BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

How to Introduce a Cat to a New Home: Break the Ice

cat moving to new home
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

Cats are creatures of habit and moving into a new home is almost always a stressful and frightening experience for them. When encountered with stress, most cats tend to run and hide. This can be dangerous because she may run out of the house and get lost. In order to prevent all of that from happening, we will tell you how to introduce a cat to a new home and ease the transition so your cat won’t get stressed.

Bringing a new cat home is a wonderful experience, and there are things that you can do to make this transition stress-free. Depending on your cat’s personality, the adjustment period can take anywhere from a few weeks to three months. Don’t be discouraged with this information; with patience and the right approach, your cat will get used to her new home in no time.

In this article, you will learn how to ease a cat into a new home in a way that will not be scary for her. Whether your cat is a newly-adopted one, an old one that will be moving to a new house with you, and no matter what kind of resident pet you already live together with, we’ve got you covered.

Proper Introductions When You are Bringing Home a New Cat

cat in new home

Congratulations if you’ve just adopted a new feline family member! It might seem like you don’t know what you are doing right now, but trust us when we say that you’ve made the right decision. Now, if you’re a first-time cat owner, you are right to plan ahead when it comes to introducing the cat to her new home. Cats aren’t like dogs. They easily get startled by changes in their environment. Here’s how you can make the transition smoother for them:

Step #1: Prepare the Cat Room

In order to not overwhelm your cat with all that unexplored space in her new home, pick one room that will serve as a cat sanctuary. The bathroom, a spare bedroom, or a walk-in closet can serve as a cat room until your cat feels comfortable enough to get acquainted with the rest of the house. Here’s how you make sure that the room is cat-proof:

  • Fill the cat room with necessities like bowls for food and water, a litter box, a cat bed, a scratching post, and a hiding place. Keep the litter box clean and easily accessible.

  • It would help a lot if you could find out what type of food your cat usually eats and their litter brand.

  • Also, if you have some of her old toys, placing them in the cat room would mean a lot to your cat.

  • Make sure there are no plants or cords that she can chew on because they are hazardous to her health.

cozy place for cat

Step #2: Make Sure Everyone Is On the Same Page

Before you bring a new cat home, talk to a veterinarian and schedule an appointment so s/he can do a full body exam and talk to you about vaccination. It is important that your new cat gets a clean bill of health before you introduce her to other family members and other pets.

Talk to your family and set down some rules about the new cat. You should be the only one to have the contact with the cat until she feels comfortable enough to leave the safe room by herself and be introduced to the rest of the family. If you have young children, explain to them how to play nicely with the cat, and don’t bother her while she is eating or sleeping.

Step #3: Be Careful When Picking the Cat Up

When you are bringing a new cat home, it does not matter if she is from a shelter, a breeder, or a friend—you must use a good-quality carrier. This is especially important if you have to drive your cat to her new home. Most cats will get scared during the car drive. Also, unfamiliar territory makes them anxious. If a cat isn’t placed in a carrier, she can try to escape and hurt you or get injured in the process.

safe carrier for a cat

Step #4: Introduce Her to the Kitty Sanctuary

Take the carrier along with your new cat and place them in the kitty sanctuary you’ve prepared. Open the carrier’s door and let your cat get out. If she is unwilling to leave the carrier, leave the door open, then sit and wait until your cat is comfortable enough to climb out herself. Don’t try to force your cat to leave the carrier; she needs time to get familiar with all the sounds and smells of her new house.

Talk to your cat in a soothing voice. Some cats take the car trip and the change of environment harder than others, so don’t be worried if your cat doesn’t want to get out at first. Keep interacting with her to get her used to your presence.

During that first day, visit your cat as often as you can, but don’t overwhelm her. Let her set the pace of your interaction. When your cat leaves the carrier, show her where the food and water bowls are, and where her bed is. Show your cat the litter box, and if she allows you to, place her inside, so she can feel the litter under her paws.

Let your cat feel comfortable in her safe room, and don’t let anyone else visit her. Keep the doors and the windows safely shut to prevent your cat from escaping.

siamese eating from bowl

Step #5: Let Her Explore

Monitor the behavior of your new cat. If she is done exploring the safe room and starts waiting for you by the door, that means she is ready to be introduced to the rest of the house. It is best to let your cat explore the house at night when everyone is asleep. If you have other pets, we have prepared a special part about how to help a new cat meet other pets below.

  • Leave the door to the safe room open and let your cat explore the rest of the house at her own pace. There is no need to follow your cat during her explorations. You can be in the same room but doing something else; pay attention to them only once in a while so as to not make them nervous.

  • Let your cat spend more and more time in the rest of the house, and in the meantime, start introducing her to your other family members. Let your cat smell their clothes so she would know all of their scents, and increase the amount of time that she spends with them.

  • As your cat gets accustomed to your house and the rest of your family, gradually move her stuff from the safe cat room a little every day until you’ve moved everything to a more permanent place.

scared kitten exploing new place

Depending on the cat, the introduction process can last anywhere from two weeks to three months. We recommend that you keep your new cat as an indoors-only cat. If she was already accustomed to going outside, this could be a good opportunity to teach her to be an indoors-only cat. If you decide to let the cat be her outdoorsy self, wait at least three weeks before doing so because she can get lost—not knowing her new territory.

