How To Welcome a New Cat into Your Family - Guidelines and Protocol

A cat can change a person's life as mom will attest - she always says that I changed her life as much as she changed mine!

If you have decided on adopting a cat - you have already taken the first step on this exciting journey! 

How you start this life-long furry friendship is just as important as starting any personal relationship in your life. There are a few things you need to consider and some necessary steps to take to ensure a smooth introduction and a welcome integration into your family.

1. Do your homework beforehand to know what it takes to adopt a cat and integrate it into your home and family.

Before jumping in the car and driving to the nearest shelter, do your research well. Do you have the time, space, and finances to properly care for a furry friend for its entire lifetime? 

Cats can live to be 15 - 20 years old and even older! Adopting a pet is a lifetime commitment. 

You need to clearly understand what you are taking on and the responsibilities that go with it for the lifetime of the pet! And how you start out with your new furry friend can “make it or break it” in the long run.

Of course, we do not take up so much space - except for your heart - we will conquer the whole thing!  You need to be prepared that in the beginning, we would need some privacy. For the first week, the newly adopted cat needs to be confined to a special area - spare bedroom, or bathroom, etc so that we can get our bearings and get used to the sounds and smells of the house. Be sure to spend time with us daily and show us lots of love! 

If there are other pets in the house, you need to keep us apart for that first week - and then only chaperoned visits for a couple hours each day for the second week. After the first week, generally the new kitty will want to escape “their room” anyway and explore the surroundings which should make things easier. By now the new kitty and the other pet/s should be sniffing each other under the door too! However beware the initial meetings - the beginning of such interaction might be rough, but hopefully in a few days we will be dying to be in the same room, and before you know it - we will be cuddling and running around together!

Make sure to get a cat condo/scratching post with multiple levels and heights so we can survey our kingdom! Don’t forget multiple toys and cat treats to make our transition from the shelter to your home easier. There needs to be a designated "hiding area" where we would be able to escape if we feel some “danger”  - it might be a cat-house or a long tunnel tube. 

Plan a vet appointment immediately for a complete checkup, even if the cat comes with vet docs regarding their spay/neuter, initial vaccines, etc. This is important because you will want to get pet insurance for your new friend and will need a “clean bill of health” report from your vet for your application.

The first 30 days in your home are the most critical to ensure a successful welcoming to the family household. Prepare yourself and your home for our physical and emotional needs and you will get a purring fur-ever friend in us!

2. Adopting two cats at once is just as easy as adopting one - if not easier!

Twice the love and half the effort - adopting two kittens at once is a great idea if this is the first pet in your household. Bonus point for you, if they come from the same litter! As cats, we love company - especially if it's someone from our own species. Teaching us how to behave indoors would be a simple task if we have someone to share it with - seeing how our cat-brother or sister follows the rules and gets rewarded for it can easily trick us into wanting to do the same. 

We are social animals and would take care of each other while you're at work, and you won't have to worry that we are feeling lonely or bored. When It was just mom and me in the beginning, and she was traveling and working long days, I became bored and lonely so I can tell you it happens! But we lived in a tiny studio apartment in our basement while the main house above was going through a renovation and there was barely room for the two of us! When we adopted Beau, my life changed and I became a much happier cat. My personality mellowed and I became much more affectionate to mom and her friends too!

3. You need to set ground rules

We cats can be very charming and persuasive when it comes to getting what we want - might be another bowl of food or a kitty treat - we can easily make you surrender by giving you the sweetest look or meow we have. Although we agree that a good friendship is built between two equals, in this case, you should be the "Alpha-cat" in the house. Some of us  grew up on the streets, so we might lack manners or house habits, and it is up to you to teach and train us to be good cat citizens! 

No waking you up at 4 am for a treat, no scratching the sofa, and a “no counter surfing” policy (good luck with that!) -  it is your choice what the rules should be, but make sure to lay them out straight away from the beginning. Once we get used to a certain set of rules it becomes quite easy for us to follow. Be patient, but assertive, and reward us for each baby step we take. Use our new name as much as possible, so we can get used to hearing it and responding to it. For example, I still hear mom say these things to me - “hello Laszlo, mommy loves you, Laszlo, time for dinner Laszlo, come here Laszlo” – you can’t use our name too much! Some say we really don’t know our names, we are just reacting to the sound of our name which usually means something good is coming our way!

