We base cat training on kitten behavior to get the most out of the learning process. Each spring heralds that lovely time of the year for happy surprises, and that may mean a new kitten in your holiday plans. If that’s you, and you already have a feline, prepare in advance for cat introductions of the resident feline to the new baby. Many times, shelters and rescue groups recommend adopting PAIRS of kitties. That way, if the cats already know each other — or the kittens are littermates — they help entertain and soothe each other. Instead of chasing and attacking your feet, they target each other.
But what if you have a resident cat and a new kitty shows up? How do cat to cat introductions work when introducing cats to kittens, or adult cats to cats?
It can be heartbreaking when the cats you love don’t get along. Proper introductions help enormously to soothe the angest.
One of the most common questions I get involves cat introductions, and introducing cats (new ones) to the resident felines. I’ve got some pet introductions information in several of my books, and it actually works! Authors adore getting notes from readers, like the one I receivedfrom a writer colleague, Carol Johnson, who is an assistant professor of English at Tulsa Community College. She’d had some problems integrating her newest kitty friend with the rest of the cat household:
“Thanks to you Barney is still here. I’ve raised dozens of cats, from wild barn cats to purebreds, but he was the most fearful, traumatized little guy I’ve ever seen. I read your book on kitten care and in two weeks he was out from under the bed. Two more weeks and he’s terrorizing the other four. I’ll be two more weeks and he’ll own the place. Every last one of the previous cats has taken to him, and I followed your advice about a room of his own and introducing them slowly.” She’s posted a more detailed (and very flattering!) review on amazon.com.
YAY!!! Carol’s note made my day that information in Complete Kitten Care made such a positive difference. The book covers lots more of course about choosing, adoption options, caring for, and raising the furry baby to be the best cat friend possible. These cat introduction tips work no matter what age kitty you have.
Why Cat Introductions Are Vital, or YOU SMELL FUNNY!
Getting hissy with strange cats is a NORMAL cat behavior. In the wild, the feline that’s too friendly with a weird interloper risks getting eaten. Cats identify safe people (or other pets) by their familiar smell. A fresh-from-the-shelter a new pet that hasn’t been kitty-groomed by the group with licks and cheek rubs might as well be Frankenstein-Cat. Learn more about scared cats here.
The sight, sound, and smell of a strange cat pushes kitty buttons to extreme. But blocking one sense (sight of each other for example) reduces arousal. That helps enormously during cat-to-cat intros, which is one reason my must-do list includes initially separating the cats. That also allows your older cat to maintain run of the house and ownership of all the prime kitty real estate.
You can learn more about easing the transition in multi-cat households (with a DISCOUNTED EBOOK) in the ComPETability: Cats book.
Introducing Cats Requires a Room Of Her Own
Confine the new kitten in a single “safe room” so the resident cat understands only part of his territory has been invaded. Young kittens that haven’t a clue anyway won’t care. But if they’re the least shy, being sequestered offers a safe, soothing retreat with a litter box, food and water bowls, toys, scratch post and other kitty paraphernalia. Being the “new kid” can be stressful for shrinking violet kittens so build the baby’s confidence with a room of his or her own before the whisker-to-whisker meeting.
Keep the solid door closed for at least a week before risking a face-to-face. Watch for your resident cat’s reaction. Hisses are normal. Trust me on this! It may take more than three weeks before those growly-sounds fade.
See, if you try to intro them too soon and the fur flies, the cats will remember that AWFUL-NASTY-TURRIBLE-DEVIL and bring a bad c’attitude to future meetings. It’s better to take it slow and avoid having the kitties practice bad behavior. They’ll have a lifetime together so what’s a delay of a few days or weeks?
Sniffing and paw pats underneath the door are positive signs. The cats should “know” each other by scent before they ever set eyes on each other. Expect normal posturing, fluffed fur and hissing and when that begins to fade, you’re ready for the next step. Note that kittens can seem aggressive but are just playing. Learn more here.
THE NEXT STEP WITH CAT INTRODUCTIONS
Swap out the cats after a few days. That gives the old cat a chance to get up close and personal sniffing where the devil new cat has been. And it allows the newly adopted baby to scope out the environment. Kitties have no interest in meeting new people or pets unless they feel comfortable with their environment.
Reduce any potential kitty controversy by creating a house of plenty. Your home should have so much good-kitty-stuff like lots of toys, litter boxes and scratch trees that there’s no need for the kitten and old cat to argue over it.
Nose to Nose At Last! What to Expect When Introducing Cats
Once the BIG DAY arrives, just open the “safe room” door, stand back, and let the cat’s meet. Supervise, of course, but don’t force interaction. You can feed them on opposite sides of the room or play interactive games at a distance to smooth this first meeting. The cats may ignore each other for hours or days and that’s fine, too.
Do stop the interactions if growls start rumbling. You may want to replace the closed door with a baby gate so the cats can sniff and meet through the safety of a barrier but still be segregated. Until you’re sure the old cat won’t mangle the baby, or the baby won’t terrorize the oldster, supervise or keep the new kitten segregated when you can’t. It can be love at first sight or may take weeks or months to accept somebody new into the family.
Do your cats get along? What do they think of the new kittens? What has been your experience? Please share! And I hope you’ll share this blog with other cat lovers debating about adopting another kitty. You can find many more cat introduction tips and tricks in the book Complete Kitten Care.
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!