TWO CATS ARE BETTER THAN ONE! HOW TO PROPERLY INTRODUCE A NEW CAT
Jenny Smith was thinking about getting a second cat to join her household. However, she was not so sure her 5-year-old cat Sweetie, pampered little queen of the household, would be pleased about a newcomer arriving. Jenny rescued Sweetie as a tiny kitten, and Sweetie had no experience interacting or playing with another feline. Could Sweetie learn to share all the attention with a stranger after all these years? Jenny contacted Loving All Animals about getting a rescue cat. It was agreed that it could be a disastrous pet introduction if the adoption meeting was not handled properly. This is even more likely with a cat like Sweetie who was never socialized with other cats. A meeting was scheduled when Jenny had several hours to try a “new cat introduction” method which explained in great detail in the book, The New Natural Cat by Anitra Frazier. The basic steps for introducing a new cat are listed below.
An adoption counselor brought the newcomer, a kitten later named Iris, in a carrying case to Jenny Smith’s home. Jenny was instructed to ignore Iris. Sweetie was present in the living room, but she purposefully pretended not to know Iris had arrived. Several steps involved moving the animals closer, and requiring the humans to ignore the newcomer until their older cat accepted the new one. Success here meant there was no “cat fighting” and no hissing. The drama unfolded as Sweetie appeared more curious than threatened by Iris. Jenny was amazed that there was no hissing or fighting between the two. A couple weeks later, Jenny reported the two cats were bonding and she caught Sweetie licking Iris a couple times. For the first time Sweetie is learning the joy of playing with a member of her own species. Jenny reports, “It took about a month for them to become best buddies, but now they go everywhere together. Sweetie is very protective if anything happens with Iris. They especially love playing together in paper grocery bags”. Little tabby Iris loves to play with Sweetie on their shared cat tree, pictured here with Jenny.
Careful planning avoids the horrible hissing and fighting that occurs when some cats meet for the first time. This great introduction method allows folks to adopt a second cat without worry. What could be more fun than 2 cats engaged in joyful play, happily pouncing and chasing, twirling like circus acrobats? If she could talk, Sweetie would agree that two cats are better than one!
INTRODUCING A NEW CAT TO THE HOUSEHOLD
Many owners think their “Fluffy” would be jealous or miserable if they adopted another cat. To the contrary, cats who live with a cat friend live longer, healthier and happier lives. Selecting one that compliments your cat’s personality is always a good idea. If you have an elderly cat, a mature and calm companion works better than an active kitten. If you have an energetic cat, one that is equally playful or a kitten would be a good match. The steps below may take several hours to complete, but are well worth the investment when they spare you days of hissing and “cat fighting”. These steps will prove helpful if you decide to adopt a second or third cat. This is also good information if you are blending “cat families” with a new roommate or spouse.
1. Have someone outside the household, preferrably a stranger, arrive with the newcomer cat in a carrying case with plenty of air holes. Have torn strips of newspaper in the bottom of the case for later use.
2. All family members must act completely oblivious to the new cat. The visitor sits in the living room with the cat inside the carrying case on his lap for about 20 minutes.
3. After 20 minutes, the visitor moves the carrying case containing the new cat to the floor next to his feet. If your cat comes over and sniffs the case and walks away, ignore him, continue chatting and proceed to step 5. If your cat stays away from the case, include step 4.
4. The visitor takes a few of the newspaper strips from the carrier, makes a trip to another room dropping a trail of the strips behind them. This gives your cat a chance to become familiar with the new cat’s scent from a safe distance.
5. Have the visitor continue to sit and talk a while longer. When your cat sits calmly in the room without staring continually at the carrying case, you may proceed to the next step.
6. Have all family members take your cat into the kitchen for a snack, closing the door behind. The visitor in the living room now opens the carrying case and lets the new cat out. Your cat won’t feel like its family put the newcomer in its territory, and this gives the new one some time to explore the new home without being quite so tense.
7. When your cat finishes his snack and decides to return to the living room, the family stays behind in the kitchen.
8. When the cat returns to the living room, the visitor joins the family in the kitchen. Everyone acts oblivious to the cats who are now roaming free in the home.
9. At no time should anyone offer expression of encouragement or interest in the cats. If you must check on things in the living room, have one person enter but without paying obvious attention to the cats. At this stage, hissing is perfectly normal; disgruntled muttering is less desirable but still to be ignored. However, if loud growling and screaming occur, you may need to separate them, and this may mean one of the earlier steps was not carried out properly.
10. When the cats reach the stage where they are not pacing around, but sitting in the same room together, the humans leave the house for about a 30 minute walk.
11. When you return home, greet your own cat while continuing to ignore the newcomer. If there is nothing worse than hissing going on, the visitor can leave at any time.
12. The final stage of the introduction occurs at the cats’ own pace over the next few days or weeks. Hard as it might be, you and your family must continue to ignore the new cat, not touching or talking to him, until your first cat has accepted him into the household. Chasing can be a good sign, especially if they reverse roles. Another sign of progress occurs when the cats sit in the same room without staring continuously at each other. Encourage activities for the 2 cats to do together, such as putting a couple of cardboard boxes together in a room for them to play on.
The reward for all this work comes from the strong bond of communication and affection that develops between the two cats. Eventually that bond extends to their human companions. Watch the drama unfold, be proud of your success, and enjoy having two little furballs greet you when you arrive home! Your cat will never be lonely now when you’re away from home.
Looking for second or third cat to complete your household? The Riverside County Shelter, the Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms, is a great place to find a new feline companion. You can view their adoptable animals on their website at www.rcdas.org . This website includes the pets available at both Thousand Palms and City of Riverside shelter locations. With the proper introduction, one of these wonderful cats or kittens can become a joyful addition to your household.