Introducing a new cat to your home is an exciting time for the family but there’s at least one member of the family that might not take too kindly to sharing its space, or indeed its humans, with the newcomer. No, we’re not talking about your youngest child - we mean your other pets.
For any existing pet the introduction of a new feline friend can prove a stressful experience. Creating a harmonious relationship takes time, patience and consideration. We cannot guarantee that the two will become firm friends but we can help to make the introduction run smoothly.
The most common error that people make when introducing a new cat to an existing pet’s home is assuming that nature will take its course and the two will automatically get along. Other cats are especially territorial and don’t like change, so flinging the two felines together and hoping for the best will not necessarily end well.
First things first
Take into account your existing pets personality traits when looking for a cat to adopt and choose one with similar attributes. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Cat Breeds if you’re stumped! If you adopt a cat from a shelter staff will be able to provide you with an accurate character assessment.
You should also consider the age of your new cat. An older cat or dog might not appreciate the introduction of a young and energetic kitten into its territory.
Bill Shakespurr once said that a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, and your cat couldn’t agree more. Animals place far more emphasis on smell than appearance so it’s important to get them used to each other’s scents before any sort of face-to-face introduction. Start by isolating the newcomer in a separate room, with all the amenities including food, water, litter, bed and scratching post. A little time-out also allows them to get familiar with you and their new environment. This does not mean leaving them to their own devices. You should still spend plenty of time with them and divide your time equally between your new and existing pets to avoid any jealousy.
Confining the newcomer to one room will allow you to safely introduce your pets to each other during feeding time - a positive activity they will begin to associate with each others smell. Place the bowls of your resident pet and the newcomer on either side of the door to this room but not so close to the door that the animals are too upset by each other's presence to eat. Gradually move the dishes closer to the door until your pets can eat calmly while standing directly on either side of the door. In the mean time try to keep the existing pets routine as normal as possible, to avoid them forming a negative association with the new animal.
Swapping scents is another great way to get your pets used to each other's smell. There are several ways you can do this:
- Switching the blankets or beds your pets sleep in.
- Rubbing your pets with the same towel.
- Rubbing a towel on each pet and placing it under the food or water bowl of the other or leaving it near them for them to explore.
- Allowing the new animal some free time in the house and the outdoor enclosure while confining your other pets to the new cat's room.
The introduction period can take days, weeks or months depending on your pets’ temperaments. Bear in mind that an older animal that has never shared its territory or been socialised may never fully accept a new cat whereas a kitten of 8 weeks old, used to the presence of its mother and fellow litter-mates may enjoy the company of another animal.
Click here for a guide on adopting a kitten.