When introducing another cat to a resident cat’s household, it is very
important to be realistic when doing the introduction. Take into
consideration the breed, age, socialisation history and temperament of both
Step One: Confinement
Confine your new cat to one room in the house, and remember that she needs
to have access to her litter box, food, water and a bed. When starting the
introductions, you will need to keep your cats separate until you have
completed each step – and remember to take it slowly! When feeding your
cats, make sure you are feeding them on each side of the door to the room
where the new cat is confined. This simple technique helps to familiarise
them with the other’s smell, plus it helps to build an association between
that smell, and something they enjoy (food).
Make sure you don’t put the food so close to the door that they are too
upset by each other’s presence to eat. You can gradually move the dishes
closer to the door until they are both happily eating on either side of the
door. When you are at this stage, you can prop the door open MARGINALLY
using to sturdy door props, allowing the animals to see a little bit of each
Step Two: Swap scents
Switch sleeping blankets or beds between your cats. This will give each
animal the opportunity to get familiar with the other’s smell. Using a new
(unused) cloth to rub on one pet and then putting it under the food bowl of
the other pet is also a very good idea – again building that association
between food and ‘that smell’.
Using the same cloth, you can also rub one pet down with it, and then leave
that cloth in the other’s bed and vice versa. You need to do this as often
as possible to help the process along. If there is more than one animal in
the house, you will need to do this with each one.
Step Three: Switch living areas
When you have reached this stage, you can start swapping living areas. Have
the resident cat in one room, and allow the new cat access to the house –
making sure the cats do not meet. Let the new cat spend some time exploring
the house while putting the resident cat in the ‘new’ cat’s room. This will
allow the pets to get used to each other’s smell in their general
environment without a face to face encounter.
Step Four: Avoid fearful and aggressive meetings
You must be extremely careful of allowing any aggressive or fearful
interactions to take place at this stage. Remember every time your animal
experiences one of these, that response has had some practice and can turn
into habit. It is far better to introduce them slowly without either animal
getting fearful or defensive. Although you need to be aware of the fact
that you may encounter some of these behaviours in the beginning, it is
advisable to keep them to the absolute minimum.
If either animal become fearful or aggressive you need to separate them and
start from the beginning and take it slower.
Step Five: Introducing the cats
When the two are quite comfortable in each other’s living spaces you can
start introducing them under supervision. Have both cats in cat boxes on
either side of the room. For the first while have the crates at an angle to
each other and continually feed little bits of high value kitty treats. You
are not going to allow them access to each other at this stage – you are
simply allowing them to habituate to the presence of the other cat. Do not
line the cat boxes up so they are forced to stare at each other – instead,
put them at an angle on different sides of the room and gradually line them
up over a period of days while doing this. You can do this while watching
television at night or while relaxing reading a book. Only continue on to
the next step when both cats are comfortable in each other’s presence and
you can have them relatively close to each other in their respective boxes.
Step Six: Letting the cats go
Have the cats in a neutral room and open their cat crate doors. This step
should only be done under supervision! Make sure you have one handler per
cat and allow them to come out when they feel comfortable. Allow them to
explore and use food treats to keep up the association of ‘the other cat equals
my favourite food’. If there is any aggression between the cats you need to go
back a few steps and start over.
If you are still having problems after following this programme correctly,
it is advisable to seek further behavioural help from a reliable source as
there may be other factors at work.
Text: Karin Landsberg
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