Acquainting Your New Cat With Other Pets
Filed in Cats, Behavior and Training
If only you were Dr. Doolittle. Then you could talk to your animals and explain to them in a calm, soothing voice about the newest member of your family. Wouldn't this be great? All the animals would understand their role and welcome the new kitten with open paws. But since your home isn't a Hollywood movie set, it's up to you to prepare your pets and your new cat for what's to come.
Like all of us, animals establish a hierarchy of who is top dog, so to speak. Doesn't matter if you're introducing your new kitten to the resident dog or your older cat, a social structure exists. Every pet has and knows its place in the family.
When you bring a new cat into the mix, all the pets have to reestablish where they fit on the totem pole of family life. Dogs establish who is the alpha figure, meaning the one who is in charge, making all the other ones fall in line. Cats are very territorial. They establish boundaries, order, protocol and ceremony between each other. Sometimes it can take months to balance out this power structure between all of the pets.
Your new kitten will have to feel her own way, learn where she fits in and find a way to belong. She'll be a little scared and confused at first. But don't worry, your new kitten is not alone. She has you to help her ease into her new surroundings.
Use these tips to help her and her new roommates feel right at home.
- If you can, bring something of the new kitten's, like a blanket, into the home before you actually bring her home. This way the other pets can get used to the new kitten's smell, as well as the idea of having her around. Make sure your resident cat's vaccinations are up-to-date.
- Let the other pets check out the new cat in the carrier first, especially if you have a dog to introduce (keep Fido on a lead until both parties are comfortable). Let them smell, stare, bark or hiss. Barking or hissing is a normal way of saying "Hey, I'm the boss around here." If things get out of hand, take the carrier into another room. Let the commotion die down for awhile, then try again. Keep the kitten in a separate room during this process and give him a separate food and water dish, and his own litter box. If the other pets are sniffing the door or talking to the kitten, that's great. They're just getting acquainted.
- After a day or more of this carrier peek-a-boo, try putting them together again. Do not just leave them alone. As the parent, it's up to you to supervise the co-mingling. If negotiations are still uneasy take the kitten back to his room and try again later. Even if the meeting goes well, return the kitten to its room when you're too busy to watch.
- After a few days, you can try putting them together in the same room, but don't leave them alone just yet. Make sure your new kitten has a means of escape if things get ugly. A towel or a broom is a good way to break up a fight between two cats (don't hit them, only try to separate them). If a problem arises, you'll hear it and can take action. Only after you're convinced that all animals are getting along safely should you leave them alone for longer periods. It's worth the effort to have the entire family get along.
- If this homemade partnership still isn't working, seek the advice of a behavioral specialist.