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How to Introduce a new Cat into the Household
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How to Introduce a new Cat into the Household

Cats
General

A new cat, whether the first one or a new addition to a household which already owns cats, is a new member of the family. It is therefore a responsibility, and knowing how to accustom the cat to its new home is very important. Here is some advice.

Preparations Before Bringing the Cat Home

Whether your are buying a kitten or taking on an older cat, certain things are crucial. Basically, the cat will need food and water bowls and cat food, a litter tray and cat litter, and somewhere to sleep. Even those who intend to let their cats go outside will need to keep it indoors for a couple of weeks or so; thus a litter tray is essential. And although most cats decide themselves where they want to sleep, it may be helpful for the new cat to have its own bed and its own place in order for it to feel secure. You need to make sure that the cat can eat, go to the toilet, and sleep, in peace and quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of family life.

This is equally true if you already have cats. You may think that the new addition can use the same facilities as the other cats, and in time it may be able to. But you might have to introduce it to the other feline members of the household slowly. At least in the beginning, give the new cat the opportunity to eat alone, sleep by itself, and have its own litter tray. These should be at some distance from those of the other cats until they all become accustomed to each other.

Introducing the Cat to its New Home

Many people advise limiting the cat to one room for a short period. This is probably a good idea, at least to start with. However, I have owned cats for many years, and I have usually found that cats cope well with being introduced to the whole house, so long as they are shown the locations of food, litter tray, and their bed. But all cats are different. If the new cat is particularly nervous, confinement in one room may be more reassuring, so this may be the best way to start. It may also prevent a situation similar to one I had once, when a timid new cat got behind my kitchen units, and I practically had to dismantle the kitchen to get him out!

If you are getting a kitten, there are certain specific things that you need to be careful of. Kittens are very adaptable, and usually love exploring the house. This is often fine, but they should be kept away from any dangerous places. So make sure before you bring the kitten home that they cannot get inside washing machines or ovens. If your house has a chimney, you should check it before lighting a fire, as this is a favourite hideaway for young kittens! It might be best to block off the chimney for a while, if at all possible

Older cats are usually more cautious, but individuals vary. How an individual cat reacts will depend on its history and where it has lived in the past. For those who are re-homing a rescue cat, the rescue organization should be able to give some advice. Taking on a feral cat or one which is quite wild is perhaps best left to the experienced cat owner, or get some specialised advice.

Introducing the Cat to Other Pets

As mentioned above, the usual rule for multi-cat households is to have plenty of resources. So you need to make sure that there are enough feeding stations in different locations, and plenty of litter trays. It is usually recommended that you have one litter tray per cat, plus one spare one. That way, even if a current cat is bossy and the new cat is nervous, the dominant individual will not be able to guard all the resources! You will need to keep on eye on things, but usually the cats themselves will sort things out. Nevertheless, if you can manage to stay in for a day or two and observe what is happening with inter-feline interactions, it is good to do so. Problems between cats, if they occur, are best sorted out early. Cats rarely fight, but if they do, you may find relationships between the cats have broken down so badly that they never get on again – prevention is better than cure in such an instance.

Introducing the cat to dogs or other animals such as rabbits should be done carefully, and they should not be left alone until you are sure that all is well. Cats can usually get on fine with other animals, but you need to be careful.

Introducing the Cat to Other Family Members

There should be no problem with introducing your new cat to adults. But be careful with children, particularly if you have not had a cat before. Cats may not have met children before, and could be frightened of them. Younger children need to know that a cat is not a toy. If the cat doesn't want to be picked up they shouldn't insist, and if it wants to hide they shouldn't pursue it. Frightened cats may lash out in such situations, and that is the last thing anyone wants. So take care, and take things slowly if necessary.

Should the Cat Stay in or Go Out?

All new cats should be kept indoors for at least a couple of weeks, perhaps as long as a month, as they need to know where they live. After that, the decision as to whether to allow them access to the outdoors is a complex one, and depends on how safe the area is. Many cats love going out, but others can be happy with an indoor life. Each situation is different, and there is no one answer to this dilemma. Some people build an escape-proof cat garden, or have one built, and this is a solution which is becoming increasingly popular.

If the above advice is followed the new cat should settle in well, and hopefully have a long and happy life, as well as bringing a lot of pleasure to the whole family. So I hope it all works out well for you!

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