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Helping Your New Cat Adjust to Your Home

(This information was obtained from www.paws.org and is included for your convenience)

 

Adjusting to a new home can be a tense and frightening experience for a cat. Your patience and understanding during his/her initial adjustment period can do a lot to help your new cat feel at home.


The Ride Home


Riding in a car can be traumatic for cats. Your cat or kitten should be confined to a carrier during the ride home as well as during subsequent trips to the  veterinarian.  Do not let your new cat loose in a moving car or allow children to excite him.  DO NOT leave the cat unattended in the car or stop to visit friends, shop, etc.  Keep your cat in his carrier until you are safely inside your home.  


The New Home


Consider your new companion’s past experiences. Your kitten may have been recently separated from his mother and littermates.  The kitten or cat has had to cope with the transition from a shelter to a foster home then to the adoption center. If your cat has recently been spayed or neutered they had to cope with the stress of the surgery.  The adult cat may have been separated from a familiar home and forced to break a bond with human companions or other animals.  Now he/she must adjust again to totally new surroundings.


Allow your cat several weeks to adapt.  They need to get used to you as the provider of love, shelter and food. Be sure that all windows and doors are kept closed and that all screens are secure. A scared cat can easily get out of a high open window.


It’s not uncommon for cats to display behavior problems during the first days in a new home (such as hissing, growling, litterbox mishaps, and other displays of stress), but these usually disappear over time.  New cats and kittens often bolt under furniture.  Some may spend hours or even days hiding.   Sit and talk quietly to the cat, if you must take the cat out of his hiding place, carry him gently to a quiet protected area where he will feel secure.  Be sure food, water and litter box are nearby.  


The First Day


Introduce your cat to his new home gradually, restricting him to one room at first.


Isolate other animals from your new cat during this time. Supervise children, advising them to always be gentle with the cat.  Have the litter box ready when you remove the cat from the carrier.  Show him the location of the litter box.  Offer a bowl of water but do not provide food for an hour. Your cat may be bewildered, fearful or curious.  Do not overwhelm him with attention or demands.  Remember to keep doors and windows closed and be sure the cat has an ID tag on at all times. It is not unusual for cats to leap on top of very high furniture in order to explore or to feel secure.  Do not panic, shout or run to the cat.  When he is ready, he will come down alone.  


Try to spend several hours with your new cat as he becomes accustomed to your home.  Your sensitive handling of the initial transition can ease the trauma and set the stage for a happy settling in.  


Sleeping Arrangements


Most cats choose several favorite sleeping spots where they can be comfortable, warm and free from drafts.  Providing a bed for your cat may discourage him from sleeping on furniture. A cozy box or basket lined with soft, washable bedding and placed in a quiet corner makes a suitable cat bed.


Some cats enjoy continually picking new (and sometimes surprising) sleep spots. If you allow your cat to sleep on furniture, w washable cover can be placed over favorite spots.  A cat’s sleeping spot should be respected as his own.  Don’t allow children to disturb your cat when he is resting.  Cats need solitude and quiet time.  


Introduction to other animals


The ability of animals to get along together in the same household depends on their individual personalities.  There will always be one who dominates. A new cat will often upset the existing pecking order or the old cat or dog may feel it necessary to establish dominance immediately.  Wise handling of the “getting acquainted” period is an important factor in the successful introduction of a new cat.  The first week or two may be hectic, frustrating and time consuming.  Be patient. The adjustment will take time.


New Cat to Resident Dog


Keep your dog confined until the cat feels secure in his new home.  Introduce them indoors with the dog under control on a leash. Do not allow the dog to chase or corner the cat, even out of playfulness or curiosity.  Supervise them carefully and don’t tolerate any aggressive behavior from your dog.  The cat should have a safe retreat either up high or in a room inaccessible to the dog.  



An adult cat may swat a dog to set limits.  Allow your animals to accept one another in their own lime and don’t leave them alone together until this is accomplished.  Never force interaction.  Many cats and dogs become companions and playmates while others simply tolerate each other.  Be sure your give your dog lots of extra attention to avoid jealous reactions.  


Introduce Your Cat to a New Cat


Free-ranging and feral cats lead complex and busy lives.  They maintain far larger territories that most people realize and these territories often contain a variety of environments, such as forests, farmlands, urban gardens and yards.  Within these territories, cats explore, hunt and scavenge for food alone.  They only occasionally interact with other cats.  They don’t live in groups or even pairs and they don’t seek out contact with other cats.  In fact, they actively avoid it.  Considering his natural behavior of cats, it isn't surprising that it is very difficult to introduce a new cat into an established cat’s territory, even when that territory is your home.


When bring a new cat into your home, be patient.  The introduction MUST be gradual.  Following this initial introduction, it can take a very long time for a relationship to grow.  It takes mot cats 8-12 months to develop a friendship with a new cat.  Although some cats certainly become close friends, others never do.  Many cats who don’t become buddies learn to avoid each other but some cats fight when introduced. This can continue until one of the cats must be re-homed.


If your resident cat becomes aggressive when he sees other cats outside your home, you will probably have a difficult time introducing a new cat into your household.  If your cat has lived harmoniously with other cats in the past, the odds are good that he will that he will  adjust to a newcomer.  However, it is impossible to predict whether or not any two individual cats will get along.


Unfortunately, there are no reliable guides for deciding the best matches among cats.  Some cats are very social and enjoy living with other cats, while others prefer solitary lives.  The inficucual personalities of the cats are more important that any other factor, such as sex, age or size.  Be aware that the more cats you have, the higher the likelihood that there will be conflicts among them.  


How to Manage Introductions


  • Step 1: Controlling First Impressions


The first impression a new cat makes when she meets your resident cat is critical.  If two cats display aggression during their first meeting, this may set the mood for their future relationship.  For this reason, it is best to separate your resident cat from your new cat when you first bring her home so that you can control their initial meeting.  


