How to introduce a new cat to your pet

This article originally appeared on The Conversation.

Many people choose to live with a cat for companionship. As a social species, we often need company. But this does not need to be said about our male friends. Domestic cats evolved from mostly single species, defending their territory from other cats.

Although today’s cats can live together in friendly groups (when there are enough resources to go around), bonds generally only develop between cats that are related or grow up together. It is natural for cats to feel threatened by familiar cats. Owners should consider whether it is really in their cat’s best interest to add another cat to their home, especially if they are normally a shy cat.

If you are ready to add another cat to your home, plan the introduction carefully.

Prepare your new cat before you bring them home. Set aside a room for them, making sure they have at least two comfortable sleeping areas, a water bowl, feeding area, scratching post and toys. Provide at least one litter tray (preferably two), well away from food, water and sleeping areas.

When the day comes to bring your new cats home, take them straight to their “a” room. Let them come out of their carrier in their own time. They will be afraid if you try to pull them out. No matter how excited you are interacting with your new companion, you may need to leave the room, allowing them to explore on their own.

Scent exchange

Your new cat must stay in its room for several days. This will help them settle in and allows you to introduce them to your existing cat by smell.

Scent, especially facial pheromones, helps cats identify other cats with which they are bonded and is important in maintaining bonds between cats. Swap clothes that each cat is sleeping in, and toys. Place these somewhere the cats will come across in their own rooms, but away from beds, bowls and litter trays.

Neither cat should show signs of avoidance or aggression towards the clothes before you proceed. Then you can exchange scents directly between the cats. Stroke one cat, especially around the cheeks and the area in front of the ears, and then go directly to the other cat and stroke them. Repeat in the opposite direction.

This will shift the cats’ scent profiles and facial pheromones, as if they were rubbing against each other directly. Look for gentle rubbing or nudging in return.

A longer term

Once both cats are relaxed about being hit by the scent of another cat on your hands, they can finally see each other and your new cat can explore the rest of your home. You can buy a plug-in diffuser that releases copies of feline facial pheromone, which can help with initial introductions as it has been found to reduce cat-to-cat aggression within households.

There should be enough escape routes for the cats to move away from each other. Make sure there is a cat tower or furniture, such as a bookshelf, to jump on and that the cats can easily leave the room if they want to. Cats like to hide if they are threatened and get high.

First, stop the cat you first adopted in a separate room and let your new cat explore. Once they are familiar with the layout of the house and where escape routes and safe places are, you can let your other cat out. Supervise the cats and be ready to intervene if tension starts to rise.

Watch for any avoidance or agonistic behavior, such as running away and hiding, ears going back or hissing. Do not punish your cat for aggressive behavior and avoid using food to attract the cats closer together. Cats are solitary hunters and do not naturally eat near other cats, even cats they are bonded with.

Because it is challenging for cats to form new relationships with other cats, especially as adults, your cats may never become best friends. To reduce conflict, ensure that both cats can access food, water and litter trays without having to step over each other.

As a general rule, you will need to have one more of each resource than the total number of cats in the household. For example, three litter trays for a family of two cats. If your cat goes outside, it can be helpful to provide more than one point of entry and exit, as the cat flap is another common area for conflict between cats.

Similar advice applies if you want to add another companion species to your home, such as a puppy. Introductions may be more successful if the puppy is introduced carefully and gradually before it is 12 weeks old.

Don’t let your cup chase your cat. Reward the puppy for calm behavior. Your cat should never feel cornered and have the choice to move away from any interaction, whether with a human or non-human animal.

This article from The Conversation is republished under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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