not chase him
And remind your child that even though getting a new cat is super exciting, he’ll need some time to become familiar with his new environment before he’ll be ready to play.
Read the cat’s body language
Teach your kid how to tell when your cat’s feeling stressed, scared or angry, and let them know to stop playing with or petting your cat if they notice any signs of stress.
“Stress signals are signs your pet displays before a growl or a hiss, and can be crucial in avoiding not only a dog bite or a cat scratch but also in avoiding unnecessary stress to your pet,” Ellis said.
For the first few times your cat and kid meet, make sure you’re there to supervise, and keep the meetings short. Similar to how you introduced yourself, let the cat make his way to them at his pace, and don’t force the interaction.
Let your child give the cat treats or use toys to play with him so he’ll start to have positive associations with them.
And if you have a baby or a toddler, you should always be present when they’re hanging out with your cat.
Give your cat a place of his own
Make sure your cat has a place where he can retreat to if he gets overwhelmed, like a cat tree or a bed in a separate room. This should be a place where your child can’t go or can’t reach so your cat can have some alone time and feel safe.
If you follow these steps to get your cat settled in and used to everyone else living in your house, hopefully everything will go smoothly and he’ll feel right at home in no time.
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