Adopting a new cat can give an animal in need a home and change your life for the better. But if you already have one or more cats at home, introducing a new feline into the dynamic can be tricky.
Introductions may be particularly difficult between two cats with different personalities or between an “only child” resident cat and a new kitten. To avoid stress for you and your kitties, use the following six tips during the acclimatization process.
1. Create a Separate Kitten Space
When adopting a new cat, the first order of business is always to provide your feline with a safe place. This space gives your cat a sense of familiarity and a place to retreat to if the rest of the house ever gets overwhelming.
Choose an area that can be securely shut off from the rest of the house and your potentially curious feline-in-residence. Include a litter box, food bowl, water bowl, and plenty of toys to keep your kitten occupied when you can’t be there. You should also provide safe hiding and sleeping areas for maximum comfort.
2. Handle Vet Visits Right Away
Part of the adoption process is a regular vet check-up. If possible, schedule your kitten’s first visit to the vet on the same day you plan to bring the animal home. You don’t want to pause introductions once they’ve already started.
This visit should include a wellness exam, any needed vaccinations, and a discussion about spaying or neutering if your kitten is not already fixed.
In addition to the veterinary visit, take some time to trim your kitten’s claws and groom its fur before leaving the cat in their designated kitten space. Not only do these tasks help you bond with your new pet, but they can also reduce the risk of stress responses to the presence of the resident cat.
3. Introduce the Cats Slowly
Cats are highly territorial. Your resident cat or cats likely believe they own your home. A new kitten can feel like a threat to that ownership, so it’s so important to make introductions slowly. Anticipate keeping the kitten separated for at least a couple days.
After the first day or two, give each of your cats an item with the other animal’s scent on it, like a blanket, cushion, or fabric toy. Place this item in an area where your cat feels comfortable. Avoid specifically approaching either cat with a scented item, as this action could feel like a threat.
Once your cats get used to each other’s scents, you can allow them to interact in limited ways. For example, you could let your cats see each other through a baby gate or sniff under the door of the other cat’s designated area.
Only after your cats begin to behave normally when in proximity to each other should you allow them to meet.
4. Keep Watch for Any Warning Signs
Change can be upsetting for either of your cats. Your resident cat may feel its space is being violated while your new kitten may struggle to get used to a new home and a new sibling at the same time.
If either cat becomes aggressive, start the introduction process over by separating the cats. This measure reduces the threat your animals feel to their autonomy and safety.
If one or both cats begin to show extreme signs of distress, see a veterinarian. Inappropriate urination, excessive vocalization, and abnormal grooming can indicate serious stress that could prove harmful to your feline’s health.
5. Stay Patient Through the Introductions
Many cats can learn to live together, but it’s up to you to give them time to get used to the idea. You should expect the introduction process to take no less than a week but could take much longer depending on your cats’ temperaments.
Before bringing a new cat home, ensure that you have the time and resources to handle this process with care and compassion. You will need to spend dedicated bonding time with both cats to ease the transition.
6. Understand How to Respond to Aggression
When cats begin to live with each other, they may play fight or compete for toys and attention. For the first few days after your cats are allowed to interact freely, pay attention to their behavior. Normal play may involve a fair amount of batting, pouncing, and so on.
However, you should not allow the cats to get into threat displays like hissing and arching. If one or both felines show aggression, distract the cats with a loud noise or toy so that they have an opportunity to retreat.
If possible, avoid letting serious physical altercations occur. If necessary, safely separate the cats until they both calm down. A fight could mean injuries for you and your kitties.
Use these guidelines to ensure that, with a little work, both of your feline friends feel comfortable, confident, and safe in your home.