Summertime is a time for adoptions for many households. If you plan on adding a new kitty to your household this summer, here are some tips on introducing your new cat to your other pets.
Before You Begin
If one of your pets has a medical problem or is injured, this could stall the introduction process. Check with your veterinarian to be sure that all of your pets are healthy enough for introductions.
Try to keep your resident pets’ schedule as close as possible to what it was before the newcomer’s appearance.
If you have multiple cats, you’ll want to have at least one litter box per cat, and you’ll probably need to clean all of the litter boxes more frequently.
Cats can be territorial, so they need to be introduced to other animals very slowly. Slow introductions help prevent fearful and aggressive problems from developing. Cat-to-cat or cat-to-dog introductions are much different than dog-to-dog introductions; you must proceed very gradually.
Confine your new cat to one room with her litter box, food, water and a bed. Feed your resident pets and the newcomer on each side of the door to this room. This will help all of them to associate something enjoyable (eating) with each other’s smells. Gradually move the dishes closer and closer to the door until your pets can eat calmly on either side of the door. When both cats can eat without hissing or growling, use two doorstops to prop open the door just enough to allow the animals to see each other, and feed them until they can eat comfortably in each other’s presence.
Switch sleeping blankets or beds between your new cat and your resident animals so they have a chance to become accustomed to each other’s scent before they physically meet. Rub a towel on one animal and put it underneath the food dish of another animal. You should do this with each animal in the house.
Switch Living Areas
Once your new cat is using her litter box and eating regularly while confined, let her have free time in the house while confining your other animals to the new cat’s room. This switch provides another way for the animals to experience each other’s scents before the face-to-face meeting.
Prevent Fearful or Aggressive Meetings
Avoid any interactions between your pets that result in either fearful or aggressive behavior. If these responses are allowed to become a habit, they can be difficult to change. It’s better to introduce your pets to each other gradually so that neither animal becomes afraid or aggressive. You can expect mild forms of these behaviors, but don’t give them the opportunity to intensify. If either animal becomes fearful or aggressive, separate them, and start over with the introduction process.
Cat to Dog Introductions
Dogs can kill a cat very easily, even if they’re only playing. Some dogs have such a high prey drive that they should never be left alone with a cat. Check with your veterinarian before beginning any cat to dog introductions.
If your dog doesn’t already know the commands “sit,” and “stay,” you should begin working on them. Small pieces of food will increase your dog’s motivation to perform, which will be needed in the presence of a new cat. Even if your dog already knows these commands, work with him on obeying commands in return for a treat.
After your new cat and resident dog have become comfortable eating on opposite sides of the door, and have been exposed to each other’s scents as described above, you can attempt a face-to-face introduction in a controlled manner. Put your dog’s leash on, and using treats, have him “sit” and “stay.” Have another family member enter the room and quietly sit down next to your new cat and offer her some special pieces of food or catnip. At first, the cat and the dog should be on opposite sides of the room. Don’t drag out the visit so long that the dog becomes uncontrollable. Repeat this step several times until both the cat and dog are tolerating each other’s presence without fear or aggression.
Let the New Cat Roam
Next, allow your cat freedom to explore your dog at her own pace, with the dog still on the leash and in the “sit” and “stay” position. Meanwhile, keep giving your dog treats and praise for his calm behavior. If your dog gets up from his position, he should be repositioned with a treat, and praised obeying the command. If your cat runs away or becomes aggressive, you’re progressing too fast. Go back to the previous introduction steps.
Directly Supervise All Interactions Between Your Dog and Cat
You may want to keep your dog on the leash and with you whenever your cat is free in the house during the introduction process. Be sure that your cat has an escape route and a place to hide. Keep your dog and cat separated when you aren’t home until you’re certain your cat will be safe.
Kittens and Puppies
Because they’re so much smaller, kittens are in more danger of being injured or killed by a young, energetic dog, or by a predatory dog. A kitten will need to be kept separate from an especially energetic dog until she is fully-grown. Usually, a well-socialized cat will be able to keep a puppy in its place, but some cats don’t have enough confidence to do this. If you have an especially shy cat, you might need to keep her separated from your puppy until he matures.
When to Get Help
If introductions don’t go smoothly, seek professional help immediately. Animals can be injured in fights, and the longer the problem continues, the harder it can be to correct. Conflicts between pets in the same family can often be resolved with professional help.
Keeping these tips in mind, you will be able to successfully introduce a new cat to your household.
Lisa Acho Remorenko is the executive director of
Animal Adoption Solutions.