Cats make great companions, but they will require some time to adjust to their new life and home. Below are a few tips to help you and your new addition.
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 usually as simple as that.
As the carer of a new cat, you need to be realistic about this process. Patience is required while your pets adapt to the change and establish their own way of living together.
- Many pets will never be best friends and the most that can be hoped for is for them to tolerate each other.
- Introductions 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 pet.
- 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 introductions 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 and secure. Areas such as the bathroom or laundry are great providing that the dryer 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 cat’s smell.
- Swap blankets and bedding with the other animals in the house. This way they get used to the other animal’s 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 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 cat’s presence, the dog may redirect aggression towards the cat.
- It is 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 offer 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 step.
Make sure that you supervise all meetings. Keep the animals separate when you are not at home.
Take special care with puppies and kittens until they are fully grown. Even then they may not be safely left alone together.
If introductions don’t 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.
Most cat carers prefer to have cats that live indoors and outdoors. We receive about 70 phone calls a week from carers whose cats have gone missing.
There are benefits and downsides to both sides of living. It is best to decide before you bring your cat home rather than trying to convert an outdoor cat to indoor-only living.
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 arrangement will best suit their cat’s needs and their own.
Indoor cats – risks
- Increase in behavioural problems due to the lack of opportunity to express normal behaviours
- Becoming fearful of change and overreacting when small changes occur within the house
- Being more prone to obesity
- Lack of stimulation and exercise
- Household hazards
- Furniture being damaged
Minimising indoor cat risks
- Stimulate your cat’s natural hunting behaviour through play
- Provide toys, scratching posts and other enrichment tools
- 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
- Adopt another cat for companionship.
Indoor cats – benefits
- Safe from road accidents
- Less likely to ingest poison or chemicals
- Can’t be trapped or poisoned by neighbours
- Won’t be attacked by other animals in the neighbourhood
- Fewer risks of catching viruses and diseases
- Will not get lost and unable to find their way home
- Unlikely to be stolen
Outside – risks
- Road traffic accidents
- Dog attack
- Skin cancer
- Being stolen
- Coming into contact with outdoor chemicals
- Getting lost, locked in shed, stuck on roof/tree, stuck under house
- Trespassing on neighbours’ properties and council being called
- Cat fights (males in particular) and potentially contracting diseases and viruses
- Harming/killing wildlife
Minimising outdoor risks
- Let your cat outside during the day and keep them in at night
- Encourage your cat to return home at night with the use of their evening meal
- Ensure your cat is vaccinated
- Make sure your cat wears a collar with your contact details
- Make sure your cat is microchipped and your contact details are up to date
- Desex your cat
- Register your cat with your local council
Outside – benefits
- Social stimulation with other animals in the area, if they choose
- Regular exercise – less likely to suffer weight problems
- An outlet for behavioural needs – less likely to develop behavioural problems
We recommend the best of both worlds!
- In order to keep your cat safe and still allow the cat to go outside, consider building/installing a cat run.
- 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.