Cat in a cage
Photo: Thinkstock/Bananastock
Getting a new addition to your family can be a bit daunting—especially if you want everyone to get along! Here are a few suggestions from on how to help an adopted cat or kitten begin to feel at home in your home.
Congratulations! You are the proud new owner of an adopted cat or kitten, or are just about to become one. Need advice on how to best ease your new feline friend into its new home? There's lots you can do in the first 24 hours to help your new housemate get comfortable.

Unlike dogs, most cats really do not enjoy traveling in cars. Please do not leave them loose in your car or try to hold them in your lap or on the seat next to you, where they might panic and cause an accident or try to hide and get stuck under a seat! It's safest for them to be secured in a cat carrier, lined with an easily washable towel or a few sheets of newspaper. They may complain by meowing...loudly...but some cats relax with soothing music or when you sing along! Once you get home safely, here are a few things to remember.

Coming Home: The Starter Room
To make your new cat's transition to your household as comfortable as possible, select a quiet, closed-in area such as your bedroom or a small room away from the main foot traffic, and set it up with a litter box, bed, food and water. It's completely normal for a cat to be scared (especially after a car trip or if it's coming from a shelter) and take days or weeks to adjust to its new environment.

If you're adopting an adult cat, be sure that this "starter room" has very secure screens and keep the windows securely closed. We've heard more than one story about a new kitty that, although it is actually quite happy in its new home, has decided to check the out-of-doors, pulls off a screen (how, we don't know, but it's true) and takes off. The escapee is then disoriented and can very likely become lost and injured.

If possible, make the starter room the permanent location of the litter box. If you plan on having the permanent location of the litter box be elsewhere, you'll need two litter boxes. Once kitty has adjusted and seems relaxed and happy in its starter room, you can open the door and let it explore the rest of your home. (Before you open the door, if you have other pets, see Meeting the Household below.) Keep the first litter box in the same location and put a new litter box in the new location. Once the cat is using the new litter box, you can slowly, a foot or two a day, move the first litter box closer and closer to the new one, and then when they are next to each other, remove one box.

Going Outside
We prefer that domestic cats be kept as indoor-only pets but understand that some homes (and some cats) prefer to take the risk of the dangers outside and let their cats roam freely. Please consider the advantages of keeping your new cat indoors always—outdoor cats are exposed to disease, cat fights, being killed by dogs and other wild animals and being hit by cars.

Whatever you do, don't let your new kitty go outside when you first bring it home! Even if your new kitty cries at the door or window, please keep it inside. Despite stories about cats finding their way home, in reality your new cat is very likely to become lost. Also, young kittens should be kept indoors at least until they are fully grown (around 12 months).

How to introduce your cat to family members
If you do want to have an indoor/outdoor cat, wait at least four weeks before allowing your adult cat to go outside, to give it a chance to bond to your family. If your adult cat must go outside, bringing it inside at night does reduce the risks of being killed by predators. To train your cat to come in at night, set its one daily feeding time during its month indoors to be at the hour when you want it to come inside for the night, and continue to feed him (even just putting out new dry food) at that same time, calling him to come in for his dinner. You can reinforce its coming in with treats as well.

Meeting the Household
Let your new cat get to know and trust household members before it must adjust to the entire home—one thing at a time! Sometimes even the most friendly cats need a few days to feel safe in new environments.

If you have other pets, don't introduce the new pet immediately. We have more detailed blog articles on introducing your new cat or kitten to resident cats, but here are some quick tips:
  • Keep your new pet totally separated at first, in its own room.
  • For multicat households, when your new cat/kitten is from a shelter, rescue or kennel, this separation period should be 14 days to prevent the spread of contagious diseases during their incubation period.
  • Before making any pet introductions, let the new pet get to know and trust you, and let your other pets discover they are still loved. Although they smell a new furry one in the house, they are not going to lose their home and family.
It will take time for everyone to adjust, sometimes weeks or months. At first, allow your pets lots of time for sniffing under the door to the new pet's room. Try switching rooms for a while, and let the new cat explore the house. Let your current cat spend time in the room, sniffing around. As they progress, try allowing them to check out each other through a screen door or sliding glass door or other safe ways of exploring these "strangers." This effort can prevent an unpleasant introduction that is hard to recover from.

Tempting though it may be, it can be a big mistake to rush this process. The slow approach is well worth the extra time, and you ensure your pets are all happy and comfortable in your home.

And congratulations on adopting a new cat or kitten!

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