Introducing a new cat to an existing pet

If you’re planning on introducing a new cat to a current canine or feline counterpart, preparation is key for the integration into your family to go successfully.     

Whatever your situation, we caught up with the vet experts at Joii to help you make sure any introductions run as smoothly as possible.

Think ahead before you get a new cat

Before you even consider getting a new pet, you’ll want to consider how your existing cat or dog might react to having to share their home.

If you already have a cat

If you’re thinking of getting a second cat, you should think carefully before introducing another feline. While it’s possible, it’s important to remember that it depends on your cat’s personality and any existing behaviour towards or around other cats will ultimately dictate whether they might enjoy living with other felines or would prefer to be the only pet.

If they’re confident that can be a good sign, whereas nervous cats, those who have had bad experiences in the past, or cats that suffer from certain medical conditions might prefer to remain as the only pet.

If you already have a dog

If you want to get a new cat but you’re not too sure how your dog might take it, watch how they react to one if they spot a cat while out and about on their walks. Ideally, your dog will walk past cats without really paying much attention to them and have no desire to chase or bark at them.

Like all new friendships, your pets will need to get used to each other over time and adjust to their new surroundings. Give them time, take things slowly and keep trying.

Introducing a new cat to an existing dog

Introducing a new cat to your existing dog shouldn’t be rushed, forcing your pets to interact when they are not quite ready may cause stress for all involved and reinforce negative emotions.

Give your cat time to settle

When you bring your new cat home, you’ll want to give them about two or three days to adjust to their new surroundings before introducing them to your dog. Here are our top tips:

  • For the first few days, keep your cat and dog separate
  • Keep your cat in a room where your dog isn’t allowed
  • Make sure your cat space has the following to keep them comfortable:
    • Food
    • Water
    • Litter tray
    • Toys

Do some scent swapping

Smell is an important form of communication for our cats and dogs and you can use this to your advantage while you integrate your new cat. Here’s how:

  • Keep your cat and dog separate
  • Exchange bedding between your pets
  • Stroke your cat and let your dog smell your hand
  • Rub a towel on one animal and put it underneath the other pet’s food bowl (and vice versa)
    • If your pet is not eating, remove the towel and try again another day

Calm first introductions

You’ll want to keep their first introductions as calm as possible and try not to have too many people present when they first meet. Here are some top tips to help that first meet run as smoothly as possible:

  • Keep your dog on a lead but keep it slack
  • Let them smell each other (a scent which they’ll already recognise thanks to your prep work)
  • Watch them closely and monitor for any changes in their body language
  • Be ready to intervene, just in case things don’t go to plan
  • Stay as calm as possible throughout the introduction
  • Provide treats for both pets if the meeting is going well

If things are getting a bit too rowdy, stop the meeting and try again later. For this to work, their interactions need to be positive (or at least indifferent).

If all is going well, after a few minutes have passed, end the session and separate the two so that you can provide some fuss to both pets. Lots of short, positive interactions will really help both pets feel comfortable.

Most importantly, be patient. Individual cats and dogs will take to new situations at their own pace so don’t force them to spend time together.

Keep providing a safe space

Even when both pets get along and are happy to spend time together, you still need to offer a space to which they can retreat if they want to be alone.

Introducing a new cat to a resident cat

A cat’s first impression of a new furry family member is critical. This introduction could likely set the mood for their future relationship. This is why you should take things slow and follow our top tips to help their first introductions go as smoothly as possible for felines and humans alike.

Keep your cats separate

Don’t rush into introducing your cats, you’ll want to give them a couple of days to get settled before letting them meet each other. Here are our top tips:

  • Keep your cats separate to begin with by keeping them in separate rooms
  • Make sure they can’t escape and end up finding each other
  • Make sure your cats have access to their own:
    • Food
    • Water
    • Litter tray
    • Toys

Do some scent swapping

Scent swapping can help cats become fully comfortable with the smell of the other cat before they meet. Here’s how you can begin the process of introducing the cats to one another:

  • Keep your cats separate
  • Take one piece of each cat’s bedding and place it in the other cat’s bed
  • Stroke your cat and let your other smell your hand and vice versa
  • Rub a towel over your cat and place it underneath the other pet’s food bowl
    • And vice versa
    • Make sure that they’re happy to approach their food
    • If your cat is not eating, remove the towel and try again another day

Let them explore each other’s space

If your cats show no signs of stress or anxiety following the introduction of new scents, you could let them explore each other’s space. Here’s a step-by-step guide on having the cats swap places for a short period of time. You may need to ask a friend or family member to help:

Step one

Carry your new cat from their room and place them in your bedroom and shut the door.

Step two

Allow your resident cat to walk into your new cat’s room and close the door. Have someone stay with them so that they can look out for any signs of distress.

Step three

Then, you’ll need to go back to let your new addition out of your room and to explore the rest of the house.

Step four

Stay with them and if they start showing any signs of distress, carry them back to their room while the other person removes your resident cat. 

This should only be done when your new cat is entirely relaxed in their own environment.

Allow visual contact

Being able to smell and see each other before meeting can help put your cats at ease and allow them to understand a little more about what’s going on. You can do this by letting them see each other through:

  • a door held slightly ajar (so they can’t pass through)
  • a tall stair gate
  • doors that have windows

Calm first introductions

When your cats are completely comfortable with seeing one another through a barrier, you might be ready for their first official meeting. Here are some top tips to help their introduction:

  • Make sure your cats are either playing or eating
  • Remove or open the barrier quietly so not to startle them
    • If they show signs of distress, replace the barrier and separate the cats
  • Never force the cats to interact with each other
    • It’s important that they’re comfortable with the presence of one another
  • Keep trying even if they don’t get on at first, these things can take time

Provide them with their own space

Even when both cats get along and are happy to spend time together, it’s still a good idea to offer them their own space so they’re able to retreat if they want to be alone. Cats might end up finding these sorts of spaces for themselves but it’s always good to provide hiding spots like beds, climbing posts and other safe spaces.

Remember: Relationships between cats can change over time so it’s important to look out for any signs of stress and adapt according to the cats.

 

If you are struggling with introducing your pets or have started to experience a breakdown in an initially good introduction, it is a good idea to seek professional help. Speak to your vet who will be able to provide you with advice or refer you to a qualified behaviourist.

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