Bringing Home A New Cat – The Complete Guide

Are you bringing home a new cat? Brace yourself for the purring, the playful attacks on your toes, and the endless love a cat can provide. But wait, don't just whisk a cat into your house, there's more to it!

In this complete guide, we'll cover what you need to know and do before your cat steps paw into your home. This isn't just about cute, fluffy companionship - it's about making smart choices to ensure a smooth transition and a happy life together.

We'll also cover how cats perceive their environment, and why adjusting to a new home can be such a big deal for them. We'll guide you through how to prepare your home for its new resident, ensuring it's safe, welcoming, and cat-friendly.

Plus, we'll navigate you through the process of first introductions, settling in, and building trust with your new furry family member. Keep in mind that every cat is different and will adjust at their own pace, so patience is key.

After reading this guide, you'll be ready to offer a warm welcome and a forever home to your new four-legged friend.

Bringing Home A New Cat: The Preparations

Cats are territorial animals. They mark their territory, perform daily patrols, and know every nook and cranny in and about their home. Cats are also creatures of habit and do not take very well to sudden change. They find being moved from one house and neighborhood to another very stressful.

Imagine what it must be like for the poor cat if she also has to get to know new owners and confront changes in food, water, household routines, and rules. It is no wonder that some cats experience difficulties when they are introduced into a new home.

Different cats react differently to change, but they all benefit from a gradual introduction to a new household - especially when other cats are involved. Kittens are usually more adjustable, and young kittens can sometimes make themselves at home within hours. Older cats that are often more set in their ways will take longer to adjust.

If you know you're about to bring a new cat into your home, be it from a breeder, from friends, or a stray from the street or a shelter, there are a few things you should take care of in advance to make the transition easier for both you and your new feline friend.

Getting the House Ready For Your New Cat

Cats are very curious by nature and will eventually investigate everything in their new territory. This characteristic can get them into trouble, and it is up to us to make the house as cat-safe as possible. This is especially important when the new arrival is a kitten.

Here is a short list of things to look for and get out of the kitty's way:


some common household plants can be very toxic for cats. While most cats tend to leave them alone, a curious kitty or a cat with a craving for greenery might be tempted. Some common plants to beware of are poinsettia, ivy, lupine, azalea, and rhododendron.

Cords and Strings

These are irresistible toys for many kittens, but they can be extremely dangerous. Chewed electric cords can cause a deadly electric shock, while swallowed strings or rubber bands may become entangled in the cat's intestines and cause severe internal damage.

Open doors and windows

Should the cat get out, she might easily get lost in unfamiliar surroundings. Whether you plan to keep your cat as an indoor-only cat or allow her some access to the outdoors, make sure the kitty cannot get out unsupervised for at least the first few weeks. Secure all doors and windows, and be sure that no hatch can be opened by a curious cat.

Other hazards

It goes without saying that the usual toxic items, such as cleaning materials (sprays, fluids, powders) and various insecticides, should be in secure cupboards. Insecticide containers are required by law to carry warnings about their use around animals. Always read labels! Remember also that what is safe for use around dogs may harm your new cat.

Other than that, use your common sense and look around, trying to see your home the way a cat would. Remove breakable objects from shelves and block access to any places where the kitty may manage to squeeze in and get stuck.

Read more:

Pet Poison

Household Chemicals And Your Cats

First Aid For Cats

Cats And Hidden Dangers In The Home

Getting Family Members Ready

If you share your home with other people, you should get them ready as well. First, explain the special situation kitty will be in and the need for patience. Excited family members will have to give the cat some time to adjust to the new environment before they can handle her, and this could take a while, particularly with older cats.

Don't forget to tell everyone about new house rules, such as making sure doors and windows are shut during the kitty's settling-in period, not leaving food on tables and kitchen counters, and double-checking before turning on the washer and drier.

The rules the cat will have to live by, such as not getting table scraps or not jumping onto certain places, are best reinforced when everyone in the house sticks to them, so make sure these are clear and agreed upon.


The Sanctuary Room

Allowing the cat access to the whole house from Day One may be too overwhelming and create stress. For at least the first few days, the cat is best off confined to one area or space.

Set aside one room that will serve as the "sanctuary room" before you bring the kitty home. The room should be a quiet one with little or no human traffic. Make sure that the door can be locked, to avoid accidental intrusions or escapes and that all windows are well shut so your cat won't climb her way out.

Place the cat's feeding and water bowls In one corner of the room and a litter box some distance away. This is important because cats do not like to use a litter box in close proximity to their sleeping or eating places, and they may choose to use another place in the room for elimination purposes to keep their feeding area uncontaminated.

Add some cat toys and make sure that the kitty has several safe hiding places. Under the bed is a good spot, but a cat carrier with its door removed or a cardboard box turned on its side can give your new friend an added sense of safety, especially if you put a warm blanket inside. (Don't forget that cats are fastidious creatures and like their bedding changed frequently.)

Read more on cat toys.

Bringing Kitty Home

Always bring a kitten or cat in a secure cat carrier. Never let the cat loose in the car or carry her in your arms into your home. Even the most docile cat can suddenly become frightened and claw her way out of your arms. The carrier makes the kitty feel more secureshe can look at the outside world while being protected from it.

