How to Introducing New Cat in your Home?
Unfortunately, most cat owners who decide to add another cat to their cabals do not stop to consider the gravity of their ambitions. They assume that all they have to do is call a meeting, take the new cat out of its carrier, present it to the old cat and say, “Stonewall, this is General Grant. He’s going to be playing with your toys, using your litter pan, drinking from your water bowl and sharing the bed with us. Isn’t he cute?”
At which point Stonewall is thinking “Right. He’s about as cute as a dried-up hairball. If that sucker tries to sleep in my bed, I’ll close his eyes for good.”
Introducing one cat to another, while not as difficult as negotiating peace in the Middle East, does require some forethought. The following advice should help to smooth the introductory process.
Forewarned is For Sure
The time to start planning for the new arrival, whom Stonewall will no doubt consider The Horrible, Unwelcome Guest (THUG), is before you find a poor shadow of a kitten hunched beneath your car in the garage; before some battered old tomcat starts hanging around the servants’ entrance cadging a meal; or before you pass a pet store and decide you have to have one of those kittens in the window. In short, the time to get ready is now.
We Hold These Truths
We begin with the following assumptions: Your present cat is altered. Your present cat spends some or all of its time indoors. You own a carrier in which you transport your cat to the vet every time it sneezes. You have a spare litter pan. Your cat is currently vaccinated for distemper, rabies, feline leukemia and any other syndrome for which there is a cc of prevention. If you cannot say yes to these assumptions, you should not say yes when introducing new cat crooks its finger at you beckoningly.
Timing is Everything
Before you bring THUG home, you should prepare a room where he will spend some time in quarantine. Do not choose Stonewall’s favorite sanctuary or resting-place for this function. The idea is to fit THUG into Stonewall’s routine, not to make Stonewall feel dethroned.
The solitary-confinement approach is recommended on two counts. First, no one should be introducing new cat without first isolating it for a while, no matter what the feleuk test said. Second, a quarantine period allows THUG to take the measure of his new surroundings before Stonewall takes the measure of him.
Until you are satisfied that THUG is not harboring any contagions that did not show up at the vet inspection – that is, for ten days to two weeks – he should have no direct and prolonged contact with Stonewall. For the first few days, they can exchange sniffs and resumes from either side of the closed door.
Opening Salvos to Help Introducing New Cat
When you feel the time is right – and after you have clipped everyone’s claws – put THUG into the cat carrier, open the door to his room, and allow Stonewall to come in and conduct a prescreening interview of fifteen or twenty minutes. Be sure to take up THUG’s water bowl, food dish and litter pan first in case he is radioactive for some disease.
Brief, repeated visits like this help to foster the development of social-greeting behavior. More than any other kind of interaction they enable cats to share accommodations peacefully.
Do not be discomfited by hissing, growling, back arching, signifying, or big-tail displays from one or both cats at first. And do not fret if Stonewall goes off his food, off to the farthest reaches of the house to sulk, or off to neighbor’s back door for a day or two.
After no more than a fortnight you should be ready to take away the training wheels and allow Stonewall and THUG to try unfettered, but not unsupervised, contact. Bring Stonewall into the isolation ward for a visit, but this time do not confine THUG beforehand. Put Stonewall on the floor, retire to a neutral corner, and have a blanket, a broom, and a high-velocity water gun handy just in case. All should go well, but if the rare life-threatening fight erupts, separate the combatants, wrap one in the blanket and return him to accustomed place. Reinstate the brief visitations in a day or so and then attempt the free-range introduction several days after that. And do not expect miracles.
“It may well be,” write British cat behaviorists Pete Neville, Bsc., and Claire Bessant, Bsc., “that you can only hope for a slightly distant but tolerant relationship between you and two (cats), not a loving, curl-up-by-the-fire-in-a-heap one.” An armed truce, however, is better than armed combat.
The Bottom Lines
If Stonewall and THUG manage to occupy the same room on three of four successive days without trying to give one another a buzz cut, you can quit the room with confidence, but do not leave the house. You want to be around if peace does not prove transferable. (You can help to ensure that peace is transferable by providing each cat with its own food dish, scratching post and litter pan. Cats, like most perpetual youngsters, do not like to share.)
Finally, you should put yourself in your cat’s place. How would you feel if your spouse, roommate or whatever brought someone home one day without consulting you, then announced that that individual was going to be living in your house? An announcement of that kind in the human world is often followed by a visit from the SWAT team – even if the newcomer arrives with a negative AIDS test. Why should a cat’s reaction be any different?