My cat has accumulated her fair share of diverse experiences. She has cohabited with kittens, cats, dogs, roommates, and even a snake at one point. She has taken flights out of state with me during my seasonal work and endured long road trips. Currently, her life includes the periodic arrival of foster kittens, who share our home while they grow and learn.
However, she remains blissfully unaware of her upcoming experience: welcoming a new feline family member into our home as a permanent sister, not merely as a temporary foster. Despite having faced new environments, people, and animals throughout her life, she isn’t particularly skilled at making new acquaintances. Consequently, I’ve encountered numerous challenges when introducing new cats to my home with her as the less-than-enthusiastic host.
Each household has its unique dynamics, making it impossible to prescribe a one-size-fits-all approach to introducing a new cat to your existing feline family. Cats have varying temperaments, making it challenging to guarantee a harmonious introduction. Nevertheless, cats are instinctual creatures, and certain strategies can help facilitate a smooth transition. Successful introductions are primarily about selecting a new feline family member whose personality aligns with your existing cats. You need to understand each pet’s individual situation, prepare for special cases, and adapt to your new normal.
Selecting the Right Feline Family Member for Your Home
In many instances, we don’t get to choose the new cat that becomes a part of our family. Whether we adopt a stray that wandered onto our porch or take in a cat from a family member or friend, we often accept the cat we receive because it needs a home. However, when adopting a cat from a shelter, you can avoid many personality clashes by carefully considering the right temperament for your home.
For example, if your current cats enjoy playfulness, it might be wise to adopt a playful cat. On the other hand, if your cats prefer a more relaxed atmosphere, an older or mellower cat could be a better fit. Matching personalities can enhance their cohesiveness.
Remember, it’s not just about finding a cat that fits well with your other cats; it’s also about choosing one that suits your family and lifestyle. If you have children, other pets, or travel frequently, you’ll want a cat that can adapt to those circumstances. Conducting this research beforehand can make the introduction process easier on you, your cats, and your new family member. Additionally, ensure that the cat you bring home has received all necessary vaccinations, and keep your current pets’ vaccinations up to date as well.
Managing Your New Cat
When introducing your new cat to your home, it’s crucial to consider their perspective. Many cats dislike change, and moving to a new home is a daunting experience for them. They are unfamiliar with you, the new environment, and the other people or animals in your household. Consequently, it’s essential to give your new cat ample time to feel secure. Just as you would take precautions when relocating your current pets to a new home, your new cat will require similar accommodations. Provide them with their own space initially, preferably a cozy bedroom or office. Ensure they have a place to hide, a bed, food, water, and a litter box. Using pheromone products like Feliway MultiCat can help ease tensions for both your new cat and your current ones.
Gradually introduce your current cat’s scent to the new cat by placing a cloth that you’ve rubbed on your current cat near the new cat’s food. This will help your new cat associate your current cat’s scent with something positive, such as eating. Follow the same procedure for your other pets and the new cat’s scent. Don’t hesitate to follow their cues. Some cats may acclimate more quickly than others. If your new cat and your other cats initiate a meeting without incident, allow them to continue. If you have a dog, exercise caution when introducing your new cat to the dog.
Managing Your Current Cats
Your current cats are also resistant to change, and a newcomer may feel like an intruder in their territory. Therefore, it’s beneficial to provide your current cats with a space to retreat to and feel safe. Cats may resort to aggression, marking, or destructive behavior when responding to a new animal. To mitigate these reactions, allow each animal to take their time. Gradually introduce their scents and allow them to express any discomfort. Some level of sniffing and hissing is normal. However, if you observe more aggressive behavior, such as flattened ears or crouching, intervene with a loud noise (like shaking a rattle) or separate the animals until they can attempt to interact again.
“Only child” cats may find the introduction process more challenging due to their lack of experience with other cats. Be prepared for this process to take longer. If your current cats exhibit increasing aggression, consider reaching out to your local shelter, veterinarian, or a cat behaviorist for additional guidance on promoting harmony among your cats.
Preparing for Special Cases
When introducing a cat with special circumstances, be ready to take extra precautions during their initial meetings. Special cases may involve adopting a semi-feral cat, a declawed cat, an undersocialized cat, or a cat with specific needs. Although these cases may demand more vigilance during introductions, they can still result in a successful and fulfilling bond. Cats with special circumstances tend to be more challenging to find homes for, so adopting one is a commendable gesture, and these cats often form a deep appreciation for their adopters.
Feral, stray, or undersocialized cats will require additional time to adapt, so patience is essential. Keep a watchful eye, as these cats may exhibit more aggressive behavior due to their previous survival experiences in the wild. Remember that even if they are initially more aggressive, it does not signify a lost cause. These cats simply need more time, patience, and careful monitoring to ensure everyone’s safety.
A declawed cat requires special care to prevent them from getting into a situation where they cannot defend themselves. Consequently, they should not be allowed outdoors at all. A special needs cat with a disability or medical issue may require extra time to adjust to their new home. However, as long as you are prepared to meet their long-term care needs, they can become perfect companions for your other cats. If you are introducing a declawed cat to a home with cats that have claws, consider trimming your current cats’ nails with cat nail clippers for everyone’s safety.
Your New Normal
It is wise to prepare for what your new normal will entail. In some multi-cat households, the cats coexist in one space relatively peacefully, akin to slightly indifferent roommates. Occasional hisses may occur, but they never develop a close bond. This scenario is perfectly acceptable, as many cats thrive in this normal. In other cases, cats meet and enjoy each other’s company, grooming, playing, or simply resting near each other. This, too, is perfectly fine. Everyone’s normal is unique. Just remember that you have access to resources if your cats encounter difficulties while adjusting to each other. Your local shelter, a cat behaviorist, or your veterinarian can offer solutions for addressing aggression or marking.
In my household, the introduction process is nearly identical each time. The new cat or cats receive their own space, my cat investigates, hisses, and eventually withdraw