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Introducing a New Cat To ...

Your Home

Time and patience are the keys to successfully introducing a new cat into the household. The new cat should have a room of its own for the first several days after coming to a new home. This allows your new cat to adjust to the new sounds, smells and people in your home without being overwhelmed by a large area. You’ll want to keep a litter box, food, water, and comfy bed in this room too. Once the cat is approaching you confidently each time you enter the room, you can begin giving the cat access to the rest of the home. Start with opening the door to the room and letting the cat out for a short time. Gradually increase the time the cat is allowed out of the room until the cat seems very comfortable.

Also, cats find consistent routines and predictable environments very comforting, so try to keep your cat’s activities on a schedule. Playtimes, mealtimes, and bedtimes should occur at approximately the same time every day as this will not only help your cat adjust and stay happy in years to come. If you do need to move the litter box, food or water bowls, move them a little bit each day until they are in the new permanent location. Small moves each day will help your cat adjust quickly without breaking from routine.

Your Resident Cat

Introducing one cat to another requires some forethought and patience. Once you decide to bring a new cat or kitten home, prepare a room where the new cat will spend the first several days as described above. Do not choose your resident cat’s favorite sanctuary or resting-place for this function. The idea is to fit the newcomer into your cat’s routine, not to make your cat feel dethroned. In addition to benefiting the new cat, providing this separate room will give your resident cat time to adjust without being overwhelmed by sudden eye-to-eye contact.

For the sake of your resident cat, keep the new cat in the room for at least a week or two before beginning visual introductions. During this first week or so, feed both cats on either side of the door to the room that the newcomer is in. Then, move to letting them have visual, but not physical contact with each other while eating (a baby gate helps to accomplish this). Once the cats are accustomed to this, move to allowing physical contact during meal times. Eating forces cats to remain calm and that is necessary to learn the new behaviors – in this case accepting the presence of another cat. Also, meal time is often highly anticipated by cats, so allowing them to see and smell each other only during this time helps to create a positive association with the other cat. Before moving to each successive step, ensure that all is going well with the current situation; moving too fast can make the adjustment take longer overall.

While the cats are adjusting through meal time associations, you can also help by swapping smells. Exchange the new cat’s bedding with that of the resident cat so they can become acquainted with each other through the all-important sense of smell. You can also take a washcloth or sock and rub it on the new cat’s cheeks and then put it out where your resident cat can inspect it. Cats have “friendly” pheromones in their cheeks and forehead, and swapping these scents can help to reassure your resident cat that the newcomer is not a threat. Finally, you can swap the cats for a short time, putting the resident cat in the new cat’s room and vice versa, making sure not to let them see each other during the exchange.

Once everything is going well surrounding meal time, you can allow contact outside of meal times. Praise both cats generously and with treats when they are tolerant of each other’s presence. Never scold or use harsh tones when they are together or they will associate unpleasantness with being near each other. Give special attention to the resident cat as it is the old friend who is likely to need the most reassurance. Until they can share the home peacefully, give the new cat loving attention only when the resident cat is not around.

During this whole process, do not be discouraged by hissing, growling, back arching, or big-tail displays from one or both cats at first. And do not fret if your cat avoids food or leaves for the farthest reaches of the house to sulk. This is a normal part of the process of adjusting and figuring out who will be the top cat of the house.

Finally, remember that the time you spend gradually habituating your cats will eventually be rewarded with years of harmonious feline companionship.

a New Baby

Babies are often quite a shock to a resident cat as their presence changes the home environment and the cat’s routine quite drastically. However, with some pre-planning, the stress caused by this change can be minimized. One of the first steps is to desensitize the cat to things like a baby’s cry and smell. Start before the baby is born and begin by playing a tape of a baby’s sounds (crying and laughing) at low levels when you are petting or giving her a treat, increasing the volume over time as your cat becomes more comfortable. You can also borrow a blanket or towel from a friend with a baby and put it on your lap while you pet your cat. Be sure not to lavish too much attention during the months before the baby is born, as you will be very busy after the baby’s birth and sudden loss of attention from their favorite person can hinder the cat’s adjustment progress.

Once the baby has arrived, you can continue your work by rewarding your cat with treats and attention as it is exposed to the baby and the baby’s things. By doing this, you are teaching your cat to associate a pleasurable experience with the object it fears. As the baby grows and begins to walk, make sure to create a “baby-free zone” where the cat can get away from the child if they get too grabby while learning appropriate interaction with pets. In time, you will reduce and eventually eliminate the cat’s anxiety and help create a cat that is a confident, friendly, and relaxed member of the family.