Whenever a new cat arrives, cat to cat introductions take over so read on to learn how to introduce cats. 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.
It can be heartbreaking when the cats you love don’t get along. Proper introductions help enormously to soothe the angst.
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 received from 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. You can do this using pet gates or pet doors, and then later open the door completely. 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? And how did you come up with your new kitten’s name? (tips here for choosing kitty names.) 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.
One afternoon over a week ago, Magical-Dawg bolted upright from his doze to stare out the patio door windows. I’d seen a flash of motion, too, but figured it was a field rat (they’re huge!), and never would have bothered to investigate without his interest.
Not a rat. A cat. Specifically, a lynx-point Siamese type kitten.
The temps that day were mild, but forecast to turn bitter cold. This youngster wanted inside in the worst way, even when nose-to-nose (through the glass) with Magical-Dawg.
Cue Music: “I’m Just A Stray, Running On My Own…”
STRAY CAT ARRIVES
The blue eyed stray had a blue collar, so I figured the youngster came from a neighboring home. The shivering kitty wasn’t full grown–a bit bigger than Seren (but she’s only 5 pounds)–and looked like coyote bait to me. Anyway, I planned to bring the stray inside at least for the night, and find the owners who surely must be frantic missing the little thing.
Magic barked when I opened the door, and sent the cat racing away. Well dang, that solved the issue! But just in case, I called for the pretty thing.
“Here kitty kitty kitty….”
No response, until I meowed. The kitten not only answered my meow, but came running and let me pick him up. The handsome boy-kitten had no ID on the collar and still had his jingle-bells (ahem). He immediately began face-rubbing my chin.
Do you think he could read the “sucker” label on my forehead?
“Looking For A Home, A Place to Stay…”
I had several concerns. First, I couldn’t allow Seren-kitty to come in contact with this unknown feline, without risk of her getting sick. My first responsibility has to be to my own pets. Second, Magical-Dawg respected Seren-The-Boss but might not feel the same about this kitty interloper, so I had to protect the stray. Third, I had nothing to feed the kitten because Seren eats a therapeutic kidney diet not at all appropriate to a young guy.
Thanks to the BlogPaws trip last spring, though, I still had lots of food samples from some terrific sponsors including several packets of “prowl” dehydrated whole chicken kitty food from The Honest Kitchen. The “newbie” couldn’t get enough of the food, and snarfed it all down almost before I could get the bowl on the patio floor. When I shared this story later with Kate Fenner from the company–I’d just met her at the San Diego book signing–she offered to send some trial boxes of food. (Ain’t cat and dog people the BEST?!)
GETTING THE STRAY SITUATED
While “newbie” ate, I ran back inside to move Magic out of nose-sniffing range, and then transferred the visitor into the laundry room along with the bowl of food. Then I ran upstairs to find the extra (too small) clean litter box that I used to store a variety of extra pet paraphernalia, raced back downstairs with the pan, litter, a bowl for water, and a scratch object, and got the little guy ensconced. Once offered the water, he drank the bowl dry–and then drank another half a bowl as well when it was refilled. That told me he’d been outside for more than a day, since cats typically drink sparingly.
“Along the way, Someone took a glance…”
I posted some of photos to Facebook, but nobody recognized him. I called my husband to warn him about the temporary house guest and not to open the laundry room door. Once he got a look at the newbie, he felt someone surely would want such a gorgeous cat back–but wondered could we maybe find a similar looking cat for ourselves?
Sucker, once again?
Meanwhile, Magical-Dawg camped out beside the door while the newbie kitten played paw patty-cake driving him nuts. Seren slept.
“…Offered me a chance, a place to stay…”
CHECKING FOR IDENTIFICATION
The next morning I took “newbie” to my vet’s office and had him scanned for a microchip. Nothing. On the way home, I stopped at the neighbors to ask if they were missing a super-friendly boy kitten. Huh uh. I called the city shelter and ask if a cat fitting his description had been reported missing. Nope. Every day I checked the newspaper. Zip.
The third day with us, Magical-Dawg got to meet “newbie” through his doggy gate, and struck up a nearly instantaneous friendship. I think the dog would like any critter that let him sniff butt–but the kitten seems to have been around dogs and likes Magic equally well. Who in holy heck wouldn’t be looking for this missing gem?
“Now can’t you see? You belong to me.“
We moved “newbie” to the master bedroom bathroom because the doggy doors in the kitchen next to the laundry wouldn’t hold him and put him too close to Seren’s dining room domain. As the days progressed I struggled not speak his name aloud, the one he’d whispered to my heart the first night we slept together.Yes, he sleeps with us (and Magic). We’re a dang fine kitty B&B!
“It was meant to be! Anything I’ll do.”
Finally this past Wednesday I told myself that Friday would be THE day. And if he’d not been claimed by Friday, I’d make the vet appointment because he must have been dumped, and I can’t risk having an intact boy kitty become “too” mature, all over our walls.
And as much as I’d like to slap the dump-ee up-side the head–this cat came SOOO CLOSE to dying, guys! But, I think I’d also like to thank ’em. Yes, I’m smitten.
Seren probably wouldn’t, though. She’s “met” him from a distance and offered her typical crotchety old-lady snub. It took her months and months to learn to tolerate Magic but she’s mellowed since then. And you see, seventeen years ago, Seren was the dumped kitten, “…running on her own, looking for a way home, a place to stay…”
When Seren was dumped and found sleeping on a friend’s back porch it was lucky that we found each other–and so she was named Serendipity. Therefore it feels very appropriate to welcome the lucky boy cat version into our lives. By the time y’all read this, “newbie” will be at the vets getting examined, neutered, vaccinated…and microchipped.
Today, Karma comes home.
And if he could sing, I think both Karma and Serendipity (and all of the “strays” out there) would sing the final lines of the song lyric together:
“All I can give, I’ll live the life you live. Anything forgive. Just to be with you.”
I hope some of y’all will come out to see me tomorrow from 1-3:30 at the Sherman Town Center Petco for my Valentines & Pets free talk–I’ve even more “pet love” to celebrate! I’ll explain how I’ve been intro-ing the furry wonders, and of course will be happy to paw-tograph a book for you or your special pet. You might find the “stray” love of your life to adopt there, too. Maybe the next book will have a new feline character…named Karma!