By Dr. Al Townshend
Cats have become one of the most popular pets. There are more household cats than dogs in the US. The average cat family has more than two cats. There are many reasons why Guardians love cats: they’re relatively low maintenance, do well in apartments, and they’re just plain adorable!
In the US, 68% of households have a cat, and in Canada, 38% of homes have at least one kitty. If you have made the decision to become a Cat Guardian or, you already have cats but are looking at getting another, some concerns should be addressed to make the introduction into your home as easy as possible.
Introducing Your First Cat to its New Home
- Make sure you have all of the essentials before bringing your kitty home. A cat carrier, litter boxes, litter, scratching posts, food, water bowls, food bowls, bedding, and toys are all critical essentials to consider.
- Talk to a Pet Planet Ambassador today about shopping for your cat.
- A new pet should always be examined by a veterinarian to be sure it is healthy. Plan to discuss vaccinations, parasites, flea and tick control, and spay/neuter topics during your first visits.
- Ideally, spending a few sessions with the cat in its current setting can make you more familiar when it is time to introduce it to your home.
- Cats are curious and will be up on the furniture and looking everywhere, so be sure that delicate items are secure and the house is cat-proof.
- Cats are susceptible to change. Taking it away from familiar surroundings and placing it in a new home can be a stressful time. One suggestion to ease the transition would be to take a small blanket or cat bed to the kitty a few days before you bring it home. It becomes familiar and has the kitty’s scent, which can be a security area in the new home.
- Exposing the kitty to the entire house at once can be overwhelming, especially if you are rescuing a cat that has been in a small cage for some time. A bedroom or bathroom is a far better introduction. Leave the carrier open and in a secluded area so there is an area the kitty can retreat to if necessary.
- Spend time with the kitty. Food, water, and toys can help with your introduction.
- When there are signs that the kitty is adjusting and feeling confident, begin to allow it to explore the rest of the house.
- In most cases, it doesn’t take long for the kitty to adjust to its new home and family.
Introducing a New Cat to a Multiple Cat Family
The average cat household has more than two cats, and so it is not unusual to be bringing an additional cat into the family. All of the considerations mentioned above are appropriate for adding another cat to the home.
There is also the concern of introducing the new cat to the existing family cats. Cats are very territorial, and so once both the old and the new become aware of each other, there will be curiosity and concern. Taking the introduction very slow is always a good idea.
- Keep the new kitty in the initial room for some days so both the old and new can smell each other and slowly adjust.
- Place both cats’ dishes close to the door, on their respective sides. By having both cats experience something positive (a meal or yummy snack) while they are nearby, they can learn to form positive associations with each other.
- Once both cats are eating well and going to the litter boxes, it is time to open the door. Ideally, a gate will allow them to see each other and exchange scents. This is a slow and safe way for them to adjust to one another without any aggression.
- It is a cat’s nature to have concerns about dominance. That doesn’t mean they have to fight for dominance, but there will always be some posturing. Male cats and especially un-neutered male cats can be the most difficult to adjust. Never neglect the resident cat and shower the new cat with affection. Continue the regular routine with the resident cat.
- Getting two or more cats to adjust and accept one another can take time, and there can be setbacks. Hissing and growling at each other or overt aggression may require a reintroduction at a slower pace.
Reintroduction involves separating the cats and starting over as if they had never met. Now they are aware of each other, and slowing the process down is essential.
- Relegate one of the cats (usually the most aggressive) to a single room or specific part of the house (provided that area can be closed off).
- Provide all of the necessities mentioned above to each area.
- Spend equal time in both areas.
- The goal is to give them time to relax and slowly adjust to the changes in the home. It can take time, so patience is a virtue for the Guardian.
Making the extra effort to allow cats to adjust to a new environment and new family members slowly helps to make the relationships positive and rewarding for all.