Introducing a new cat to a household that already includes cats can either be a harmonious or contentious event, depending on how you handle it. These tips on introducing a new cat to your household will help create a smooth transition for the new furry member of your family.
THE FIRST STEP OF INTRODUCING A NEW CAT TO YOUR HOUSEHOLD: CHOOSING THE RIGHT SHELTER CAT
The first step in successfully introducing a new cat into your household is to choose the right cat in the first place. The best rule of thumb is to choose a cat that’s similar in temperament to the cats you already have. If the cats already in your household are rowdy and like to play, choose a shelter cat that’s alert, rowdy & likes to play. If your current cats are couch potatoes that like to lay in the sun, choose a mellow shelter cat.
THE SECOND STEP OF INTRODUCING A NEW CAT TO YOUR HOUSEHOLD: SET SEPARATE TERRITORIES IN ADVANCE
Please remember that cats are territorial. Introducing a new cat into your household without proper planning may cause your existing cat to exhibit territorial behaviors such as spraying.
Before you introduce the new cat into the household, plan for where each cat will have his/her territory and secure hiding spaces where they can retreat. Basically, you are creating a special “territory” for the new cat that doesn’t intrude on your existing cat’s territory. These areas should be set up with food, water, natural light, areas to lounge, and a scratching post.
Keep your cats in their respective territories for a day or two so they get accustomed to each other from afar.
THE THIRD STEP OF INTRODUCING A NEW CAT TO YOUR HOUSEHOLD: LET THEM MEET
Once the cats are aware there’s another cat in the house, let them meet. Introduce them by letting them sniff each other through a baby gate or perhaps a door that’s opened a few inches. If they’re interested in each other, remove the barrier and let them get acquainted.
During this important phase, you’ll want to be watching them carefully for signs of aggression. If you see them getting aggressive with each other, separate them again. When separating, do not put your hand in between the 2 cats or you’re at risk for potentially serious injury. Instead use a tennis racket or other easily controlled “divider” to separate the cats from one another. A tennis racket is a good example of a tool with a long handle that can be used to help stop a fight and avoid human injury. Do NOT hit your cat with the tennis racket. This may seem obvious, but “McDonald’s coffee is hot……”
Begin the process again, and when they are merely sniffing each other, give both cats treats. Over time, this allows the cats to understand that they get special rewards when they are hanging out together and nothing negative is happening.
Over time, as you repeat this process, the cats will understand there is no threat, and relax.
THE FOURTH STEP OF INTRODUCING A NEW CAT TO YOUR HOUSEHOLD: USE CAT PHEROMONES
Cats operate so much by sense of smell, and this can be used to help the get-acquainted phase. Cats have glands located in their cheeks, and when they rub their face on something, they are imprinting that item with pheromones. Another way to introduce your cats is to gently rub a wash cloth on their cheeks to pick up their pheromones. Then you can present that pheromone-scented washcloth to the other cat so they get to know each through their sense of smell. Do not rub pheromones from one cat onto another cat as that is an invasion of the receiving cat’s personal space.
Another option to reduce the stress of introducing a new cat into your household is to use a synthetic pheromone spray or diffuser. Available from your veterinarian and in many pet supply stores, these pheromone-based sprays or air diffusers waft calming pheromones into the air to de-stress the existing cat and the new cat.
Following these four simple steps will go a long way toward smoothing the process of introducing a new cat into your household. If you need any other help, please consult with your veterinarian who also can provide synthetic pheromone sprays, and advice to help your new shelter cat integrate into your household with a minimum of fuss.
Cat Parents Note: Prove you’ve adopted a shelter cat within the past 7 days, and Mile High Animal Hospital of Aurora will give your new shelter cat its first exam for free. (Doesn’t include meds, blood tests, etc.)
Need help planning an introduction of a shelter cat into your home? Contact Mile High Animal Hospital of Aurora, Colorado at: 303.693.6484, or Email Us to schedule a consult, or to procure pheromones.