Introducing a new cat to your house takes time and patience. The time it takes for your new pet to acclimate to your house will vary depending on the type of household, number of other animals and people, and the animal’s temperament. Tips to help the transition to your home easier:
- For the trip home, confine your cat in a sturdy carrier. Don't let it loose in your car where it might panic and cause an accident or get out when you open the car door.
- Prepare the things your cat will need in advance. Set aside a small, quiet room for your new cat to get comfortable. The room should contain your cat’s litterbox, food, and water bowls. Let your new cat become acquainted with that limited area for the first few days. Be sure to spend plenty of time with him/her in that room, but if your cat is hiding under the bed, don’t force it to come out.
- Over a few days, slowly introduce your new cat to the rest of your house. Make sure it always has access to the “safe” room so if the new cat gets nervous, it can retreat. It may take a little while, but eventually your new cat will feel more comfortable. Reward your cat with treats or praise when it is playful or comes out to eat. Don’t reinforce fearful behaviors.
- If your cat is very nervous, try using a relaxing pheromone diffuser such as Feliway. If your cat is always hiding and can’t be touched, talk to your vet about prescribing anti-anxiety meds to help it acclimate to your home.
Introducing your new cat to existing members of your family can be stressful. But taking small steps can help ensure a peaceful household. If you are introducing a new cat to your dog(s), some tips to try:
- If your dog has been raised with cats, it will be more likely to behave well around your new cat. If your dog has not been around cats, tire it out before bringing it around your cat. The more tired your dog is, the less likely it is to bark or chase the cat.
- Keep your dog on leash and praise him/her for staying calm. If your dog is unable to sit quietly, you may need to start further away from your cat.
- Encourage your cat to approach your dog with treats and praise. Allow your cat to perch on tall objects (such as a cat tree or bookshelf) so it can feel safe. Make sure not to force your cat to be close to your dog.
- When both your dog and cat are calm together, you can try supervised interactions without the leash. Until you are confident they are getting along, continue to keep them separate when you are gone.
- Make sure your cat has easy access to its “safe” place to go away from the dog. Otherwise urine or fecal accidents could occur if your cat is frightened.
If you are introducing your new cat to your cat(s), some tips to try:
- Know that in the wild, cats do not normally spend time with other cats. It may take months for a cat to develop a friendship with a new cat. Some cats never become buddies and may avoid each other. Other cats do not accept the new cat and will fight with them unless they are separated.
- If two cats display aggression during their first meeting, this may set the mood for future interactions. For this reason, introduce new cats to each other very slowly to prevent aggression. Keep the cats physically separate from each other. They should be allowed to smell and hear each other through a door, but should not be able to see each other. Give food or treats at the door so they can learn that the other cat results in a pleasant experience. Every day, switch rooms so the cats can investigate each other’s smell without interacting with each other.
- Transfer scent from one cat to the other. Use a brush or cloth to rub against the scent glands (located at the chin/cheek and rump). Many cats will reject a new cat based on their foreign scent alone.
- If there are no signs of aggression with the new scents, you can gradually introduce the cats to each other. If possible, have one person in charge of each cat and start several feet away at mealtimes to occupy the cats’ attention. If either cat starts hissing or growling, you are too close together. Separate the cats and try again the following day, but start further apart. If there are no signs of aggression, you can slowly decrease the distance between the cats.
- As the cats become more familiar with each other, allow them longer periods of time together. Continue keeping the cats separate when you are out of the house or at bedtime until you are confident they are getting along.
- In multi-cat households, introduce each resident cat to the new cat individually. Once they have all met the newcomer, they can be allowed to mingle together. Make sure to have a “safe” place for each cat to hide or perch. To prevent aggression encounters, have multiple water bowls and at least one litterbox for each cat plus one extra. Spread the bowls and litterboxes out around the house and make sure there is at least one on each level.