top of page
Beach Sand

Bringing Your New Cat Home: What to Expect

Bringing your new cat home for the first time is exciting! But the uncertainty that comes with adopting a cat can also make you anxious. Will they like your home? Have you bought everything they’ll need?

Knowing what to expect when bringing a new cat home will go a long way in making the process easier, and help you know if something isn’t quite right and they need medical attention.

Adjusting to Their New Home

It is completely normal for your cat to take time to acclimate to their new environment — after all, they’re adjusting to a new environment and schedule with different expectations and household rules. Time, patience, consistency, and most importantly, love, go a long way in helping a new cat feel secure in their new home.

Periods of transition can last a few days, a few weeks, or a few months — each cat is different. Adult cats often need more time to adjust than kittens, since they’ve likely been rehomed, making changes more drastic for them. You might notice some signs of stress during the adjustment period:

You can do a few things to help your new cat adjust to their new home:

  • Give them space. Provide a safe and comfortable area for them to hide out in when they need space. Spritzing this space with calming pheromones or plugging in a feline calming pheromone diffuser (found online or in pet supply stores) nearby can encourage a sense of safety and security.

  • Keep their environment consistent. Set up their food, water, and bedding where you plan on having it long term.

  • Stay on a regular routine. Having a consistent feeding time and time for exercise or play helps your cat acclimate to their new home.

  • Keep their environment calm. Don’t overwhelm them with lots of visitors or activity during the first week or two after coming home.

  • Provide lots of mental enrichment activities. Having access to interactive toys and scratching post helps your cat release stress in a positive way (and saves your furniture!).

If you have other animals in the home, make sure that they’re introduced properly.

Bringing a New Kitten Home

Kitten-Proof Your Home

Kittens are curious and these little furballs will need interaction and consistency as they settle into their new place. Ensure that your home is kitten-proofed so they stay safe in their explorations. It’s important to block off access to possibly dangerous items, such as the trash can, computer or power cords, and toxic plants (like lilies). Closing doors or setting up gates can go a long way in keeping your kitten out of possibly dangerous situations.

Make Them Feel at Home

Have multiple litter boxes available for your new kitten, one per cat plus an additional one, as it promotes proper housetraining. Set out their food and water bowls in an easy-to-access area and provide lots of enrichment in their new environment. Set up scratching posts so they have an appropriate place to scratch and provide safe and stable places to perch and climb.

Feed Wet and Dry Food

It’s ideal to continue to feed your new kitten the food they were being fed at the rescue/shelter (or from the breeder), at least when they first come home. It’s also ideal to give your new kitten both dry and canned food when they’re young, this is because cats imprint on both the tastes and textures of food when they’re very young and it’s important to take this early step to better ensure that your cat will be receptive to both types/textures (wet & dry) of food as they grow and age.

Watch for Changes in Their Health

Keep an eye out for any coughing, sneezing, lethargy, or stomach upset in your new kitten. Young kittens are more susceptible to getting sick since their immune system is still developing and their smaller size makes them more susceptible to low blood sugar, dehydration, and other problems with missed meals and episodes of vomiting and/or diarrhea. Make sure they are dewormed to protect them from intestinal parasites, and that they receive recommended vaccines on time. Inform your veterinarian if you notice any symptoms.


Adding a second cat to your household

Thinking of adopting a second cat? Here are some tips that can increase your chances for establishing a peaceful multi-cat home.

Selecting your second cat

  • Don’t worry too much about the gender of the cats involved. Age and temperament are the most important factors.

  • Adult cats will usually accept a new kitten much more easily than they will accept a new adult cat. Cats are territorial, and your cat may resent an adult feline intruder.

  • If you're able to choose from a group of kittens, avoid a kitten that’s hissing, growling or engaged in serious battle with his mates. 

  • Prefer to adopt an adult cat? Success depends largely on the personality of your present cat: if he’s easygoing and the new cat is also laid back, you may have little trouble if you introduce them slowly and correctly.

