Top 5 Tips For You After Adopting a New Cat

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Find food that fits your pet’s needs

Find a dog food that fits your pet’s needs

Find a cat food that fits your pet’s needs

It's easy to fall in love with a kitty, but adopting a cat requires thoughtful preparation in addition to love. As you get to know each other, you'll discover all of the wonderful ways that bringing a new cat home inspires joy for you both. Acceptance takes time, though. Here's how to welcome your new cat to the family.

1. Stock the Basics

Gather all of your new kitty's essential supplies before bringing them home, including a cat carrier, bedding, food and water dishes, and healthy cat food. But remember that you won't feed them their new food right away. Keeping them on the food they've been eating for the first week or so will help prevent an upset tummy and avoid too many big changes at once. Then, you can gradually begin to transition them to their new food.

You'll also need several scratch objects, litter boxes and cat litter. Use the 1+1 rule for litter boxes and scratch objects: at least one per cat, plus one. Multiple scratch objects and litter boxes makes it less likely that cats will argue over resources, and even single cats prefer to have options. Some cats like to use one box for liquid waste and another for solid waste, and keeping a variety of scratchers in the home allows them to experiment with different styles. For example, you might place a vertical post near their potty and a horizontal pad by their food bowl.


2. Create a Cat-Friendly Environment

Cats fear the unknown. When adopting a cat, set up one room with the essentials for the first week to 10 days — possibly longer if you have other pets (more on that later). From there, gradually expand their territory.

Once your new cat has full run of the home, place litter boxes and scratch objects on opposite sides of the house or on different floors. If you have other cats at home, this will make it so that no one cat can "guard" these items and prevent others from using them. Spreading out essential resources is also important for aging cats and young kittens, as they may be in a hurry to use the facilities.

Before bringing your cat home, scan your surroundings for anything that could put them in harm's way. Remove potentially toxic houseplants, lock up cleaning supplies and medicines, keep the toilet and washer/dryer lids closed, and tie up window blind cords. Reroute electrical cords or get cord covers for any exposed lines. Secure loose window screens while you're at it, and put away any breakables that might intrigue a curious cat.

3. Introduce Them to the Family

Cats need to feel safe and secure before they're willing to meet other family members — furry or human. Go slow and take it one step at a time.

Introducing Your Cat to Other Pets

Introduce your new cat to your current pets through a closed door first so they can kick off the process with smells, sounds and paw-pats. After about a week, or once any hisses fade, swap the closed door with a pet gate so your pets can see one another. This way, they can choose to exchange sniffs (or not!) through a safe barrier.

After a few days, swap out your pets, placing your resident pets in your new kitty's special room while your cat explores the rest of the house. Once everyone's calm, remove the barrier, stand back and let them get to know each other at their own pace.

If you have dogs, keep them on a leash at first, and don't force meetings. If your new cat gets hissy, separate them and try again later. You can encourage positive associations by giving them each a tasty treat on opposite sides of the same room. Stop introductions and separate your pets by dropping a heavy towel over them if any growling or chasing occurs.

Until they're comfortable with one another, always supervise your pets' interactions.

Introducing Your Cat to Children

Many young children love cats, but they'll need to be prepped on how to handle your new kitty. Always let your cat decide whether to interact. Forcing introductions could scare your cat or cause them to lash out. Instead, ask kids to sit on the floor and challenge them to ignore your cat. This means no touching, staring at or talking to them. Cats often get curious and approach on their own. When this happens, your child can make a good impression by offering them a healthy treat or slowly extending a hand to be sniffed.

4. Visit the Vet

Make an appointment with your veterinarian on the same day as adopting a cat to minimize the number of stressful outings while your kitty adjusts. If that's not possible, schedule a vet checkup within a week. During this visit, your vet will evaluate them for any health concerns and advise you on preventive care, vaccinations and the timing of sterilization surgery, if needed.

Your vet will also advise you about regular grooming, such as nail trimming and dental hygiene. If your new cat doesn't already have one, you might ask about getting a microchip so you can easily locate them should they ever get lost.

Once home, watch for signs of illness. Adopting a cat increases their stress levels, which can trigger health conditions such as upper respiratory infections (URIs). Some common signs of URIs include sniffles, sneezes and runny eyes. Contact your vet with any concerns, and keep their office and after-hours phone numbers in a handy spot in case of an emergency.

5. Practice Patience

When adopting a cat, keep in mind that everything new can feel scary. It takes time for a new cat to learn about their environment, so expect an adjustment period. This may include hiding, snubbing the food bowl, missing the litter box or scratching the wrong target. Cats use their claws (and sometimes urine) to smell-mark their new home, which helps calm feline stress. Cat pheromone sprays and plug-in products such as Feliway can help speed up the transition by mimicking cat pheromones spread by your kitty's cheek rubs, which identify the environment as safe.

Spending quality time with your cat will also help them adjust and build your bond — but don't force it. With time, they'll decompress, learn to trust and approach you on their own terms. In the meantime, try putting out an empty cardboard box or paper bags, which can offer great playtime opportunities and serve as hiding places to reduce stress. Interactive play with fishing pole toys also builds confidence and strengthens your bond. Just remember to let your cat catch and "kill" the toy, and always supervise playtime. Avoid balls of yarn or string-type materials, as these can lead to an emergency vet visit if swallowed.

Bringing a new cat home is the start of a rich period of life filled with love and care. Take your time and enjoy getting to know your new best feline friend!

Contributor Bio

Christine O'Brien