Introducing A New Cat To Your Household

By Dr. Anne Ray, Veterinarian

You have made the decision to adopt a new cat or kitten. Props to you! There are so many cats, whether from a shelter, rescue, breeder or stray that need good homes. Here are some tips that will be useful.

  1. When transporting the new cat (who for this blog will be called Kitty), ALWAYS have it in a carrier. I prefer a soft sided carrier with openings on top and end or a hard sided carrier that can have the top removed. Both types make it less stressful to get out a reluctant cat. I also like to line carriers with a towel so as to absorb any urine accidents. Spraying both the towel and the carrier with a pheromone spray (Feliway is an example) can reduce stress as it can have a calming effect. These sprays can be purchased on-line or at a pet supply store.
  2. Kitty should have a veterinary health exam. As well as a good physical exam, this includes bringing a stool sample to test for intestinal parasites and having an in-house blood test to check for 2 viral diseases that can have an affect on the cat’s immune system. These two diseases are Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLv) and Feline Aids Virus (FIV). These viruses can be acquired from a positive mother or close contact / bite wounds from other positive cats. It is important to know the status of your cat. Proper vaccinations for your cat would be discussed at this time.
  3. To introduce Kitty to your home, you should choose a quiet room such as a bedroom, or office, with food, water and a litter box. Remove anything loose on the dresser, night stand, etc. that the cat could knock off. Close any closet doors. When you arrive with Kitty, place the carrier in the middle of the floor of the chosen room, open the carrier then walk out closing the door behind you. You want the new cat to be able to explore it’s new surroundings in peace. After a few hours, go in and check on Kitty. The cat may be hiding, which is ok. Depending on the personality of the cat, it may seek attention immediately or may be very timid and wants to continue to hide. Don’t push yourself on a timid cat. Let the cat come to you when it’s ready. If there are other cats in the house, the new cat should have a period of quarantine of two weeks in the room you choose. The incubation period of infectious diseases such as the feline upper respiratory virus or the feline distemper virus can be up to 2 weeks before symptoms are noticed. Once quarantine is over, it’s now time to allow your other cats to meet Kitty. Leave the door to the room open and let Kitty start exploring the bigger surroundings. The other cats probably know you have brought a new cat into the house and are curious. It can take several days or more for your cats to adjust to the “interloper”. Cats will work out the hierarchy themselves.
  4. You want to practice good litter box hygiene so as to avoid unwanted eliminations. It is recommended that you have 1 litter box per number of cats. I know that if you have many cats, this is not usually possible due limited space. But it is possible for you to do certain things to avoid a problem. Have the litter box/s in a quiet area away from traffic and noise. Laundry rooms are not ideal as they are noisy when in use. Cats prefer not having a hooded litter box as they can retain odor, remember cats are very clean. Also when multiple cats are in the house, they can feel vulnerable or trapped and can start avoiding the litter box altogether. I recommend using unscented scoop type litter. Make the rounds twice a day to remove solids and urine clumps.

Following these simple tips can make your newly adopted cat feel at home. Cats are relatively low maintenance with high rewards. They all have their own personality. Some are outgoing, some are shy and some are curmudgeonly. All of us at Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital are committed to the health and welfare or your new family member. And remember, you are a rock star giving your new cat a loving home.

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