Introducing Your New Cat to Your Home

Moving to a new home is an unsettling experience for a cat, even for friendly ones. Cats are territorial and need time to adapt to a new home.

“Safe Room”

It’s critical that you set up a “safe room” where your new cat is  confined for a couple of days to a couple of weeks (depending on your cat’s personality and your home environment). Initially, your cat’s food and water bowls, litter box, bed, toys, etc., should be placed in this room.

Choose a small room (e.g., a den, very large extra bathroom, or other room without a bed to hide under) where your new cat will have lots of human contact and can hide – preferably only where you can reach them for petting and for other interactions. If you don’t have a small room without a bed, you will need to use the bedroom, knowing it may take your cat a little longer to acclimate.

  • Reason: Cats feel safer in smaller spaces. Introducing them too quickly to a new home can be overwhelming, lengthening the amount of time it will take your cat to acclimate.

Exploration

Once your new cat feels comfortable with you in this “safe room,” open the door and let your cat venture out on their own. It’s important that your new cat trusts and bonds with you before introducing them to other parts of your home, new people and/or other pets. If there are a lot of rooms in your home, close doors to other rooms  so your cat has a smaller space to initially explore.

Keep the door to the “safe room” open so your cat can retreat back to the safety of a familiar room as needed. This is especially important when there are multiple people and/or other pets in your home. This also helps ensure your cat knows where their litter box is.

  • Reason: This process allows your cat to explore their new home slowly and in stages.

Ensuring Good Litter Box Habits

Number of Boxes

You need at least one litter box per cat. You may need more depending on how many cats you have, and the size and layout of your home (e.g., large or multi-floor homes may need more than one litter box per cat).

  • Reasons: Cats are territorial and usually want their “own” box or to have a choice regarding which box to use. Cats also want easy access to their litter boxes.

Size and Style

Litter boxes should be large with plenty of room for the cat to jump in and easily turn around. They should also either be open and high-sided, or with hoods that have large openings in the front and no door/flap. Some cats prefer open litter boxes, others prefer hooded ones. Most cat experts recommend open, high-sided litter boxes.

  • Reasons: Open litter boxes, even high-sided ones, enable cats to exit from different directions which may be important for cats that don’t like feeling “trapped.” Open litter boxes allow fresh air into the box to keep it fresher smelling and more appealing for the cat, and minimize dust from staying inside the box which isn’t healthy for the cat to breathe. Finally, an open box allows you to watch your cat for signs of straining when urinating or defecating which can be a sign of serious health issues.
  • On the other hand, covered litter boxes offer cats privacy that some cats may want. Hoods can help prevent litter from being kicked outside the box and urine from spilling over the sides of the box for cats that urinate on the sides. There are some hooded litter boxes that have clear plastic hoods, enabling you to see your cat inside the box to monitor for signs of straining.

Litter

Always use unscented litter. Fine sand-like, low-dust and clumping brands are good choices. Corn-based litter can also be a good choice.

  • Reasons: Cats do not like perfume! A sure way to get your cat to “go” outside the box is to use scented litter. Fine litter is more comfortable on their paws, lower dust limits how much they may breathe into their lungs, and clumping is easier to scoop.

Scooping

You must scoop at least once a day, preferably twice a day. This will vary depending on the number of cats and litter boxes you have. Also, about once a month, dispose of litter remaining in the box, clean the litter box with hot water and soap, and add fresh unscented litter.

  • Reason: Cats are usually very finicky and like their litter boxes clean!

Location

Place litter boxes in quiet places (e.g., extra bedroom, extra bathroom, closet with an open door). Do not place litter boxes in laundry rooms or unfinished basements near washers, dryers and furnaces. Finished basements are ok if washers, dryers, and furnaces are behind a closed door. Litter boxes should also be away from food and water bowls.

  • Reasons: Cats want peace and quiet and privacy when using their litter box. Imagine a washer, dryer, or furnace kicking on and startling a cat while the cat is using the litter box. This is a sure way to scare your cat away from using their litter box. And, cats don’t want to eat and drink close to where they urinate and defecate.

Choosing Quality Food and Feeding Appropriate Amounts

Initial Feeding

Consult with the SPCA foster parent and adoption official about the food your new cat is already eating. Initially, the cat should remain on the same food. SPCA will recommend whether this food should be continued or changed. Any changes should be done gradually by mixing new food into the current food for several days to a week.

  • Reason: Changing a cat’s diet can cause diarrhea and vomiting, especially if changes are made quickly.

Types of Food

We generally recommend a combination of canned and dry food in a cat’s diet with plenty of canned food. Sometimes, canned food only is a good choice. A cat’s diet needs to be tailored to their individual needs. Consult your vet for specific recommendations.

We recommend higher quality brands, such as Science Diet, Wellness, Royal Canin or Blue Buffalo. Also, consider a grain-free diet that has a higher protein/lower carbohydrate blend, such as Instinct, Wellness or Blue Buffalo Wilderness. There are many other quality brands available.

  • Reason: Cats are carnivores; they need lots of protein, not grain. Many brands of dry cat food contain grain/carbohydrates. In general, the cheaper the food, the more the grain. Not only is high-carbohydrate food fattening for many cats, it’s not as healthy for them either. Canned food adds moisture to your cat’s diet which is important – most cats don’t drink enough water. If your cat needs to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, consider switching to a grain-free brand of food. Or some vets recommend an all-wet food diet because canned food typically has higher levels of protein.

