Introducing a New Cat to your Current Pets

How you introduce your new cat to other household pets may influence long-term relationships between the animals. Allow your new cat and your existing pets to experience gradual positive interactions over the course of a few days. As the animals begin to demonstrate an acceptance of each other allow them to interact under your supervision. The Humane Society of Boulder Valley recommends keeping your new cat separate from your existing pets in your absence until you are confident in their interactions. If you observe interactions that are aggressive, separate the animals and contact our Training and Behavior Center at 303-442-4030 x368.

Introducing a new cat to your resident dog

The primary goal for a dog and cat relationship is to teach your dog to coexist with your cat without chasing. Unfortunately, there are some dogs whose chase instincts are so strong that it is difficult to teach them an alternative behavior. Please call the Training and Behavior Center for additional support. Close supervision and starting with the dog on a leash is required until you know for sure that the cat is not in danger. You must support the inter-animal ranking decided by your pets. Play it cool. If you are nervous, your pets are more likely to become nervous. Insist on good manners from the beginning. Never grab or pick up any frightened animal, and never separate fighting animals with your hands. Plan short periods of play time, treat time and give attention to each pet separately and together. Serve meals at the same time, but start out feeding them in separate locations. Be patient. The adjustment time takes days and often weeks.

Introducing a new cat to your resident cat

The first impression the new cat makes with the resident cat(s) is critical. If the cats display aggression, this may set the mood for their future relationship. If they are not getting along, it is best to separate the cats initially, especially when you are not home. The cats should be able to smell and hear, but not see or touch each other. Each cat should have his or her own food and water bowls, litter box, scratching post and bed. Feed the cats near the door that separates them so they learn that coming together, even though they can’t yet see each other, results in a pleasant experience. Feed extra special treats near the door as well, such as tuna, salmon, cheese, chicken and liver. After 2 or 3 days, “rotate” the cats so that they can investigate each other’s smell. This also allows the new cat to explore a different section of the home. Some behaviorists even suggest rubbing the cats with the same towel to intermix their scents. After a few more days, play with the cats near the door. In particular, encourage the cats to paw at a toy under the door. Eventually the cats may play “paws” under the door with each other.

After a week or so, assuming you see no signs of aggression at the door (no hissing, growling, etc.), start to allow the cats to see each other. Continue to encourage feeding, eating treats and playing near the door. Start these activities a few feet away from the door and, over a few days, gradually move closer.

The next stage is to permit the cats to spend time together. Carefully supervise these interactions. It is good to bring the cats together when they are likely to be relatively calm, such as after a meal or a strenuous play session. Keep a squirt bottle handy in case the cats begin to fight. As the cats become more familiar with each other, allow for longer periods of time together. If one cat spends most of his time hiding, or if one cat is continually harassing and pursuing the other, you should seek advice.

Be sure to consider the layout of your home. Make sure there are plenty of hiding spots for your cats. Some cats like to sit up high, on shelves and on kitty condo perches. Frightened cats tend to hide under and behind things, so make sure there are hiding places at floor level as well.

Place food, water and litter boxes out in the open so the cats do not feel trapped when accessing these resources. Make sure you have a litter box for each cat and at least one extra.

Some cats are very social and enjoy living with other cats, while others prefer to be solitary. If you are integrating a new cat into your home, please understand that it will take time. The best advice is to gradually introduce the cats to one another and remember to be patient with this process. It takes most cats about 8 to 12 months to develop a friendship with a new cat. Some learn to co-habitate by simply avoiding each other. If your resident cat becomes aggressive when he or she sees other cats outside the home, you may have a difficult time integrating a new cat. We know that male cats, if they become friends, tend to spend more time with each other. The individual personalities of the cats are more important than any other factor, including sex, age or size. If you experience excessive fighting between your cats, please contact our Training and Behavior Center for support.

Introducing a new cat to your resident caged pet

Generally, keep caged pets, such as birds, mice and rabbits out of reach of your new cat in secure cages. Any introductions should be done with people always present – remember your cat is a hunter by nature. Watch the cat for signs of over arousal: chirping, tail twitching and stalking are all behaviors to be concerned about. The cat and caged pet will need to be monitored carefully for a period of time before leaving them alone in the home together. Some cats adjust well to living with caged pets, however slow careful transitions will keep everyone safe and happy.