Congratulations! Your feline family is finally expanding! Adopting a new cat is a rewarding and exciting journey, but how do you help ease everyone through this new transition without stressing your sweet kitties back home (if any), your family or yourself? Take a look at our guide for introducing a new cat to the house!
Step 1: Assess Your Home
Before you even decide to bring home a new cat, you should assess your home to see if you’re ready for another feline friend. Cats need plenty of space to call their territory - is your home large enough for that? If you have existing cats, do they suffer any behavioural issues or have any chronic illness that may stress either themselves or the new cat?
Make the appropriate adjustments from this assessment, like setting up safe spaces for all your multiple cats (including your new one!) to ensure your family and your cats are happy and safe.
Step 2: Prepare a Safe Room
Your new cat will need a quiet and safe area to hang around as she gets used to her new surroundings. It’s absolutely vital to set up a space away from the hustle bustle of your family and well away from the reach of any of your existing cats.
The safe room doesn’t have to be of a specific size but it needs a secure door and ceiling. Make sure to cat-proof the room by removing breakable items, keeping any garbage cans, plants or other dangerous items away.
Having a cat bed or cubby to hid in is also a great idea, as well as a scratcher. Clawing and kneading can be comforting to kitties in stressful situations, so having an outlet for this is vital. A good option is this affordable cat tree from Pet Rebels, which offers a perch, a cubby for hiding and a scratching post all in one!
Your new cat will also need a place to hide, plenty of food, water and kitty litter as well as some toys. If you can, also include a piece of your clothing to help your cat get used to your scent! Having one of Hing Design’s The Fish Bowl feeders is great for your cat as it has space for both their water and food while being stainless steel and easy to clean.
It’s also a good idea to have one litter pan per cat plus one extra. So if you have 2 cats, it’s good to get 3 litter pans like Stefanplast’s Sprint 20 cat litter trayas it has a hygienic rim that doubles as a bag holder so you can easily change your cat’s litter!
Step 3: Spend Time with Your New Cat
Take this step nice and slow. If your new cat growls, hisses, twitches its tail or pulls its ears back, leave the room or move away to give them space. Start with short but frequent visits - whether that means small sessions of play or petting (if they are amenable to it) or quietly reading or chatting on the phone in the room. Speak softly and calmly around them. It’s also a good idea to hang around while your cat is having their dinner.
During this time, make sure to play with all your cats equally! Treating your cats to one of Fuzzyard's adorable toys, like this Pizza one, is sure to keep them engaged. If you have multiple cats, something like the Cheerble WickedBall might be a good investment to inspire cat group play and bonding during the later stages of introduction.
Step 4: Transition Out
Eventually, when your new cat trusts you more, they can begin exploring the house. Close all doors and introduce rooms one by one and give them some time to sniff around. If your new cat is particularly shy, make sure not to bring them to rooms with inaccessible hiding spots!
Once they’re comfortable in one room, you can start introducing the next. But be careful not to overload them in one day!
Beginning the Cat Introduction
While your new cat warms up to their new home, you can start helping your cats get used to each others’ scents.
Phase 1 - Let your cats smell each other from under the safe room’s door. After 2-4 days, you can also start exchanging the beddings of your new and resident cats daily.
Phase 2 - After a few days or weeks, once there’s no signs of aggression from any of your cats in Phase 1, you can organise face-to-face meetings between your cats. Place your new cat in a sturdy carrier (like this one from Stefanplast) outside their safe room and allow your resident cats to sniff them through the carrier door. Repeat this 2-3 times daily and keep visits short if there’s any signs of aggression.
Phase 3 - If your cats seem comfortable with each other, they may be ready to actually meet! Make sure your new cat is already comfortable in the home before this step. Open the safe room door slightly and allow any of your cats to visit and explore. Have a spray bottle with water or a towel at hand in case of fights or aggression.
Hopefully, by this stage, your cats are more or less used to each other. If your cats are still aggressive to each other, try getting a screen door to replace the safe room door - this way they can continue to get used to each other. Continue repeating the phases above until your cats are comfortable.
However, if your cats experience the following symptoms, you may want to contact a vet!
Injuries from fighting
Any cat stops eating
Any cat stops using the litter box
Any cat starts spraying
Any of your cats hides all the time
Even after they’re somewhat comfortable with each other, they may still occasionally hiss or swat at each other. This is normal as long as it doesn’t occur too often and does not hurt each other. You can find more advice here!
Just like humans, every cat is different. They all have their own personalities so it’s important to manage our expectations. Introducing a new cat to your home will take a lot of time and patience - but ultimately, finding the right cat with the right personality for you and your family can greatly enrich your current kitties’ quality of life!
Tammi is an avid writer, but especially loves learning and writing about animals! She spends her free time visiting cat cafes, playing video games and having plenty of cuddle time with her pup.