Lots of us love having our homes filled with at least one furry friend, and many households have multiple animals, including a mix of companionable cats and dogs. There are many advantages to the multi-animal home, for you and your furry loved ones.
Having more than one animal allows your pets company when you are away from home, provides them a constant playmate, and improves their socialization. Of course, you reap the benefits of having the company of extra buddies, each with their own personality.
Having multiple pets can be a great experience, and most pets at the least, can learn to tolerate each other, even if they are not the best of friends. With careful planning, and thoughtful introductions, you can ease the pets into a comfortable life together.
Here are a few tips for specifically introducing a new kitten or cat, to a household with an existing cat.
Cats are often independent, and somewhat territorial animals. Approach the process of introduction with a lot of patience and understanding. Plan to introduce the kitten at a time in life when things are un-stressful at home, and try to time the process so the new kitten is not integrated into the home during other life changing events (moving, having a baby, getting other animals, during holidays).
You’ll want to be sure that your new kitten is free of parasites, and up-to-date on vaccines, before introducing them to the home. If your kitten is a stray, or from a shelter, assure they are healthy, before bringing them to your house.
Smaller, younger kittens are often more easily accepted by an adult cat, than kittens equal in size. Cat introductions often go more smoothly when the animals are spayed/neutered, and of the opposite sex, or are both female. Keep in mind that personalities of cats are all individual, and various factors including prior interaction with cats, will affect how they get along. If possible, select a cat with a similar personality, and activity level as the current cat. Assume the process may take 6-12 weeks, and it may include some confrontations.
Introducing the scent of the new cat, without the actual animal, is key. If possible, at first, bring home a blanket, or bedding which the new kitten has been using, and simply place it the home, and allow your cat to investigate at its own leisure.
Bring your new kitten, or cat to a small designated room, which is equipped with its own food dishes, toys, carrier, and litter pan. Allow your existing cat all of its normal routines, and bring the new cat directly into its own quarters, without an introduction. Make sure that you spend a lot of time with your existing cat, once the kitten has arrived. You may want to place the new kitten’s carrier, in the common house space, for the resident cat to smell on their own.
If your two cats are in rooms separated by a door, you can use the common door to your advantage. The cats will be able to sniff each other through the door, without having any contact, or visibility. You can establish your cats’ own feeding stations at opposite ends of the room, away from the door, and once each cat is happily eating and drinking you can gradually move the dishes closer to the door. Expect to do this over the course of a week, or more. This way, the cats can learn to associate the pleasure of eating, with the others’ smell.
Once the new cat is established you can let the new kitten have alone time in the other rooms of the house. You can also try swapping the cats into each others’ rooms, still without meeting, to increase their familiarity. Do this while you are at home, in case the cats react poorly.
Regardless, ensure that your cats have ample time with you, and with their own routines, before a face-to-face meeting. Firstly, allow the cats to see each other, without any contact (you may need a gate for this). Once the cats are accustomed to seeing each other, you can physically introduce them. Try to downplay the situation, and not make a ‘big deal’ out of it.
When the time comes, for your two cats to actually meet, ensure that you do this in a supervised fashion, and for only a short period of time. If your cats are separated by a door, you can crack open the door, and allow them to see each other.
Expect that your cats may react poorly, may be adverse to each other, may sniff, and walk away, or could potentially act aggressively. Going slowly through the smelling process will reduce the chances of them being aggressive, but if so, distract them, and then separate them again.
You will likely want to ensure the cats each have a safe place to go to, with their own food, water, litter, bedding, and toys that are only theirs. Some cats will always appreciate having their own space. Eventually, your two cats will become more relaxed with each other in the home, and may volunteer to share space together. The trick of course is to go slowly and patiently, and not push them into being best buddies. At the very least, you can exist in a happy, peaceful feline home.By: Patti Green, RVT