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Advice for new cat carers

Just adopted a cat?  Here is some useful information about:

  • Introducing your new cat to established pets.
  • Having an indoor or an outdoor cat.

Introducing your new cat to established pets

It would be nice if introducing a new cat to your established pet was as easy as a handshake and a couple of hellos. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as that. As the carer of a new animal one needs to be realistic about how that cat’s will get along and be comfortable with what they work out for themselves.

  • Many pets will never be the best of friends and the best that can be hoped for is for them to tolerate each other.
  • Introduction can take time, anywhere up to a month or more.
  • Do not expect that they will get along immediately.
  • Be patient and do not force them together.
  • Think carefully when selecting a new animal, keeping in mind the personality of your existing cat.
  • Make sure you have the time and patience to dedicate to a new animal and to help it through the settling process.
  • Some cats are more social than others depending upon age and the situation they have come from.
  • Slow introduction help prevent problems from developing due to a fearful or aggressive socialisation period.

 Confinement and scent

  • Confine your new pet for the first 48 hours in one room set up specifically for them.
  • Make sure the room is safe for the cat and secure. Areas such as the bathroom or laundry are great providing that the dryers and washer doors are closed and the toilet seat is down.
  • Feeding your new pet close to the door with your existing one on the opposite side will help then associate the pleasure of eating with the other cats smell.
  • Swap blankets and bedding with the other animals in the house. This way they get used to the other animals scent.                                                                 

Time to explore            

  • When the new cat is eating regularly and using the tray confine the existing animals and let out your new addition. This allows the new cat to explore freely without face to face contact.
  • Return the new cat to their room and prop open the door so that both residents can see each other but not get to each other. If the reaction is fearful or aggressive start the process again from the beginning. 

Cat and dog interaction

  • This requires careful supervision as a dog can seriously injure a cat even in play.
  • Dogs usually want to chase or play with cats resulting in a fearful or defensive stance by the cat.
  • Use the same techniques with dogs (confine, scent and explore time) as you would with a cat to cat introduction.
  • Practice obedience with your dog and praise acceptable behaviours when the dog behaves well (using food treats etc) and correct bad behaviours.
  • If the dog has had little training or is very excitable it will take some time until the desired behaviour is achieved.
  • The aim is to associate “good things” happening when the cat is around. If the dog is always punished in the cats’ presence, the dog may redirect aggression towards the cat. 

Controlled meeting

  • Its time for the first direct face to face meeting.
  • Place a leash on the dog and encourage the dog to sit using treats.
  • Get a family member or friend to quietly sit down near the new cat.
  • Keep both animals on opposite sides of the room and allow escape routes for the cat.
  • Offer lots of praise and off rewards to both animals.
  • Keep it short and repeat the process over the next few days until they will tolerate being in the same room.

Once the controlled meeting is successful allow the cat ONLY freedom of movement while praising the dog for good behaviour. If the cat runs away or is aggressive then go back to the previous steps.

Always make sure that you supervise all meetings. Keep the animal separate when you’re not at home.

Take special care with puppies and kittens until they are fully grown (and even then they may not be safely left alone together)

Need help?

If introductions do not go smoothly, please contact us immediately. Animals can be severely injured in fights and suffer behavioural problems due to bad or continual harassment from other animals.

Indoor or outdoor cat?

Most cat carers prefer to have cats that live indoors and outdoors. At Lort Smith Animal Hospital we receive about 70 phone calls a week from carers whose cat has gone missing

There are benefits and down sides to keeping a cat outdoors or inside totally. It is best to decide before you bring your cat home rather than trying to convert an outdoor cat to totally live inside.

Some cats adapt more readily to being inside than others. A cat that has been outside for many years is less likely to adjust to being solely indoors. A timid cat however may be quite happy to stay inside all the time. The carer must decide which will best suit their cat’s needs and their own.

Outside cats - risks

  • More prone to road traffic accidents.
  • The risk of dog attacks is increased.
  • Have a higher risk of skin cancer.
  • Have a higher risk of being stolen.
  • The risk of neighbour/ human interference is greater (cats going onto neighbours property and council involvement).
  • Are of a higher risk to come into contact with outdoor chemicals.
  • Male cats in particular have a higher risk of fighting and contracting diseases and viruses.
  • More likely to get lost or locked in a shed or stuck on a roof/ tree.
  • Be a potential risk to wildlife.

Outside cats - benefits

  • Have social stimulation with other animals and cats in the area if the choose.
  • Get regular exercise and less likely to suffer weight problems.
  • They have a outlet for behavioural needs.
  • They are less likely to develop behavioural problems. 
Indoor cats - risks
  • Behavioural problems may be increased due to the lack of opportunity to express normal behaviours.
  • Can become fearful of change and over react when small changes occur within the house.
  • More prone to obesity.
  • Carers will need to provide the stimulation and exercise required.
  • Carers will need to clean litter trays whereas outdoor cats will find their own place.
  • Increase in furniture being damaged.
  • Increase risk to household hazards.

Indoor cats - benefits

  • Are safe from road accidents.
  • Less likely to ingest poison or chemicals.
  • Cannot be trapped or poison by neighbours.
  • Will not be attacked by other roaming cats of dogs in the neighbourhood.
  • Fewer risks to catch viruses and diseases.
  • Will not get lost and unable to find their way home.
  • Cannot be stolen or less likely to.

Minimising outdoor cat risks

  • Let your cat out during the day and keep him/her in at night.
  • Encourage your cat to return home at night with the use of their evening meal.
  • Make sure your cat is vaccinated.
  • Make sure your cat is wearing a collar and is micro-chipped and that your details are up to date.
  • Make sure your cat is de-sexed.
  • Make sure your cat is registered with the local council.

Minimising indoor cat risks

  • Stimulate your cat’s natural hunting behaviour through play.
  • Provide toys, scratching posts and other equipment.
  • Monitor weight and give a well balanced diet suitable for your cat's stage in life.
  • Monitor food intake.
  • Grow some cat loving plants such as cat nip or cat grass.
  • Provide different surfaces for the cat to walk on (hard and soft surfaces).
  • Get companionship by having two cats so they can keep each other company when you’re not at home.

We recommend the best of both worlds

  • In order to keep your cat safe and still allow the cat to go outside consider having a cat run built.
  • Some cats will tolerate being on a harness and can be walked by their carers around the backyard.

For further information on any of these problems or recommendations please speak with our staff.

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