Adding a New Cat to Your Family
Bringing a new cat home, what to have ready, what to expect and introducing the new cat to others
Author, Daniel Richardson for Professional Pet Sitting Etc.
Cats are fantastic pets, they are well known for being rather independent but it’s common for them to find new situations such as being introduced to new homes (and new furry friends) quite stressful. We know that getting a new cat is a very exciting time so we want to help make the introductions as smooth and stress-free as possible. It’s important to properly prepare your home for your new cat and to be patient with your new family member. Below, we take a look at how you can help your new cat settle in to your home in more detail.
Have Everything Ready for Your Cat
When your cat first arrives at their new home, it is best to keep them confined to one room in order for them to have time to acclimate. If you already have a cat in your home, pick a room that is not often used by your current cat(s). Now you’ve chosen a quiet room in the house, position a litter tray, food and water bowls, a bed, scratching posts and toys around the room. The new cat would also appreciate a couple of hiding places for when they are feeling nervous.
Keep in mind that you do not want to put anything that belongs to your current cat with the new cat as this will cause stress and anxiety during a time you are trying to help the new cat settle in.
Is it Ok to Leave My New Cat Alone?
We know how it is when you get a new pet. You want to be with them all the time and watch their every move to ensure they are settling in. With cats, they tend to benefit from alone time and enjoy their independence. Don’t be afraid to give your new cat space to settle in. Use this article from Tuxedo Cat as a guideline when leaving your cat alone.
Let Your New Cat Approach You
To further what we have mentioned above about giving your cat space, it is best to give them the freedom of choice and let them decide when they want to approach you for attention. If they aren’t keen, leave them alone and come back later to try again. Sometimes they can be afraid or intimidated if you reach your hand out to touch them. Be patient and give them a chance to get used to their new surroundings. Take things slow, particularly regarding introductions to family and other pets, so as not to overwhelm your cat.
How Do I Know if My New Cat is Settling In?
You should keep your cat in its room for a couple of days up to two weeks depending on how they are settling in. This gives them time to become accustomed to their new surroundings and to you. You’ll be able to tell if your new cat is settling in by their behavior.
When they are feeling settled, they will be friendly, actively playing with toys, rubbing on furniture, eating, drinking and grooming well. If they are pacing, meowing excessively, showing signs of aggression and scratching the doors they may be unsettled and this can be for a variety of reasons. Be patient with them but if you are concerned they are not eating well, a visit to the vet may be helpful. If they are eating well and you think they are frustrated with being confined you might find it beneficial to start the introductions to the rest of the house and other pets sooner rather than later.
Introductions to Other Cats
Once your new cat has settled in, you can now begin introducing them to other cats in the house. It is best to carry out these introductions slowly, below is a step by step guide to ensure smooth introductions.
1) Begin by scent swapping as this allows the cats to become familiar with each other’s scents before physically meeting. Scent swapping can be carried out by swapping a blanket from one cat to the other and vice versa. Scent is extremely important for cats, becoming familiar with each other’s scent will make a dramatic difference to when they meet face-to-face for the first time. Give the cats time to become used to the scent of the swapped bedding and do the swaps a couple of times until there is no negative reaction from either of the cats to the blankets.
2) If you are able to confine your resident cat to a room while your new cat explores more of the house this can help your new cat become familiar with the scents and surroundings without coming into direct contact with your resident cat. This is another way that both cats can get used to each other’s scent.
3) Now that both cats are familiar with each other’s scent, the next step is to find some common ground within the house to use to visually introduce the cats. Allowing the cats to see other with a barrier between them allows you to gauge their reactions and see if they are interested and comfortable to meet. You may allow them to meet on either side of a door that is very slightly propped open, or on either side of a baby gate or glass/ mesh barrier. If you don’t have a suitable barrier you can also use a crate.
If the cats seem calm and interested to meet, this is an excellent sign and after a few meetings like this, you can move on to the next step. If either of the cats seem stressed or aggressive, for example they are growling or hissing when they see or directly smell each other, it is best to keep them separate and introduce them more slowly. In this case, continue to scent swap and build back up to allowing them short periods where they can smell each other and see each other with a barrier separating them. When you let the cats see each other, offer them treats and attention and let them know everything is ok. They will begin to become used to each other’s presence, the amount of time this takes depends on the individual cats. Don’t rush the meeting as both cats need to feel comfortable and know that they are not a threat to each other. Taking your time with the introduction will help their relations in the long run so don’t rush it.
Remember that problems are more likely to arise if the introductions are rushed, fighting and chasing may occur if the cats are not comfortable or familiar with each other.
4) If you feel that the cats are ready to meet, there are a few ways you can do this. Finding a neutral space to introduce them in and limiting the amount of time they spend together during these first interactions is important.
Some people like to introduce the cats during playtime, using toys and treats to help keep the peace. Some people like to introduce cats during feeding time (feeding the cats on opposite sides of the room) but this approach should be taken with caution as sometimes cats fight when food is around. Feeding the cats at the same time in the same room can be a great distraction but it can also make them feel more on edge as they can feel that the other cat is a threat and will take their food.
It is important to supervise your cats and keep an eye out for signs of tension such as staring, freezing and fixating. Distract your cats and praise them when it is calm. If your cats have a disagreement, the best thing to do is distract them and separate them. You can distract the cats by throwing a towel over them or making a loud noise and then calmly take the new cat back to its room. The cats will need a couple of days to calm down so go back to step 1 and begin the process again.
5) Once your cats have met a few times and seem comfortable together you can increase the amount of supervised time they spend together. When you feel the cats are getting along and the interactions have been positive, it won’t be long before they can have unsupervised contact.
This process will help you introduce your cats but just like humans, some cats simply don’t get along. You may be able to get your cats to tolerate each other but, ultimately, it is up to them whether they become best friends or not. Remember that bringing a new cat into your home will have an impact on your resident cat too, while ensuring your new cat is settling in make sure you also keep an eye on the behavior and habits of your resident cat. Your patience will pay off and before long you will have two happy, settled cats in your home.
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Hope we were able to help you in adding a new cat to your family.
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