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Guidelines for New Cat Owners

Follow the suggestions below to get off to a good start with your new feline family member. You can find more specific information for each life stage--kitten, active adult, senior adult--by clicking the link at the bottom of this page.

Before Introducing Your New Cat or Kitten

Approximately half of newly adopted cats are surrendered or abandoned because the adopting family didn't know what to expect by introducing a cat into the home, or lacked understanding of what the cat needed to feel safe and comfortable.

1. Wellness Exam

The most important first step, for many reasons, is to make sure your new cat sees a veterinarian right away. It isn't easy to identify illness nor to recognize parasites without proper training and introducing either into your home will only make the transition more stressful. If you don't already have a veterinarian, you can search here for an AAFP Member or Cat Friendly Practice® in your area.

2. Patience

Take all the time necessary and maintain patience during the introductory period. Taking the time for everyone--other pets and family members--to become accustomed to each other makes all the difference in a successful adoption.

3. Planning

Planning should start before bringing your new friend home but you can still improve conditions, even if you get a late start. The goal is to ensure that all your pets have their basic needs met.

Consider the supplies you will need to purchase.

Part of the planning process is making sure you have all the supplies you’ll need; you will find the basic essentials below. The hot links lead you to more information and some Happy Cats product reviews and recommendations.

  • Food bowl

  • Water bowl or dish

  • Appropriate food (kitten, adult, senior, and any special needs diet)

  • Scratching post

  • Litter boxes

  • Cat beds

  • Nail trimmer

  • Toys

  • Breakaway collar and identification tag

  • Scoopable litter

  • Cat carrier

4. Create a Safe Place

If you already have a cat at home, then all the space in your home is the territory of your existing cat. She probably isn't going to be happy to share it. Consequently, each cat in your household (existing cats and new) will require an individual safe place.

  • You should plan to confine your newly adopted cat, for a short period of time, to a room or separate floor that is not the favorite area of any existing cats. The space should have a door that prevents existing cats and new cats from seeing each other.

  • Choose a semi-permanent area for your new cat 's resources. Remember that each cat needs her own safe place to rest, hide, perch, eat and drink, and toilet. You can find out more about these needs, at a later date, by reading our Foundations of Health. The link is on our home page.

5. Respect the sense of smell

  • Cats are very sensitive to smells, especially unfamiliar ones. You may want to consider using pheromone diffusers to keep your cats more relaxed. The most popular diffuser and the one most often recommended by veterinarians is Feliway.

  • Remember that if you have any questions or concerns, discuss them with your veterinarian first rather than well-meaning friends or Google. Conventional wisdom is often wrong when it comes to cat behavior and cat care.

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