Introducing pet cats is among one of the biggest concernsfor new cat parents, whether you’re introducing cats to one another or you’retrying to introduce a cat to another pet, like a dog. In over 20 years of beinga vet and many more before that of being a cat owner, I’ve only onceencountered two cats who simply could not be introduced to one another.
There are many different aspects of introducing cats to takeinto consideration, but if you take the introductions slowly, carefully, and byfollowing the following steps, you’re likely to make any introduction situationwork. The most important thing is to gradually introduce them and never leavethem unsupervised until you are positive the cats feel safe with your otherpets and that they will not hurt one another.
Introducing a New Kitten or Cat to Other Cats
Often the easiest of all attempts at introducing pet catstakes place when dealing with kittens. Whether you’re introducing a kitten toanother kitten or an adult cat, the process is usually quicker and easier thanany other cat introductions. This applies especially to kittens under 6 monthsof age, but depending on how old your “adult” cat is, the “kittens” in thisdiscussion could be up to a year old.
To start introducing a new kitten to another cat in yourhousehold, you should start the newcomer in a room with his or her own litterbox, food, water, bedding and toys. This serves two purposes:
1. The kitten is safe and protected in what would otherwisebe an overwhelming new environment, including the overwhelming experience ofother pets.
2. The kitten can smell your other cat(s) or kitten(s)through the door and they will get used to each other’s presence.
It’s normal for there to be hissing through the door at thebeginning. As this behavior dies down slightly, though, you can begin to letyour other pets see on another. This can be accomplished by either cracking thedoor open slightly and allowing them to go nose-to-nose and/or using a babygate to allow for easy direct sight without the pets making contact.
To make the experience more positive and rewarding, you canfeed the kitten on one side of the gate or door crack, something extra yummy orspecial treats, while doing the same for your other pet. That way, they beginto associate one another with good things.
When it appears that this is going smoothly and thateveryone is comfortable, you can move on to allowing the cats to interact, supervised,in the same room.
Introducing Pet Cats to Different Species
Introducing pet cats or kittens to dogs or other householdpets, like rabbits, needs to follow a similar course to introducing cats of anyage to one another. Allow the pets to get adjusted to the new cat’s presence,by smell only, and proceed from there.
The one major difference between introducing pets of anotherspecies to a cat, or vice versa, is that the non-dominant species will alwaysneed a safe place to retreat—a zone that is free of the other animal and can betheir safe zone. For instance, your cat should have a place that your dogcannot get to easily where she can escape if she needs to. This could also bethe same area where your cat has food, water, and a litter box, so necessaryneeds are cared for in a safe area. Similarly, a pet rabbit should have a placeto go where he is not subjected to the cat.
If you provide “safe zones” for each pet of each differentspecies, preferably a small room, you’ll find that all of your pets adjust toliving with one another much more quickly and easily.
Troubleshooting When Introducing Pet Cats
Any and all of the above steps can take 1 day or a week ormore. When it comes to introducing cats to one another, the general rule isthat the younger the cat, the quicker the adjustment period will be. However,this is not always possible nor does it mean you should only adopt kittens.You’ll just have to be more dedicated to introducing adult cats to one another.
Sometimes you’ll find that the process is going very slowly,and your cats can’t seem to get past the hissing stage before they even see oneanother. If this is the case, you’ll want to experiment with transferringscents, since it’s the foreign smell of the other cat that is making one upset.You should try rubbing each cat down with the same towel, so you will effectivelybe transferring the cats’ scents to one another. You can also try rubbing themdown with a t-shirt or other piece of your clothing, transferring their scentsAND yours in the process. You may also have success switching sides of the doorfor short periods of time, allowing your resident cat to spend time in the newcat’s territory and vice versa.
The biggest risk to introducing cats to other pets would bethe risk that a dog would hurt the cat or vice versa when left alone. However,if you are slow and diligent with your interactions, only allowing them to besupervised for the first several weeks or even months, you’re likely to preventany problems.
People are often reluctant when introducing pet cats to dogs and will thereforeinterfere with the cats, rightly, needing to put the dog in his/her place.You’ll find that once a dog has gotten a bat or two from a cat, he’s morelikely to respect your cat’s space. Also, by practicing some general dogtraining techniques, you can increase the odds that your cat will not be chasedor bullied by your dog. For instance, if you work on your dog’s barking habits,and/or teach your dog to “leave it” when he sees a tempting moving target thathe would like to chase, you’ll prevent many problems down the road.
If you have questions about introducing pets to one another, the questions and answers provided below are likely to provide some assistance. The key to introducing pets of any kind is to take yourtime, supervise carefully, and be very patient. If you read the warning signswell, your pets will work it out!
Read the questions and answers about common introduction concerns below!
Click below to see questions or stories about introducing pet cats from other cat lovers...
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