If you’ve made the wonderful decision to expand your cat family, the following seven tips will help make the transition smoother for your new kitten or cat to his new home, especially if you already have a dog or another cat (or cats) living with you.
1. Prepare a room in your house for the new arrival
Your new kitten or cat is going to need some time to adjust to his new environment—the new sights, sounds, and smells; the new ecosystem of germs; and the new people—so set the room up for an extended stay. You’ll need to provide all the basic kitty comforts—water bowl, comfortable bed, and litter box. If you are using a spare bedroom or office for your kitty’s temporary quarters, make sure you “kitty-proof” it. Just like with small children, put away anything valuable or breakable. Get down on the floor and look around from a “cat’s eye view.” Cover any bed, sofa, or upholstered chair with a waterproof pad or sheet. Remember, cats are territorial and may, when feeling insecure, mark their territory with urine or feces. If another animal has been in the room and had a little “accident” that you never even noticed, the new kitten or cat will find it and “refresh” it!
2. Clean and prepare a pet carrier for transporting your new cat home
Wash a pet carrier with a solution of 1:32 bleach and water solution (1 ounce [30 ml] bleach to 1 gallon [4 l] of warm water) and rinse thoroughly. Outfit it with something you’ve worn, such as a T-shirt, so the new kitty can start getting used to your scent on the way home. Once you get the kitty home, you might want to leave the carrier in the room for him as an extra haven of security.
3. When driving home, make sure the carrier is secured with a seatbelt
Also, driving in a car is usually an intense experience for kittens and cats, so keep the music from your radio or CD player soft and soothing; light classical is a good choice, especially Mozart.
4. Give your new kitty an adequate adjustment / quarantine period
Quarantine your new kitten or cat for a minimum of 14 days and preferably 21. It will allow for mental, emotional, and immune system adaptation. It’s important to be in this room frequently to love, feed, and bond with your new kitten or cat. He will become more comfortable and, of extreme importance, get used to his new litter box. You can start to introduce your new kitty slowly to the rest of your home. Expect the introduction period to take weeks, not days. If you get too excited and/or impatient and rush this time, you risk social failure as well as litter box mistakes.
5. If you have other pets, make sure you give them plenty of affection so they don’t feel neglected, and make the introduction gradually
All the animals that live with you will be aware of each other by smell first. Feed resident cats and the new cat on opposite sides of the (closed) door to the new cat’s room; feed the dog separately due to dogs’ natural guarding behaviors surrounding food. (It is never safe to feed dogs and cats together.) Paws may start to reach under the door. Moderate hissing or growling is normal. Gradually crack the door open so the pets can see each other without being able to fight. Occasionally bring some of your resident pets’ bedding into the new cat’s room, so that the newcomer can become acquainted with the scent. The new cat’s bedding can also be introduced to the current residents. Do occasional “territory swaps” by putting the new cat in another part of the house and the resident cats in the new cat’s room. Sometimes they become fast friends; sometimes they will annoy but tolerate each other; sometimes the sounds of hissing and yowling will make you wonder if bringing home another cat was the right thing—but don’t worry, with cat introductions, some personalities blend and others don’t, but in nearly all cases, they can be taught to tolerate each other.
Note: If you’re introducing a cat to one or more dogs, keep all dogs leashed at all times to allow the new cat to choose how closely to interact. Never leave any dog and cat together unsupervised (no matter how well they know each other) unless the cat has a good escape route.
6. Limit new ” siblings’ ” time together if it’s not going well initially
They will decide among them who is going to be “top cat!” Flower essences are excellent aids for introductions and for changes of all kinds. (See: Flower Essences) Helping the cats to socialize through play therapy can also be helpful.
7. Keep it dark
Let your new cat sleep in a dark room with no light at all. This will help your cat give up any tendency toward nocturnal activities and adjust to your schedule.
For more idea’s about how to integrate holistic cat care into your kitten or cats regime see my book, The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care, which I co-authored with Jean Hofve, DVM.
Photo by Imelda Lopez-Casper