Not sure how to go forward with introducing your cats? This blog is just for you!
Successfully introducing a new cat to your already established resident cat is hugely important, and the steps you take can critically affect the way the following weeks, months, and even years will play out in your home. Moving is hard for everyone, including your cats!
A hasty or unplanned introduction can lead to adverse behaviors including:
- physical altercations – fights
- inappropriate elimination habits – peeing and pooping outside of the litter box
- inappropriate scratching – no high quality furniture allowed in these scenarios
- anxiety and overwhelm – if you’ve experience these two feelings yourself, you know they are to be avoided at all costs
- over-grooming – bald spots
- escape attempts
It doesn’t have to be this way! Introducing cats CAN go smoothy, and it’s possible they will become best of friends. Below are FIVE tips discussing simple but important ways on successfully introducing your cats.
ONE: MAKE SURE ALL CATS ARE HEALTHY.
A sick kitty is an upset kitty. It’s true that cats are very stoic when it comes to illness and pain. However, there are a few tell tail signs. Some of these signs include hiding, inappetence, and change in behavior (ding ding ding). If any of the cats meeting are not feeling well, the success of that interaction is going to be greatly compromised.
Make sure that your cat, and the cat being introduced into the household, have had a thorough physical exam by a veterinarian that you trust. Knowing the vaccine history of every cat (especially rabies vaccine) and their leukemia/feline aids status (pray for negative!) is also extremely important.
A healthy cat is a more comfortable and happy cat. This is your first step!
TWO: FEEL GOOD PHEROMONES.
Cats are extremely territorial. This is why transitions, such as car rides, veterinary visits, moving locations, and adding new family members can be so difficult for them.
When a cat is comfortable, they rub their face on items around them (including you!). By doing so, they are marking these areas and releasing a facial pheromone. Sort of cool, right?
By using synthetic copies of certain feline pheromones in your house, you can help boost the comfort level of the cats during uncomfortable transitions.
The feline pheromone that I recommend is Feliway. These come as diffusers that you plug into the wall, or sprays. They even make a Multi-Cat version. This version is a synthetic copy of a different pheromone, one that mimics a pheromone mama cat releases from her mammary area when her litter is young and still nursing. This pheromone promotes bonding between mama and kittens, and keeps kittens feeling secure and safe.
Other indicators that your cats are comfortable include:
- Happy greetings – her tail is upright and quivering, and she is rubbing against you
- Exploring – she is hiding less, and exploring, playing, openly resting more
- Affectionate – she is seeking affection from you .. or even the other cat(s) in the house
- Talking – happy cats are often real talkers
THREE: GIVE THEM LOTS OF SPACES TO “FEEL SAFE”.
Introducing cats is often really intimidating and scary for all cats involved. Scared cats are hidden cats. They will find any space to disappear, and no place is too small – inside your couch, under your bed, inside the cabinets, behind or under appliances, are just a few examples.
Boost their feelings of security by offering them their own spaces to hide. Cardboard boxes or laundry baskets are great common household items to use. I’d recommend laying their favorite blanket or toy in it as well, to make it feel extra comfortable.
Using high perches, such as cat trees, is another a great idea. My resident cat loves her cat tree so much! Most cat trees are made of carpet, so this also gives them an appropriate spot to scratch.
When your hiding cat does come out of hiding, offer them high value treats (my cat thinks freeze dried treats are an actual gift from God!). By praising them with love when they appear on their own terms, you are creating a positive association with this behavior, thus increasing the likeliness for it to happen again.
FOUR: NUTRACEUTICALS & SUPPLEMENTS.
Let’s start with the obvious: Discuss these with your trusted veterinarian first!
Zylkene is a feline-safe nutraceutical often used for cats with anxiety. Zylkene’s active ingredient is Alpha-Casozepine, which is derived from casein (a protein in milk). Alpha-Casozepine is structurally similar to, and binds with, GABA (a neurotransmitter which helps to control anxiety and fear when neurons become overexcited).
CBD is another great option! It is being used now more than ever, and is quickly finding it’s way into veterinary medicine. People and animals are experiencing major reduction in anxious feelings when using CBD supplements.
Dr. Angie Krause with Boulder Holistic Vet is becoming a pioneer for cannabis use in animals. She is a plethora of knowledge, and sells safe pet specific CBD supplements all across the country (click here to shop online). She takes the time to read and respond to every email, whether from Australia, California, or New York.
These supplements come in liquid form, treats, and cookies!
FIVE: ONCE THE CATS ARE FINALLY MEETING…KEEP SEPARATED AND GO SLOW!
It’s imperative that you don’t just throw all the cats in the same room and see what happens. This is a true recipe for disaster!
Start by keeping the resident cat separated from the newbie cat. I’d recommend keeping the newbie cat in a smaller room, and allowing the established resident cat to have free range of the rest of the house.
This also means that they have their own resources (food, water, litter boxes, toys).
Once all cats have had some time to sniff around, do what’s called “site swapping”. Start slow by swapping their beds and blankets. Then do a full site swap where cats trade rooms, and areas of the house. This allows them to smell each other, and get to know the new situation and environment, without having direct visual contact.
Next, begin feeding them by the door that is separating them. Place their bowls approximately 3 feet from the door, on either side. If this isn’t enough space, and either cat is exhibiting behaviors like hissing or swatting under the door, extend beyond the 3 feet point. Now, they are really smelling (and hearing!) each other, but they are so distracted by their delicious meal, that they don’t mind. Slowly move the bowls closer and closer to the door, and even replace the door with a gate (covered by a towel). The true trick here is to go slow and only when every cat has given cues that it’s comfortable with this change.
The next step is supervised visits in the same room, filled with lots of love, treats, toys, and meals! Do this at their pace only. Once again – go slow! Eventually, this supervised time will become longer and longer in duration.. and soon your cats will be sharing the same space on their own.
Like I’ve said before, cats are extremely territorial. It’s really important that your resident cat not feel threatened by the new cat arriving into his/her territory. Knowing to go slow, and having “tools in your toolbox” to increase feelings of safety and security, are going to help set your cats up for a successful life together.
Make sense? I hope this helps promote a purr-fect introduction between your kitties.
Let us know about your experience with introducing cats in your house hold. What worked? What didn’t work? We want to hear it!