WELCOMING A NEW CAT OR KITTEN INTO YOUR HOME
The following information has been gathered from many sources, including long term experience, veterinarian advice and internet sites such as www.humanesociety.org
We at For the Love of Cats Rescue and Adoption (LOCRA) are committed to the continued care of these amazing creatures. If you have any questions or concerns about your new pet, please contact your Adoption Counselor or the LOCRA representative whose phone number can be found at the bottom of your FINAL ADOPTION CONTRACT. You can also email us at email@example.com.
Thank You for making a difference in a kitty’s life!
- INSTRUCTIONS TO SUCCESSFULLY INTEGRATE YOUR NEW CAT OR KITTEN INTO YOUR HOME.
For a cat, moving into a new environment can be stressful, as they do not handle change well. And once stressed, it can take four to seven days for this stress level to reduce. The following steps are recommended by veterinarians and cat behaviorists to proactively eliminate any negative behavior that can stem from prolonged stress.
- Prepare a “base camp/safe room” for your new pet’s initial move-in that can be closed off from the rest of the home. Ideally, this can be a bedroom, office, or bathroom. To this space add a litter box, food and water bowls, toys, a scratching post/cat tower, and bedding. Whichever room you choose, it should be relatively quiet with no other pets allowed access to it during this initial stage. Additionally, be sure that all potential dangers are removed. For example, shelves should be stabilized or secured to the wall, electric cords should be covered or tacked to the baseboard and floors cleared of any small, interesting debris.
- The seclusion phase: During this beginning phase, it is important for you to spend time with your new pet in the base camp room, quietly reading/playing games on your phone, etc. Do not try to touch or hold your new feline, unless they initiate it. Research shows that cats respond positively when allowed to initiate contact.
- After the first night, add playtime with your new pet. The best-case scenario is to schedule these interactions around the same time each day. Your new kitty will begin to anticipate them and not be surprised by them, helping to lower their stress level.
- Implement the tips located in Section II.A. of this document under BEFORE THE FACE-TO-FACE MEET heading. These tips will help prepare your new and resident animals for initial introduction.
- Your new feline will remain secluded in this space (with the door closed) until they are using the litter box regularly, eating, no longer hiding, and approaching you when you enter the room with their ears and tail upright. Once these things occur your new feline is ready to explore more of their new home.
- Before allowing your pet into any additional areas of your home, be sure to perform the safety check of that area as described above.
- Alone time to explore: When allowing your new pet access to more rooms in your home, first and most importantly, confine any other pets to a separate room. Open the door of your new feline’s base camp and allow them time to safely explore more of their new home. NOTE: Your new kitty may or may not immediately come out of their room. Do not be concerned. They will come out when they are ready.
- Repeat this process several times each day for the next two to four days, but only when you are there to supervise. This is a perfect opportunity for play time with your new feline and will help them relax and get to know you. After each session, return all animals to their respective areas and close the base camp door.
- When your new kitty’s tail and ears are upright (meaning they are no longer nervous while exploring outside their base camp), you will know it is time for the next step. They should now be ready to meet any resident animals. Follow the appropriate instructions (cat or dog) given below in the section called THE FACE-TO-FACE MEET
- The final stage of this process is allowing open access to the house. You will know that your new kitty is ready for the base camp door to stay open when she/he is meowing at the door and waiting excitedly to leave their base camp each time the door is opened, and when you feel comfortable allowing all pets to interact unsupervised.
- Once your new cat is fully integrated, feel free to move the litter box to a new location. All your felines will need to be shown the new location a couple of times the first day or two.
- TIPS TO AID IN FACE-TO-FACE INTRODUCTIONS
Cats are territorial, generally do not like to share and dislike change. Consequently, when introducing a newcomer to your resident animal(s), it is imperative that you follow the instructions below to ensure a peaceful, safe and successful integration. These tips were designed to be implemented while your new feline is secluded in his/her base camp. It also allows your new and resident pets to become used to the scents of each other before meeting nose-to-nose. Following are directions which are appropriate for your new feline being introduced to a resident cat (Appropriate for cats), a resident dog (Appropriate for dogs) and which are appropriate for both (Appropriate for both cats and dogs).
- BEFORE THE FACE-TO-FACE MEET
- Appropriate for both cats and dogs. Place food bowls on either side of your new feline’s base camp door (food bowls of your new feline, and your resident pet(s). Place the bowls approximately 2 feet from the door on both sides of it. Over the next few days, gradually move these bowls closer to the door until your pets can eat calmly while standing directly on either side of the door from each other. This process teaches both animals to associate something good/enjoyable (eating) with each other’s smells. When ready, use a baby gate or window screen, if possible, so pets can see/smell each other safely.
- Appropriate for cats. Try to get your new and resident cat(s) to interact with each other through the use of a toy. Tie a toy to each end of a string. Then place it so that there is a toy on each side of the door. Hopefully, they will begin to play with each other before they even realize it.
- Appropriate for cats. To animals, smell is far more important than appearances, so it is advantageous to get your pets used to each other's scent before they meet face-to-face. One easy way to do this is to use a towel or other soft cloth and gently rub along one cat’s jaws, where the scent glands that produce each cat’s unique individual pheromones are located. This will transfer the scent to the cloth. Repeat the process for each cat in the home. You should then place the cloth under the food dish of the other feline. For example, place the cloth of cat A under the food bowl of cat B and vice-a-versa.