The two cats should be able to smell and hear - but not see or touch- each other.  Each cat should have her own food and water bowl, litter box, scratching post, bed, etc.  Feed the cats near the door that separates them so they can learn that coming together (even though they can’t see each other) results in a pleasant experience.  In addition to regular cat food, feed the cats extra-special treats near the door as well.  (Treats could be pre-packaged cat treats or tiny pieces of tuna, salmon, cheese, chicken or liver.)


After two to three days, switch the cats location so they can investigate each other’s smell.  This also allows the new cat to explore a different section of your home.  Some behaviorists suggest rubbing the cats separately with the same towel to intermix their scents.  First gently rub one cat with the towel.  Then rub the other cat.  After the towel carries both cats’ scents, bring the towel back to the first cat and rub her with it again.  after a few more days, play with each of the cats near the door. Encourage them to paw at toys under the door.  Eventually the cats may play “paws” under the door with each other.  


  • Step 2:  Letting the cats see each other


After a week or so, assuming that you see not signs of aggression at the door(no hissing, growling, etc.), you can introduce the cats to each other.  One method is to replace the door with a temporary screen door so that the cats can see each other.  If you can’t use a screen door, you can try using two baby gate positioned in the door jam, one above the other.  


Ask a friend or family member to help with the introduction.  Have one cat and one person on each side of the door and start the introduction. by setting each cat down a few feet away from the screen or gates. When the cats notice each other, say their names and toss treats to them, aiming the treats behind them.  Over the next few days, continue to encourage feeding, eating treats and playing near the barrier, gradually offering the cats’ meals, treats and toys closer to the screen or gates.  


  • Step 3: Let the Cats Spend Time Together


The next stage is to permit the cats to spend time together without a barrier between them.  Supervise these initial face-to-face interactions carefully.  


It is good to bring the cats together they are likely to be relatively calm, such as after a meal or strenuous play.  Keep a squirt bottle handy in case the cats begin to fight.  As the cats become more familiar with each other, allow them longer and longer periods of time together.  If one cat spends most of her time hiding, or if one cat continuously harasses and pursues the other, please consult your veterinarian.  



Final tips on Managing Introductions


If you’re bringing a new cat into a household with multiple cats, introduce each resident cat to the newcomer individually.  After each of your cats has met the new cat one-on one, you can start to allow all of the cats to mingle as a group.


Your cats will be more likely to get along if they are happy in their environment;.  Look at the layout of your home.  make sure there are plenty of hiding spots for your cats.  Some like to sit up high on shelves and on kitty condo perches.  Frightened cats, on the other hand, tend to hide under and behind things; so make sure you provide spots at floor level as well.  Place food, water and litter boxes out in the open so your cats don’t feel trapped when they access these resources.  Make sure you have a litter box for each cat plus one extra.  


Scratching


(The following information was obtained from www.american humane.org and is included for your convenience.)


Scratching is a completely normal and health behavior that most cats engage in and it serves many purposes.  Cats scratch to “mark” their territory by leaving behind visual markers as well as scent markers from small glands in the pads of their feet.  Cats also like to dig their claws into something to get a nice, full-body stretch, especially after a long nap.  Additionally, cats scratch to keep their nails in good shape and to help shed their claw sheaths.


Even though it is normal, scratching can become troublesome to owners who are sick of having their rugs, furniture and , in some cases, walls shredded.  Here are a few tips that may help:


  1. Reduce the need to scratch - Since one of the reasons your cat scratches is to groom his nails, you can perform regular nail trims to keep your cat from needing to scratch.  Give a fine manicure yourself or consult your veterinarian for assistance.


  1. Eliminate the attraction - Usually, cats choose surfaces that feel good when they scratch.  Try to make the areas your cats has selected less attractive by altering the texture of the surface.  For example, try covering the area with adhesive tape with the sticky side facing out.  You can buy commercially made products to accomplish this, or do it your self with packing or duct tape.  Most cats will avoid such textures and start looking for new places to scratch.  (It is best to get the prevention installed before the cat’s first scratching.)


  1. Give your cat an approved place to scratch - Scratching posts and kitty furniture can be purchased at pet supply stores or can easily be constructed front twine, rope or carpet remnants.  Be creative, cats like to climb, lounge and perch up high.  Choose something your cat will enjoy and place it out in the open.  Cats prefer to scratch in high-traffic areas, rather than in secluded, hard-to-find places.  Your cat has already told you where she wants to scratch.  So try placing the post right in front of where your kitty is scratching.  You may want to make the new object more inviting by rubbing some catnip on it.  Once the cat begins scratching on the post, try moving it one foot per day toward a more desirable location.  Be sure to choose a location your cat will like.  


  1. Resist the desire to declaw your cat - If you have tried all these steps, it may be time to contact a professional.  Oftentimes, someone who specializes in cat behavior can help resolve your issues fairly easily and quickly. If this is not the case for you and your persistent kitty, you may face the declawing dilemma.


But first, take these points into consideration.  Declawed cats are completely defenseless if they get outside, either intentionally or accidentally.  They can have difficulty defending themselves from predators, climbing out of harm's way and navigating certain terrains such as limbs and railing. Declawed cats can even have difficulty playing normally with other cats or navigating certain surfaces inside the house because their natural abilities and characteristics have been altered.  Aso, declawed cats may begin developing behavior problems, such as litter box aversion or biting.  Discuss any concerns with your veterinarian or a cat professional.  


One solution is to try soft rubber caps that are placed over our kitty’s nails.  The colorful or clear caps attach directly to the nail, retract with the nail normally and are shed when your cat’s nails are shed.  Go to your local pet supply store or online for more information on these products.

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