Welcoming a New Cat Family Member

Bringing home a new cat can be exciting and overwhelming. There is so much to buy and do, to get ready. Your new cat may be frightened and confused as she enters a new living space, but you can help to ease her transition by getting everything ready, taking good care of your cat, and considering any special needs she might have before you welcome her into your home for the first time.

Whether your new cat is coming from a shelter, a home, an urban street or a country barn, the first twenty-four hours in your home are special and critical. Before you bring a new cat into your life, it helps to understand a little bit about how cats relate to their world.

You can help make the transition to a new home smoother and easier by providing some privacy for your new cat. If possible, start by preparing your home before you bring in the cat.

First off make sure you have the key supplies ready for your new kitty before bring her/him home for the first time.

  • Food and water bowls
  • Food and treats (age appropriate)
  • Litter boxes (one for each cat in your house plus one extra)
  • Litter (fine grain, unscented, clumping litter is best)
  • A collar and identification tag with your cat’s name plus your name and phone number or address
  • A brush
  • Cat toys
  • Cat bed or furniture
  • Scratching post or cardboard scratching blocks
  • Cat carrier

Upon bringing your cat home choose a room in which to keep your cat. It may be best to confine your cat to one room when you first bring them home. This will allow her to adjust to the smells and sounds of their new home without being overwhelmed. Make sure you provide food, water, a hiding place, litter box and toys. After a few days, when your cat appears more confident, you can leave the door open and allow the cat to explore at their own pace.

cat eating at bowlFeeding Area.  Prepare your cat some food and fresh water as soon as you bring her home. Place the food and water someplace quiet, so that your new cat will not be disturbed. Avoid placing the food and water in a high traffic areas as this may prevent your cat from eating or drinking when she needs to. Make sure that the food and water are appropriate for the cat’s age. and that you change your cat’s water every day and check it often to make sure that your cat always has enough fresh, clean water.

Litter Box Area. Choose a room or section of the home for the litter box. Each cat should have its own litter box. Usually a bathroom works well for placement. Fill the litter box with a subsurface of baking soda and then pour one or two inches of litter over the base surface. There are a variety of litter choices on the market, from plain clay, clumping and scented clay, old pellet newspaper, absorbing plastics, and wood pellets. It will be up to you and your cat to figure out which works best.

Give your cat some toys. Cats love to play, so make sure that you provide your cat with some stimulating toys. Get a variety of toys for your cat, such as wands, ball toys, food dispensing toys, and catnip toys. Having several different options for your cat to play with will help keep her active, happy, and nimble. Add in some catnip to stimulate and help your cat play.

cat sleepingDesignate places for your cat to sleep. Your cat may decide that she prefers to sleep on the windowsill or in the laundry hamper, but you can encourage your cat to sleep in some designated places by providing her with some special bedding. Place a cat bed or some blankets on a comfortable spot where she will not be disturbed. Good places include a shelf, a rarely used chair, a basket in a corner, or a spot on the floor where the sun shines in through a window. Make sure to wash bedding often to prevent it from getting infested with fleas and/or ticks.

Set up scratching stations. Cats need to scratch to remove the outer sheath of their claws. You can trim your cat’s nails every 2-3 weeks to make them less sharp, but your cat will still need to scratch. To help prevent your cat from scratching your furniture, set up some scratching stations for her around your house. Place scratching posts and cardboard scratchers in rooms with furniture to give your cat something else to scratch.

cat in boxCreate a safe haven. Purchase a covered cat bed, but even a cardboard box turned upside down. Provide two “doors” by cutting into the walls. This helps provide more security so that they may have options in “escaping”. The box should be big enough for the cat to stand up, turn around, stretch out and lie down in. Keep it cozy! Place the box next to the wall or in a corner where the cat can see the door to the room to avoid the cat from feeling trapped. Place a sisal, cork or corrugated cardboard scratching post next to the box. Finally, make sure there is a high perch structure for the cat to sit on as felines are arboreal in nature.


Ultimately, the journey and transition for a new cat family member is a stressful experience for the animal. But, it can be made an easy one, for the animal, with the right preparation and thought. A simple, common sense list is needed including a feeding area, a resting area, a litter area and a play area. These will make the best new home for the cat. And of course, lots of love, attention, and long term commitment are required for the animal to feel secure for the duration of its life.

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