So you’ve picked up that new cat or kitten, and you can’t wait to get it home and introduce it to everybody- including his feline family! Not so fast! Introducing a new pet can be tricky and making sure all involved are comfrotable is the first step to making sure you have a happy home.
So what do I do when I first bring him or her home?
- Choose a quiet room for your cat. If you have other pets, they should not have access to this room. Ensure there are some hiding places to help your cat feel comfortable. The cat’s food and litter should go in here as well.
- If the house has outdoor access (i.e open windows, a cat flap) or other pets in the house, you should confine the cat to the room for at least a week to help them get used to the new smells, sights, and you! Don’t isolate them though- make sure you go in and spend time with your cat so that they feel comfortable around you!
- Once you have released your cat from his carrier, you should leave them alone to become accustomed to the space. If you have no other pets and there is no outside access, you can leave the door to the room open and allow your cat to explore at his own pace. Don’t pester the cat- just let him approach you.
Letting your new cat go outside
- Firstly, never let your cat go outside until you are confident they understand who is feeding them. Cats may run away and try to get back to what they think of as ‘home’ if let out too quickly. We usually suggest 2 weeks is enough time, but if your cat is still very timid, leave them indoors for longer! During this time, train them to come when called by giving them treats when they respond.
- Let them out on a dry day just before a mealtime- they won’t go too far if they know dinner’s not far off! Leave them for around an hour, then call them in for dinner. Shut them in for the night.
- Repeat this routine for a few days, then start gradually increasing the amount of time they spend outside.
Introducing your new cat to another pet
- Try to allow your new cat and other pets to smell one another without meeting face to face. The best way to do this is to feed them either side of the same door, so that they associate a good thing (food) with the scent. You may also swap blankets from your pets to allow them to get used to one another’s scents, and ensure that you spend time with all of them so that they can smell one another on you.
- After about a week, when your cat is comfortable with you and the smell of your other pets, you should allow your cat to explore the rest of the house. Confine your other pets so that they can do this in peace. They’ll have time to identify hidey-holes and smell areas that the other pets have marked as their own, so that they know where they can and can’t go.
- Let your pets meet in a controlled manner. First, ensure your cat has an ‘escape route’ to his room, as well as a high shelf or a cardboard box ‘den’. If you have a dog, put it on a lead and ask him to lie down. Then allow your cat to approach at his own pace. If you have other cats, let them approach at their own pace, ensuring that there are enough ‘hiding places’ to allow them to all escape if scared.
- If at any point the interaction begins to become aggressive, separate the animals. Do not put yourself in danger by directly separating the animals- instead throw something soft, make a loud noise, or squirt them with a bottle of water. If these situations are allowed to develop, it becomes a cycle of fear and aggression, and will not resolve. Allow the animals to calm down and start again from the beginning, moving more slowly through the steps this time.
Of course, these steps aren’t foolproof and it’s always a difficult time for any cat, but most will get used to new things given time. Getting a plug in ‘Feliway’ can help keep everybody calm, and is available at most vets and many pharmacies.