It’s a very exciting time when you adopt a new kitten or cat and bring them home with you. It can also be worrying and stressful as you’re unsure how your existing pets will take it. In this post Wagmo breaks down some tips and general rules to follow when introducing your new cat to existing pets in the home. Patience, patience, patience, this can take up to several months in some cases.
Separate Spaces & Scent Swapping
To reduce stress for all the animals, decide on a room in the home where you can set up as the new cats ‘base camp’ for a few hours, or sometimes a few days. This is done to help them de-stress as well as allow them time to adjust to new smells.
Leave the new cat in the room for as long as they are comfortable, once they want to begin exploring the home, they will let you know, then you can swap spaces with the existing pets. Bring the new cat out to explore the house and put your existing animals in the base camp room. This is a great way to get all the animals in the home used to each other's scent before they even meet.
For this to be a successful method you must make sure there are enough items in the room that will absorb scent. This includes blankets, carpets, cardboard scratches, or scratching posts. This is an awesome way for animals to communicate with one another that ‘I live here’.
Routine Feeding Time
It can be super important to not ‘free feed’ your existing animals, but rather establish a set feeding routine everyday. This can be super helpful during the introduction process as now your existing and new cat can come together for a shared feeding experience, resulting in them accepting a shared existence and way of being.
Opposite Sides Of The Door Method
When introducing your animals try the ‘opposite side of the door’ feeding method. This is usually most successful after you’ve done the scent swapping exercise we mentioned earlier.
Put the new cat's food on one side of a door, and your existing animal's food on the other. They can smell and hear each other from under the door, and even peek around the door to catch a glimpse of one another. If this goes well you can slowly move the bowls closer and closer. Baby gates also work perfectly as the animals can see and smell each other as they eat, but it reduces the risk of an attack.
This helps create a positive association between animals. They have to get close to one another during meal time, and they love meal time!
Be careful of putting the bowls too close together too quickly. This can leave room for trouble or an unexpected incident. Sometimes we don’t know how territorial our existing animals are until another animal comes into the picture. This is why socialising our animals is so important!
If you sense an attack or altercation coming on, have a sight blocker on the ready. This can be simply closing the door, or blocking their view of one another with a blanket. If removing their sight of one another doesn’t help and they are still looking for a fight, you can use the blanket escape method as a last resort. Toss it over the cat, scoop them up and remove them from the room. This protects both you and the cat from an attack and scratches.
In the case of an accident it's important to be prepared with pet insurance that covers wellness costs as well. Cat pet insurance can cover the costs of emergency vet visits and medication such as antibiotics in the case of an animal attack. Cat wellness plans can help cover any additional office visits, blood work, and the necessary vaccines your new kitten will need anyways.
This can be super helpful for dog to cat introductions. For many dogs, they need to be taught to not chase or be too rough with the cat. So it is important to reinforce good behavior when the cat is around. Offer a treat when the dog ‘sits’ or ‘stays’ while the cat is around and particularly when they are eating.
It’s important to not punish your dog every time the cat is around. This can cause the dog to associate that bad things happen whenever the cat is around. This can cause the dog to have aggressive behavior towards the cat.
Litter Box Etiquette
If you have a dog and are introducing a cat into the family, be prepared for your dog to be interested in the litter box. While it is not dangerous to the dog’s health if they eat out of the litter box (yuck!), it can be quite distasteful to us and the cat. Cats can feel like their vulnerable space has been invaded and may not like to use the litter box anymore.
The best thing to do is put the litter box somewhere the dog doesn't have access to. For example: behind a baby gate; in a closet with the door anchored open from both sides and just wide enough for your cat; inside a tall, topless cardboard box with easy access for your cat, or any other creative ideas you come up with.
Preparation and Planning
If you're nervous about how the introduction will go, talk to your veterinarian. Our Wagmo Wellness plans cover office visits and calls so you can talk to your vet about all of your concerns at no cost.
The longer animals don’t get along, the harder it gets to resolve the issue. To make sure neither animal gets injured during the introduction process it is important to do your research, talk to a professional, and make sure you have pet coverage in case something happens.
Our pet wellness and pet insurance costs are competitive so you can receive that monthly peace of mind without breaking the bank. Take our coverage quiz and get your quote today.