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Bringing Your Cat Home: How to Prepare for an Easy Transition

By CarolineGolon on Mar. 27, 2017

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Adding a new cat to your family? Congratulations! Your new friend will be a wonderful and beloved companion, but there are a few things you should know before you bring your kitty home. Read on to learn how to create a harmonious and happy home for your new pet and your family.

Gather Supplies

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Before you bring your cat home, stock up on supplies. That way you can focus on getting to know them and making sure they’re comfortable. Here are some important items to help you care for your cat and make them as happy as possible during the first few days in a new environment.

Cat food
If possible, find out what kind of food your cat has been eating. Continue feeding the same food initially; if you’d like to change to another food, make a slow transition. A sudden change in diet can cause stomach upset or diarrhea. Add the new food to the old food in small but increasing amounts each day over a 14-day period. For more information, read How to Transition Your Dog or Cat to a New Food.

Food and water bowls
Pick up a couple sets of food and water bowls so you can rotate them for cleaning and always have a clean pair on hand. Consider buying several water bowls to place around the house and/or a water fountain too so your cat always has access to fresh, clean water. 

Treats
Treats can go a long way toward making friends with your new cat, or reinforcing good behavior. 

Collar and ID tag
Even if your cat is microchipped, it’s still a good idea for your pet to wear a collar and ID tag in case they escape your home. Choose a breakaway collar so they don’t get hurt if their collar gets caught on something. Pets in new environments can get scared and bolt; a combination of a microchip and ID tag can help ensure your pet returns home quickly and safely.

Bed
Make two separate cozy and inviting spaces for your new pet to cuddle up. Put one bed in a quiet, isolated place and another where the family spends most of their time. This way, your cat can choose where they want to be.

Toys
Cats vary in the types of toys that entice them. Try a couple of different kinds to find out what your cat enjoys. There are more types of toys for cats now than ever. Choose from balls, teasers, tunnels, scratchers, toys that chirp or squeak, interactive/puzzle toys, teethers for kittens, plush toys, treat-dispensing toys and more. If you have a kitten, catnip-filled toys may not be enticing until he is about one year old. Remember: Your pet may not feel like playing with toys at first. Allow some time and you will soon see a playful side emerge once your cat feels more comfortable. Never leave toys with strings unattended (some cats may accidentally ingest the string).

Grooming supplies
Grooming is a great way to bond with your new cat and help them maintain a healthy coat and skin. Choose grooming tools that are appropriate for your cat’s coat, including a brush, comb and nail clippers. Remember that a soft touch is key; a cat’s skin is extremely sensitive and you want grooming to be a pleasant experience. Try getting your cat used to nail trims at home from the start. 

Litter box
A good rule of thumb is to have one litter box for each cat in the household, plus one extra. Put the litter box in a convenient yet private place that’s away from high-traffic areas. Aim for a large box for an adult cat and a smaller box if you’re bringing home a kitten.

Cat litter
Cats can be finicky about the litter they prefer, so it’s a good idea to find out which cat litter your cat has been using and stick with that brand at first. If you wish to change the litter you use, slowly transition by mixing the old brand with the new a little at a time until the box is full of the new brand type.

Cat trees
You may consider a cat tree (you can even find a cat tree/scratcher combo) to give your cat an elevated spot from which to survey their new domain. Cat trees provide a secure observation tower that’s safely away from whatever’s happening on the ground.

Scratching post
Scratching is a natural behavior for cats. Make sure to have a scratching post on hand for when your new friend feels the need to get his claws in shape. Learn more about why cats scratch.

How to Cat Proof Your Home

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Cats can get into all kinds of trouble. It’s up to pet parents to make sure their homes are as safe as possible. Cats like to chew and play with many things, some of which may surprise you.

