The best and safest means to introduce a new cat or kitten to your home and the cats who already live with you
Submitted by ManekiNeko on 2011-11-11
We hear too many sad stories of cats and kittens, recently rehomed, who have either escaped from their new homes to become strays or fallen to their deaths from windows or balconies.
Please give these points some serious consideration before bringing home a new cat or kitten! Cats are creatures of habit. They do not take very well to sudden change. They find being moved from one house or neighborhood to another very stressful, and their first instinct is to try to return to their former home or shelter.
Imagine what it must be like for the poor cat -- she has to get to know new owners as well as confronting changes in food, water, household routines, and rules. She will experience difficulties when introduced into a new home, so if possible, keep to the same food and routine that your new cat was used to before.
She will need to become thoroughly familiar with her new surroundings before she feels comfortable. Being set free in an entire apartment or house can be overwhelming all at once. Many cats will hide under beds or furniture, sometimes for days. It will be much less stressful for your cat to learn about you, your family and your home a little at a time -- the key word is gradually. This is even more important if there are multiple people and/or pets in your household.
When you bring your cat home, place her in one room you have fixed up for her with her food, water, litter box & scratch post. Keep this room closed off, and let her explore that area first. Let the cat come out of her carrier on her own; do not try to coax her or tip the carrier to force her out. Cats are curious, and most will soon come out to explore their surroundings. If the cat seems very timid, you can leave the room for a while and check back later. If you really want to stay in the room, get a book and read. When the cat is ready to come out, stay where you are and let her come to you. Talk in a soft, reassuring tone, pet her if she seems interested. Leave the open carrier in the room, so that she has a safe retreat if she wants one. Give her time to learn that she can trust you.
To establish the best relationship, she must be comfortable with you, with the sound of your voice and with your touch.
As she explores the room, talk to her. It doesn't matter what you say; it is the sound of your voice that matters. If she already has a name, repeat it in a calling tone and use it in different phrases. If she doesn't have a name yet, and you have already chosen a name, use it repeatedly in the manner described above so that she becomes familiar with the sound of her name.Have a variety of playthings placed throughout the room. Once she has finished exploring, get a toy and initiate some play. Make physical contact while playing by petting her back and picking her up gently and setting her right down, so that she learns to associate your touch with the play.
You can try picking her up and petting her in your arms, but if she starts to squirm and obviously wants to get away, never force her to stay. Put her down immediately and distract her again with a toy.
After a bit of play, take her back to her food and water, and encourage her to eat and drink by dipping your finger in the water and taking a piece of food and putting it to her nose. This will establish an important, positive association between you and her food and water by showing that you are now the "provider" of her needs.
It is also important to pet and scratch her when she is calm or resting. This will get her used to your touch outside of playtime, so that she associates you with soothing, pleasant interaction as well.
After a few days, start to introduce her to the rest of the home. Place some toys outside of the room spaced far enough apart to encourage her explore and to show her that her "comfort zone" has expanded.
Open the door making sure it won't accidentally get closed, so she can retreat to her familiar space if she gets scared. Depending upon her personality, she will either readily come out to explore, or be apprehensive at first to venture out of the "safety zone." Either way, let her make her own decisions.
Eventually your new cat or kitten will be comfortable with the entire house, and a positive relationship of trust and security will be established between you.
And lastly, do NOT forget to ensure that all doors and windows are locked as your new cat or kitten is likely to want to escape and return to her former home/shelter at the first chance she gets.
As for introducing your new cat to existing cats in the house, please remember that scents are more important to cats than appearances. Again, the key point to introducing cats is patience! It may take a few hours, a few days, or even a couple of weeks for cats to tolerate each other's company. Let the cats determine the pace.
Always bear in mind that the first introduction is the most important. A bad start can result in your existing cats disliking your new cat.
1. On the first day, let them get used to each other's scents. Rub the new cat's cheeks with a washcloth, and put the washcloth under the food bowl of the existing cat. Do the same with the existing cat, and put the washcloth under the new cat's food bowl. Repeat for a few days until both cats do not react fearfully or aggressively towards the scent of the other.
2. Start mingling their scents by transferring their scents by rubbing the washcloth that has first been rubbed onto the new cat's cheeks onto the existing cat's cheeks and vice versa. You can also transfer and exchange their scents by stroking one cat and then the other. (This assumes that the new cat is free from any diseases.)
3. Observe how the cats interact when they sniff each other through the gap beneath the door. They will let you know when they are ready to see each other when they appear curious and friendly. If your existing cat hisses at the door, it is not time yet to let them meet.
4. Give your existing cat his favourite treat whenever he is sniffing out the new cat at the other side of the door. This allows him to equate pleasure with the presence of the new cat. Praise him and pet him if he shows friendliness.
5. A few times a day (NOT on the first day), take the new cat out and introduce it to another room of the house, and place your existing cat into the room occupied by the new cat. This allows them to check out each other's scent more fully.
6. When the cats appear curious and interested to meet, open the door a small gap and let the cats see each other but not wide enough for them to touch each other. You can do this a few times a day.
7. Slowly, gradually, allow them to see more of each other by opening the door wider. Allow them to be in each other's presence only under close supervision until you are satisfied that they will not fight.
Using this method, you should end up with a pair of cats that will at least tolerate each other, or in best case become friendly companions. Finally, if yours is a multiple cat household, introduce your alpha cat to the new cat first. When your alpha cat accepts the new cat, the other resident cats will follow.
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