Bringing a new cat or kitten home when you have other pets in your household can be tricky. If your present pet has been used to receiving all the attention, he/she will probably find it difficult to accept a newcomer at first. The easiest way to achieve success is to choose a good time, take things slowly and make introductions feel as warm and friendly as possible for both parties.
The importance of scent
Cats and dogs have an extremely good sense of smell. You can use this factor to your advantage whilst working on introductions. Before you go to collect your new cat or kitten, rub your pet’s blanket or a towel over your pet and then rub this all over the new cat or kitten before bringing it home. Part of the acceptance process will be based on scent; so if the newcomer smells familiar it will make initial introductions a lot easier. Allowing your new cat the opportunity to experience smells from its new environment before it arrives, will also be helpful.
Once in your home, the new arrival will probably want to explore his/her surroundings. This must obviously be performed carefully and is best done by shutting your newcomer and present pet/pets into different rooms for a while and then swapping them over. This will allow each animal to familiarize itself with the new scents and learn to accept them.
Cats meeting cats
Unlike dogs, cats are not pack-orientated and can function quite happily on their own. A kitten is less likely to be seen as a threat and will probably be accepted a lot quicker than an older cat. Either way it is best to use a kitten pen during the settling in process for the safety of your newcomer. This will allow both cats to view and sniff each other through the bars without being able to get close enough to cause each other any harm.
When you feel the time is right to let your cats meet face-to-face, choose a suitable room where both cats can hide above ground level or behind furniture if necessary. Feed your present cat and then let the newcomer out to join him/her for a meal, but don’t place them side-by-side initially. You will have to gauge how they get on together and use this as a guide for future meetings. As they get more and more used to each other, you can place the feeding bowls closer together and allow the newcomer more freedom. Always make sure that any time they spend together during this period is seen as a positive experience rather than a negative one – if necessary, use treats to reinforce good behavior.
It is also very important to make sure that both cats have their own beds, bowls and receive equal attention to avoid any jealousy. If you have one cat on your lap for a while, either place the other cat on someone else’s lap for attention at the same time, or swap them over. It is impossible to know how long the settling in process will take, as it could anything from a few days to a few months.
Cats meeting dogs
Cats and dogs are often portrayed as enemies, but in actual fact it is probably easier in some ways to introduce your cat to a dog rather than another cat – as another cat will not be seen as direct competition. However, you will still need to take care, especially if your dog has not been used to a cat before. Even if your dog is friendly and appears to have the best intentions towards your cat, it may be over boisterous and could easily injure your cat or even kill a kitten.
If your newcomer has grown up with dogs then this will make initial contact less frightening for him/her. You must use the same method of introductions and settling in as previously described, although you may need to keep your dog on a lead for the first face-to-face introduction. It is also important to make sure your dog is well trained beforehand, as this will enable you to have more control over the process – again make sure all meetings are seen as positive experiences and use treats to reinforce good behavior.
Cats meeting rabbits
Although many people keep rabbits in hutches, many are house-trained and kept in the house these days. Rabbits and cats can get along well together, but you need to make sure the rabbit is of a certain size – a baby rabbit could be seen as suitable prey. Again you will need to take introductions slowly and use the pen and positive reinforcement system.
Cats meeting other animals
You will need to exercise extreme caution where small rodents, such as hamsters, mice, gerbils, guinea pigs and even birds are concerned, as cats will definitely see them as prey. Although there are always exceptions to the rule, you would be ill advised to introduce your cat to any of these animals.
It is wonderful to see animals getting along well together, even if they can survive quite well on their own. Carrying out slow and careful introductions will ensure that you start off on the right foot, which could make all the difference between success and failure.