Introducing a new cat to your existing pets takes time, careful planning and above all patience. Cats are generally territorial animals and it can take some adjusting to sharing their home with another cat. Even if a cat has lived with another pet before, it is no guarantee that they will accept a new arrival.
Read on for our tips on how to get you through this tricky time…
It is important to remain calm and use positive reinforcement rather than discipline wherever possible. A negative association for either pet can have long lasting effects.
Cats bounce off your energy so keeping your movement and voice calm and reassuring at all times can really help.
Bringing a new pet into your home is not all that different to having an additional child in so far that the first child could get jealous and feel side lined by the attention the new baby is receiving. Making sure to split your time and affection fairly helps to prevent this. Encourage visitors to do the same when they greet your pets.
To begin with your aim is to get our new cat and your resident cat closer to each other using positive encouragement such as engaging in play with both cats at either side of the door and feeding them gradually closer and closer to the closed door.
It is important not to rush either cat during any point of the introduction process. Let them guide you.
The next step is to familiarise your pets with each others scents prior to meeting. You can begin by swapping beds or rubbing cloth or a sock on one pet and then placing the item into the other pet’s room to smell and inspect in their own time.
Still keeping your pets separate, allow each pet to investigate the other’s living space. This allows the pets to become more familiar with each others scent and allows your new pet to explore more of their new home.
Now you are ready for the face to face meeting. Food should be your main focus here to act as both distraction and to provide a positive experience for your cats. Keeping as much distance as possible, allow the cats to see each other while eating their meals or treats.
Your cats are trying to figure each other out so it is normal to hear some hissing or growling at this point. They may also drop lower to the floor and their eyes may widen. If the situation escalates beyond this and it looks like there may be a conflict, it is best to separate the cats immediately and try again next time.
Keep it brief. Once meal time is over, the cats should be separated again until the next meal.
If your cats are persistently too stressed to eat their food, go back a step and close that door for a day or so. After this perhaps try again with the door partially open. This allows the cats to glimpse each other while still providing a sort of safety barrier. To begin with this gap should be too small for the cats to easily fit through. Once each cat is eating comfortably, you can gradually open the door further until they are eventually in the same room.
Once all cats are comfortable eating their meals, you can gradually delay the separation further and further until all cats are comfortable with each other.
Cats should be supervised together until they have fully accepted each other.
If your new pet is a kitten, be prepared for some fear and confusion from your existing cat. Whilst they are much smaller than an adult cat, they often do not behave like an adult cat would expect another cat to act. For example, a kitten may approach a new cat in order to investigate whilst an adult cat would generally make their assessment from a distance. Your cat may not know how to respond to this behaviour and this could be met with fear or aggression.
Follow the same steps as advised for the adult cats stated above, but keep the safety of your kitten in mind at all times. A dog crate or kitten/ puppy play pen can be a great way to allow the animals to meet safely.
Cats and dogs can live very happily together but it does depend on the individual animals and also on how the introductions are handled.
If you have a dog that has not lived with cats before, it is important to consider the safety and happiness of both animals before adding a cat to the family.
Can your dog live with cats?
Do they want to?
If you are unsure, we recommend that a cat test is undertaken for your dog prior to applying to adopt a cat.
There can be some body language confusion from one species to another and of course there can be quite a significant size difference. If your new cat is a kitten, then a puppy or kitten play pen can provide a good way to introduce them safely.
Follow the same isolation and scent swapping tips advised for introducing adult cats.
When it comes to a face to face meeting, consider whether your dog has any food guarding issues. In this case, feeding the animals together could actually make the situation worse.
If your cat feels pressured by this meet, they may look for an escape route from the situation. Bear this in mind when selecting the location for the first meeting. There should be a clear route back to your new cat’s safe space and/or a nearby place to hide.
We recommend putting your dog on a lead and considering the use of a muzzle until your pets are familiar and relaxed with each other.
Keep the experience positive for your dog by rewarding wanted behaviour. Reassure them as they may also be feeling some anxiety at this point. Praise and affection goes a long way if you would prefer not to use treats for training.
Most cats seek height to feel safe, so providing a high ‘safe spot’ such as a cat castle or shelving can help them assess your dog from a position in which they feel safe.