Introducing a New Cat or Kitten to Your Home
With the addition of a new cat to a household comes a number of challenges to ensure a smooth, and happy transition. Cats by their nature are typically solitary animals that may take longer to adjust than dogs. They can be easily stressed by things like other pets in the home or family activity, so doing the work to prepare for your new cat in advance can make the transition as smooth as possible and hopefully avoid any setbacks. Follow below for tips and best practices to ensure your new feline family member adjusts to your home seamlessly.
Give them their space!
Cats can be possessive and unwilling to share, so it’s crucial that any new cat coming into your home has their own set of supplies accessible to them without competition. This includes their bowls, litterbox, toys, scratching post, and bed.
Your cat should start in their own space (usually a bedroom) where their resources are available, and they can begin to adjust to the sounds and smells of their home. It’s important that the family members spend time with the new cat in this area often to bond and build relationships while providing them a space free from interpret conflict.
As they assimilate into the larger family unit, it’s then important to make sure that the resources for your pets are easily accessible and plentiful. It is recommended to have numerous sources for water access as well as 1 more litterbox in the home than there are cats.
Allow Low Stakes Interaction
With a solid door separating them, allow the pets in the home to (on their own accord) investigate the smells of the individuals on the other side of the door. Being able to smell and hear each other, but not see or touch can help cats adjust smoothly to their new housemates without jumping to aggression or fear.
Similarly, allowing them to occupy the same spaces at different times (taking turns being out in the home) can help the new cat adjust to exploring their environment, while also desensitizing them to the smell of the others. Eventually, you can allow your pets to see each other while being separated by baby gates or a similar barrier to further allow them to normalize to each other’s existence without violence.
Once allowed to interact, ensure that your pets do so one at a time with the new cat and that the interactions are closely monitored. You can expect some hissing or tail flicking, but ideally, the pets will interact briefly with no signs of aggression.
If your pets do begin fighting, you can interrupt their tussle by gently distracting by tossing a pillow nearby or engaging with a squirting water gun very briefly to break up a fight. It’s critical that while you provide supervision, you also don’t engage by picking up or trying to remove a cat while in “fight” mode, as they will often cause redirected aggression to the human and cause injuries such as bites and scratches. If your pets do escalate, you may need to return to separate housing to give more time for assimilation. Another way to de-escalate tense situations can be to encourage play between your cats with toys to redirect their attention and focus.
As described above, if an introduction to the household pets is not successful, sometimes more time is needed for a slow adjustment. For some cats, this can take months, with some individuals never tolerating a new family member without fights and aggression. However, with patience, most cats can learn to coexist with others in the home. In all situations, ensure that each of your pets has a safe place they can escape to if stressed or threatened.
A Word About Anxiety
It’s important to monitor both your new cat and current pet(s) for signs of stress or anxiety. Cats can have stress-triggered diseases like urinary problems and GI symptoms, so monitoring their litterbox and eating behavior during times of adjustment are incredibly important to ensure any illness is detected early on.
Because of the significant amount of stress caused by adding new pets, many owners try to decrease this by adding products like cat pheromone diffusers, or high perches, and plenty of toys for engagement. For more information about enrichment and routines that can decrease your pets’ stress, go to https://indoorpet.osu.edu/cats.
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