Most cat owners deal with the introduction of new cats into their homes at some point, and many find the event to be accompanied by stress for both people and the new cat. Especially in houses where there is already an existing cat population, introducing a new member of the feline family can be fraught with peril. However, owners can make several preparations that will ease the introduction and build a long lasting relationship with their new cat.
In the case of introducing a new cat into a home with no other animals, a few steps can be taken in advance to the make the process more pleasant. The first step is to choose a room to introduce the cat into, so that he or she can explore an isolated area of the house before being introduced to the entire home. Make sure that the room has a fresh, clean litter box, as well as food and water, before you release the cat. The following steps hold true for multiple cats introduced together as well as for single cats.
If possible, new cat owners should provide the cat with the same food and litter that it was using before. If adopting from a shelter or humane society, ask what type of food the cat eats, and find out what kind of litter is used. Often, the shelter will provide new cat owners with a going home package that includes a small amount of food and litter. If you need to change your cat's diet, do so by gradually mixing new food with the old, so that the cat can adjust slowly.
When you bring your new cat home, release him or her into the isolated room you have prepared, and withdraw. Allow the cat to explore for several hours before you enter again to interact with him or her, and make sure that the new cat feels safe and comfortable. After two to three days, slowly introduce the new cat to the rest of the house until he or she is confident adventuring indoors. Be aware that some cats have an adjustment period, especially those who have been separated from a litter of kittens or other social environments, and that some odd behaviors may occur. Some behavior, especially urination outside the litter box, is linked with health problems and indicates a trip to the veterinarian, not a punishment.
Make sure that your new cat has been spayed or neutered and has current vaccinations. Preventing unwanted pets and disease is an important part of your responsibility as a pet owner. Also, make sure that your new cat visits the veterinarian for regular checkups, and consider the purchase of pet insurance to help you care for your new cat.
If you are introducing a new cat to a house with an already existing feline population, additional steps should be taken. The American Veterinary Association recommends that all cats have access to separate food, water, and litter, and this is especially true if you are bringing new cats into an existing environment. The first step in introducing an additional cat is to find an isolated room where the cat can be kept for several days, so that your other cats can get used to the sounds and smells of the new cat.
Release the new cat into the closed environment, and allow it to explore. Your older cat or cats will probably investigate at the other side of the door, and some hissing and spitting will occur. Allow all of the cats to grow accustomed to each other before slowly introducing the new cat to the others by allowing them to enter the new cat's designated room.
Do not release the new cat into the house, because the house is the territory of your older cats. Allow the older cats to meet the new cat in the new cat's territory, and make sure you are there to supervise in case a fight breaks out. As the cats grow more comfortable with each other, you can let the new cat out into the rest of the house, and eventually leave it alone with your older cats.
Sometimes cats fight with each other several times before reaching a state of harmony. Allow your cats time to adjust to each other for some time, and do not attempt to force a relationship. Eventually, your felines will grow to be friends with one another.