Welcome Home Kitty

Place the cat carrier in a quiet area and give your cat time to adjust to the new sounds and smells. Put fresh water and food near the entrance of the carrier and place a litter box nearby. After making sure all doors and windows to the outside are closed, open the carrier door, quietly sit across the room and be patient. Some cats crave attention after being confined—while others want to be left alone—so do not force your attention. A new environment is extremely stressful for most cats. A cat’s normal reaction to stress is to hide, so it is common for them to do so when entering a new home. Don’t worry if you don’t see your new cat exploring right away, although she may come out at night for short discoveries.

It is a good idea to confine the new cat to one room with food, water and a litter box for the first few days, especially if you have other animals in the house. Keeping them in the separate rooms allows them to get used to each other’s scents from a safe distance and accustomed to using their own litter boxes (always provide a separate litter box in a separate area for your new cat because most will not share in multi-cat households). Providing separate rooms also allows the newcomer the opportunity to feel secure in a familiar room. For added benefit, leave the new cat’s carrier out in the room she is staying in; it can serve as the cat’s safe haven and personal territory. Supervise their first few meetings once they are in the same environment together.

An important word of caution: if you are introducing a resident dog to the new cat, consult spcaLA’s staff trainer (or your own) for instructions on keeping the cat safe during this critical introductory period. Do allow the cat to explore the areas of the home that the resident dog is living in without the dog present. Apply the same protocol by allowing the resident dog to explore the cat’s environment without the cat present. This will allow both animals to familiarize themselves with each other’s scent. Next you can allow them to view each other safely through a barrier to observe both the behavior of the cat and of the dog. Always use a soft and gentle tone of voice for when the animals see and interact with each other. When introducing cats and dogs, give your cat a safe escape, such as under a bed or into her carrier. Remember that holding your dog’s leash extra tight will add tension and could cause him to react negatively. No matter how well behaved your dog is around cats, always separate them during feeding time to prevent possessive behavior over food. You should never leave the dog and cat together unattended during the first 4-6 weeks.

Skirmishes are not uncommon when introducing a new cat into a home with resident pets. However, the problems usually resolve themselves given a little time and patience. Spaying and neutering reduces the likelihood, severity and frequency of fighting. Squabbles may still occur but they are usually resolved in a short period of time, so allow cats time to work out minor altercations themselves. Intervention such as giving preferential attention or affection to one, or breaking up minor disagreements before they are resolved usually makes matters worse and prolongs the adaptation period.

If the cat is allowed to adapt at her own speed, everything should work out in good time. Some cats will take days and others will take weeks or months. The length of time will depend on the cat’s temperament and past experiences. If no other cats are present in the household, the adaptation period may be short but it could also take longer, so be patient.

Please note, articles in the Animal Resource Library are for reference only, and are not meant to diagnose or treat any medical or behavioral issues your pet may be experiencing.