Introducing your new cat to your resident cat

Cats are solitary and highly territorial creatures that often require weeks or months to adjust to changes in their environment and lifestyle. For that reason, first impressions are extremely important when meeting other household pets. Cats that are introduced too quickly and fight may never learn to coexist peacefully.

  • Create a sanctuary room for your new cat. When you bring your new cat home, confine him to one room with his own litterbox, bed, food, and water for a week, or at least until he has been examined by your vet.

  • Feed them on opposite sides of the same door. At the next meal, place the two cats’ bowls on either side of the door to that room. The aim is for the cats to associate the pleasurable activity of eating with the presence of the other cat. Gradually move the bowls closer with each feeding. When they can eat calmly with both bowls directly across from each other, open the door a crack — for just a few seconds — so they can see each other as they eat.

  • Let your new cat explore. Once the new cat seems comfortable in his new surroundings, is eating well, and using his litter box, confine your resident cat in another room and let the new cat explore the house. This allows the new cat to come in contact with the resident cat’s scent without direct contact. Another option is to exchange the cats’ bedding for a night.

  • Monitor the cats’ first encounter closely and limit the time they spend together at first. Some display of fearful or aggressive behavior (crouching, hissing, ears back) is to be expected, but you want to avoid letting them establish a pattern of aggressive or fearful behavior, which may be difficult to change. If these behaviors intensify, separate the cats again and go back to step one.

  • If they fight, distract and separate. If an actual fight breaks out, throw a towel over them (to distract them) or make a loud noise to separate them. Lure the new cat back to his sanctuary room (don’t pick him up while he’s still aroused) and give them a few days to calm down. Do not hold either cat in your arms during introductions: if either one reacts aggressively to the other cat, you could be scratched or bitten.

  • Continue to provide supervised encounters with both cats, watching closely for signs of tension or aggression. If one cat appears to be freezing, staring, or fixating on the other cat, have some treats or fun toys nearby to direct them away from each other. This will also continue to teach them that good things happen when the other cat is near.



Tips and reminders

  • Be sensitive to what a big change this is for your resident cat. Give him the security of his usual routine and his own special time with you.

  • Keep in mind that “success” doesn’t necessarily mean your cats will be best buddies. Some cats become bonded to one another while others spend the rest of their lives avoiding and hissing at each other. Realize that either of these scenarios might happen. Your goal in facilitating introductions is to set the stage for the cats to peacefully share their living quarters, but understand you simply cannot “make” them like each other. 

  • This process takes time: count on 2-4 weeks if integrating a kitten and an adult, and 4-6 weeks (or longer) if integrating two adults.

  • While following this protocol will maximize your chances of success, know that some cats simply never learn to coexist peacefully. If you have followed the introduction process and do not see any improvement after a month’s time — especially if one cat is terrorizing or injuring the other — long-term success may be unrealistic. Rehoming one of the cats or keeping them permanently separate may be necessary for everyone’s safety.

Socializing your dog through puppyhood and adolescence is one of the best ways to ensure that they become a friendly and confident adult.

Socializing your puppy

The greatest window of learning in a dog’s life starts around 3 weeks of age and closes between 16 and 20 weeks. This period allows puppies to be exposed to a wide variety of sights, sounds, smells, and sensations without becoming fearful. Puppies who miss out on these experiences may never learn to be comfortable around unfamiliar things, paving the way for anxiety, fear, and aggression later on in life. Follow these steps to give your puppy the best start possible:


Young puppies should be cuddled and handled daily by as many different people as possible. Keep the contact gentle and pleasant for the puppy. Hold the puppy in different positions, gently finger her feet, rub her muzzle, stroke her back and sides, look in her ears.


Acclimate your puppy to lots of different sounds, being careful not to overwhelm him with too much noise too fast. Expose him to kitchen sounds, telephones ringing, children playing, sportscasters yelling on TV, radios playing, buses moving by, and so on.  

