Bringing a new cat home and introducing them to other pets
If you’re on the search for your new feline soulmate, or have already adopted one, it’s important to introduce your new cat or kitten to your home the right way. Not only does your new feline need time to adjust to their surroundings, but also their new family – including other pets.
We’ve compiled some tips and insights including:
- Introducing a new cat to your current cat or kitten
- Introducing a new cat to dogs or a puppy
- Helping your new cat with any anxiety when arriving home
Bringing a new cat home
Entering a new home is a big life change for your new feline friend – and we need to respect this. Cats can have a tough time adjusting to new things, which is why it’s important to be prepared and patient.
Here are some quick tips on bringing a new cat home:
- When bringing your new kitten home for the first time, open their cat carrier in a quiet area of the house where they’ll feel safe. Leave the cage door open and let your kitten come out without coaxing, in their own time.
- Ensure your kitten can’t escape the house. Depending on the age of your kitten, they may head for the nearest exit. Close windows and doors to keep your kitten secured in your home. Better yet, limit your kitten to one room so they don’t feel too overwhelmed in their new home.
- Act calmly and allow your kitten to explore on their own. They may not want to play or interact with you straight away. Don’t worry, they will come around.
- Provide a warm, soft, and cosy area for your cat. A blanket or cat igloo that they can hide away and curl up in will make them feel secure.
Bringing home a rescue cat
If you have just adopted a rescue cat and wondering if there are any special notes on bringing them home, it’s virtually the same process as introducing any other kitten or cat to a new environment. However, be aware you may need to be a little more cautious and patient depending on the background of the cat you’ve adopted.
Get all the information possible from your rescue organisation and some tips based on their previous circumstances; your rescue organisation is your best source of truth. Furthermore, if your rescue cat has had a challenging past, it is also worth reaching out to your local vet for some more specialised advice.
Your rescue organisation can often provide the following information to help your rescue cat’s transition:
- If they are shy and may take longer to settle in
- If they have had experience with other pets
- Their likes and dislikes
- Medical or information
How to introduce your cat to a new cat
In short, slowly, and carefully is the best way to introduce your cat to a new cat. Unlike dogs, cats are not inherently social and often prefer to socialise with cats they have grown up with. Sometimes, this can cause some friction when introducing a new cat to your home, but remember, a successful outcome can simply be cats tolerating one another, even if they don’t become best friends.
- Switch bedding and toys and observe their body language as they become familiar with the unique scent of their housemate (your cats should not be in each other’s presence during this step). If this is going well, with no immediate signs of discomfort, allow your new cat to explore your other cat’s area – keeping a close eye again on how comfortable the cat is feeling.
- Finally, it’s time to introduce your cats – with a barrier in place. A glass door or semi-solid barrier across a doorway can work as an effective barrier to prevent any aggression or injuries. While they are both on separate sides of the wall, feed them treats or food so they can associate seeing each other as a positive experience. If it’s possible, ensure there is still some distance from the barrier for both cats, so they are not directly confronted with other’s presence so close together.
- If both cats feel okay with this level of exposure, move to short periods with them together in the same area. Similarly, while doing this, feed them treats and food to continue the positive experience.
*Do not leave cats alone together until you are comfortable with their interactions up until this point. If you notice any aggression, take a few steps back in the process.
Signs of aggression in cats
If you’re wondering how to tell if a cat is displaying signs of aggression, here are some quick indicators.
- Hairs on their back are raised (piloerection)
If your cats are not becoming comfortable with each other and lashing out, or showing signs of very severe stress, they may need to be separated. Contact your local vet to discuss this further if you’re concerned.
How do I introduce my cat to a new kitten?
If you’ve adopted a new kitten, and not an older cat, the process doesn’t change for initial feline introductions. You should still read and follow the above process to make the interactions safe and structured. The only big difference here is a new kitten is likely more curious and high-energy, so you may need to reign in the interaction at times.
Quick tips on how to make your cat comfortable with a new kitten
Consider placing the kitten in a crate or having them in a harness during initial interactions, just ensure they are comfortable. Doing this will protect the kitten and the older cat.
- Always allow an older cat to have some breaks from the new kitten as their energy levels can be quite different.
- For a little while, you should try and keep your kitten busy with toys, games, and training, so they are not continuously trying to play or interact with your existing cat – it might push your cat’s tolerance or threshold.
- Provide your existing cat with plenty of opportunities to escape from the new kitten if they’re feeling overwhelmed or just need their own space. Products like igloos and cat trees can help provide this space.
- If your cat becomes anxious a product like a Feliway diffuser is often successful in reducing stress – but is most effective before anxiety occurs. With a synthetic pheromone, it has a calming effect on cats. Place a diffuser in different areas and rooms your cat likes to spend their time – making sure they are not hidden behind furniture and switched on all the time.
