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Beyond Nine Lives: Integrating a New Cat in Your Home

by Elizabeth Arguelles July 2, 2015 at 2:00 pm 0

Beyond Nine Lives

This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza.

Introducing a new cat into your home if you already have another kitty can be challenging. But with patience and hard work, you can have a multi-cat household that’s not only rewarding for you, but for your new kitty crew as well!

The most important tip is to take things slowly. When bringing a new cat into your home, patience is critical. It may take two cats eight to twelve months to grow accustomed to each other, so introduce them gradually and do not rush.

Before you pick up your new cat, prepare a place in your home like a larger bathroom or separate bedroom with bedding, food, water, litter box and toys. Also make sure to spray Feliway or place Feliway diffusers around your home to help with the transition. Place your new cat in the separate room. This allows your new cat to adjust to the new surroundings and your current kitties to adjust to the smells and sounds of the new family member.

Make sure to give meals, treats, and playtime near the door that separates them. This will help them get used to each other at meal times and to associate good things with each other.

The next step is to switch your cats so they have a chance to smell each other and their surroundings/territory. Place your current felines in the smaller room and your new cat will get to explore the house for a few hours. We recommend doing this process for 1-2 weeks minimum to reduce stress and any potential conflicts that can arise.

Make sure the first impression is a good one. If their initial contact results in aggression, their future relationship may always be strained. Don’t rush the process — it can tempting to let them interact right way, but taking the time to do a slow introduction can mean happier cats in the long term! If the first meeting does result in aggression, start the introduction process over from the beginning.

If there are no signs of aggression such as hissing or growling when either feline approaches the door, gradually bring the cats into contact with one another. One way to minimize the chances of a fight is to place a temporary screen where the door is so that they can see but not touch each other. Along with another member of your family, pick up the cats and gently set them down near the screen. Call out their names and give them treats as a reward for good behavior. Over the next couple of days, feed, play with and give treats to the felines near the separating screen, gradually getting closer and closer to the divider.

Let the cats spend time together without the screen door between them. Obviously, you will need to supervise these initial meetings very carefully. As they get more familiar with each other, you can increase the amount of time they spend in each other’s company.

At these initial meetings, make sure to prepare for the worst just in case. Have a spray bottle with water handy to break up any fights that may start. Hopefully you won’t need it, but it’s the best way to break up a fight without getting hurt! NEVER attempt to reach your hand in or pick up your cats when they are fighting.

Remember to keep your goals realistic. Even if you do everything right, two cats sharing a home may never become close friends. But generally speaking, they will at the least learn over time to stay out of each other’s way. And sometimes they do become the best of friends! If you still have trouble introducing your cats, contact your veterinarian about any additional tips for introduction or for recommendations to a behaviorist.

For more information, please visit our Feline Health Library at www.justcatsclinic.com.

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