Cat Behavior 101,  Cats,  Holistic cat care

Welcoming a New Cat to Old Ghosts

If you love cats, sharing makes us purrrr :-)


Welcoming a New Cat to Old Ghosts by Layla Morgan Wilde ( updated 5/1/2-18).


There are numerous methods to introduce a new cat to resident cats but what if the new cat is coming to home filled with feline ghosts? The ghost of felines past aren’t usually spirits but subtle leftover influences of the dead cat. How easily a new cat is introduced depends on how attached the cat’s guardian was to the old cat and their willingness to create a welcoming space for a new cat.

When a beloved cat dies everyone grieves in their own way: from being so wracked with pain they never adopt another cat to rushing to adopt scarcely before the corpse has cooled, and every scenario in between. The most difficult situation is when a feline family dwindles down to one remaining cat and when that cat dies it leaves the biggest void. I’ve come across this a few times in consults and the following recommendations will ease the transition of a new cat into their new home.

  • Don’t rush to adopt. Grieving can take easily 6 months to a year or longer. But the human heart knows nothing of numbers. What may be a short time of grieving to one is adequate or even a long time for another. Always listen to your heart. As cat lovers know, cats choose us and they arrive in our lives at what may seem inopportune times. In hindsight, we realize these twists of fate were purrfectly timed.


  • Out with the old, in with the new. After the death of a cat, it’s healing to include rituals to honor the cat’s life. It could be a ceremonial burial in the garden, cremation ashes stored in a special box, a paw imprint made, a pet portrait commissioned or a framed photo placed in a place of honor. Seeing the dead cat’s bed, scratching post, toys and food bowls can be unnerving reminders but imagine a new cat sniffing another cat’s scent on everything the old cat had scent-marked. The new cat will smell an intruder and not know they’ve vacated the premises.
  • It’s not always practical to replace everything. Some cat condos are very expensive and can be “re-cycled” by spraying with an odor neutralizer like Nose Offence and then with Feliway to attract the new cat. Some items may have too much sentimental attachment like a personalized cat dish and is best stored away. The new cat will appreciate new cat bowls, fresh catnip toys, a new cat litter box and a new bed. After all who wants to wear a dead person’s clothes or sleep in their bed?

cleaning house for cats

More tips introducing New Cats To New Homes

  • Neutralize the entire home before bringing the new cat. At least a few days before, plug-in a “feel good” pheromone product like Feliway or Comfort Zone to make the home feel more welcoming. Do a thorough clean, washing floors, dusting and vacuuming. Cats scent mark furniture, cabinet, corners and door jambs usually at cat nose height. Clean with a chemical-free cleaner like Fizzion and spray an odor neutralizer on fabrics. Spot test first with delicate fabrics like silk.


  • Hello new home! Even though the new cat won’t be introduced to another cat, I don’t recommend giving him an immediate run of the house. Prepare a quiet “cat room” equipped with his new bed, cat litter box, food dishes, toys and clean scratching post. Be sure there are places to hide and perch with a window view. Some cats will settle in fast and will be ready and eager to explore the rest of the house within a couple days. More nervous cats will need more time before exploring the rest of the home without being overwhelmed. This is especially true for large multi-storied homes. Before arriving home with the new cat, spritz Feliway spray along the baseboards at cat nose height and on the cat bed, sofa, upholstered chair or other furniture in the “cat room”.

cat-proofing before adoption

  • When you bring the new cat (in their carrier) through the front door, announce, “This is your new home. Welcome. It’s a safe place.” As you walk through the house to the “cat room”, “You’ll be staying for a little while in a special room just for you.” Place the carrier in the new “cat room”, close the door and open the carrier door. Keep the carrier in a corner of the room with the door open. Go sit on the floor away from the carrier and wait. Be occupied with your own activity i.e. read, check your email, meditate. Don’t encourage any “come here kitty” talk. Allow the cat to come out and explore at their own pace. While sniffing out their new space don’t try to pet them or pick them up. Let them come to you. If they seek you out, rub themselves on you, give them a pet and a treat. Don’t over-do petting. If they hide, let them be. If they hiss at you, ignore them and leave the room. Whenever you leave the room say, I’ll be back later. Visit the cat several times a day to be sure they’re eating, drinking and using the litter. Place calming homeopathic drops or flower essences into the drinking water. Engage in interactive play as often as possible, at least twice a day. When they are itching to get out and explore beyond the closed door after a couple days, make that decision then.


  • Before allowing the new cat to explore the rest of the house, cat-proof it. Make sure all doors including basement, cabinets, shower, dryer doors are closed and all window screens secure. Some cats are skilled at opening cupboard doors. Make sure any cupboards containing any toxic products like bleach, cleaners, paint etc. are locked or cat-proof. The cat will be very curious and will want to explore the boundaries of every room on every levels. Note all objects on every counter, shelf or furniture surface. Could anything be knocked over? Close toilet lids, cover electrical outlets and safely bundle electrical and drapery/blind cords, keep any small sharp or dangerous objects stored out of reach. Ask yourself: if the cat would jump onto a large object, could it break, topple or trap the cat?