How to introduce a cat to a dog
Just because we’re told they’re sworn enemies doesn’t mean it’s true. Perhaps, just perhaps, they’re not enemies at all. How do you introduce a cat to a dog, you ask? As with any new pet interaction, it’s all about patience and structure – not letting things move too fast for either pet.
Here are some tips to take in on how to introduce a cat to a dog:
- Before you introduce a cat to a dog, make sure your new cat settles into your home and routine, as they will need their own space for a little while to adjust. And if you have more than one dog, make sure all introductions are one-to-one to make it less stressful on your new cat.
Also, consider, has your dog had any interactions with cats before? This can be a big factor in just how slowly these introductions need to happen. If your existing dog has never shared space with a cat or has had limited contact in the past, they may see your cat as prey – which can be very dangerous. At all times, ensure both pets are in safe spaces.
- Once your cat has settled into its new environment (without your dog around), let them see your dog through a barrier or glass door. Let your cat associate the barrier greeting with positivity by feeding them treats. To do this, you might need a friend to assist. As this occurs, look for any sign’s aggression or anxiety from your cat or dog: vocalisation, running away, hissing, tail swish, licking of lips and more.
- Make sure you practice the barrier greetings a few times to get both your cat and dog comfortable. Next, have your dog on a leash or in a crate in the same room as the cat, but ensure your cat can escape the room if they feel uncomfortable. You don’t want them to be in too close quarters. Again, feed them treats and watch for any defensive, predatory, or anxious behaviour.
- Lastly, once you have allowed them to greet in the same room, you can let your dog off-lead for short sessions – if there is supervision, and the interaction feels calm. Also, provide your cat with a safe area to climb that your dog cannot access, offering an escape or retreat for your cat.
How to introduce a puppy to a cat
If you’ve adopted a puppy and already have a cat in the home, here’s what you need to know about how to introduce a puppy to a cat.
A puppy will likely be curious, energetic and often eager to play straight away with their new feline family member – but this isn’t always reciprocated. Take these steps to ease the love and play (like kitten and cat introductions).
- Prepare your puppy for the meet and greet by either having them in a crate or lead so they can’t chase or attempt to play with the cat. It’s also a good idea to have your puppy in a calm state – so a solo play beforehand might be a good choice to let out any rogue energy.
- Have the puppy and cat meet in a room where the cat can escape easily and not in the cat’s own space or area (where their food, water, and litter reside).
- Their first meeting should simply be to exist together in the same room without any need for interaction. Keep your puppy restrained and provide treats or toys to distract them. For your cat, also treat and reward them while in the same room. Repeat this setup up a few times before moving to the next step.
- Now move to a similar scenario where you can let your dog off-leash or on a long lead. It’s a good idea to have the assistance of another person to control the room. Now, allow them to roam around in the same room freely but keep the puppy distracted and stimulated, so they don’t overwhelm the cat.
*If your puppy becomes too excitable or tries to chase the cat, remove the puppy from the room. And for your cat, ensure they can freely approach the dog at their discretion. If your cat does lash out during this meeting, make sure you can diffuse the situation and remove the puppy.
Short sessions are the best way to keep the experience positive for both pets. After a few weeks, the two pets should feel more comfortable with one another. Don’t rush the process, as your patience will make all the difference long term.
If the process doesn’t seem to be working and one or both of the pets still feel uncomfortable or display worrying behaviour, make sure you seek assistance from your vet.
How to help your cat with anxiety when bringing a new cat home
A big life change can sometimes come with big emotions, and for cats, anxiety can occur. As mentioned earlier in the article, cats are creatures of habit and familiarity, so they can struggle with environmental change, including introducing a new feline friend or dog into the mix.
Here are some tips to help your existing cat with anxiety once they have a new permanent feline or canine family member.
- Provide a space they can hide out of sight. They should have access to elevated areas, as they feel most secure in higher areas.
- Ensure you have separate areas for their litter, water, and food – unreachable by other pets.
- Spend lots of fun one-on-one time with your existing cat to ensure they’re still feeling part of the crew and loved.
- If your cat is still feeling anxious and overwhelmed by their new environment – such as constantly hiding or urine spraying – visit your vet for a consultation. If your vet feels it’s appropriate, medications are available to help with anxiety.
Remember, change is difficult for everyone, including your pets. So, you must prepare your home, existing family, and new cat for this change. Most importantly, don’t let challenges discourage you from the process, it takes time for some pets to adjust, and that’s just the reality.
Cats all around Australia need loving homes, so don’t be scared of bringing a new cat home to other pets; many multi-pet households’ function as a big, beautiful family.
Article supplied by PETstock