Food bowl exercises

Teach your puppy to enjoy having people approach her bowl while she’s eating. This will help to prevent resource guarding, which occurs when dogs feel anxious about others approaching their own valued resources. Walk up to your puppy while she's eating her food, drop an even tastier treat into her dish, and walk away. Repeat once or twice during each meal until your puppy is visibly excited about your approach. Then walk up, physically pick up her dish, put in a treat, give the dish back, and walk away.

Teach your puppy to be alone

Puppies should learn to tolerate being completely separate from other people and animals every day to avoid developing separation anxiety.

Prevent aggression

There's no need to show the dog who’s boss or try to dominate him. Confrontational approaches like pinning your dog down or scuffing him frequently backfire and create the aggression dog owners seek to avoid. Focus on rewarding correct behavior and preventing undesirable behavior to teach your puppy human rules and build a trusting relationship.



Introduce your puppy to new people

Introduce your puppy to several new people every day, keeping the interactions pleasant and unthreatening. Focus especially on setting up pleasant encounters with unfamiliar men and well-behaved children.

Prevent biting

Provide appropriate toys to redirect your puppy's biting. When your puppy bites too hard during play, making a sudden noise (“Ow!”) and end the game to help him learn to use his mouth gently. Never squeeze your puppy's mouth shut, yell at him, or hold him down. This will frighten him and likely make biting worse. Note that while puppies under five months tend to explore the world with their mouths, dogs past this age are considered adolescents and should no longer be play biting.

Socializing your adolescent dog

Though a dog’s sensitive period of socialization typically ends around 4-5 months old, we recommend continuing to socialize your dog for at least the first year of their life.

Keep introducing your dog to new people

Dogs only remain social when continually exposed to unfamiliar people. Continued pleasant exposure to new people keeps the idea that strangers are good news in the forefront of your dog’s mind.


Keep introducing your dog to other dogs

There are lots of ways to do this: dog parks, play groups, play dates with friends’ dogs, and simple leash walks can all help accomplish this. Without this experience, dogs can lose their ability to know how to behave appropriately around other dogs.

Vary your walks

Try to avoid taking the same walking route every day. Let your dog experience a variety of environments, from sidewalks to dirt roads. This will provide your growing dog with much-needed mental stimulation.

Teach your dog to be alone

Scheduling daily alone time with neither people nor other pets nearby is critical to preventing separation anxiety. Use a baby gate or crates to prevent your dog from shadowing you constantly when your home. Ask a friend to pet sit for an hour regularly.

Don't punish fear

Most displays of aggression are the result of fear. Many owners are caught off guard when their normally easygoing pup reacts fearfully to a new dog or person. However, this change often coincides with the end of the sensitive period of socialization. Starting around 5 months old, your dog may start to interpret anything unfamiliar as a threat and will typically either flee or confront what frightens him. Punishing this reaction will only confirm his fear, so instead remove your dog from the situation and ask for a different behavior (like “sit”).

Continue handling your dog

Make sure your dog is comfortable with different parts of his body being handled.  This will ensure that if he must be handled in an emergency, he will be less likely to bite. Be on the watch for a stiff body, whites of the eyes showing, a closed mouth, and escape attempts. If you see these signs, stop handling your dog.

Socializing your adult dog

“I need to socialize my three-year-old dog. How do I do that?” We hear this question frequently because owners want to give their dogs the fullest life possible, which many assume includes play with other dogs. In reality, adult dogs can lead perfectly happy lives without visits to the dog park or off-leash play.

Play in puppies vs. adult dogs

Off-leash play is beneficial to puppies learning behavior cues, but the same practice can have detrimental effects on adult dogs. While there are exceptions, when dogs reach social maturity between ages one and three, they often no longer enjoy playing with large groups of unfamiliar dogs. They may either attempt to avoid the dogs, stand close to their human family, or even growl and snap at boisterous young dogs that come too close to them. This behavior is often misidentified as abnormal, when in fact it is quite common.

