Introducing a New Cat
You already have one pet, but you want to add a new cat? That is completely doable with some simple guidance. Sure, the process may seem daunting or even tedious, but it is important for the members of your family, new and old, to get along and live in harmony.
Before you add a new cat to your mix, take all your pets to the vet. You can identify any health issues that may make introductions harder, like arthritis or deafness. This will also allow you to know that behavior changes are likely due to the stress of a new addition, rather than a health issue.
The new cat should be a similar temperament and activity level as the existing pets. If your current pet is not very playful, they may not react well to a new pet that is very playful. Cats in particular are very territorial and do not do well with change. Go slow and give the new animal a safe place they can escape to. Keeping the routine as close to normal as possible will also help the animals adjust.
Dogs can be much bigger than cats and there are some precautions to keep in mind. Even if they’re just playing, a full-sized dog can quickly and easily kill a cat with a simple shake of the head. Watch all initial interactions closely until the parties realize the limits. Also keep dogs from eating the cat food or the litter. The cat will see this as an invasion of space.
Most importantly, introduction is a slow process and not something that can be rushed.
Steps to Take
Start out with the new cat in a confined room. The cat should have food, water, litterbox, and a bed. As the cat becomes more comfortable in that space and is eating more, move the food closer and closer to the door. Do the same with the other pets on the other side of the door. This helps the pets get used to the new scent and associating it with something good. Spend plenty of time with all the pets in the house individually so no one feels left out or replaced. When the pets are more comfortable with each other, put the other pets away and let the new cat out in the house. This will give the newbie a chance to explore the house, pick up new scents, and will spread her scent so the other pets get used to it as well.
To get the pets familiar with the new scents, swap out the blankets of the current pets with the new cat. Or you can rub a cloth on the pets and put the cloth under the food bowls or the pets. Pets recognize scents, and this will help them adjust to the new family member.
Pets, like people, do not always get along, especially at first. There will most likely be some hissing and growling, but don’t allow this behavior to become a habit. Loud noises, like clapping, throwing something soft, like a pillow, and using a squirt bottle are all effective ways to stop fights or aggressive behavior. Do not break up fights with your hands since your pets may not recognize you and may attack you. Once the fight is broken up, carefully guide each animal back to confinement until they calm down. This may take as long as 24 hours. If fights continue, you may need to restart the introduction process.
Before you bring a new cat home to your dog, practice obedience training with your dog. Simple commands like sit, stay, down, come reinforced with a treat can help your dog focus. This will be useful in meeting the new pet. When you have completed the other steps about confinement and scents and are finally ready for the dog and cat to meet face to face, keep the dog on a leash and practice the commands with treats. Someone else will bring the cat in and try to keep the attention with treats and toys. Initially, the pets will be on opposite sides of the room and eventually move closer. Do this over multiple short visits instead of long stressful visits. Keep the dog on a leash until there is no fear or aggression from either party.
Introducing a new cat to the family can take time and can be difficult. But it can also be worth it. Your new family member can be a part of a loving home. Just remember to take your time and go slow. You can’t rush the introduction. If you have followed the steps above and still have issues, consult a specialist to receive help as soon as possible. The sooner you get help, the sooner your family can start to live in peace and be happy.