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Caring Hands, Compassionate Hearts.

 

How to Introduce a New Cat to Your Family

They say that cats are like potato chips – it’s hard to have just one. 

Pet parents who expand their feline family are hoping to give their resident furbabies a new playmate, not a nemesis. Because kitties are known for their (often strong) individual personalities and territorial nature, it’s important to do your homework before bringing home a new cat. Taking the right approach will help your kitties form strong bonds and friendships. 

Here is a tested, methodical approach for growing your family while keeping the peace. 

two cats in treeMake your vet’s office your first stop.

Before you introduce a new kitty, it’s important to make sure that you aren’t bringing communicable diseases or parasites home to your resident cats. 

Your veterinarian can screen for potentially contagious illnesses and infestations like:

This is also an excellent time to ensure that your adopted cat is up to date on all recommended vaccinations. 

Approach the introduction in stages.

Slow and steady is the best approach as your cats get used to sharing space in your home. Take your cues from your kitties and be prepared to have patience as they warm up to each other.  

1. Give each cat their own space.

When a cat first comes into your home, designate a closed-off area where the newcomer can eat, lounge, and use the litter box in peace. Bring your adopted cat directly to this area, and allow them to acclimate.

Monitor each cat during this time – curiosity can be a positive sign, but if either the new or resident cat seems agitated, don’t rush ahead to the next step.  

2. Let the cats swap scents.

Once all household cats have accepted each other from opposite sides of a closed door, it’s time to get a bit more personal. 

Introduce bedding from one cat into the other’s space, swap out toys, and exchange their food dishes. This is a great way to help both cats get familiar with the other’s scent so they feel more prepared to share your home.  

3. Make visual contact.two cats napping

Once both cats feel secure enough to eat and use the litter box in their separate areas, it’s time to let them meet face-to-face. 

It’s a good idea to allow your new kitty to explore more of your home and conduct this initial meeting through a baby gate or a cracked door leading to a common space, like the living room. 

Don’t remove the barrier until the cats are no longer agitated by the sight of each other – and don’t be alarmed if this process takes a day or two. When you are ready to let your kitties mingle freely, stick to the following rules:

  • Provide an escape route for both cats.
  • Never force your cats to interact.
  • Don’t pull a frightened cat out of their hiding place.
  • Supervise both cats for several days after they are introduced.

Prep your home for your new cat.

Often, cats will choose to share their belongings with their siblings – but don’t count on it. 

Plan to add new perches, toys, and food dishes to your home so that each cat can have their own. This is especially true for litter boxes. 

Elimination is an important part of how cats announce their presence and mark their territory, so sibling rivalry often plays out in the litter box. Give each cat their own bathroom, and prepare to add more boxes or change the location of existing ones if you notice toileting mishaps. Accidents can be a sign that a more dominant cat is restricting the other’s access to a particular part of the house. 

Make time for play.

The family that plays together stays together. Reinforce the idea that the other cat’s presence is a positive thing by regularly playing with, petting, and praising both kitties. 

Involving the new and resident cat in games that satisfy their prey instincts can avoid the dreaded scenario in which one kitty is constantly “hunting” the other. Help your cats view themselves as partners in crime rather than rivals, and you’ll have harmony in your multi-cat household. 

Ready to grow your family? Check out these local cat rescue groups!