Setting up playtime for your adult dog

If your heart is set on social time with other dogs, start by introducing your dog to one dog at a time. Invite a friend to bring her gentle, easygoing dog on a walk with you and your dog. Allow a polite distance between dogs while they get accustomed to each other. If both dogs appear relaxed throughout the walk, allow them to sniff each other briefly. Keep leashes loose and each interaction short. If either dog appears to be tensing up, call the dogs apart with pleasant, relaxed voices. If both dogs’ bodies appear loose and tails are wagging, consider an off-leash session in one of your fenced yards with leashes dragging, using the same short sessions and reinforcement for relaxed behavior.

Dealing with leash aggression in your adult dog

If your dog lunges, pulls toward or barks at other dogs on walks, you know how stressful and embarrassing it can be. 

New Cat Supply Check List


Food Bowls

Cat Bed

Scratching Post

Cat Carrier

Breakaway Collar and Tag

Litter Box

Litter and Litter Scooper

Nail Trimmer

Grooming Brush

Flea Control Treatment

Interactive Toys (wands, feather toys, mitt toys)

Play- alone Toys (squeaky toys, fluffy toys, crinkle balls)

Soft Treats, Crunchy Treats

Catnip, catnip toys


Post-Surgical Instructions: Spay/Neuter Surgery


What to expect when you get your pet home

Your pet has had major surgery. The surgery requires general anesthesia. The patient is completely asleep and unable to feel or move. In female dogs and cats, the uterus and ovaries are removed through a small incision in the abdominal wall. Females are unable to get pregnant. In both male dogs and cats, the scrotum is not removed, only the testicles. Removal of the testicles prevents production of sperm and the male dog or cat will no longer be able to father puppies or kittens.

Surgical Procedure

Female dogs and cats have a mid-line incision in their abdomen.  Male dogs have an incision just above the scrotum and male cats have two incisions, one in each side of the scrotum.  Check the incision site at least twice daily. What you see today is what we consider normal.  There should be no drainage.  Redness and swelling should be minimal.  Male cats may appear as if they still have testicles. This is normal, the swelling should subside gradually through the recovery period.  DO NOT ALLOW YOUR PET TO LICK OR CHEW AT THE INCISION.  If this occurs, we recommend you purchase Bitter Apple spray to deter licking and chewing.  If this does not deter them, an E-collar must be applied to prevent them from being able to reach the area.  We are not responsible for repair if your animal licks open the incision.  Your pet has received pain medication.  Male dogs have received a post-operative steroidal anti-inflammatory injection.


Unless you are told otherwise, your pet does not have external sutures. All sutures are absorbable on the inside and the very outer layer of skin is held together with surgical glue. Do not clean or apply topical ointment to the incision site. If you are told that your pet has skin sutures or skin staples, they will need to return in 7-10 days to have those removed. Male cats do not have any sutures.



Some animals are active after surgery, while others are quiet. It is very important that you limit your pet's activity for the next 7-10 days. No running, jumping, playing, swimming, or other strenuous activity during the 7-10 day recovery period. Pets must be kept indoors where they can stay clean, dry, and warm. Do not bathe your pet during the recovery period. Dogs must be walked on a leash and cats must be kept inside. Keep your pet quiet. Dogs and female cats have internal and external sutures that provide strength to the tissue as they heal. Any strenuous activity could disrupt this healing process.

The healing process takes at least 7 days.


Your pet has had a small snack the night of surgery. Their appetite should return gradually within 24 hours of surgery. Lethargy lasting for more than 24 hours after surgery, diarrhea, or vomiting are not normal and you should contact us immediately. Do not change your pet's diet at this time and do not give junk food, table scraps, milk or any other people food for a period of one week. This could mask post-surgical complications.

Potential Complications

Spaying and neutering are very safe surgeries; however, complications can occur. Minimal redness and swelling should resolve within several days. If it persists longer, please contact us. Please contact us immediately if you notice any of the following:

    •    pale gums

    •    depression

    •    vomiting

    •    diarrhea

    •    discharge or bleeding from the incision

    •    difficulty urinating

    •    labored breathing


If If you have any questions or concerns directly related to the surgery during the recovery period, please call  the Stephen Memorial Animal Shelter at (641) 673-3991.  In the event of an emergency, please call your veterinarian.

bottom of page