Kate & Me Cat Rescue
Thank you for adopting a cat or kitten and welcoming him into your heart and home. It is important that you prepare your home for his arrival, especially if he is a kitten. Like small children, they can get into things that can be harmful and it is important that you make your home environment safe and welcoming.
What you will need:
Unlike dogs, most cats do not enjoy car rides. When bringing your cat or kitten home for the first time or when taking him to the vet, it is important that you keep him in a cat carrier at all times. Hard carriers with metal doors are the best and safest option. Scared cats can often become expert escape artists from soft carriers with zipper closures and can pose as a danger when loose in a vehicle. Line the carrier with a blanket or towel for comfort. It can be difficult to ignore the sometimes constant meowing, however, it is much safer for you and for him if you keep him in the carrier. Letting him out even once will teach him that meowing works and he is more likely to meow longer next time rather than eventually settling down. Staying calm, using a comforting voice and playing soothing music may help him to feel less stressed.
When you first bring him home, it is best to keep him in one room for the first couple of days. If possible, choose a room that is away from the bulk of the household activity, such as a bedroom or spare bathroom. Make sure that the room is safe, keep the windows closed, remove any wires that can be chewed and, if it is a bathroom, keep the toilet seat closed. Make sure the room is set up with everything he will need, including his litter, food and water. Place the litter on one side of the room and his food and water on the other side. Make sure he has some toys to play with and a comfortable place to sleep. You can leave the carrier in the room with him with the door open so that he can hide in the carrier if he feels he needs to. It is very normal for any cat or kitten to be scared when you first bring him home. He will have recently been through a lot of changes and will need some time to adjust. Keeping him in one room at first will allow him to adjust to the new sounds and smells of the house and get to know you when you go in to see him. If he is scared, sit quietly and allow him to come to you. Using a soothing voice and encouraging him with treats can help to build his trust. Soft treats are best as you can break pieces off to encourage him more without over feeding the treats.
Each cat or kitten is different and it is important that you let him go at his own pace. He will let you know when he is ready to leave the transition room and explore the rest of the house. Keep the door open so that he can retreat back to the room if he needs to. If possible, have the transition room be the room where you intend to keep the litter on a permanent basis. If you intend to have the litter in a different location, then you will need two litter boxes. Make sure that he is fully comfortable with moving around the whole house and is using the litter box in the permanent location before removing the one from the transition room.
Introduction to other pets
It is especially important that your new cat or kitten feel very comfortable in your home before introducing him to your other pets, especially another cat. When you first bringing him home, take the blanket from his carrier and give it to your other pet(s) to sniff and give them a treat as they do so. This will give them a positive feeling associated with his scent. Even though the scent of the other animals is already in the home, do the same for the new arrival. Give him a blanket that your other pets have slept on and give him a treat. In the case of another cat, it is helpful if you rub the cheeks of each cat before giving it to the other cat. When you see your cat rubbing his face on the furniture or on your leg, he is distributing 'happy' pheromones, so these are the ones you want each cat to associate the other cat with.
When you first let the new cat out of the transition room give him time to explore the rest of the house while your pets are out of the way. If they are dogs put them out in the back yard or have someone take them for a walk. Cats can be contained to one room for a short time while the new cat looks around the rest of the house. Don't contain them in the transition room as he will need to feel he can return there if necessary. Allow the new cat to explore the house without the other animals around for increasing amounts of time for several days. This will allow him to familiarize himself with the house, where the valuable resources are (food, water, litter, high spots) and will build his confidence. Introducing him to a new space at the same time as introducing him to other animals can be very daunting.
Once you feel he has built his confidence in exploring the rest of the house and he also knows and trusts you, contain him to another room in the house while other pets have time to explore the transition room and get to know him a little more by his scent.
Allow them to sniff each other under the door and give them each treats when they do so. For cats, attaching two small cat toy balls to a string and putting it under the door will allow both cats to play together before they meet. If possible have a time where they can see each other through a screen door; child's safety gate, or glass door before meeting face to face.
As tempting as it is to rush this process, the longer you take with the introduction the greater the success. Be aware of each animal and how they are adjusting and go at the pace of the one who is taking longer to adjust. It will help build the trust of the new cat or kitten and ensure your other pets that you still love them and that they are still part of the family. A rushed and unpleasant introduction can be difficult to recover from. Be careful not to overcompensate by showering the existing pets with additional attention and treats. Keeping their routine as normal as possible will be less likely to raise 'red flags' and make them feel as if there is something to be concerned about. Show them that all is well by acting as you would with any other change around the house.
With a multi cat household, make sure that there are plenty of the vital resources available for each cat. This may mean having one litter box per cat, plus one extra, and in different locations. Five litter boxes all lined up in the basement with only one way to access them actually means you only have one very large litter box. The dominant cat can easily block the way to the litter box causing any other cat to feel the need to relieve himself somewhere else in the house. Even if you don't see that the cat is blocking the entrance, his 'look' from five feet away can be enough of a deterrent. The same goes for a dog, small child or too much household activity blocking the way to the litter. Lack of other resources that can cause disharmony in the household can be food, water and high places. Ensure that there are several bowls of food and water around the house with different ways to access them. Also, having more places for the cats to perch up high than the number of cats can promote harmony. If there is peace amongst a group of cats you will often find that they each use different high places at different times of the day.
As with other animals in the household, allow your new cat or kitten to explore the rest of the house while small children are not around. It is natural that they will be very excited to spend time with the new member of the family, but their squeals of delight and sudden movements can be scary, especially when there are so many other new things to adjust to also.