4. Make sure your home is "cat-proofed"

The windows should be secured with a strong screen, so we do not fall through them by accident. Learn which plants, human foods, medications and substances are poisonous to us and keep us away from them. If you are an essential oils lover, always check if the ones you are using are safe for us - many of the oils are toxic to us cats. We have very sensitive noses! Some of us easily learn how to open boxes, cabinets, and even doors, so make sure we really can't reach them and/or “baby-proof” them! Remember we are basically like a human toddler!

5. Have enough litter boxes and scoop daily

Litter boxes should be “size-appropriate” and have a low-entry threshold for kittens and I recommend getting a “soft-touch” type of litter for their tiny paws. And then from 6–7 months onward, kittens can graduate to a regular, mid-size litter box. In case you already have another cat, make sure that you provide one box for each cat PLUS one extra box. And distribute them through the house and on different floors if you have a mutli-level home. Even with one cat, it is a good idea to have one extra box in another area of the house.

6. Introducing us to kids

As already mentioned - we cats are social animals and will love to play around with family members, but we need our time to get used to the whole dynamic. Just as with another cat or dog, make sure that you introduce us slowly and patiently to your children. 

Introducing a cat to a child and vice versa, is not an easy thing to do. From a cat's purr-spective, kids and toddlers might appear too loud, too energetic with a bit of a rough touch. Do not expect us to see the difference in your young one's voice and gestures, as we mostly associate loud noises with danger - and we quickly hide or run away from the room. The kid might be ecstatic to meet us and pet us, but make sure that we may not share the same enthusiasm, and that is okay. If we get our tail pulled, we might act out of aggression and self-defense, and fight back - which won't be a pleasant experience for any of us.

Do not force us to stay around and play with the toddler if this visibly makes us stressed - you can easily tell by the way our pupils enlarge, how the tail flickers, the ears go back and the fur bristles - it is quite clear when we are scared. Also, take the time to teach the tiny human that we need special treatment - soft-spoken words, gentle touches, and no abrupt movements or chasing us around screaming. Teach us that the kids are not enemies, but close family - stroke us gently when we are around them, keep us relaxed and reward us when you see us getting comfortable with them. There are a lot of successful cat-toddler friendships, and if you do your best to accommodate both of us, you might also witness one!

7. Play with us and build the bond between you and your new feline

If you are taking in a kitten or a "teenage" cat, expect us to be a bit wild, especially compared to a senior cat. Clear some space for running around and dedicate some time to interact with us a couple times a day at least. Feather wands and tossing small balls that all cats love are easy ways to engage with your new kitty. 

Playtime is about bonding with your new furry friend. It is a form of enrichment that can go a long way in building your relationship together. Be forewarned - if you have any valuable, easily breakable items - it might be a good idea to hide them until you teach us how to behave around the house!

If you value your deep night’s sleep - take time to conduct a 10-15 min play session with your new furry friend before bed, basically to tire us out!  Hopefully the trick will work, and everyone can sleep peacefully through the night!

Which brings us to the purr-fect time to mention, if you want an easier adoption transition and immediately have a cuddle-bug, look no further than an adult cat 3 years+ and a senior cat even! Generally speaking we come already trained, have decent kitty manners and are so grateful to be adopted that we just want snuggles and to give you head boops! 

8. Remember - each cat is different!

Just as humans, we cats are not all the same! We might share the same color of fur, but act and behave completely differently. Some cats are more laid-back (that’s me), others are always on the prowl and into everything (that’s Beau) and yet still others are trying to figure out where they belong in the hierarchy (that’s Bouvier)!

Your best friend's cat loves to play fetch? Great! But do not immediately expect that your new furry friend will share the same passion. Some of us are extra-friendly immediately and will jump into your guest's lap, but others like to keep their distance and are quite selective - and that is perfectly fine! Mom always says that us cats do it all on our time, not your humans’ time!

Give the newcomer love and attention, don't pressure them, and actually get to know what they are into - which cat treat do they like the most, are they a lap-cat or a more independent one, do they like to play with a ball or a feather? 

Explore your own cat's character -  once you get to know the fluffy feline, you can focus on how to make your new kitty feel comfortable and loved! 

I hope you found some helpful advice and tips in this guide, as I can assure you - they worked purrfectly for me and my cat-mom Sherry. Just remember that the first few months of our friendship are crucial and following protocol is so important. In exchange, for the rest of our lives we will be giving you our unconditional love, a lot of purrs, and furry snuggles!