How Much to Feed

We do not recommend “free feeding” adult cats (i.e., keeping the food bowl full). You need to determine the proper amount of food for your cat based on age, size, weight, health, and other factors. Read the label on the food package and start with the lowest amount recommended for your cat’s ideal weight. Keep in mind, that packaging often recommends too much food. So, consult your vet for specific recommendations.

  • Reason: “Free feeding” encourages cats to overeat. It’s important to get off to a good start with a healthy diet that’s appropriate for your cat. It’s hard to change bad eating habits later.

Hydration

Access to clean water 24/7 is essential. Also,do not give your cat cow’s milk.

  • Reason: Cats need lots of water to maintain their health just like people. And, cats can’t properly digest cow’s milk, so it often causes diarrhea.

Providing Preventative Veterinary Care

If applicable, you must provide follow – up vet care as specified in your adoption contract (e.g., second FVRCP/distemper vaccination and/or deworming). At the time of adoption, all adult cats are already current on rabies,spayed/neutered and have received at least one FVRCP/distemper. We typically provide adopters with followup deworming, as needed.

When to See a Vet

It’s important that your cat get annual vet exams–even if your cat appears healthy. Only a vet can detect things like dental or kidney disease or heart murmurs. Your cat will also need future vaccinations on a one-to three-year basis for upper respiratory viruses (feline viral rhinotracheitis and felinecalicivirus) as well as feline panleukopenia (distemper) (given as one vaccination commonly referred to as an FVRCP), and rabies vaccinations.

  • Reasons: Preventative care that includes annual exams, or twice-yearly exams for older cats and cats with special needs, are important for ensuring long-term health. For example, regular exams, with blood work when needed, can detect early signs of dental and kidney disease. Caught early, these diseases can be managed to lengthen and improve your cat’s life.

A Note about Vaccinations

We recommend a conservative approach to vaccinations. This means only vaccinating your cat for those diseases that are: 1) highly infectious (e.g.,feline viral rhinotracheitis and feline calicivirus that cause upper respiratory infections); and 2) required by law (i.e., rabies). Consult an SPCA official and your vet to determine an appropriate one-or three-year schedule for rabies and FVRCP/distemper vaccinations.

For most healthy adult cats, once they have received their adult FVRCP/distemper and rabies vaccinations,a three-year schedule for future vaccinations is appropriate.However,you should discuss the appropriate schedule with your vet based on your cat’s age, health history, exposure to other cats, and various other risk factors. Indoor-only cats that are not exposed to other cats with an unknown medical history do not need to be vaccinated for feline leukemia (FELV), feline AIDs (FIV), or feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).

  • Reasons: Vaccinations are very important for helping to maintain your cat’s life-long health and protection against various diseases. However, all vaccinations carry some risk. Some cats have no adverse reactions to vaccinations. Others may have mild and short-term reactions (e.g., slight lethargy and fever 24 hours following the vaccination). Less common are more severe reactions(e.g., lethargy and fever lasting more than 24 hours)that may require hospitalization. Another risk is “vaccine-related sarcoma.” This type of cancer is caused by vaccinations, and while it’s not common, it’s very aggressive and can be fatal.

Keeping Your New Cat Safe and Happy Indoors

SPCA-adopted cats must be kept indoors at all times,unless your cat is on a harness and leash, or inside a cat enclosure or screened-in porch. Because your cat will be indoor-only, it’s important that you provide your cat with a stimulating indoor environment.

Create a “Cat Friendly” Home

Indoor-only cats need lots of toys–interactive toys like a feather on a stick and toys they can bat around on their own.When your cat gets bored with a certain toy, put it away and bring out a new toy. Continue cycling toys in and out of your cat’s play area to stimulate your cat’s interest in playing.

Make sure you have multiple places in your home where your cat can perch in front of a window or glass door to watch the birds, squirrels, and other activity outside. Place soft cat beds up high, such as on top of a cabinet or bookshelf, for your cat to sleep on and survey their territory. If space permits, add a cat tree or two to your home.

Cats also need to explore. Leave boxes or paper bags out for them to climb inside of. Keep some doors closed then open them up and let your cat explore inside a “new” room.

Of course, nothing replaces a cat’s need for human affection. Set aside time during your day to play,interact with, and/or brush your cat.

  • Reasons: Cats are affectionate, curious creatures. They need human interaction and affection. They also need a stimulating indoor environment that nurtures their “hunting” instincts and encourages them to be active.
Create a “safe room” for your new cat. Cats are territorial and need time to adapt to a new home.
Allow your cat to explore their new home slowly and in stages.
Litter boxes should be large with plenty of room for the cat to jump in and easily turn around. They should also either be open and high-sided, or with hoods that have large openings in the front and no door/flap.
Cats are carnivores; they need lots of protein, not grain.
Preventative care that includes annual exams, or twice-yearly exams for older cats and cats with special needs, are important for ensuring long-term health.
Make sure you have multiple places in your home where your cat can perch in front of a window or glass door to watch the birds, squirrels, and other activity outside.