The vet’s office: New cats on the block
Introducing a new cat into an already feline-filled home
By Dr. Elizabeth Knabe, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
I had an unfortunate experience with introducing a new kitten into a home with adult cats many years ago. I did not go about it the correct way and simply opened the carrier to let the kitten come out and explore the living room.
The two adult cats were sleeping somewhere, but the kitten soon found them and launched a fear-based attack on the one that ran from her. She never became friends with the adult cats and went on to ambush them at the litter box and engage in other acts of feline bullying. I soon moved away for other reasons, and my kitten grew up very happily being the only cat in the house.
What if you have adult cats and want to add a new feline house member? What steps should you take to make sure your experience is pleasant and that the cats start out on good terms with each other?
First, think about bringing in a different gender as many times a mixed-gender group works better than all females or all males. Also, a younger cat is more likely to be accepted by older resident cats. These are not hard and fast rules, though, as cats have unique personalities, and it is hard to predict how one will fit into a home group.
Next, be sure you have enough places for the cats to sleep and hang out above the floor. High places, such as on cat climbing trees, provide much needed space for cats to feel safe as they sleep. If there is only one cat perch, the dominant cat may always claim it and leave other cats to feel left out and stressed. Litter boxes and water stations need to be increased so the cats do not need to compete over them.
The next step is bringing the new cat home and placing it into its very own room with litter, a cat perch, and food and a water station. You will want to have a veterinary wellness exam at this point to make sure your new cat is healthy. Isolation time also gives you the ability to start mixing smells of the new cat with your own cats. This swapping of bedding items should occur daily and include an item of your own clothing mixed in. Gradually every cat will be accustomed to a “group scent” and will think of the others as members of a family unit.
Once the scent training has been accomplished, you are ready for introductions. This must be done with care and planning also. See your veterinary technicians and staff for further tips on welcoming cats into your home.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.