Introducing a new cat to the pets you already care for at home is not as easy as saying their names and encouraging them to shake hands, in human terms. Of course, you want them to get along immediately, but this happens rarely. You cannot force animals to automatically like one another, and especially not right away. Also, it is difficult to predict if your current pets will agree to allow a new cat to live with them.
But this does not mean that bringing home a new cat is completely out of the question. You just have to implement certain techniques to guarantee a harmonious merging among all your pets. With careful and patient introduction, you will have a better chance at the best possible start to a harmonious life with multiple pets.
Take note that the introduction process can take days, weeks, or even months. To ensure success, here are five tips for introducing a new cat to your multi-pet household.
1. Understand the nature of cats
Equipping yourself with pertinent information about the nature of cats is a huge help in making the introduction process easier for everyone.
Generally, cats don’t want to share because they are territorial. Also, they don’t like change. Unhappy cats might express their disapproval by marking their territory like peeing on the wall or floor and fighting with the other pets.
Moreover, cats have different social needs from dogs. They are usually happy being the only cat in the house. But this does not imply that they can’t form friendships with other cats – as long as they don’t feel competing for food, sleeping areas or litter trays, they can learn how to establish close bonds and live peacefully.
2. Remember that smell is crucial
Cats easily calm down and communicate with pets and people if they smell a familiar scent. So before introducing them to your current pets or even to the household, make sure that the house smells like “home” for them. To do this, you can gather scents from the cat’s head by stroking it gently with a cloth and dabbing this around your furniture and home.
Moreover, let your new cat get used to the smell of your new house and other pets before letting them meet each other. This is why you must delay allowing your new cat to meet your existing pets for a couple of days or weeks. Keep them first in separate rooms to let them examine the others’ beds and rooms without a face-to-face meeting yet.
The process of scent swapping works by stroking your new cat and resident pets alternately without washing your hands to mix the scents. Whenever possible, aim to swap beddings as well.
3. Observe proper timing
Timing is important in ensuring that you can avoid triggering any behavioral problem. The right time to bring home your cat or make introductions is when the house is calm, which means that there should be no parties, festivities or visiting family and friends. Also, you have to find time to focus on calm reassurance for both pets.
4. Use a pen or carrier
If it’s time for initial introductions, prioritize safety by keeping your new cat in a pen or carrier. This will not just make your new pet feel secure, but also prevent your current cat/dog from chasing or threatening your new feline. You can also cover the top area of the carrier with a blanket so your new cat will feel safer.
The pen will let your pets see each other. Also, it allows your dog/cat to sniff the newcomer or moan and hiss at one another without any intimidation or attack. The bars let them be close to each other while providing enough protection.
To hasten the introduction process, you can let your new cat stay in a large pen that you can strategically position where your dog sleeps. But this will depend on how adapted to cats your dog is to prevent further problems.
You can also shut the cat in the pen at night or whenever you go out with your resident pets in the same room, provided that the pen is equipped with a bed, enough water, and a litter tray. By doing so, spitting and hissing may gradually change into acceptance.
5. Stop conflict ASAP
As soon as you notice any sign of increasing aggression among your pets, distract them by throwing a pillow or making a loud noise. If violent behavior continues, carefully herd them into opposite directions to help them calm down. Don’t pick one up to stop a cat fight because you could end up getting hurt.
In the event that your new cat and resident pets fight often, you might need to re-do the introduction process. Also, let a vet examine your cat and make sure to book regular vet visits after that to ensure its health and well-being.
Introducing a new cat to a multi-pet household is difficult, but not impossible. With the right knowledge and techniques, you can increase your chance of success in no time. Remember, smells are more important than appearances when it comes to animals. Thus, helping your pets become familiar with each other’s scents is crucial before letting them meet face-to-face.
Farah Al-Khojai is the Managing Partner of Pet’s Delight. A passionate entrepreneur, Farah holds a Bsc in Government from the London School of Economics. She is always on the lookout for new opportunities to develop and grow the pet and equestrian retail and wholesale market in the UAE and beyond, and is proud to be at the helm of the first and the largest pet care provider in the market representing world-class brands including Orijen, Applaws, Hunter, Savic, Flamingo, Ruffwear and Rogz.