Cats come and go without ever leaving.~ Martha Curtis
The first thirty days are the most crucial time, both for developing a significant bond with your new animal and for the proper socialization of the cat. The following tips will help in easing the process, and along the way, you just might think of a few others.
BEFORE YOU BRING NEW CAT HOME
Tip # 1 Prepare a room for the newcomer
Think of yourself as a boy scout and adopt that old mantra: Be prepared. Try to think outside that (litter) box and pretend you are a cat. That would make you territorial and very uneasy about the up-and-coming new and unexplored space. Prepare a small room (bathroom, laundry area,etc). Set it up with food, water, a scratching post and a litter box. The cat should be able to see the door from its hiding place, which will avoid feelings of entrapment.
Expect the cat to remain in the new room for a day or two and longer if necessary. Remember that you may know the cat has a new family, but right now the cat has no such knowledge.
THE FIRST FEW DAYS
Tip # 2 Making the new cat comfortable
The new cat will feel safer in the carrier. Open it after you take the cat directly into the new room. (Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.) Sit on the floor and let the animal come to you. if other family members are there, warn them not to force the animal's approach; the cat might be very frightened and need time to feel comfortable. The cat will come out and explore the new surroundings on its own time.
Tip #3 Food and Drink
Newly re-homed cats often show little or no interest in eating for the first few days. Keep bringing in fresh food every few hours and slowly introduce the cat to the other rooms in the house once it starts eating regularly. While you want to keep some things familar to the new animal, such as the same toys or blanket the cat was using at the shelter, you also want to make sure that the dry pet food you are giving your new cat is of premium quality. (Here's our suggestions for the best cat food for your new cat.)
Change the new cat's diet gradually over the first week or so, decreasing the amount of wet food and increasing the dry. Introduce high-end dry food in limited quantities, and if you are not sure which brands to buy, ask your vet for advice or buy one of our recommended brands. Educate yourself by reading books on the topic.
Be sure to change the animal's water frequently and make sure the cat is drinking. (I think a fresh water fountain are great and I highly recommend one. Here's suggestions of the best fresh water fountains for your cat.)
Tip # 4 Preparing the other rooms in the house
Make sure the other rooms in your home are ready for the new cat. You will need some raised surfaces for the cat to be able to jump on and explore the new territory. Put breakables away for a week or so and make sure you have blocked off any spaces or nooks that could be dangerous for a cat to explore (rafters, tight spaces, etc).
If possible, place a scratching post in every room and encourage the cat to use them by sprinkling catnip over them. Install sticky tape to corners of upholstered furniture to discourage scratching. (Here's some tips on best ways to keep your cats from scratching up the furniture.) Lastly, clear off a shelf that can serve as a perch for the cat to view the new world or buy a cat tree. (Here's our suggestions some of the best things you can buy for your cat.)
Tip # 5 Introducing the new cat to family members
In the first week or so, make sure other pets or family members don't startle the new cat as it is gradually exploring the new terrain. Go over ground rules about not frightening the animal and to keep the door to the room shut. (At this point, you don't want other pets to race in suddenly.) If you are introducing the new cat to another cat or a dog, let the animals get to know each other in their own way. On the second or third day, open the door of your new cat's room a small crack and block off the doorway so the two animals can see but not touch each other.
Keep exposing the two animals to each other at intervals until they become acclimated to seeing and smelling each other's scent. Rushing introductions can easily stress your pets and they need time to slowly establish a routine. Hissing and growling from even the sweetest established cat is very normal, as it is their way of letting the newcomer know they are invaders to their territory.
Dogs too need a little time to adjust to the new cat. It can take anywhere from a few days to a month or so before the two animals can reach an agreement. When dealing with new cats and established other pets such as dogs, rabbits etc, you may need help from a vet as to how to best socialize the two or more animals.
THE NEXT FEW WEEKS
Tip # 6 Feeding routines and playtime
Feed and play with the established cat or dog first so their routine does not change and they don't feel neglected. Be sure to provide separate bowls, litter trays and beds for each cat and leave plenty of food.This will help to ease the transition, as the cat who was there first understands there will be no need to fight for food. Some experts recommend having a litter box per cat + one. Lastly, and this is so important, make sure you give all animals equal attention so they do not become jealous of each other.
As the new cat explores its territory, it may now be ready for some playtime. Many experts believe that homemade toys are often better. Feather wands are fine and you can get them in any pet store, but a paper bag, cardboard box and a wad of toilet paper provide hours of feline delight.
Tip # 7 How to keep the house neat and tidy with a cat
With the new animal in the home, you will have to do a bit more to keep the house clean and tidy and keep any potential allergens and mess to a minimum. Here are some tips on organizing all of your new cat items.
To keep the house smelling clean, make sure to get a great kitty litter and litter box (see our recommended products here), and use a good kitty litter mat to help keep litter scatter messes to a minimum. And here are some tips on deodorizing cat litter so it smells less. If you ever need to clean up after your cat, here are some handy tips of getting rid of urine odors.
It is worth every penny to invest in a really good small hand vacuum or a good overall vacuum cleaner designed to handle pet hair and dander. A great vacuum and a good cat brush will make all the difference in making sure that cat hair is never a problem. If you have not yet picked up your cat and can get a cat that is the same color as your rug or couch, even better! If you wear a lot of black clothes, think seriously about getting a black cat.
Adopting a new cat should be a joyous time. The first thirty days will mark your new pet's entry indelibly into your home. Make it a happy occasion for all by giving the animal tme to adapt to the new surroundings. Usually a month will suffice, but in some cases, it might take a little longer.
Cats teach us patience and sometimes we learn more from them than we would ever be comfortable admitting.
Enjoy your new cat!
Originally published June 2014 and updated June 2015.