How to introduce a new cat to your family cat (or dog)
Planning on getting a second cat but you’re unsure how to introduce a kitten to a cat? Or perhaps this will be your first cat and you want to swat up on how to introduce a cat to a dog? Look no further – as always, our resident vet is on hand to answer your queries. Introducing a new cat into a household that already has a cat or dog can be a slightly awkward endeavour – but with our expert vet advice, bringing a new cat home to another cat (or dog!) will hopefully be an easier process for all.
Swat up on bringing a cat (or dog) into a new environment
Whether you’re moving house, bringing a kitten home, or getting a cat for the very first time, moving cats to a new home can often be a stressful experience. There are a multitude of precautions you can take to help lessen your cat’s stress, one of which being Feliway. Feliway diffusers and Feliway sprays are specialist products that are made to ease stress in cats – especially when moving home or introducing a kitten to an older cat.
Consider the effect that introducing a new cat may have on your family cat or dog
Before bringing a kitten home, it’s important to think about how your family cat or dog will react – not only to meeting their new family member, but to living with them too. There’s no doubt that getting a second cat and giving them a home – be they a rescue cat or a kitten – is a wonderful thing to do. However, some cats are naturally aloof and prefer to be the only cat – or pet – in a household. Indoor cats are likely to spend more time together, so this is something else worth considering. In some situations, introducing a new cat into your home may lead to one of them being rehomed – so you may want to reconsider. If you’re rehoming a dog or introducing a new cat to your family dog, the same concerns ring true.
Make sure the introduction is in a safe environment
When introducing cats to each other or a cat to a dog, it’s always best not to leave them alone with one another. Try to introduce them in a large, open space with escape routes – as well as hiding places – available. It’s important to remember that when a cat is stressed, scared, or wants some privacy, they prefer areas that are warm, quiet, safe and – most importantly – where they can be alone. Signs of stress can include cat wee on carpet and, in extreme cases, cat hair loss. If your vet has linked these alopecia symptoms to stress, they may recommend that you add a stress/anxiety supplement, like Zylkene, to your cat's diet.
Be patient – it may not be smooth sailing from the get-go
Forcing cats to interact with one another is not how to get cats to get along – nor is it how to introduce a cat to a dog. Let them settle into their new living situation at their own pace – from cat beds to scratching posts, they’ll have a lot to explore. Dog or cat behaviour is usually a tell-tale sign that your furry friend is unhappy or uncomfortable in a situation. If there are signs of aggression, such as one of the pets hissing or growling at the other, remove both pets from the situation. You vet may recommend that you give Feliway Friends diffusers a go – they’re designed to ease tension between cats by releasing a synthetic copy of the cat appeasing pheromone (CAP). This cat pheromone is naturally produced by the mother after giving birth to help create a bond between her and her kittens. Feliway Friends products have the same effect when used in the home – and they’ve been shown to help housemate cats live together peacefully.
Have a plan for after the initial introduction
It’s all well and good swatting up on how to introduce a new cat to your family cat or dog, but it’s important to have a plan in place for the long-term living arrangements. Make sure that you have enough bowls for all of the pets in your household. If you have more than one cat, it’s a good idea to place the bowls at different heights to avoid all of the cats eating in the same place. You’ll also need a litter tray for each cat (+1 extra) placed in different locations around the house – and be sure to choose the right cat litter for each feline. Consider your cat’s age and agility when deciding where to place their bowl and litter tray. To avoid any unwanted cat visitors an electronic cat flap will come in handy, as you’ll be able to control which cats can come in or out based on their individual microchips.