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Making Introductions: Meeting the Family

Like us, cats have their own unique personalities, and they’re often particular about their likes and dislikes. So when it comes to meeting your family, it’s important to let them do it at their own pace, and give them their own space to get comfortable. Here are some tips to making these introductions as smooth as possible.

Meeting Your Other Cat

Before bringing your new cat home, make sure she has been vaccinated and tested for contagious diseases, parasites and feline leukemia. This will protect both her health and the health of your other pets at home.

For the first week or so, limit your new cat’s access to one safe, quiet, preferably carpet-free room, with access to a screened window and supervised play. Place her litter box in the room, along with food, water, toys and something comfortable for sleeping, like a shallow box lined with a towel or blanket.

Your other cat will be able to hear and smell the new cat, and she may feel agitated and threatened. Be sure to give her extra affection and play time. Watch for signs of stress, such as urinating outside the litter box, vomiting and excessive grooming. To help them get used to each other’s scents, gently rub a clean wash cloth on your new cat’s face, and then drop it next to your other cat to smell.

After about a week, if your cats have stopped hissing and growling at each other under the door, it’s time to take the next step. Allow the cats to see each other, even sniff and bat at each other, without having full body contact. Your best bet is to set up a tall baby gate, or stack two short ones, in the doorway of the confinement room. If this isn’t possible, open the door a couple inches and place door jams on either side of the door. Always supervise interactions between pets until you are absolutely sure they are getting along.

Once your cats are relatively calm around each other, let your new cat out of the room. Allow the two cats to discover each other on their own. Some chasing and stalking is natural. If a cat fight breaks out, clap your hands and yell to break it up without physically intervening. Don’t leave them together unsupervised until they are comfortable with each other. When you leave the home or go to bed at night, place your new cat back in her ‘safe’ room.

Meeting Your Dog

Use the same approach when introducing your new cat to your dog. Keep them separated at first, and then allow them to meet visually while being separated by a gate or screen. When you put them together for the first time, keep your dog on a leash to prevent him from chasing and scaring your cat. Make sure your cat has access to vertical space to feel safe around your dog. Again, don’t leave them unsupervised together until you’re certain they will get along.

Meeting Your Children

Before introducing your children to your new cat, explain to them that cats are sensitive living creatures with feelings like theirs. Your cat may feel nervous, just like they feel when meeting someone new, so they need to be careful not to scare her. Explain that they should be very gentle when petting her, and never pull on her tail, grab her, chase her or make loud noises around her.

Introduce your children to your new cat gradually in short, supervised sessions. Ask your children to sit on the floor with a cat toy, and allow your cat to come to them. Have them shake the toy and try to get your cat to engage. If she plays and approaches your children, have them practice giving slow, gentle pets without being too rough or loud. If your cat is hesitant, have your children try to coax her to them with quiet, gentle phrases, like “here, kitty”. If she stays in hiding, leave her alone and try again another time.

The length of this process depends on your pets’ personalities. But, if you follow these tips and make introductions slowly and carefully, your new cat will feel at home in no time.

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