Integrating an adult/senior cat into a new home requires a whole different set of techniques from integrating a kitty (see A Ragdoll Kitten Care Guide for more information on how integrate a kitten). When you adopt an adult cat and bring him into your house, think of it as soldier being dumped behind enemy lines. That cat has to learn the lay of the land, meet potential allies and hostile enemies, and check in with his superior officer: you. What this means to you, his adopter, is that you are going to have to give him plenty of time to settle in his new home and you are going to serve as his liaison to his new world.
We start with isolation. When you bring a new cat into the house, especially when you have other cats, dogs, or even children, you need to be aware that you must give him his own territory. Let’s start by putting him in his own room, which could be a bathroom or a spare bedroom, with food, water, and litterbox. Bring him in, open the carrier, and leave him alone. Never force a cat out of a carrier!
During his time in isolation, you need to spend as much time as possible with him, letting him smell you. This is also a good time to switch scents with your other pets: rubbing a towel or blanket on one and then on the other. Keep in mind that your new cat might be very upset during this time, and you need to give him plenty of space. You may want to slowly introduce other human members of the family during this time, one at a time, quietly and with respect. If you have other pets in the house, they will be meeting the new cat under the door during this time, and this is fine.
After a week or even two, it is time to introduce the new cat to your other pets. Slow and easy is important during this time. In fact, the best thing to do is put your new cat in his carrier and let resident cats and dogs in the room one at a time. We do not want to overwhelm the new cat. There may be hissing and growling, but once that eases, you can open the door to the carrier and let the new cat out. If there is any fighting, you need to immediately separate and start over at a later date. Do not force the issue! Unlike dogs, cats do not immediately feel the need to be part of the pack.
Once everyone is feeling comfortable, then your new cat can be introduced to the rest of the house, but please keep in mind that it may take weeks, even months, for your new cat to feel comfortable in his new home. Shy and poorly socialized cats may need even longer, but the end result is a confident, social cat that will become a beloved member of your family.
For more information on how to help your new cat make the transition, please check out the following websites:
- How to Introduce a Second Cat – Pam Johnson-Bennett
- Introducing a New Cat – Best Friends Animal Society
- CAT MOJO: HOW TO INTRODUCE TWO CATS
- WVCats.com – Integrating Cats