Homecoming: Entering the New Environment

As you enter your home, avoid having excited family members greet the newcomer with loud voices and attempt to touch or hold it. Introductions can be made later on when the cat is more relaxed. This is especially true if you have other pets. Ignore their curiosity and walk with the carrier straight into the sanctuary room.

The Sanctuary: Kitty's Personal Space

Once in the room, put the carrier down in a corner and open its hatch. Then get out of the room and let the cat get out of the carrier in her own time and explore the room. The cat's first priority is getting to know the new territory. Only after she's comfortable in the room, will she be able to meet and positively interact with people and other animal inhabitants of her new place.

Checking In and Building Trust

Check on her every few hours to see how she is doing. Some cats will walk out of the carrier and make themselves at home within minutes. Others will take a few hours or even days before they feel comfortable enough to welcome you when you come. As long as the cat is eating, drinking, and using the litter box, you're doing fine.

Special Care for Timid Cats

If the cat is particularly timid, you may need to make an extra effort to integrate her into the household. Spend several hours a day (or as long as possible) befriending the cat. Sit on the floor in the room and try feeding her baby food from a spoon. You can also try coaxing her into interactive playtime (especially effective with kittens). Talk to her gently and calmly, and, with time, she should start feeling more secure when you are around.

Family Introduction: Meeting Human Housemates

If the cat appears confident and looking for human interaction, allow other family members to come in and share some quality time getting to know the new cat. Do not let other cats or dogs into the room at this stage, because this can be very stressful for all animals involved.

Read more on cat carriers.

Settling In

When you sense that the cat feels safe in her room (usually after a few days to a week), open the door and let her explore the rest of the house.

This is best done at times when there are few people around, and you have the time to patiently supervise the kitty's first tour of the house. Don't forget to close the windows and doors!

If there are other cats in the house, this stage is done differently - please check our cat behavior section for more information about introducing cats. Always ensure that the house is as kitty-proof as possible, with all dangerous temptations out of the way.


Read more: How To Help A New Cat Adjust To Your Home

Further reading: Help! My Cat Is Lost!

Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!

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6 comments on “Bringing Home A New Cat – The Complete Guide

Got Omnia January 8, 2022
Gotta get rid some of the plants before bringing home a kitty for my daughter! Thank you for sharing such a useful information
Aunty November 26, 2018
I got my 5yrold female cat Friday from shelter shes been under the bed since then she has come out at night when everyone is sleeping except for me she peed penny size on Saturday and that's it I dont know what to do I think she took bite of her food because she had 1 poop Sunday night I've never gone thru this Aunty
LovelyStyle October 15, 2018
This is great info. I'm preparing to adopt an adult cat in the next week or so, Nice to see folks adding a more mature cat to their families.
Margret December 30, 2015
I realize that you've probably long since settled on a name, but might I suggest Priscilla? It's not that much of a change for the cat, and it's much prettier than Priss. Margret
camillel September 18, 2015
Also adopted an older cat. Her name was Sweetness. She is but didn't like the name. We named her Tigger ( she loves to pounce) Everytime we feed her or pet her we used her new name,it took a short while but she started answering to it. Just be patient and loving and they gradually get the message thst you are talking to her. Good luck :)
judith1949 June 24, 2013
We just adopted a four yr. old female Snowshoe Siamese. She is very friendly, laid back, and affectionate. She was around one small dog before coming to our home. We have three small dogs, all under 5 lbs. each. Our smallest Yorkie, Ellie, age 9, only weighs 2 1/2 lbs. and she ignores the cat. Our Biewer Terrier, Zoie, age 3, weighs 4 1/2 lbs. and she also ignores the cat. But our 3 yr. old Yorkie, Abbie, who weighs 5 lbs. wants to chase her and bark at her. Abbie is our dominate dog here. She is the most friendly, most fun, most playful, and greets everyone. (She is my fav of the three dogs.) She is everyone's favorite who enters our door! Right now I have the cat in a small area with a baby gate keeping her away from the dogs. She has her litter box, food, water, bed, and cat condo in her area. She can get out any time that she wants to, as she can jump or climb over, which she has done. In the night she did so and was roaming around the house when I got up to get some water. We put Abbie and Zoie in our bedroom and we shut the door last night, to keep Abbie from getting out to pester the cat. Ellie sleeps in the great room in her bed with a heat pad, as she is so small and that is where she wants to sleep. Does anyone have any idea how long it will take Abbie to get used to having the cat in the house and how long until she will stop trying to chase her and bark at her? Also, the cat has the name of Priss, which we hate! She is 4 years old. Is is too late to change it. We can't think of any name that sounds similar that we like. We have changed pet's names before, but usually to something similar sounding. We changed Zoie's name at 18 months and she got used to her new name quickly, but she is a dog. Any advice anyone can give us would be appreciated. Also, anyone out there who owns a Snowshoe Siamese and has any advice would be appreciated. We have owned part Siamese cats before but never a pure bred Snowshoe before. Thank you!

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