  • After the cat has free run of the house, keep their cat room as a private sanctuary if possible. Cats adjust to new situations quickly and it won’t be long before the new cat will be making as many precious memories as the old ghost.


  • Jeff

    Bit of an odd situation for me. My neighbor’s cat “adopted” me as her person. Bella (Bellakins I call her) spends the majority of her Summer days over at my place. I never was a “cat person” (whatever that means), but now have a great appreciation for them.
    Well my neighbor is moving away soon.. and so my best friend goes with of course. I will miss her dearly. I LOVE that cat. She has been my sidekick every nice day for a couple years now. I live alone and just retired last year. Totally heartbroken Bella is leaving.
    Now thinking of adopting a cat and was wondering how Bella’s scent would affect that. Not sure my timeline, or 100% if I will adopt (not looking to replace Bella.. I love Bella) but at least if I do now I know a few things about getting my home ready for a new best friend

  • Mel

    I feel so compelled to comment here because I found this article absolutely horrifically written. For anyone who sees this comment, please do not listen to the above advice. Speaking about cat “corpses cool[ing]” and “dead person’s clothes” is one of the most callous, soulless phrasing on pet loss I have ever seen. I’m absolutely horrified. Author, while you may be compelled to offer advice to others, your writing shows a disturbing lack of empathy and grace. If you really intend to share a helpful article, please review your writing and try to be compassionate rather than macabre and offensive.

  • Michael Pasquill

    Is there other ways to neutralize the place other than Fizzion. I have COPD and worry about the smell might bother me thanks

    • Layla Morgan Wilde

      Good question. There are many odor neutralizers these day like Fizzion and they have little odor themselves and work well with those with sensitivities. I would spray a small amount with the window open and notice how you respond.

  • Anfa

    THANK YOU! After losing my last of the clowder, my soul cat of nearly 19 years, I could not bear the emptiness, so I determined to adopt a bonded adult pair. A friend found a pair in a shelter, and to my amazement, after only 3 weeks, two huge and perky Maine coons came home. I do not have a room suitable for isolation, so it was the whole house for them right away. I had washed all the beds, vaccuumed and cleaned well, but I see them scratching odd places & realize her scent is still permeating the environment, so they are trying to mark their own scent. I will continue the feliway and get some new brushes, scratching posts and maybe a few new beds. I love the thought of the spirits of our beloved cats guiding and welcoming them. So far, the home is much happier with inquisitive and affectionate kitties who appreciate being removed from shelter cages.

  • K Alexander

    This works! I had a lot of issues with my last cat (it took over a year to get her to relax) but applying these steps has made it very smooth. My new cat Ziggy is feeling right at home now and it’s only been 2 weeks!

  • Penelope

    Great post! We never thought of any of that with our cats. But then, the house brownie ha always ensured that the new cats were under his tutelage. He has a soft spot for cats.

  • Skeeter and Izzy

    Thank you Layla for the great information. At my house at least, the new ones always magically appear when it is the right time. Luvs Skeeter and Izzy >^..^<

  • CATachresis

    Excellent advice .. some things I had not thought of! I do worry being a one cat household, but we haven’t been chosen by another cat yet, well except Tigger who I think has already chosen several other households!!

  • Bernadette

    Very good advice for households with just a few cats, and for introducing a new cat in general. I’m so accustomed to the overlap in my house and the sheer volume that I think my living cats introduce the new arrivals to the ghosts left behind. There are times when I feel the entire presence of the household, past and present, and it always seems to be amiable.

  • Fuzzy Tales

    Really great post, with things I never would have thought of.

    As for the grieving process, definitely everyone is different. It took about 18 months to come to terms with Chumley’s sudden death, years ago, and about the same, maybe a bit longer, with Annie’s. But no one “gets over” a loss, IMO. We just learn to accept and keep going through our days.

    • Jane Kohler

      My 15yr old Shayla Mae on the Sept 17th& became suddenly drastically Ill before I could get her to the bed she past in my arms & her home . She was my companion for 10-12 yrs.Shes Resting in Peace in a Special place in my daughter’s flower garden. I’m so lost without her She was the 1st completely indoor kitty I lived with. As a loving Cat Parent, I know I will adopt another at the rite time
      My concern was preparing for a New little friend,a young adult kitty I’m a mid- senior.I needed to know how to move traces to make my new kitty comfortable ,where my previous cat was here before. Thank you for some knowledge how I could prepare my home for her.

  • Sam and Pam

    I took great pains to try and put all of Eddie’s toys and personal things away after he went to the Bridge and well before we went to the shelter to find another cat…..interestingly Sammy found the bag of Eddie’s things and pulled out one old, ragged toy which was Eddie’s favorite (we called it Eddie’s “baby”) and kept it near for his first few weeks in our house. Since then he lost interest in it but I always wondered if Eddie guided Sam to the toy as his way of giving Sam comfort as a little kitten in a big new home.


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