How To: Introduce a New Cat

 

Are you thinking about bringing another cat home to be a friend to your cat, dog or other pet?  We found out the hard way that you can’t just put the new cat in front of the others and expect them to sniff and hiss it out in order to become friends.  If you do this both animals will likely have behavior problems ranging from marking territory throughout your house to fighting or increased aggression.  The worst part is, once a cat starts marking in an area, its difficult to get them to stop.  The most heart breaking experience I had was to be forced to find separate homes for my two cats because I couldn’t get them to stop marking and their behaviors became aggressive.

The good news is there’s a much better solution. We now have three cats that love each other like family and don’t have any behavioral issues.

Lulu with her new friend Minxy

When bringing in each new friend, we followed tips for introducing a new cat from web articles by bestfriends.org, petfinder.com, and humanesociety.org.   I’ve summarized the tips that worked best for us in this blog post.

  1. When picking out a new friend, spend time with the cat or kitten at the shelter to ensure they have desirable traits that will fit in with your current cat family.  For example, our cats are all very social and love to be around us.  We looked for these same social traits in the new cat to ensure a good fit. Of course you can’t guarantee that traits seen at the shelter will be the same at home but this is a good start.
  2. Ensure you have a dedicated room in the house with a separate litter box, food bowls, and a closing door ready for the new cat BEFORE bringing it home. This will save all the stress of introductions.  As soon as you bring the new cat home, bring it straight to the room without stopping in front of other cats.  Ensure the door is closed and the other cats have no access to this room.
  3. For the first few days keep the cats completely separated. The new cat stays in the private room and the others stay outside.  On the fourth and fifth day, start feeding the cats outside the door from each other. Place the food bowls for the new cat just inside the door of the private room and the food bowls for the others right on the other side of this door. This will allow them to associate the good feelings of feeding with the scent of the new intruder.
  4. On days six thru eight, continue feeding outside the door and swap rooms for short 30 minute periods twice daily.  Allow the new cat to come out for into the house to explore and sniff while the other cat(s) are put in the private room to get further used to the smell of the new cat.
  5. On days eight thru ten add play times under the door. For example, take a string or feather and run in along the door so the cats can play with each other without having to see each other.  We have an office with a glass door that we move the new cat into during this time to allow them to see each other through the glass. There’s some hissing in the beginning but we find that they usually start playing under the door together after a few hours. Especially since they’re still being fed together and we’ve been encouraging this play.  Also continue the short visits between rooms from step 4.
  6. On days eleven through fourteen continue all of the above steps but add short periods where the door is open and they are allowed into each other’s spaces. Closely supervise this and ensure to move back to step five if you feel they aren’t ready for this step yet.  Especially if they’re being aggressive toward each other and biting or fighting. A little hissing is normal but anything over that like excessive hissing or growling means they aren’t ready for this step yet.
  7. Continue the above steps, making the visits together longer over time.  We know when they are ready to be joined together when we observe the resident cats initiating play with the new cat or see them laying together or grooming each other.  The longest its ever taken us to introduce a new cat has been three full weeks, but it has been worth the wait every time.  There’s nothing sweeter than seeing them nap together or groom each other.

Hopefully this tips have been helpful for you.  We’d love to hear your tips or questions.

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