Okay… so you adopted a cat from your local rescue. You wanted a companion for both your cat and you. Do you just bring the kitty home, open the carrier and say Snowball meet Princess and walk away and hope for the best? Please do not! Planning to add a cat to your household says it all… planning- meaning to plan. Meaning to take steps, not inaction.
The introduction process is all-important. We all know the importance of first impressions. They can also be lasting ones. This is especially true of cats. We had one adopter adopt one kitty from us, and then two weeks later, after she had convinced her husband that one is better than two, she came back and adopted another kitty. Thirty minutes after she left our home she called us in a panic; her first kitty (now alpha) was hissing at her new kitty. We asked if she has followed through with introduction protocol. Information we provide both verbally and written to each of our adopters. She admitted she did not and would begin again. Our introduction protocol states that in the wild, cats are cautious when having first encounters with other cats. One such way is through scent-marking behaviors. By “reading” the marked areas, cats can tell who was there last and at what time he was in that particular area. Think of it as a cat’s version of time sharing, the territory can then be used by different cats at different times of the day. Gradual introduction is essential in order to get your cat(s) used to another feline in their home territory.
We know you want to immediately share your new cat with your family and your home. However, having both time and patience are vital keys to a successful merger of two or more cat personalities. The new cat should have a room of his own for a few days- up to a week or more. Do not run out and purchase all new bedding for your new kitty. Place some of your existing cat(s) bedding in the room with the new kitty. Smell is important to cats. This allows the cats to be introduced through smell before visual contact is made. After the first night, exchange some of the bedding the new kitty slept on with some of the housecat(s) bedding. After a few days, play a cat version of musical chairs. Place the housecat(s) in the room where the new kitty has been staying, taking the new kitty out for a look and smell see around your home. Once you see your cats are relaxed about the new smells, crack open the door so the cats can see each other. We actually took the door off our home office and replaced it with a screen to provide assistance in this endeavor. We call this stage supervised visitation. You are in charge. You control the situation. Pet the new kitty and then pet your resident kitty and visa versa. Let the kitties know that neither is going to take the other’s place in your heart and in your home.
The cat’s age is the defining factor as to the length it will take for the kitties to be “okay” with one another. Typically if one of the cats is under four months of age, then a week is all that is usually necessary. We recommend the supervised visitation is essential in properly introducing a new cat to your home. Remember you are in control.
Please do speak calmly and quietly to all your kitties during this process. (Yes, I say during this process, as I have yelled at one or more of my kitties in my lifetime; usually, it is get down from there!) With this in mind, we do not recommend that small children be placed in charged of the introduction even if the kitty is to be considered theirs. Encourage inside voices when introducing kitties and children. Once the cat is secure in their new home, boisterous voices and behavior will not too much for the kitty.
If at any time the cats become fearful or hostile, take the new kitty back to his safe room. Setbacks are not the end of a future relationship. Repetition is key. Remember you are in control… you are the alpha of your home. You set the pace during the introduction process. The more gradual the introduction, the greater the relationship between the kitties and with you will be.
Our adopter called us two weeks later to report that both of her kitties were doing wonderfully!