You finally found the purrfect feline to add to your family! Now it’s time to complete the adoption paperwork, give your kitty a tour of the house and introduce them to their new BFFFs (best feline friends furever), right? WRONG!
Not taking the time to properly introduce a new cat to its new environment and its new family could spell DISASTER — for you, for the cats, and for your home. Here’s why.
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
Despite how cute it is to spot cats cuddling with each other, they are not instinctively pack animals. In fact, in the wild, feral cats would much rather avoid each other. That’s why they mark territory and often engage in aggressive behavior. That said, cats can be taught to tolerate — and even enjoy — other cats. It just takes time, positive reinforcement and a whole lot of patience.
PLAN IT OUT
To do this right, you’re going to need a few things:
- An item with your current cat(s)’ scent(s) on it
- An item with your new cat’s scent on it
- A separate room for your new cat when you get them home
- A separate litter box, food dish, water dish, bed, toys, etc. for your new cat
READY, SET, GO
First, get your new cat’s room ready. Give them a few places to hide until they feel safe. Make sure it’s free of startling noises and has access to sunlight and comfy beds. Put their litterbox down, as far away from their food and water as possible. Finally, make sure your other animals do not have access to this room, and vice versa.
Once you bring your new cat home, Best Friends Animal Society recommends that you spend at least one hour with your new cat (and another hour with your existing cats) each day. Play with them, and watch for signs of stress. Even though separated, there’s a good chance the cats know there are other cats in the home.
After a day or so. take a towel or toy that has your existing cats’ scents on it and place it near your new cat, and vice versa. This allows your cats to start becoming acclimated. If all is going well, the next day, allow the cats to come together on either side of a closed door, so they can smell each other. Make it a pleasurable experience by feeding them or giving them treats while they are near the closed door.
A few days later, it’s time to let them see each other. A tall baby gate is great for this. Make sure there aren’t gaps small cats can squeeze through and that your more athletic kitties can’t jump over the top. Again, feed them or give them treats near the closed gates. If there doesn’t seem to be much aggression, allow them to meet each other in all their glory.
Even once their first full meet-and-greet is a success, don’t turn your back just yet! Watch them carefully, looking for signs of stress. Play with them and give them treats for positive interactions with each other.
IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED
If, at any point in the process, there’s hissing and spitting and batting (oh my!), start the process over again more slowly. Don’t be discouraged! If you thought herding cats was tough, just remember you’re trying to train them now! If the progress is slow-going, you might consider using calming collars on your cats, reaching out to your vet for some tips, or trying over-the-counter calming drops as supplements to their meal times. Above all else, be persistent. Be patient. And keep rewarding the positive behavior you want to see more of.