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Acclimating Your Cat

Cat and Owner

Teach your new cat to enjoy its surroundings!

Contrary to what most people believe, while cats are very intelligent and independent, they can be trained. In fact: “Cats learn your routines and figure out just how to get what they want from you. Despite their independence, however, few cats prefer to live solitary lives.” By praising your cat's positive behavior, you will not only improve your relationship but also their health and quality of life. 

Pre-New Cat Prep:

Kittens are curious creatures, so to be sure they are safe in their new home, you must kitten proof!  Make sure to move valuable and breakable items to high shelves.  Keep toilet lids down, small items put away, and all plants out of reach.  Mop buckets should be stored and any broken glass should require the kitten to be moved to another room until the mess is cleaned up.  Once your kitten begins teething, provide them with safe toys.  This will prevent them from teething on your possessions and will give them hours of entertainment!

The First Few Days:

When bringing home a new cat, the first few days should be quiet ones, since the cat needs time to familiarize itself with new surroundings. Giving the cat your attention is also important. To start, place the cat in a small room with bedding, a litter box, food, and water. Be sure to provide a box or carrier so that the cat can hide. When the cat feels comfortable with its new environment, slowly start to introduce other rooms in the house. If there are children or other pets in the house, gradually introduce them to your new cat, but only under strict supervision. Because relocation for cats is stressful, it will take time before they bond with people, places and animals, so therefore be patient.

More Tips to Give Your Kitty a Smooth Transition Home:

  • Keep your new cat 100% indoors for a minimum of three weeks.
  • Buy your cat a collar and permanent I.D. tag.  For a proper fit, leave two fingers of space between your kitty's collar and their skin.
  • For identification purposes, take a picture of your new cat.
  • Take your cat to a veterinarian for an exam and vaccinations.

Acclimating Your Cat: Other Cats & Litter

When bringing a cat into a new home – whether the cat is new or you've simply moved – it’s critical to understand that the cat will need some time to acclimate and become accustomed to the new environment. Once your new cat adapts to its new surroundings and your lifestyle, the two of you will spend endless hours of entertainment in each other’s company.

Introducing a New Cat to Other Cats in Your Household:

It's frightening to make new feline friends, so a cat's transition to a new home with preexisting pets has to be organized.  Start by placing the new cat in its own room, with a closed door and its own bedding, litter box, food, and water.  Ensure that both cats are washed with the same shampoo so they smell alike.  Then, after two days, exchange the resident cat's bedding with that of the new cat so they may become acquainted with each other through smell.  Allow the new cat to explore the rest of the house, by placing the resident cat in the closed room and letting the new cat roam.  For at least 5 to 7 days, keep the new cat and resident cat in separate areas.  

The introduction process is extremely important since cats are territorial by nature. Bring the new cat in a carrier to meet your resident cats and sniff each other out through the carrier door.  Gradually introduce them to one another several times a day for about an hour.  Continue these repeated meetings until they remain calm in each others presence.  Try using a feline flyer to play with them. This helps you to maintain distance between the cats and yourself while they are playing with the flyer.

When the cats remain calm in each other’s presence, it's time to let the new cat into the rest of the house a few minutes at a time under your supervision. Increase the length of each visit. This process can take weeks or even months depending on the personality of the cats involved.

If fighting takes place between the cats, take the new cat back to its room and proceed more slowly with the introduction, but if they are able to tolerate each other remain vigilant and supervise their time together.  If the cats become aggressive at any time, begin the introduction process again.  

Additional tips:
  • Speak quietly and calmly to the cats and avoid making any sudden movements.
  • Praise them often when they stay in each other’s presence by using words, food, and toys as positive reinforcement.
  • Never use harsh or loud tones when they are together to prevent the association of unpleasantness with each other's company. 
  • Give special attention to resident cats to minimize jealousy and reaffirm your loyalty and love.
  • Provide the new cat your loving attention only in the absence of the other cats, until their relationship has been established.
  • Be patient as you may be required to repeat steps in the introduction process more than once.
Replacing Litter Boxes:

Begin by placing the new litter box next to the old box.  Do not clean out the old litter box.  Cats prefer to use a clean box, so keep the new box clean and they will eventually switch over.  Once your cat is acclimated, you can remove the old box.

If your cat is shy or skittish, do not operate an automatic litter box for 2 to 3 days, since the sound may scare them.  Try manually activating the automatic system 2 to 3 times a day for the first 2 to 3 days, to let your cat get accustomed to the sound.  As soon as your cat is acclimated, set the new litter box to clean automatically.

And remember:  Do not place any litter box in a wet environment or in direct sunlight, as this may affect the litter absorption, and do not use automatic litter box systems outdoors or on patios!