How to introduce an adopted cat into your new home

When we travel to a foreign country where we do not know the language and nothing is familiar, the first thing we want to do is settle into our hotel room.  We need to personalize the space and ground our selves. From there we will venture out and explore, knowing we have a home base. The same applies to your cat.

  1. Provide a comfortable and safe room for the new kitty for the next few days, where they can hear the sounds and routines of the home without being in the middle of it all.  The room should have a door that closes, a window and proper ventilation. The litter box, food and water are also placed in this room. Remember, this is just temporary.
  2. When you arrive home with your new kitty, take them directly to their room, without removing them from the carrier.  Place the carrier on the bed or in the middle of the floor where the cat can see the layout of the room from the safety of the carrier.  This is usually the time you bring in the cat’s essentials (litter box, food and water), giving the cat 5 – 10 minutes to look around.
  3. Close the room door and let the kitty out of the carrier, allow them to explore everything in the room on their own.  Do not take the cat to the various locations and do not place the cat in the litter box; they will find it on their own.  Do not expect the cat to come to you or to play at that time, as they are too busy figuring out their new surroundings.
  4. Sit back and relax. This is the cat’s time to explore — the less interaction the better, unless they come to you.  Allow the cat to discover the room’s strong points, like window ledges, comfortable couch or bed, tables and anything else in the room that might be part of the “escape route” should they become frightened.  You can leave the kitty to explore on their own for an hour or so as well.
  5. Should your cat run under the bed and stay there, that is okay.  Some cats take longer to feel comfortable in a new environment. You are on “cat time” now and time and patience will pay off. There is nothing stopping you from laying on the floor and talking to your kitty, or petting them gently to provide comfort.  They will feel better and relax sooner if you do.
  6. When introducing other resident pets to your new cat, start with treats on either side of the closed door.  They will associate the smell of the other cat with the treats, which will psychologically make it a positive experience.  You may also want to rub your clothing on the new kitty, so that they now smell like you and will be more accepted by the resident pets.
  7.  When the resident pets are invited into the new kitty’s room, it is important not to hold them face to face.  Your new kitty does not know the other pet is restrained and will feel extremely threatened. Not a good first impression.  Instead, just let them meet under supervision. Should one of them become very agitated then that is enough for today, you can try again tomorrow.  Your pets could be with you for 10 – 18 years, so a few days or a few weeks to integrate them will mean a lifetime of your pets living together successfully.
  8. Your new cat will let you know when it’s time to explore the rest of the house.  It is important that you allow the cat to do this at their own speed. Just leave the door open a little so that they can come and go as they please.  Close off extra rooms such as bedrooms, bathrooms and the basement the first time your new kitty comes out — they don’t need to see everything right away.  Your other pets should be in another room with the door closed so as not to interrupt your new cat’s process of “making a map” of the layout of your home. This may work best during your resident pet’s afternoon nap time, so they are not disturbed.
  9. You’ll know that your new cat feels comfortable and confident in your home when you see they are playing, eating well, sleeping out in the rest of the house and generally making themselves at home. Now you can change the location of the litter box and food bowl.  Success has been achieved!