Introduction of a new kitten or cat to a new home

So . . . You are about to introduce a new kitten or cat to his or her new home!


You are in for a lot of purrs and attention -- But . . . . . .

It's very important that you introduce your kitty to this strange and possibly scary new venue the very best way.

Here is the procedure we have found that does the best job.

We have found that the following procedure will help a new kitten or cat adjust to a new environment. It may sound a bit harsh at first but this method will allow your new pet to adjust more easily.

First: Plan a room for the cat to be placed in when you bring the cat into his or her new home. It should have a litter pan, a water dish and a food dish. There should also be a comfortable nook for the cat to crawl into and sort of hide. The litter pan and food/water should also not be near each other. I have found that a cardboard box with the top cut off and laid on the larger dimension side works well. We use the 40 pound boxes of kitty litter and the empty boxes are always a favorite once they are empty. That's about the smallest size play box for an adult.

Frequently a kitten or cat will choose the space under a bed or dresser. Try to avoid leaving a closet door open because they could get locked inside.

Second: The room should be a low traffic room but one that is used at least several times a day. Bedrooms are fine. A bathroom will also work if there is room and the toilet lid is kept closed when not in use. You will spend time on the floor with the cat so plan accordingly. The room should also have doors that are or can be kept closed except when a person is entering or exiting. If there are other pets in the house, then the room you choose should not be one regularly used by those other pets.

This will be your new cat or kitten's home for the first 72 hours. Lighting in the room should match as closely as possible the natural day - night light cycle; A room with a window is better than one without. Long hair cats tolerate colder climates well so the room can be cooler than other rooms during winter months. In warmer climates, a double hung or similar window could be left open just a bit at the top (so your kitty cannot escape) to provide fresh air. Avoid hot and stuffy rooms in the summer. You also want to be comfortable when in the room with your new kitten or cat.

Third:  When you place the cat or kitten in the room (s)he may go explore or hide at first. They are apprehensive and will be looking for a safe place. This room will be their safe haven until they have fully adapted to the whole house. If the cat or kitten heads for the box or under the bed (etc.) just leave him or her in the room with some food and water and close the door.

This could last a few hours to a couple of days. If your new pet wants to cuddle or be handled let him or her come to you. Don't "go after" the pet.

If (s)he is still heading for cover when you come into the room after a day or two plan to regularly spend some time in the room with a cat toy or two or a teaser (toy on the end of a two foot dowel. A few feathers tied to the end work very well. Work on getting the attention of him/her and coax the kitten/cat to come out and play with it. Once grabbed that may be the end of it and you will need to make a new one. See the note way at the bottom

Another favorite is the small laser pointer. All of our kittens and cats are ready to chase it any time we get it out for some fun. They are about $18 in party stores and maybe also in the big box stores, too. You can easily wear a kitten out with this toy. Just remember to never shine it in their eyes.

The third day (or sooner if the cat or kitten is already comfortable around you and other family members. . .

If you have other pets both your new arrival and the established members of the house have had three days to discover that new smell and maybe bark or meow (or screech!). If there is a screen door so much the better but the idea is to open the door to the rest of the house. With other pets an open barrier is best -- it could be a dog blocking gate to allow the pets to see each other. If not then be watchful at first.

For an only pet coming into the house the open door allows the cat or kitten to explore and still have a safe haven to retreat to. If you plan to have another place for food and litter pan(s) have them ready to be found. Keep the original setup available for a week or two then close off entrance to this room for a while.


Sometimes a cat will be severely traumatized from a long ride or flight in commercial aircraft. From rough and bumpy periods to sitting all alone at a transfer point with strange noises or other animals that might invoke the "fight or flight" instinct. One of my cats went to San Jose, California on a grueling 16 hour trip that included canceled original flight and subsequent alternate rerouting with tarmac delays of three hours. The destination was changed to a midnight San Francisco arrival and he got there at 3 AM. An awful time for the new owners, too.

Needless to say they received a very scared kitty. Yet he didn't dirty the cat carrier! It took three weeks before the cat really got back to being sociable. They did a great job working with him and even found that music helped so they played the piano and another instrument frequently. He finally would jump up on the piano and purr when one of the youngsters would play.

Sometimes a new owners' vet can offer help with some mild medication to relieve stress if that does not fade within a few days.

Page Revised 25 July 2020
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