Welcoming a new cat or kitten into your home? Or are you still considering adding a fluffy feline to your household and want to ensure you’re ready for the arrival? Here, we provide vital tips and advice on successfully acclimating your new cat or kitten to your home.
VERY IMPORTANT!!! DON’T RUSH INTRODUCING THE CATS
KEY STEPS TO INTRODUCING YOUR NEW FELINE
Ensure your newly adopted cat or kitten is kept in a smaller, separate room! Avoid direct introductions between your new cat or kitten and any existing pets! Cats are naturally territorial. This can cause:
- Unneeded stress with cats already in the home
- Aggression toward the new cat(s)
- Aggression is not limited to males cats; females can be just as aggressive
EARLY STEPS – A SMALL ROOM INITIATION
Separate your new kitten or cat from other animals initially. A quiet bedroom or bathroom is ideal for this. Providing your new feline a smaller space allows them to become familiar with your home’s scents and sounds without feeling overwhelmed. Plus, it ensures the cat eats, drinks, and uses the litter box appropriately. This is especially crucial for timid cats who might hide if given free rein immediately.
ALLOWING YOUR FELINE TO UNWIND
It might be tempting to shower your new cat with attention, but remember; any change can be stressful for cats. Therefore, give your cat a few hours or even overnight to adjust before intensive interaction. To help create a calm atmosphere, consider adding a natural stress reliever like Rescue Remedy (by Bach Flower Essences) in the cat’s water or a plug-in feline pheromone diffuser like Feliway.
POSITIVE FIRST INTERACTIONS
Ensure everything your cat needs is set up in their room before arrival. This way, the noise and movement of setting up won’t add stress. Let your first interactions revolve around delicious food, fun new toys, treats, kind words, and gentle attention. Ensure your cat is safe and that many pleasant things await them!
CAT-PROOFING THE SPACE
If you’ve welcomed a new kitten, diligently check the room for potential hazards like small objects that can be ingested, unstable items that could be knocked down, cords to chew on, and spaces that kittens can squeeze into but not get out of easily.
INTRODUCING YOUR NEW FELINE TO EXISTING PETS CANINE AND FELINE
If you own a dog, leash them during their first meeting with the new cat. Avoid confining the cat or placing them in a carrier for the dog to sniff — this could terrify the cat! Always ensure the cat can escape to a safe spot if they feel threatened by the dog. Reward both animals with a treat in each other’s presence, and immediately halt the interaction if any signs of agitation or aggression surface. Keep repeating this for short periods until both animals are relaxed with each other’s company.
INTRODUCING NEW AND EXISTING CATS
Your resident cats will quickly sense a new cat in the house, possibly reacting with anger or irritation. Show your existing pets plenty of love and attention, and again, DON’T RUSH INTRODUCING THE CATS! The longer you let everyone acclimate to each other while the new cat is isolated, the better. It’s recommended to wait at least a week, if not longer. This helps maintain good health (mainly if the new cat was previously outdoors or in a shelter) and promotes better behavior.
Swap bedding between the cats to familiarize them with each other’s scents. After a week, consider using a baby gate so the cats can see and smell each other without direct contact. Feed them within sight of each other or offer extra tasty treats. Your goal is to help the cats develop positive associations with each other.
In time, allow them to meet for brief periods. Don’t worry if you hear hissing and growling — it’s perfectly normal! If any aggression escalates, separate the cats immediately and try again later. Ensure they coexist peacefully before leaving them alone together.
→ PATIENCE IS KEY – It can take weeks or months for two cats to get along or tolerate each other.
Remember, multiple cats require multiple litter boxes, feeding stations, and, ideally, separate perches or cat trees. Even if you must limit specific amenities, never compromise on the number of litter boxes! A good rule of thumb is one box per cat plus one more!
For additional guidance, The Humane Society of the United States provides valuable articles on introducing pets, cat-proofing your home, and basic cat care on their Cat Care and Behavior Tips page.
Pam Johnson-Bennett’s article on Multicat Households: Keeping the Peace offers practical tips from her highly-regarded cat care and behavior books.