Adding a new member to your feline family is usually more exciting for you than your current cat. Even though they are solitary by nature, most cats eventually learn to accept or at least tolerate newcomers. Because they are very territorial, the way you go about introducing the new cat to your existing cat can mean the difference between success or “cat-astrophe. "
The introduction process can take as little as 10-12 days for kittens and very young cats, to as long as 12 weeks for older cats. It all depends on each cat's personality. Be sure to give your “first" cat plenty of attention. This will help him feel secure that he is not in competition for your affection.
Confine your new cat to a “safe" room until the introduction process is complete. This should be a small room, such as a bathroom or small bedroom that your current cat rarely visits. Furnish it with a bed, scratching post, food, water and litter box.
In the beginning, your first cat may hiss and yowl at the cat on the other side of the door. Just ignore him and walk away. Never punish him for vocalizing aggressively, it will only cause trouble between the two cats. Be sure to praise and pet your first cat when he acts calmly when near the new cat's room.
After a few days, take a rag or washcloth and rub it over your new cat as you pet and play with her. Use a different rag to do the same thing with your first cat. At feeding time, put each cat's scented rag under the other cat's bowl. This will help them associate the other cat's scent with something positive-food. Lots of little feedings each day will help them get used to the smell more quickly. Be sure to renew the scent on the rags each day.
Next, you can feed them in closer proximity. Keep your new cat in her “safe" room with the door firmly closed, and place each cat's dish on their side of the door. Be sure to feed them at the same time. Once they both eat with no growling or hissing, you can move to the next level of the introduction.
Close your first cat in a room he likes to frequent, making sure he has water, some favorite food and a litter box. Let your new cat out to explore the house. After a few hours, put her back in her room and let your first cat out. He will probably hiss and fuss when he smells another cat's scent in HIS territory. Again, be patient and praise him when he acts calmly. Repeat this activity at least once a day until both cats seem comfortable.
Before you let the cats have full access to one another, let them come face to face in a safe situation. Use two hard plastic doorstops to jam the door to the new cat's room open a mere 2-3 inches. Check that the door can't be pushed open any further, and that neither cat can get its head through the opening. The object is to give them a chance to swat paws at one another and even go nose to nose without the opportunity for full body contact. Feed each cat on their respective side of the door. Once they no longer hiss or growl at one another, you can try playing with both of them in the same room.
© 2005, Kathy Burns-Millyard.
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