Introducing a New Cat To Your Home
Dr Caity Venniker
In the UK, the cat population is growing. This is due more to an increase in the number of cats per household, than an increase in the number of cat-owning households(1). Roughly two thirds of the KatKin Club own only one cat, while one third boasts a larger feline family. Today we will look at the factors to consider when introducing a new cat to your home.
Should I Get A(nother) Cat?
For potential first-time cat owners, any member of the KatKin Club would doubtless tell you the same thing – YES! Our furry friends add so much to our homes and lives. There are however criteria that must be met to ensure their happiness and comfort (for more on this take a look at our trilogy of blogs about handling stress and optimising the environment for your cat - Creating the Purrfect Home; How To Manage A Multi-Cat Household; and Pheromones – What, Why and How We Can Use Them).
The question of whether to get a new, additional cat in the home is very personal, and complex. Having a successful outcome when introducing a new cat depends on many factors, including the home environment; the method of introduction; as well as the personality, age and sex of both the new and primary cats.
What Kind of Cat Would Fit into My Home?
If you do not have a cat currently, then your choice depends on factors such as how much you are at home; the size of the environment that would be safe and accessible for a cat; and what kind of companion you are hoping to find. All cats are individuals so generalisations must be made with caution, but certain breeds are known to be more active (such as Bengals and Abyssinians) while others have a reputation for being more laid back (such as Persians). Siamese cats are notorious talkers and so if you would be bothered by a very vocal little friend, then you may be better off with a different breed!
It can be extremely rewarding to adopt from a rescue facility as there are so many cats in need of a loving home. Adult cats are often overlooked in shelters, but they can be easier to manage in the initial stages, particularly if you have small children! It is worth remembering that under stress, many cats behave in a more subdued manner, so try to take the environment and situation into account when assessing a potential cat.
If you already have a cat, then choosing a suitable feline friend can be more difficult; and should be approached with consideration of the following factors:
- Generally, cats get on better with cats from their own family, especially from the same litter.
- Cats tend to bond better if paired at a young age (preferably less than two months of age)(1).
- Younger cats are usually tolerated better by the primary cat; but if the primary cat is quite old, it may be preferable to get two kittens rather than one, in the hopes that they will play together and leave him in peace!
- Cats of the opposite sex usually get on better than same sex pairs; and two males are more likely to be compatible than two females(1).
It is difficult to predict whether cats will get on or not; but having ample space and access to resources is very helpful in diffusing tensions should they arise. The likelihood of a successful introduction and subsequent happy relationship between cats also can be increased by following a carefully planned protocol to reduce stress.
Nice to Meet You - The How To of How Do You Do!
Most of us are familiar with the tale of buttering cats’ paws to help them settle into a new environment. While some cats may be quite pleased with the delicious and distracting task of cleaning their paws, for others it may only add to their stress, and will probably result in a lot of greasy pawprints!
There are however a few other options that may help with the process of moving in:
- The new cat should initially be kept in a separate room with access to all necessary resources (food and water, litter tray, toys, scratching post, as well as resting and hiding areas, preferably not all on ground level).
- Blankets and other items should be exchanged between the different cat areas so that their scents intermingle(1). You can also gently rub a cloth on the cheeks and base of the tail of both cats and then rub this on the edges of doors and furniture corners. This provides a group scent over the boundaries of the home(1).
- Pheromone therapy is very helpful in easing initial tension. F3 pheromones (such as Feliway®) can be placed in both cat areas two weeks prior to getting the new cat(1), and F4 (such as Felifriend®) used at the time of introduction(1) (For more on this refer to our blog on Pheromone therapy).
- The new cat should in time be allowed to explore other areas of the house while the primary cat is kept away.
- The first introduction should be made across a glass door, screen or mesh; or with one of the cats in a cage. These meeting should be short and performed a few times a day, with friendly behaviour being rewarded with treats.
- Once cats appear to be tolerating each other, they can be allowed to interact for short periods within one room while under supervision. If aggression arises it can be helpful to distract cats with noise or even a spray bottle, and if necessary, restraining one cat in a blanket.
- Feeding bowls should continue to be kept separate to avoid tension.
Basically, if cats were human, they would most likely choose to meet people online. That way they could be prepared with thorough stalking and extensive background knowledge prior to the initial date! They also prefer to know the venue, have a family member nearby and enjoy a treat or two. Quite civilised really!
As with people, some cats are more solitary and others more sociable. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to predict which way your cat is inclined. Many cats form strong and affectionate relationships, but if not, tension between cats within the home can be a major source of stress. If you are struggling, try some suggestions from our blog, How To Manage a Multi-Cat Household; or enlist in the help of an animal behaviourist.
A new feline family member comes with responsibility but can be a great joy and wonderful addition to the home. Taking care to consider certain factors; as well as time and effort in making the introduction; helps to reduce stress and aids a smooth transition into the home.
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- Rochlitz, I. (2017). Basic Requirements for Good Behavioural Health and Welfare in Cats. In D. F. Horwitz & D. S. Mills (Eds.), BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Behavioural Medicine (pp. 136-144). British Small Animal Veterinary Association.