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Introducing a New Cat

Whether you’re getting your first cat or your fifth, how you integrate a cat into a new environment matters. Check out our timeline on how to introduce cats to a new home and additional tips so the relationship gets off on the right paw.

A Timeline for Introducing Cats to a New Home

  • Designate a small area for the cat’s first territory in your home. This could be a laundry room, bathroom or bedroom.
  • Make sure the cat has everything he/she needs in this small area (food, water, litter.) Try keeping the litter box and food separated — you wouldn’t want to eat in your bathroom, either!
  • Spend lots of time with your cat. This is your opportunity to bond, but don’t be disappointed if your cat just wants to hide. This is perfectly natural for the first few days. It’s not personal. 
  • Make sure your kitty has many places to hide or feel safe. This could be a cat carrier or something similar. This space should be large enough for the cat to stand up and turn around.
  • If you have other cats, this is where the slow introduction begins. Let them sniff your new cat under a closed door.
  • If you have other cats, do a cat swap. Start with toys: Let your older cats smell your new cat’s toys and blankets and vice versa. Then let the cats switch places so that they can get used to each other’s scent. 
  • Starting as early as day two, let your new cat have access to a larger portion of your home. For apartments, this can be the whole unit; for family homes, upstairs or downstairs.
  • If your cat begins to scratch your couch, carpet or rugs, make sure to put a scratching post nearby. Sometimes a little catnip can attract attention to the right place.
  • Allow your cats to see each other with some sort of barrier in place, like a baby gate or a carrier.
  • If you haven’t already, take your new cat to a veterinarian for a full exam. This will help make sure your pet is healthy and happy.
  • Supervise the first meeting between your cats, if you have others. Hissing may be normal at first.
  • Your cat should now have full access to your home — they are probably already deciding where their favorite spots will be. Give them places where they can hide if they need alone time. (They’ll find these on their own, too.)
  • If your cat is not eating or drinking after a day or two, call a vet.
  • Give your cat entertainment and exercise. Cat toys are great, but so is an empty cardboard box, a plastic cap on a hardwood floor, or a string of yarn pulled across the carpet.
  • Clean out the litter box daily or every few days. Cats don’t like to use a litter box that’s full or overflowing, especially if there are multiple cats in the home. You’ll want one more litter box than you have cats. (For two cats, for example, you’ll need three litter boxes.)
  • For behavioral concerns, please contact your shelter or veterinarian. No cat is perfect, but there are many resources to help you solve just about any problem.

A Timeline for Introducing Cats to a New Home

  • Designate a small area for the cat’s first territory in your home. This could be a laundry room, bathroom or bedroom.
  • Make sure the cat has everything he/she needs in this small area (food, water, litter.) Try keeping the litter box and food separated — you wouldn’t want to eat in your bathroom, either!
  • Spend lots of time with your cat. This is your opportunity to bond, but don’t be disappointed if your cat just wants to hide. This is perfectly natural for the first few days. It’s not personal. 
  • Make sure your kitty has many places to hide or feel safe. This could be a cat carrier or something similar. This space should be large enough for the cat to stand up and turn around.
  • If you have other cats, this is where the slow introduction begins. Let them sniff your new cat under a closed door.
  • If you have other cats, do a cat swap. Start with toys: Let your older cats smell your new cat’s toys and blankets and vice versa. Then let the cats switch places so that they can get used to each other’s scent. 
  • Starting as early as day two, let your new cat have access to a larger portion of your home. For apartments, this can be the whole unit; for family homes, upstairs or downstairs.
  • If your cat begins to scratch your couch, carpet or rugs, make sure to put a scratching post nearby. Sometimes a little catnip can attract attention to the right place.
  • Allow your cats to see each other with some sort of barrier in place, like a baby gate or a carrier.
  • If you haven’t already, take your new cat to a veterinarian for a full exam. This will help make sure your pet is healthy and happy.
  • Supervise the first meeting between your cats, if you have others. Hissing may be normal at first.
  • Your cat should now have full access to your home — they are probably already deciding where their favorite spots will be. Give them places where they can hide if they need alone time. (They’ll find these on their own, too.)
  • If your cat is not eating or drinking after a day or two, call a vet.
  • Give your cat entertainment and exercise. Cat toys are great, but so is an empty cardboard box, a plastic cap on a hardwood floor, or a string of yarn pulled across the carpet.
  • Clean out the litter box daily or every few days. Cats don’t like to use a litter box that’s full or overflowing, especially if there are multiple cats in the home. You’ll want one more litter box than you have cats. (For two cats, for example, you’ll need three litter boxes.)
  • For behavioral concerns, please contact your shelter or veterinarian. No cat is perfect, but there are many resources to help you solve just about any problem.