Since many households could easily include one more kitty, I wanted to share some successful tips for introducing a new cat into an already established household of testy and territorial felines.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all it took to introduce a new cat to your resident pet included a brief sniff and paw-shake, as in the dog world? But, since we’re dealing with cats, it’s not that simple. First, you must realize and accept that you can’t force your pets to like each other. Since there is no crystal ball to predict whether or not your pets will be friends, there are techniques to help increase your chances of success. You need to move slowly during the introduction process to increase your chances for success. You cannot throw your pets together in a sink-or-swim situation and hope they’ll work it out.
Cats are territorial and generally don’t like to share. A cat who is unhappy about a newcomer may express his displeasure by fighting with the other pet and marking his territory (peeing on the floor, wall, objects). Cats also dislike change, and a new cat in the house is a huge change. These two character traits mean you may be faced with a tough (but not impassable) road ahead.
Some cats are more social than other cats. For example, an eight-year-old cat who has never been around other animals might never learn to share her territory (and her people) with other pets in the household. But an eight-week-old kitten separated from her mom and littermates for the first time might welcome a cat or dog companion.
This just means that your current pet and your new cat need to be introduced very slowly so they can get used to each other before a face-to-face meeting. Slow introductions help prevent fearful or aggressive behavior from developing. Below are some guidelines to help make the introductions go smoothly.
1. Be aware that the introduction process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, or even a few months in extreme cases. Be patient.
2. To allow time for the newcomer to adjust to you and her new situation, keep her in a small room with her own litter box, food, water, scratching post, toys and a bed for several days to a week. One litter box per cat is recommended, even after they are friends.
3. Feed your resident pets and the newcomer on each side of a door to adjoining rooms so they begin to associate something enjoyable (eating) with each other’s smells. Don’t put the food so close to the door that the animals are too upset by each other’s presence to eat. Gradually move the dishes closer to the door until your pets can eat calmly while standing directly on either side of the door. Try to get your pets to interact with a toy. Tie two toys to an end of a string and place each toy on either side of the door. Hopefully, the cats will start batting the toys around and maybe even batting paws. Do spend plenty of time with your new kitty in her room, but don’t ignore the resident cat.
To animals, smells are far more important than appearances, so you want to get your pets used to each other’s scent before they meet face-to-face. Swap each one’s blankets or beds and gently rub a washcloth on one cat’s cheeks and put it underneath the food dish of the other. If there are more than two animals in the house, do the same for each animal. When the pets finally do meet, at least their scents will be familiar. Once your new cat is using her litter box and eating regularly while confined, let her have free time in the house while confining your other pets to the new cat’s room.
You can do this several times a day, but only when you’re home to supervise. If you have to leave the house, put your new kitty back in her room. Next, after you’ve returned the cats to their designated parts of the house, use two doorstops to prop open the dividing door just enough to allow the animals to see each other. Repeat the whole process over a period of days – supervised, of course.
It is much better to introduce your pets to each other gradually so that neither animal becomes afraid or aggressive. Once they do meet for the first time, they may do some mutual sniffing and hissing, or merely walk away. This may go on for a few days or so, and then, hopefully, you will probably find them both sleeping together on your bed.
Some cats may be extremely stressed with a new sibling and may arch their back and make a lot of noise. If this turns into signs of increasing aggression (flattened ears, growing, spitting, crouching), make a loud noise by clapping your hands or throw a pillow nearby to distract them. If the standoff continues, very carefully herd them into separate parts of the house to calm down. If the cats fight repeatedly, you may need to start the introduction process all over again. Another thing that’s helpful is Rescue Remedy, which is a stress reducer for people and pets. Just a few drops put in the cat’s water can ease many difficult situations.
Whole Foods carries it or you can check it out online at bachflower.com/Pets.