  • Close the toilet lid
    Some cats—especially curious kittens—can slip into a toilet and drown. Make sure to close the toilet lid after each use.
  • Latch cabinets and cupboards
    Cats can get into unlocked cupboards if they put their minds to it. They also like to knock things over. Use child safety locks on cabinets where you store medicine or cleaning supplies. Keep dangerous items out of reach so your cat doesn’t ingest anything except food or treats, or walk through a puddle of something and lick it off their paws.
  • Be diligent about string and yarn
    Most cats love playing with these. Unfortunately, some cats will ingest string and yarn, which can lead to organ damage. Dispose of or store these items out of reach.
  • Keep rubber bands and hair ties out of reach
    Similar to yarn and string, cats can ingest rubber bands and hair ties.
  • Secure windows and screens
    Keep windows closed and screens closed and/or locked. Cats love sitting in windows, and a loose screen can become a safety hazard if your cat pushes against it and falls out. Keep dangling cords from blinds secured safely as well.
  • Unplug or secure electrical cords
    Your cat may be tempted to chew on these dangling hazards. Either unplug cords that are not in use, or secure them along window or floor trim. Alternatively, you can wrap cords in plastic tubing (found at hardware stores) or spray them with pet-safe, natural deterrents such as citrus or apple bitters.
  • Remove fragile objects
    Do your cat and yourself a favor by anticipating accidents and removing breakable items from the tops of dressers, counters or cat-accessible shelving. The slip of a paw or tail can send these valuables crashing to the floor.
  • Check the washer and dryer before you use them
    Curious cats and kittens can crawl inside these appliances and be seriously injured.

Watch your new cat carefully to understand how your cat gets into trouble and which hazards you should safeguard.

Ease Your Cat Into Their New Environment
Cats are typically wary of new environments. It’s important to introduce them to your home gradually, so they feel comfortable and confident in their new surroundings.

While humans typically love to explore every inch of our new homes, cats are the opposite. The more room they have to explore, the more scared and overwhelmed they may become. Designating one room where your cat can stay for the first few days is a great way to start things off on the right paw. Keep the door of the “safe room” shut and make sure there is a litter box, food and water in the room, as well as a few toys. Your cat may hide for the first few days and that’s totally natural. Let them come out of a hiding place on their own time. Make sure to visit your cat throughout the day so they get used to you, your smell and sounds. After a few days, let your cat explore the house or apartment at their leisure. Make sure to leave the “safe” room accessible so they can return whenever they want.

 

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Introduce New Pets Slowly
Bringing a new pet into the home can be extremely stressful for the new pet as well as any resident animals. First off, make sure new pets visit the veterinarian and are up-to-date with vaccinations before exposing them to other family pets. Then give them time to get used to each other before allowing full access to one another. (This is another reason why giving your new cat a room of their own for a few days is important.)

For homes with other pets, put a baby or pet gate at the entrance of the safe room and open the door periodically so pets can see and smell each other at a safe distance before they are allowed full access.

Experts like Pam Johnson-Bennett, behaviorist and author of Catwise, helps clients introduce cats by exchanging the pheromones using her Sock Exchange method. For an easy transition, pet parents can rub each cat’s scent on a sock and introduce the sock to the other cat, helping both pets grow accustomed to each other’s scents.

Regardless of the method used, it’s important to take cues from your pets to determine how quickly you will let them interact with other pets. If you notice any problems, you may need to take some time before everyone can roam freely throughout the house together.

Conclusion
Cats make wonderful pets. But while they may have a reputation for being relatively low maintenance, it’s important to set yourselves up for success. Shop for the right supplies, give your pet time to transition to their new home and take your time introducing other pets. Soon, it will seem like your cat has been part of the family forever.

Shop for cat supplies

Shop for cat furniture and scratchers

Learn about why you need to clean your cat's litter box

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About the Author
  • Caroline Golon is a frequent contributor to sites like Vetsteet, Catster, Dogster, Mother Nature Network, ASPCA Parents, Cuteness.com, Petfinder and more. She’s also the creator of Crayons & Collars, a site dedicated to busy families with pets and kids. You can find Golon many places online but she resides in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and two young daughters. The Golons are dedicated staff members to a fluffy black cat named Pugsley who, obviously, runs the household.
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