Welcome Home, Fluffy: Bringing Home a New Cat

You’ve planned out who will scoop the litter box, feed the cat, and be responsible for grooming and vet care. You’ve even picked out the perfect toy mice, cat condo, and pet bed from somewhere like CatBeep which also has so much guidance on looking after your new ball of fluff. The adoption paperwork is done and you’re on your way home with a new, feline family member.

There are a few things you can do before you even bring your cat home to make the transition for your cat, and your human family, as easy as possible. Many cats don’t like change, so even though you’re bringing your cat home to her forever home, she might not be the happiest camper about the kennel time, car ride, and the new smells that a new home (even the best of the forever home) entails.

  • Make sure every family member that lives in your home is ready for a cat, including other pets. You might need to set boundaries with your dog, for example (and teach him that cats are not for chasing), or teach the little ones that kitty tails are not for pulling. And don’t forget to provide some kitty-only areas where your new cat can feel safe.
  • Get ID ready. Even if you have your cat microchipped before you bring her home (and you should), consider adding a collar with her name, your cell phone number, and any other information someone who finds her roaming might need to know (such as allergies or medical concerns). Having this ready before you bring your new cat home gives you time to focus on making her comfortable once she is home.
  • Cat-proof your house. Make sure there aren’t any hiding spaces you don’t want your cat getting into (like unfinished basement walls), window screens are secure, and stray choking hazards (like loose string and rubber bands) are all put away. Put away potential pet toxins like cleaning products, as well as dangerous people foods and poisonous house plants.

Now that you’ve prepared to bring your new cat home, and are on the way to giving her a forever home, keep a few extra things in mind to make the transition as smooth as possible:

  • Set aside a room (preferably with a window for your cat to enjoy) where your cat can get comfortable with the smells and sounds of your home. Set her food, water, toys and litter box up in this room. It is also recommended for cats to have a cat tree to keep their claws looked after without them damaging furniture by scratching at it. Looking for the best cat tree? Follow the link for some reviews. Keep the door of that room shut until you think she’s ready to explore further–this can range anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, depending on your cat. If your cat is a little on the timid side, don’t be afraid to give her as much time and space as she needs. (For example, one of my cats took a couple of months to be comfortable in my home, but she’s one of the sweetest cats I’ve ever known.)
  • If you have other pets at home, especially other cats, consider swapping towels or cat toys between the new cat’s room and the rest of the house, to give them a chance to start to get used to each other before they meet. Again, don’t rush this step–you want to set your pets up for success and allow the introductions to go as slowly as they need them to. You can also try moving the food bowls for each pet to each side of the door that separates them–this allows everyone to associate each other with good things like mealtime!
  • Be sure to allow the new cat to spend quality time with the rest of the family while she’s still sequestered to her safe room. This can be reading near her, watching TV, or even just napping. She’ll soon be comfortable with everyone, and want to spend time out and about with the whole family!
  • Once your new cat is ready to explore, let her do so at her own pace. No need to force it, especially if she’s still a little timid. Leave all her stuff in her safe room, and prevent other animals from entering it if possible, in case she needs a safe spot to retreat to. If you think everything is looking good, you can just leave her safe room door open, while you keep an eye on her and any other pets and people (especially kids), to see how they’re getting along.
  • Once everyone is used to the new “normal,” feel free to start to rearrange the new cat’s belongings to wherever they would normally live in your home. Consider keeping her own litter box though to prevent any territorial issues with cats already in the home. A good rule of thumb is one litterbox per cat, plus one. These litterboxes should be on every floor of the house, and consider having both covered and uncovered boxes if you’re not sure what the new cat would prefer. (These simple steps can go a long way in preventing improper urination issues with your cats.)

It may sound like a lot of work up front, but well worth it to add a well adjusted, and happy cat, to your family. If the addition isn’t going as smoothly as you had hoped, consider adding behavioral plug-in diffusers around your house (like Feliway) to help your cats with anxiety, or taking a step back to keeping the new cat in her safe room for a bit longer. And, as always, your vet is a great source for any medical or behavioral questions you might have. Congratulations on your new furry family member!

By Rachel Leisemann Immel