Acclimating Your Cat
Teaching your new cat to enjoy its new 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 teaching your cat positive behaviors, it will not only improve their relationship with you, but it will also promote good health and a better quality of life.
When bringing home a new cat, the first few days should be quiet ones, since the cat needs time to familiarize itself with the new surroundings. Giving the cat your attention is also important. To start, place the cat in a small room with bedding, litter box, food and water. Also provide a box or carrier so that the cat can hide. When the cat feels comfortable with its new environment, 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 your supervision. Because relocation for cats is stressful, it will take time before they bond with people, places and animals, so therefore be patient.
First Things First
- Keep your new cat 100% indoors for a minimum of three weeks.
- “More and more experts agree that indoors is the safest place for your cat. The average life span of an outdoor cat is three to five years, while the average life span of an indoor cat is 12 to 16 years.”
- Please note: You may wish to keep your cat indoors all the time as a preventive health measure; see our Preventive Care article on indoor versus outdoor health for more information.
- Buy your cat a collar and permanent I.D. tag.
- Leave two fingers of space between collar and skin.
- For identification purposes, take a picture of your new cat.
- Take your cat to a veterinarian for an exam and vaccinations.
- For more information on the standard vaccinations your cat will need, refer to our full Vaccinations overview.
Bringing Home a New Kitten
- In addition to the above, kitten proof your home. Make sure to move any valuable and/or breakable items to high shelves to avoid potential disasters.
- Keep your kitten in the safety of your home for at least six months.
- Keep toilet lids down.
- Keep mop buckets away from kitten to avoid drowning.
- Keep small items away from kitten to prevent surgery or even death.
- If a glass breaks, put the kitten in another room until the mess is cleaned up. This way their curiosity will not send them straight into harms way.
- Keep all plants out of their reach, they can be poisonous.
- When they are teething, provide your kitten with safe toys. This will keep them from teething on your possessions and give them hours of entertainment.
- Also, see our section on Kittens & Litter for information on how to properly maintain your litter areas with a kitten in the house.
Acclimating Your Cat
In bringing a cat into a new home – whether you got a new pet or moved yourself – it’s critical to understand that the cat will need some time to acclimate and become accustomed to the new environment. When your new cat adapts to its new surroundings and your lifestyle, the two of you will find endless hours of entertainment in each other’s company.
- Introducing a New Cat to Other Cats in Your Household
- Place the new cat in its own room with the door closed until a relationship with the other cats has been established.
- Provide bedding, litter box, food and water.
- Wash all cats with the same shampoo so that they smell alike.
- After two days exchange the resident cat’s bedding with that of the new cat so they can become acquainted with each other through their sense of smell.
- Rotate rooms daily for 2 to 3 days by placing the resident cats in the new cat’s room and letting the new cat explore the rest of the house. This will give the resident cats a chance to smell the new cat before they meet and to leave their scent behind on objects in the room.
- Have personal play time with the new cat.
- For the next 5 to 7 days keep the new cat and resident cats in separate areas. This will give them a chance to get use to the smell and sounds of the other cats.
- 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.
- When the cats remain calm in each other’s presence, it is 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.
- Use 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.
- If the cats become aggressive at any time, begin the introduction process again.
- For more information on introducing and integrating multiple cats in the same environment, please read our full article on Feline Integration.
- Side Notes:
- 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, foods and toys for positive reinforcement.
- Never use harsh or loud tones when they are together so that they do not associate unpleasantness with each others company.
- Give special attention to resident cats to minimize jealousy and reaffirm your loyalty and love.
- Give new cat your loving attention only in the absence of the other cats or until their relationship has been established.
- Be patient since you may be required to repeat steps in the introduction process more than once.
- Replacing an Old Litter Box with a New Litter Box
- Place the new litter box next to your old litter box.
- If you’re using an automatic system, turn it on and set it to run. If you are using a manual litter box, see our section on the Benefits of an Automatic Litter System for more information.
- 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.
- Manually activate 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.
- Note: Do not place any litter box in a wet environment or in direct sunlight, as this may affect the litter absorption. Do not use automatic litter box systems outdoors or on patios.