Sunrise Pet Clinic: Educational Information

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Introducing A New Cat Into Your Household

It is important to understand a bit about cat behavior before introducing a new cat into an established cat household. Dogs, by nature, are pack animals, and therefore providing a companion is often a good idea. Cats can live in groups and often form close social bonds with other cats; however, they are capable of and are often very happy in a mostly solitary existence. Some cats are very gregarious and like the company of other cats. Others are much happier being the solitary king or queen of the household and may not accept an interloper in the kingdom.

Questions to ask before bringing a new cat in:

  • Has your cat ever had any history of living with another cat?
  • How does your present cat respond to the presence of other cats outside in the neighborhood?
  • How much time are you willing to spend introducing a new cat into the household?
  • What contingency plans do you have if all efforts fail to have a peaceful household?

First Impressions Are Important

If the first encounter between the cats is a frightful one for the cats with spitting, hissing, scratching, and biting, the relationship may be marred for a long time, perhaps even permanently! The following are steps we recommend to elicit and promote the best possible behaviors:
  • At first, only allow the cats to smell and hear each other, not see or touch each other.
  • The new cat should be confined to one room or small section of the house. After he or she is comfortable there, which may be hours or days, switch places with the new cat and the resident cat. In this way they can become familiar with each other's scent.
  • Feed the cats treats close to the door with a cat on either side. This helps them to associate "good things" with the presence of the other. The best treats are the "to-die-for"-type�salmon, tuna, chicken, or other smelly feline delicacies.
  • Try slipping a catnip toy under the door to encourage under-door play.
  • When both seem comfortable with the other's presence, use doorstops on each side to wedge the door open an inch. This allows peeking and playing but not total access. Do not progress past this point until both cats are comfortable, show no aggressive or fearful behaviors, and ideally are beginning to display friendliness. Continue the use of treats, toys, and petting.
  • Wedge the door a bit wider. Do not allow complete access, just more visualization.
  • Ideally the next step is to allow full visual display from either side of a screen or glass door. If this is not possible, you may use individual crates to which the cats have been previously acclimated. Slowly bring the crates closer but only so close that both cats remain calm. Cats who are trained to the wearing of leashes and harnesses may be brought together in this way.
  • When the cats are first loose together, keep the sessions brief and upbeat with plenty of enjoyable things�treats, toys, and petting.
To view adoptable cats and dogs, visit the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.

See also Feline Leukemia

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