Tips for introducing a new cat to your family
Most of our cats and kittens go to homes with other cats, and adopters always ask the best way to do introductions. Here are some things we've learned along the way that will help ease the transition:
PREPARING FOR YOUR NEW BUNDLE OF JOY
Start swapping scents!
- Depending on the adoption process, you might be able to do a "scent swap" prior to taking your new kitty home. You may have seen us doing this with the Jungle Kittens. This involves trading a blanket or bed from your house for a blanket that smells like your new kitten. It's a non-threatening way to start getting them used to each other's scents.
- We also try to send our kitties to their new homes with their favorite toys that smell like their moms and/or siblings, so they have something familiar and comforting with them.
- Of course, you want to make sure everyone is healthy before swapping so you don't introduce germs or parasites.
Set up a "safe" room for the new kitty.
- Ideally, this is a smaller room that can be closed off from the rest of the house, with new beds, toys, scratching posts, litterboxes and a feeding station.
- If you're worried about New Kitty or Old Kitty being stressed out, get some Feliway. This can help lessen anxiety.
- When you arrive with New Kitty, take them directly to their safe room and let them out of the carrier to explore their new space. This is not a good time to introduce Old Kitty, so resist the urge!
- Give New Kitty plenty of love, reassurance and treats.
- Old Kitty will be suspicious. Once New Kitty is settled in their room, make sure Old Kitty gets lots of love, reassurance and treats.
WHAT IF NEW KITTY RUNS AND HIDES?
- Sit on the floor a few feet away, and talk soothingly to them for a few minutes.
- Some cats will respond fairly quickly to toys (especially iPads!), others to treats.
- If you find something that catches their attention, great - keep doing it until they become more comfortable.
- If the cat is not showing interest in toys or treats, leave some treats out and give them some time on their own to start to get comfortable.
- Come back in the room once they've had some time to explore on their own and see if they've made any progress.
- If they run and hide when you enter, or if they are still hiding, bring a a book or a laptop and sit quietly in the room.
- Try putting a Feliway diffuser in the room. Soothing music helps sometimes too.
- It may take a couple of days for them to feel really comfortable, and that's perfectly normal! The most important thing is to show them lots of love, and let them become comfortable at their own pace.
ONCE NEW KITTY IS COMFORTABLE...
- Start swapping bedding, blankets, toys, or even laundry that has your scent and the cats' scents. This will get them used to each other in a loving, non-threatening manner.
- Start giving both kitties treats on each side of the closed door, so they associate happy-treat-time with each other.
- If neither kitty is hissing/growling, they're probably ready to meet!
- Don't worry if they are hissing/growling - that's perfectly normal. Give them extra time to get used to each other through the door, and gradually allow them to see each other.
THE BIG INTRODUCTION!
- When you think both kitties are ready, it's time!
- Clip everyone's nails so no one gets scratched.
- Make sure you supervise until you are confident neither kitty will hurt the other.
- Open the door and let New Kitty start to explore at their own pace.
- Don't force it! They'll approach each other at their own pace, and forcing it can leave a lasting negative impression.
- Ideally, one person is with New Kitty, and one is with Old Kitty, and both are giving tons of love, treats and reassurance.
- See if you can interest them in playing iPad games or with their favorite toys.
- There will likely be hissing, growling and swatting at first. This is totally normal, and it's ok if it happens during the transition period as long as it doesn't become aggressive.
- Once you are comfortable that neither kitty will hurt the other, you can let them get to know each other at their own pace, without supervision.
- It's very important to make sure both kitties get lots of love, treats and reassurance throughout the entire process!
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?
- Like humans, every cat is different. It generally takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for New Kitty and Old Kitty to adjust to one another.
- The key is being patient, never forcing an interaction, and giving them nothing but love, treats and reassurance.
- It may be frustrating at first, but if you can stick with it, it will be so worthwhile!
IT'S NOT WORKING - HELP!!If you're worried about how things are going, here are a few things to try:
- Ask your vet for advice. Illness and stress are two factors that can contribute to aggressive behavior, and your vet can help identify and treat any possible trigger points.
- If it's one of my cats or kittens, definitely contact me! I want to know if they aren't thriving and happy, and I will help however I can.
- Try starting the introduction process over from the beginning, taking each step very slowly.
- In rare cases, you can do everything right and still end up with one or more cats who are aggressive and/or unhappy. As heartbreaking as this can be, it's better to consider returning them to the shelter to be rehomed than to keep them in a situation that is stressful or harmful. Remember Smokey? She was adopted and then returned several months later because the other cat in the house was very aggressive toward her. LAPS was able to find an absolutely wonderful home where she is now so happy and loved!