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How To Introduce A New Cat To The Family
CatsBehavior

How To Introduce A New Cat To The Family

Critter Culture Staff

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Bringing a new cat home is exciting for the whole family. It's also a big adjustment for your new pet. While cats typically grow to love their humans, they can be anxious at first.

Your new cat needs time to get used to your family and feel comfortable in your home. That's why taking your time when introducing a new cat is so important.

1

Let the cat explore in a contained space

Little black kitten playing and enjoys with orange ball at living room of house. nensuria / Getty Images

Your new cat might be tense or timid after the trip to your house. Pick a room with a door or pet gate so the cat can relax and explore a little in a quiet space after they get home. This allows your cat to adjust to new surroundings without you having to worry that they'll hide or accidentally get out.

It also limits interaction with family members or roommates who might frighten the cat in their rush to welcome them.

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2

Offer your cat food and water

Tabby cat drinking water simonkr / Getty Images

Make sure you have plenty of cat food and water waiting in your new cat's room. It's okay if your pet doesn't want to eat right away. If your cat refuses to eat for more than a day, try offering a different type of food or snack. Adult cats may already have food preferences you're unaware of when you adopt them.

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3

Show your cat the litter box

Kitten in the litterbox Jordan Lye / Getty Images

Place your cat in the litter box so they know where it is. You might want your cat to be an indoor-outdoor pet that doesn't use a litter box frequently. However, you should give an adult cat a few weeks to get used to your home and family before you let them roam outside.

If you have a kitten, you'll need to wait until they're six months old and spayed or neutered before leaving them alone outside.

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4

Introduce the cat to everyone

Smiling family sitting on sofa with cat and little child and having fun. Anastasiia Krivenok / Getty Images

Once your cat has had the opportunity to explore, eat, and use the litter box, you can introduce them to everyone in your house. Put the cat down on the floor or a bed, and let them choose who to meet first. Remind small kids not to make loud noises or sudden movements when they meet the cat.

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5

Separate your new cat from other pets

Dog sitting outside looking at cat inside the house Inti St. Clair / Getty Images

If you have other pets at home, it's important to separate a new cat from them for a period of time. Cats often feel threatened or frightened when they meet a new companion. To make your new cat feel at home, establish a closed-off space where they will eat, play, and use the litter box.

Make sure to put toys and comfortable bedding in the room for your new cat. Play with the cat throughout the day so they get used to you.

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6

Allow your pets to interact through a gate

Cat and dog playing together in the apartment with a ball. Closeup portrait. anastas_ / Getty Images

You should never leave a new cat alone with other pets. Instead, provide supervised playtime until they're comfortable with each other. Try putting the pets in adjacent spaces separated by a safety gate or screen that won't allow them to climb through. The gate allows them to have limited interaction but prevents serious fights.

Of course, you should be careful not to let your pets climb or jump over the gate. Some hissing is normal, but watch out for signs of aggression:

  • Yowling or screaming
  • Hissing or growling
  • Baring teeth
  • Hitting the screen forcefully
  • Flattened ears
  • A puffed-up appearance

Try distracting your cats if they get aggressive. You will need to physically separate them if distraction doesn't work.

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7

How to fully integrate your multi-cat household

Domestic cat in a living room Linda Raymond / Getty Images

Your cats are playing together with your supervision, and there's no fighting or aggression. Now it's time to fully integrate your household. Allow your cats to interact whenever they'd like. Let them roam your home freely at night to spend time together while their humans are asleep.

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8

Prioritize regular play with your cat

Full length shot of an attractive young woman kneeling in her living room and teaching her cat tricks Moyo Studio / Getty Images

Playing regularly with your cat is important to their development. It's also a great way to bond with your new pet and make them feel comfortable in your home. Offer a variety of cat toys, fascinators, and balls to keep your cat occupied.

The more you play with them, the more friendly and sociable they'll be later.

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9

Reward your cat for good behavior

Gray domestic cat eats pet treats with vitamin supplements Larisa Stefanuyk / Getty Images

Your new cat doesn't know what they're allowed to do in your home. You can discourage unwanted behavior, like scratching furniture, by saying "no" firmly and moving your cat to a scratching post. Remember that reinforcing good behavior is important. For example, you can offer praise and a treat when your cat attacks a scratching post instead of your couch.

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