Cats are known for their independence, so many people assume a cat will adjust on its own to a new home. While they do require time and their own space, they shouldn’t be expected to accept their new surroundings immediately. Cats thrive on routine and security, and, with a little patience and guidance from you, they should find a comforting new schedule while being fostered in your home.
Preparing your Home
Cats want to know every inch of their home and will thoroughly explore their territory. Check each room in your house and make changes as necessary:
- Many household items are poisonous to cats. Put away cleaners, citrus sprays, essential oils, and medications. Use childproof latches on any cabinets that contain these items.
- Many indoor plants will poison cats if they chew on them. Consider hanging indoor plants or placing them on a tall stand. Some cats may still view this as a challenge, so check plants daily to ensure the cat isn’t chewing them or using them as a toy.
- Remove any fragile items displayed near ledges.
- Block any holes or small spaces.
Bringing the Cat Home
When you bring a new cat home, she will want to explore. This can cause the cat anxiety if she’s interrupted, so controlling what she sees and smells helps her adjust.
- Prepare a room for your foster cat that has food and water on one side and a litter box on the other. If you have a bed or toys from the cat’s previous home, leave them in the room. Consider including a box or covered bed for her to hide in.
- When you bring the cat home, contain her to this room for a few days.
- Spend time in the room with the cat, but don’t force her to be held or touched.
- Your foster cat will show signs that she’s ready to explore the rest of your house: she’ll eat regularly, use the litter consistently, and stop hiding when you enter the room.
- Allow the cat to explore your house. Leave toys and treats around for her to find.
Meeting the Kids
Before bringing a cat home, teach your kids how to interact with a cat, avoiding the cat’s stomach, legs, and tail. If old enough, teach them how to pick up and hold the cat, supporting the chest and back legs.
- Have the kids sit on the floor of the cat’s room. Allow the cat to approach and sniff around them. If the cat seems comfortable, encourage them to pet the cat’s back. Reward the cat with treats after each meeting.
- Don’t allow children to chase a cat or touch her while sleeping or eating.
- Don’t leave a foster cat and a child unattended.
Meeting a Dog
Depending on your dog’s breed and age, the dog and cat may react differently. Consider exercising your dog before the introduction.
- Before the first meeting, switch their bedding so they become accustomed to each other’s smells.
- Have someone hold the dog on a leash while you introduce the cat. Have the dog sit or lay down while the cat sniffs. Reward the dog for good behavior with treats or praise. If the cat becomes aggressive or anxious, put her in her room and try again later.
- If the dog is too fixated on the cat, separate the two with a gate. Try feeding them right by the gate on either side. Attempt a meet and greet daily, if it’s not too stressful on either of them.
Meeting Another Cat
Because cats are territorial, introducing a new cat to resident cat may require more time and patience. Keep the foster cat in her room until both cats become comfortable.
- Switch their bedding and feed them on either side of the door.
- After they’re eating regularly on either side, use a screen, gate, or window to allow the cats to see each other.
- After they’ve adjusted to seeing each other, let the foster cat out of her room and monitor their interaction. If either cat becomes aggressive or begins bullying, separate them and try again later.
It’s important to know when a cat is anxious, because it’s the only indicator you have for her adjustment. Give the cat more time or space if she’s displaying these signs:
- Twitching or rapidly wagging tail.
- Excessive meowing or grooming.
- Not eating or using the litter box properly.