Introducing Your New Feline Friend
It is no secret that cats are very territorial and finicky creatures. They prefer things to be “just so”, feeling safe in a consistent and relaxed environment. It is important to keep this in mind when bringing a new feline companion into the home for the first time, whether this is a single cat household, or introducing the cat into an established “cat society”.
If adopting a cat from a shelter or from the streets, keep in mind that this cat may have unknown trauma that may cause some adjustment and trust issues. With lots of love, patience and understanding, you and your new family member can create a strong, harmonious bond. The first couple of weeks is a very important time for you and your new cat. Pay attention to signals your new furry friend is giving you, and make sure to always be respectful of their space and desires. If your new cat is not ready to cuddle, respect that and give them lots of room to explore and take in their new environment.
Multi-cat household have an established “cat society”, a hierarchy and a flow. Bringing a new cat into the society disrupts the flow and can cause headaches, but they don’t have to last long. It is important to empathize with the stress that your resident cats feel when big changes happen, especially when bringing a new cat into the house. If you are willing to go through the necessary steps, you can avoid headaches down the road.
THE SLOW INTRODUCTION METHOD
They key is a slow, supervised introduction. Cats rely on their instincts and senses to keep themselves safe and alert in the wild. This does not change during domestication. If bringing a new cat into a single cat household, it is important to provide your cat with a designated space that they can safely explore and get used to the new sensations around them. A small room with little clutter is ideal. Over stimulation of the senses in a new environment can be overwhelming for the cat, so providing a simple and clean space allows them to process each smell, feel, sound and sight. Make sure to spend plenty of time in the room with your new pal, allowing them to explore your smells. After a few days, open the door and allow your cat to explore the rest of their new home if they are ready.
THE SLOW INTRODUCTION METHOD IN MULTI-CAT HOUSEHOLDS
Similarly, if bringing a new cat into an established cat society, follow the same steps as above. Little by little over the period of a week open the door ajar to allow your resident cats to see/smell the new cat without full exposure, but always keeping the door only partially open. Allow them to have time to take in the scents of the new cat. Many owners will place food bowls during feeding in front of the door to allow all cats to associate feeding with one another. Remember, hissing, growling and attempted batting are all normal behaviors during cat introductions. Your cats should be supervised at all times during initial introductions in case things get physical.
If your cats need more time to adjust to one another, put the new cat back into their “safe room” with pieces of cloth that has your other cat’s scents and your scent on them. It may take several separations over the first couple of weeks to get everyone acquainted, and that is completely natural. Make sure during this time you are giving all cats lots of love, attention and affection to help ease jealous tension and territorial tendencies.
It will take time for your new cat to adjust to their new home. Don’t worry if your new cat is not ready to be social right away. Additionally, if your cat refuses to eat or drink the first day or two, don’t panic. They are in stimulation overload by their new environment, and may need time to get used to their surroundings before they are willing to eat. If this behavior persists for more than two days, consult your veterinarian.