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 for introducing cats to making these introductions as smooth as possible.
How to Introduce Cats: Meeting Your Other Cat
Many cat-loving households have more than one cat in their family. Cats can be companions, playmates and help enrich each other’s lives. (Learn more about the benefits of multi-cat households.) However, introducing cats to each other can take time and patience. Cats are often placed in positions where they’re either a resident cat faced with a newcomer cat or they’re a new cat coming into an existing cat’s territory. Truthfully, it’s probably not much fun being in either position.
Throwing two cats into one environment without proper consideration of their positions is just asking for trouble. But, with a carefully planned introduction, cats can ease into accepting one another and may just become lifelong pals.
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.
Here are some other tips to make the introduction go smoothly.
Keep Your Cats Separated At First
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. According to Pamela Johnson-Bennett of Cat Behavior Associates, the special room for your new cat should have all the trappings of home – a litter box, food/water, some cozy hiding places, a scratching post, and toys.
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 playtime. 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, Cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger, a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant, suggests “rubbing one cat’s cheek with a cloth and putting it in the other cat’s room, and vice versa. Cats have scent glands on their cheeks that produce ‘friendly pheromones’ … and help develop non-adversarial relationships with each other.” After a few days, Krieger recommends you then pet both cats twice a day on their cheeks with a sock covering your hand.
Krieger also advises you to feed the cats on opposite sides of the closed door to your new cat’s room. This helps the cats get used to each other and associate one another with pleasant experiences, like eating. “Start with the bowls several feet from the door,” Krieger says, “and then gradually inch them closer to the door each day.”
Slowly Let The Cats See Each Other
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 of 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 seem comfortable with eating on opposite sides of the door, Krieger suggests moving the food dishes away from the door and opening them during mealtime. Stand at the door while the cats eat and shut the door again once they’re done. Increase the amount of time the door is open until you feel comfortable leaving the door open all the time and letting your cats co-mingle.
Make the Face-to-Face Introduction
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. “Don’t worry if the cats completely ignore each other or hiss a bit and then walk away,” says Jane Harrell, long-time cat foster parent. “It will take some time for your cats to learn that the other is a friend and not a foe.” Keep watching the cats and let them take things at their own pace as long as no one is starting to bully or harass the other. You should be able to gauge how it’s going. Some chasing and stalking are natural. If a catfight 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 their ‘safe’ room.
Treat both equally and limit territorial skirmishes by providing separate litter boxes, food and water dishes, and enough space to enjoy time away from one another at different times during the day. Continue to monitor your cats closely for signs that their squabbling is more than a temporary snit over a toy or favorite snoozing spot.
Expect the process to take a few weeks to a month or more. If your felines don’t seem to be warming up to the notion of sharing one abode or are getting more aggressive rather than settling in, consult your vet or an animal behaviorist for additional help.
How to Introduce Cats: Meeting Your Dog
Use the same approach when introducing your new kitten or 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.
How to Introduce Cats: 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 them. Explain that they should be very gentle when petting them, and never pull on their tail, grab them, chase them or make loud noises around them.
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 your cat 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 the cat to them with quiet, gentle phrases, like “here, kitty”. If they stay in hiding, leave them 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.