Introducing a new cat

Alison Laurie-Chalmers, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets

Bringing home a new cat can be a really exciting time for the whole family, however it can be a stressful time for your new pet. Cats need time to adjust to any change in their environment and routine. Change can be extremely disorientating and unnerving for them, especially if they have come from a place that they felt comfortable and secure. This stress can sometimes lead to aggressive behaviour, however there are some things you can do to ease the transition.

Do not let your new arrival loose throughout the house as soon as you get home. They will already be nervous about their new surroundings and will quickly become overwhelmed if children and/or other household pets are introduced too quickly. Instead, arrange a separate quiet room in which they can feel comfortable, safe, and receive one to one, quiet attention from you. This quiet area should be set aside for sleeping, playing, eating and have a new clean litter tray available for toileting. Bring your cat into this area and let them exit the cat carrier at their own pace. This may not happen straight away so leave your cat alone for a period to get used to things before offering them some food and quiet reassurance. Using cat friendly pheromone sprays and advised safe diffusers can also ease any stress at this time. Help your cat to get used to the smell of other pets in the household by using the same brush for grooming or by placing some used pet bedding in this room before the new arrival.

A safe sanctuary in the quiet room is usually recommended for the first week at least to allow your cat to get used to their new home without being overwhelmed. It can take up to six weeks or more before a cat may settle enough for you to consider introducing them to the rest of the home and the outdoors.

Introducing your new cat to children or your existing pets must be done gently and gradually. During the first introduction keep them safely in their carrier and make it a short visit. Hissing and other aggressive behaviour is to be expected, in which case meetings may need to be controlled before a face-to-face meeting is initiated. Only do this when there are no longer signs of aggression. If the introduction does not go smoothly, return your cat to the quiet room and trial the introduction process again slowly once things have settled down. Don’t leave your new cat alone with other existing pets until you can be sure that there will be no aggression or hostility between them.

It is natural to focus your attention predominantly on your new cat while they settle in. Don’t forget to spend time with your other pets too so that they don’t feel left out. The introduction of a new cat will upset their routine, so spend some time with them every day to reassure them that they still have a key place in your affections.

Fear can impact on a new pet’s appetite, but if this continues or if you’re at all concerned about your new cat’s health or behaviour during the initial transition period, then do get in touch with your vet.