Making Harmonious Cat to Cat Introductions
Two (or three) cats can be better than one! With two cats in your home, your family will be able to enjoy the true social nature of cats and their relationship with each other. Having a playmate provides companionship and active stimulation during your absence and keeps both cats more playful and youthful in their later years. But how you prepare for the new cat’s arrival and how you manage the transition is very important.
Cats, in general, are very cautious of new places and things. They don’t like change in their lives, and it will take time – the amount will vary with each individual cat – for your new cat to adjust to unfamiliar surroundings. A kitten is usually easier to integrate into the household with a full-sized adult. Cats of opposite sexes usually get along better.
Here are a few tips to help provide a friendlier transition:
- Set the new cat up in a small “safe room,” a bathroom with a tiled floor or a confined space he can call his own for a week or so. Get new food and water bowls, a litter box, scratching post/pad and bedding. Visit him frequently with interactive toys, special treats and lots of hands-on loving during the first week.
- Feed your resident cat and the newcomer on opposite sides of the door of the “safe room” so they can smell each other and associate the new cat smell with an enjoyable experience. Gradually move the food dishes closer to the door until they are eating calmly directly opposite each other.
- Switch scents by switching their beds between the new cat and the resident cat so they have a chance to become accustomed to each other’s scent. Another option is to rub a small towel on each cat and place the towel from the opposite under the food dish of the other cat.
- Begin an exchange of living space once your new cat is settled in and eating regularly in the confined room. Let the new cat have some free time in the house while you confine the resident cat in the “safe room.” This is another way the cats can experience each other’s scents without meeting face-to-face. It also helps the new cat get comfortable with her new surroundings without experiencing the other cat.
- Securely prop the door open a crack so they can safely see each other for the first time when the cats seem to be relaxed with everything you have done so far. Place treats on each side of the door and connect two toys with several inches of string slipped under the door so they can try playing with each other.
- When the cats seem to be calm in each other’s presence, it’s time to open the “safe room” door and let her out for a few minutes. The length of time should be increased gradually. Always allow the new cat an escape path back to her “safe room” if needed.
This process may take a few weeks or a few months depending on the personalities and territorial needs of the cats. If from time to time your cats become hostile or fearful, return the newcomer to the “safe room,” close the door and let them calm down. Back up one stage in this process and begin again. Minor setbacks don’t ruin a growing friendship, but an aggressive encounter will be remembered a long time and should be avoided. The time you spend slowly orchestrating a proper introduction of your cats will eventually be rewarded with years of harmonious habitation and loving companionship.
Cat and Dog Introductions
The key to successful cat-dog introductions is to expose them to one another gradually under controlled conditions. You want to avoid creating situations where the cat runs away and the dog's prey-chase instinct is activated. If your dog has previously lived with a cat, and your new cat has previously had positive experiences with dogs, they may progress quickly to tolerating one another. However, if you have an adult dog who has never been socialized to cats, the introduction should be a very gradual process lasting up to 30 days. In either case, train your dog to sit and stay reliably before bringing your new cat home. This may give you somewhat greater control once the introductions have been made. Remember that these steps are progressive, so go on to the next step only when you feel your dog and cat have "mastered" the previous one.
1. On day 1, confine your new cat to his or her own room at first. After a few hours, confine the dog in a fenced-in yard or basement or separate room, and allow the cat to explore the rest of the house. Then put the cat back in his or her own room, so the dog has an opportunity to become familiar with the cat's scent. Put a baby gate up but leave the door closed.
2. On day 2, crack open the door to the cat's room a couple inches and allow the dog to sniff and see through the opening for 30 seconds. Reward the dog for appropriate behavior. Repeat this step a couple more times during the day. Continue to give the cat the opportunity to explore the house when the dog is securely confined out of sight.
3. On day 3 and subsequently, increase the "viewing intervals" by short increments until the dog can watch the cat quietly for a few minutes. Reward good behavior.
4. Allow the dog to view the cat with the door completely open, with the baby gate still in place, for a few minutes at a time. If the dog is tolerating the cat, go into another room. Call the dog to you and play a game with him or her. Then ignore both animals (but keep attuned to them!) and engage in some other activity. The dog will start to lose interest in the cat.
5. Eventually work up to leaving the door to the cat's room open, with the baby gate still up, whenever you are at home. Always close the door when you are not present! Some pet owners will always need to keep the dog and cat separated when they aren't around to supervise, but others will find that after a couple months' probation, the dog and cat are OK together by themselves. It's far better to err on the side of caution, however, to prevent tragedy. Even after your dog and cat are peacefully co- existing, make sure that the cat's food bowl and litter box are out of the dog's reach. Keep the cat from approaching the dog when the dog is eating or chewing on a bone.