Introducing Your New Cat to Your Current Pets
One of the most important things you can do as a new cat owner is to make sure the transition into your home is a smooth one. When it comes to bringing a new cat into a home where you already have pets, your role in the move is even more critical. The length of time varies for new and existing pets to get accustomed to one another. With some pets, it can take as little as a week. Others, it can take from several weeks to a few months. And sometimes, despite your best efforts, harmony does not come. But don’t despair! If you introduce slowly and with caution, your chances for success will increase significantly. Here are some steps you can take to improve your odds:
• Make sure you designate a “safe room” for your new cat. Provide a litter box, scratching post, toys, food and water and a comfy spot to sleep. Having his or her own room will help your cat adjust to the move quicker. Separation from your other pet(s) will help them get accustomed to the new cat’s smell and presence in the household. During the first week, the only interaction between the current resident(s) and the newcomer should be under the door. NOT face to face! • Keep in mind that the stress of a new environment can cause a cat to develop an Upper Respiratory Infection (watch for sneezing, eye and nose discharge) or diarrhea. Monitor their eating, drinking and elimination habits. A cat that does not use the litter box almost always is the result of a medical condition. Any instance of inappropriate elimination should be followed up with a vet visit.
If your current resident is a cat:
• Start introducing the smells of each cat to the other by brushing both with the same brush or rubbing each with the same towel or even switching bedding. Feed both treats on either side of the door (wet food works great!). Both cats will begin to associate the smell of the other with a yummy treat. • When you feel you are ready for the first face to face meeting (after the first week) place your new cat in its carrier in the safe room, and let your resident cat in. There will most likely be some hissing and posturing. If the interaction seems as though it may lead to aggression, you will not want to remove the barrier of the carrier for the next few introduction attempts. If they appear curious with no aggression, then you can try to remove the barrier and let the new cat out. • Make sure you DO NOT RUSH this step! More often than not, a potentially harmonious living situation is ruined by rushing!! If either cat shows signs of aggression then put the new cat back in the “safe room” and try again in a few hours or the next day. • When you get to the point where you feel your new resident can leave the “safe room,” make sure you do not leave the cats unsupervised for the first few weeks. Put the new cat back in its room when you’re not home or unable to keep an eye on them. • If their interactions deteriorate, as opposed to improve – it’s time to start at square one. Be persistent; sometimes if you don’t get it the first time, the second or third try is the charm. Not all is lost if on the first go you don’t have success!
If your current resident is a dog:
• After the first week of isolation and you feel your new cat is comfortable in its “safe room,” it is time to try their first face-to-face meeting. This time, however, your dog needs to be the one who is contained. Either put them on a leash or in their crate and allow your new cat to approach on its own terms, outside of the “safe room.” Since this will most likely be the first time your new cat has left its room, give it time to check out the rest of the house. Never allow a dog to enter the cat’s “safe room” during this time or force the new cat into a situation where there is no escape. • Make sure you monitor this first meeting closely and try to keep the atmosphere calm. Bring a squirt bottle or something similar, if you feel it is necessary, to distract your dog if it becomes aggressive or overly agitated. Separate them if there is any aggression from either pet. Return your cat to its room and try again in a few hours or the next day. • Even if the first meeting goes well, you will want to repeat this process several times over the next several days. You want to keep things controlled until you can be completely certain you can allow both to roam freely throughout the house. Again, you do not want to leave them together unsupervised for the first few weeks. Keep in mind that your dog will most likely behave itself better when you are present. • Take extra precautions when your new resident is a kitten. Even if your dog means well, they may not understand just how fragile a small kitten is.
Some cats will acclimate to a new home faster than others. Following the steps listed above will help to ensure a smoother transition for any cat. A little effort on your part will significantly improve the quality of life for your pets and the harmony of your household.
From the Scratching Post, Hermatage Cat Shelter