Monday, October 25, 2010

And May I Introduce...

 We all know first impressions are very important.  For cats, this is especially true.  When we bring home a new cat, we hope that our resident cat will see the new cat as a wonderful new playmate.  Rather cats seem to approach this as, "Who is that, and why is he playing with all of my stuff?!"

A lot of people introduce cats in a very simple way:"Marge" walks in with the new cat in her arms.  She says "Fluffy, this is your new brother, Max.  Max, this is fluffy.  I know you'll be best friends."  Marge then sets Max down on the floor in front of Fluffy.  Sometimes, you get lucky, and this works.  The two cats approach slowly with their ears perked up. They sniff noses then rub cheeks.  They're both OK with the new change, and they'll probably get on pretty well.  Unfortunately we cannot always rely on luck.  If, when the cats first see each other, one or both cats hiss, growl, crouch, run away or approach in a confrontational manner you probably want to slow down and control their interaction.    You might want to try one or more of these suggestions:
  • Set up a separate room for your new cat with his own  food, water, and litter box.  Try to make this an out-of-the-way room so that you don't interrupt your resident cat's routine.  Your new cat won't see this as a jail cell, but as more of a safe room.  He'll have a small space to explore before tackling your whole house [and other cat(s)]
  • When you introduce the new 'roommate', bring the new cat out in a cat carrier.  This way, the new cat knows he's safe, and the resident cat knows the new one is controlled.  Leave the new guy in the cat carrier for 15-30 minutes at a time, and then take him back to his safe room.
  • If you start to see signs of aggression or fear, give your new cat a 10 minute 'time out' in his safe room.  Even something as simple as staring at the other cat with your tail twitching can be an aggressive signal for another cat.
  • Always reward both cats for calm behavior.  If the cats are in the same room without watching each other or staring (curled up ignoring each other is a GOOD thing...), give them positive reinforcement.  This can be verbal praise, petting or a food treat.  This teaches your cat that good things happen when the other guy's around.
Above all:  Be Patient.  It may be weeks or even years before cats will coexist peacefully.  Hopefully, though, if you put some time in at the beginning, your cats will never want to be apart.

~~~Kelly Wagner, CVT

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