Proper Introductions If You are Moving

Moving is not only stressful for people, but it is also hard on our feline companions. Moving is also one of leading causes why cats end up in streets and shelters. Some pets managed to escape their home because everyone was too busy to pay attention to them.

When you are moving with your cat, you can use the same principles as with how to introduce a new cat to her new family. In your case, your cat will need less time to adjust because she already knows you; she will only have to be acquainted with her new territory.

moving with a cat

  • When you are moving, it is important to keep your cat safe from all the hustle and bustle going on. Place your cat in a carrier along with a couple of her toys and a favorite blanket. Put her in a room that is already empty of all the things and furniture. Your cat will be out of the way and safe from all the noise and people.

  • After the move, in the new house, keep your cat in a safe room for a few days until she shows the initiative to explore the rest of the house. Leave the door open.

  • As your cat gets acquainted with your new home, gradually move her stuff from the safe room to a more permanent place.

  • Keeping your old habits will help your cat adjust to the new home in less time. So feed your cat at the same time as before, use the same type of food, play with her using her favorite toys, and treat her when she behaves nicely.

  • Remember that you shouldn’t let your cat outside alone for the first three weeks at the very least. Your cat might get attacked by other cats because this is an unfamiliar territory for her; she might get stolen or lost. There were many cases where a cat was unable to find her new home, so she walked all the way back to her old house searching for safety.

Proper Introductions If There is Another Cat in the House

When you are bringing a new cat into a home that already has a resident cat, it is even more important that the new cat is given a safe room. You need to give her time to adjust to the new environment and to get accustomed to the scent of your other feline. Use the same process to settle your cat into the safe room as the one described in how to introduce a cat to a new home.

cat meeting a cat

  • Let your new cat feel comfortable in your presence first before you introduce her to your other cat.

  • It is best to wait 7 to 10 days for cats to get accustomed to each other’s scent before introducing them face to face.

  • The safest way to introduce your new cat to your resident cat is for them to meet over a door that is cracked open just slightly. Let your cats sniff and look at each other for at least 30 minutes. Don’t worry if they are hissing a little at each other, but if things escalate into growls and more hissing, then close the door and separate your cats. Repeat this routine until you see that both cats are getting calmer when they are together.

  • To help your cats get along better, use interactive toys to play with both of them through the crack of the door.

  • Use treats to reward the good behavior, and separate the cats when they are behaving badly.

  • Continue doing this every day, and increase the amount of time they spend together, but don’t rush your new cat; let her take all the time she needs. Otherwise she will become stressed.

  • You can also start feeding both of your cats at the same time but in different corners of the room. If they behave nicely, reward them with a treat. Move their food bowls closer to one another until one day both of your cats are eating together without any unwanted incident.

The temperament and personality of each cat will decide how many days it will take for them to get familiar with each other. If you are confident that the cats are getting acquainted with one another, you can let your new cat leave the safe room and enter your other cat’s territory.

Generally, older cats are more acceptable of kittens than other adult cats. Consider the personality and energy level of your cat when you are choosing a new one. Some cats only need two weeks to feel comfortable and share territory, whereas for others, the introduction process can take two months or even more.

Proper Introductions If There is a Dog in a House

cat meeting a dog

It is possible to introduce a grown dog to a new cat. The process is almost the same as introducing two cats.

  • Consider that while you are introducing your new cat to a dog, she also needs to feel comfortable in her new home. After bringing your new cat home, you need to set her up in a safe room and incorporate the same steps like the ones in how to introduce a cat to a new home. After a couple of days, she will want to leave her safe room and explore the rest of your house.

  • Keep your dog away while your new cat is exploring. Continue doing this for some time—as long as it takes for your cat to feel comfortable and accustomed to her new territory. Let your cat feel confident and relaxed in her new environment before you meet her with the dog.

  • Choose a room your cat feels the most comfortable at and make sure it has high places for your cat to climb up to, like a bookshelf, or a table. When everything is ready, bring the dog into the room. Make sure he is secured to a leash.

  • Let them meet while the cat is on some higher surface a dog can’t reach. Observe their behavior. If everything is calm and good, you can take the dog for a walk around the room. Keep your dog on a leash to give your cat the opportunity to approach if she wants to.

  • If your dog starts to growl, bark, or start showing signs of aggression, correct his behavior. He should know that those actions are inappropriate. On the other hand, if your cat decides to approach your dog and paw at his face a few time, don’t discourage her. This is a good sign.

  • Increase the amount of time they spend together each day, and praise both of them if they behave nicely. Let them set the pace of their relationship and don’t push them to socialize if they don’t want to.

  • It is up to you to decide when your dog and new cat are ready for interactions without a leash. The adjustment process depends highly on your pets’ personalities. Some dogs and cats become fast friends, yet others may only learn to tolerate each other, but never get along.

Wrap Up

cat's new house

Bringing a cat into a new home can be a scary experience for her, so it is important to make her feel accepted, and make the transition period stress-free. In this guide, you’ve learned how to introduce a cat to a new home in all sorts of situations—when you are moving, when you have other cats, or a resident dog. The key is to create a strong and healthy bond with your cat from the beginning.

Are you moving? Or are you adopting a new feline companion? What kind of personality does s/he have? Share your stories or any tips and tricks with us in the comments section below.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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