Introducing a New Cat to a Resident Cat/Dog

Multiple Cat HouseholdWhether you just adopted a new cat, or you’re fostering one short-term, you want to be sure all of the pets in your household can coexist peacefully.  This guide will give you some basic advice that can also be applied to multiple pet households with long-term disputes between animals.

Generally, you should keep the new cat separate from your other pets for a day or two. Give the new cat food, water, litter, and a few toys and let her hang out in a separate room. This gives her a safe “home base” as she becomes familiar with her new surroundings. If you’d like, you can feed your pets on opposite sides of the door and switch their beds/toys to get them used to the scent of a new cat.

Some pet owners gradually increase the time the new cat spends with the resident pets, graduating from a few minutes per day, to a few hours, and finally to 24 hours a day.  This may prevent your current pets from feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or threatened by the presence of a new cat.

City Kitties recommends using a pheromone plug-in and/or collar, like Feliway, to lower stress levels in both the new cat and your current cats.  These products release cat facial pheromones, creating a feeling of familiarity and safety.

However, introductions usually aren’t pretty, no matter what precautions you take. Don’t be surprised if the new cat and your pets don’t get along right away. Open the door and there will probably be some hissing and swatting. This is completely normal and may continue for a few months (sometimes even up to a year) after the first introduction. If things get too heated, carefully separate them, using a towel to protect yourself from bites and scratches, and try again later.

Don’t expect things to improve in a matter of weeks.  These problems can take months to resolve.  Give your pets plenty of time, be patient, and don’t give up too soon.  In some extreme cases, cats really do prefer to be in an only-pet household, and in such a case it may be best for all the animals involved to find a responsible, appropriate home for a pet.  See our guide to Responsibly Rehoming a Cat for more information.

If your multi-cat household is experiencing litterbox problems, or if you’d like to prevent these issues, check out our Litterbox Guide.

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