Bringing home your new cat: The first two weeks
The Ride Home
- Your cat or kitten should be confined to a carrier during the ride home- Do not let your new cat loose in the car.
- Do not leave the cat unattended in the car or stop to visit friends, shop, etc.
- Keep your cat in his carrier until you are safely inside your home.
- Keep your new cat in a small room with a litter box, food, water, scratching post, toys and a bed for several days to a week at minimum.
- Visit your cat in the confinement room several times a day for feeding, brushing and limited playing.
- Some cats take longer than others to feel safe and comfy so give your new cat space. If your cat doesn’t really want to play, just sit and talk to him. Let him come to you.
- Only introduce your cat to family members and caretakers in the household. No extended family or friends or other pets right away.
- Your cat may take a day or so to feel comfortable enough to eat. Do not let your cat go longer than a day without eating. If on the second day your cat is not eating, call your veterinarian.
- Once your cat is comfortable and no longer showing signs of stress you can let her come out of her confinement room and explore more of her new home.
- Introducing cats can be tricky! It is very important that you do a slow introduction and that the cats only have short, positive interactions at first.
- Feed your resident cat and the new cat on each side of the door to the confinement room so that they associate something enjoyable (eating!) with each other's smells.
- Gradually move the dishes closer to the door until your pets can eat calmly while standing on either side.
- Try to get your pets to interact with a toy. Tie a toy to each end of a string, then place it so there's a toy on either side of the door. Hopefully, they’ll start batting the toys around and maybe even batting paws.
- Spend plenty of time with your new cat in her room, but don't ignore your resident cat!
- Swap the blankets or beds the cats use, or gently rub a washcloth on one cat’s cheeks and put it underneath the food dish of another. If there are more than two animals in the house, do the same for each animal.
- Once your new cat is using her litter box and eating regularly while confined, let her have free time in the house while confining your other pets to the new cat's room. It's best to introduce your new cat to a room or two at a time and increase her access to other rooms over a few days. If you have to leave the house, put your new kitty back in her room. Always supervise interactions.
- After you’ve returned the cats to their designated parts of the house, use two doorstops to prop open the dividing door just enough to allow the animals to see each other. Repeat the whole process over a period of days—supervised, of course. You can also use two baby gates (one on top of the other).
- Once the cats seem comfortable with each other, you can open the door all the way, allowing the cats to come and go as they please. Monitor them closely, in case they fight. Do not leave them alone for any length of time until you are sure they will get along well.
- Provide one more litter box than the number of cats in the household (e.g., if you have two cats, provide three litter boxes). This helps prevent a dominant cat from stalking the other and keeping him from using the litter box.
- If the cats fight repeatedly, you may need to start the introduction process all over again and consider getting advice from a vet or animal behaviorist.
- Please note, your resident cat and your new cat may never be best friends who cuddle on the couch together or groom each other, but they can still live together peacefully.
- Cat play fighting may appear like aggression. Silent wrestling, no growls or hissing, chasing each other are common ways cats play. If you see arched backs, puffed fur or noisy scuffles, this could be agression and you may want to separate them and start over.
- You may want to have a spray bottle handy to use in case you need to separate your cats quickly.
- If introducing a dog to a cat, make sure the dog is on a leash and the cat has an accessible escape route.