Introducing a New Cat

So you brought a new cat home, but the old cat doesn't like it. Relax. This is normal. All you have to do is see things from the cats' point of view.

A cat that is used to being your one-and-only isn't going to be too happy about a newcomer. In fact, "First Cat" is going to see "Second Cat" as an intruder, and may engage in some very natural instincts to eliminate this intruder.

When humans add a second child to their family, the older child may be quite jealous for a while and the parents have to learn how to teach him or her to accept the new little brother or sister. If it's normal for humans, just think: It's normal for our pets, too.

Just remember, the watch word with cats is patience. Everything related to cat situations requires time. Always give them time to adjust to all things new in their lives.

This means that a new cat may not be welcomed for quite some time... from several weeks to several months. Anything longer than that might even mean it's not going to happen. If the first cat is older and has been with you for a long time, a new friend may never be accepted. On the other hand, if your older cat is used to having a buddy, he may in time accept a new pal... if introductions are done slowly.

Here are some things you can try, to ease the integration of the new pet:

  1. Keep the new cat in its own room for a few days or so.

  2. Feed the regulars (whatever pets you already have) just outside the new cat's room, by the door. Let them detect each other's scents under the door.

  3. Next, swap their blankets or beds for a day or two.

  4. Then, put the original pets into the newbie's room, and let her out for some free time to explore the house without interruption. This will allow them all to become familiar with each other's smells... without confrontation.

  5. Now, find a way to prop the door open to the new pet's room... not wide enough to allow anyone in or out, but just enough so they can see each other. Be sure you stick around to keep them apart during this phase. Don't act upset if they hiss or growl. This is normal. Just let them get it out of their systems. If they do start a fight and somehow squeeze through the doorway, separate them and start over... from step one. You may have to make a loud noise or spritz them with water. Don't try to pick them up yourself. That can be dangerous to YOU.

  6. If introductions are working out, just keep allowing them more time together every day. Include play activities, gradually including all of them, so they learn that being together can be fun, too.
Here are a few more pointers to remember:
  • Be sure all the pets are healthy and are up to date on their veterinary needs.

  • Be sure there are enough litter boxes in the home. Rule of thumb is one per cat.

  • Provide hiding places, so every cat has a place of refuge to feel secure.

  • Never punish any of your pets if things don't go well. It will NOT fix the problem, and in fact, could make it worse.

  • If introductions do not work out, you have two choices: consult with a behaviorist, or find a different pet. Well, a third choice is to somehow keep them apart at all times. It's possible, but that can get old, too. Still, some people do it that way, because they love all their pets, even if the pets don't always love each other.

If one of your original pets is a dog, be sure to supervise introductions especially carefully. If the dog has a high prey drive, or is easily excitable, it doesn't take much for him to kill a cat, even if he's just playing.

Copyright 2009 - Dr. RJ Peters 
The Problem Cat