- Appropriate for cats. After a few days, swap your new cat’s bedding, toys and even food bowls with those of your resident cat(s).
- Appropriate for dogs. Add a small blanket to both the new cat’s bed and the resident dog’s bed. After a few days, swap the blankets.
- THE FACE-TO-FACE MEET
- Appropriate for both cats and dogs. A face-to-face meeting between your new and resident animals can be dangerous to both you, as well as your pets. Therefore, caution is advised.
- Appropriate for both cats and dogs. Never force a meeting or hold a pet prisoner. This is sure to make them feel like prey and result in an adverse reaction.
- Appropriate for both cats and dogs. At this stage, it is imperative to be part of the process. In other words, you must never allow them to interact without you in the room watching closely. Also, have on hand a spray bottle containing water and/or a small pillow.
- Appropriate for cats. When you reach the initial face-to-face introduction stage, open the door of the new cat’s base camp. Upon first contact, a bit of hissing is normal. This can be handled by redirecting the hissing animal with a treat or toy. However, aggressive behavior such as growling and fighting means that the meeting should be cut short and tried again later. If this occurs, try to distract the cats by clapping loudly, tossing a pillow nearby or squirting them with water. Keep your distance, and never put body parts in the middle of a fight as you could be injured.
If you must cut an introduction short due to aggressive behavior, go back to the Alone time to explore phase for a few days and then try THE FACE-TO-FACE MEET again.
Repeat this process until the newcomer and resident cat(s) are no longer showing signs of aggression. Wait a few days before leaving them together for longer periods of time. Do not leave them alone together until they can calmly coexist in the same room for several days. Do not leave cats out unattended at night until you are confident they are compatible. A good rule of thumb is to wait until the cats groom each other.
- Appropriate for dogs When introducing a dog and cat, put your dog on a short leash and have a firm grip on it. Be sure there are high perches in the room to which the cat can escape if they are scared. Then allow the cat to walk into the room. If the dog stares at the cat, try to distract the dog to look away from the cat with treats, a happy voice or by gently guiding the dog away from the cat. Once the dog is away from the cat, try offering a treat. If the dog takes the treat, repeat the process until the dog is no longer focused on the cat. Continue until you are sure that the dog's reaction to the cat is non-aggressive, and the cat is not scared or aggressive toward the dog. NOTE: a successful cat/dog introduction and integration can be relatively fast and easy with a cat-loving dog, or it can take months. In extreme cases professional training may be required.
Never allow a dog to chase a cat. This behavior is only fun for the dog, and if left unchecked, can result in the cat exhibiting unacceptable behaviors. However, it is not only important to focus on the cat’s behavior, but also the dogs. A good resource for information about introducing dogs to cats is www.americanhumane.org
- The veterinarian recommended feline diet is 50/50 dry and canned food. Canned (wet) food is an important piece of a cat's diet due to their increased incidence of urinary crystals/urinary blockages, infections and kidney problems.
- We recommend feeding your cat ¼ of a can (5 to 5.5 oz.) of wet food combined with 1 tsp. of water twice a day. Follow the suggested recommendation on the back of the food bag according to your cat's weight and activity level for the amount of dry food (kibble).
- When choosing food bowls, flatter, wide-mouth bowls are better for wet food. Water and dry food bowls can have higher sides. The general rule of thumb is that a cat should not have to shove their face down into a bowl so that their whiskers are pressed against the sides of their face. Additionally, each cat should have their own food bowls.
- Fresh water daily is a must. Avoid plastic bowls as it has been shown to cause allergies/acne on cats’ chins.
- Ideally, litter boxes should be placed in quiet, calm, low traffic areas.
- The recommended number of litter boxes is one box per cat plus one extra box per household to ensure continued good bathroom behavior. For example, two cats should have three boxes.
- Purchasing a large enough litter box for the size of your cat, cleaning it daily and using fine grain clumping litter are the most important litter box factors in preventing many elimination problems.
- Covered litter boxes are not recommended. They hold smells that the cat does not care for and cats may bump their ears or tails on the lid if they cannot stand up straight. Some cats view this as unwanted confinement.
- Be careful what is laying around on your floors (e.g., rubber bands, twisty-ties, pins and needles, spools of thread, pills, candy, etc.). These are all potential dangers for your cat. The general rule of thumb is that if anything is dropped, your kitty will find and likely lick, chew or eat it.
- Recliner chairs can be deadly for kittens. Always check the flap that connects the chair to the footrest to ensure no cat is sleeping there.
- Close your toilet lids, as kittens are inherently nosey and could potentially fall in and drown!
- Flowers can be deadly! Many flowers and plants can cause illness or death in cats. Ingesting anything in the lily family, for example, can be fatal very quickly. For a complete list, go to www.aspca.com. Call your vet and Poison Control immediately if your feline has ingested any of the poisonous species.
- Exposed electric cords should be covered or tacked to the base board. Also consider keeping them unplugged when not in use, as cats love to chew on them.
- Always check the laundry basket, washer and dryer for sleeping felines.
- In refrigerators where the freezer is on the bottom, cats have been known to enter and explore while the drawer is opened.