Introducing Cats to New Pets
This article appears courtesy of Dr Kim Kendall
East Chatswood Cat Clinic
329 Penshurst St. Willoughby NSW 2068
Ph 02 9417 6613 (24 hours)
Making feline friendships as painless as possible
Cats really prefer things to stay the same, and they are usually very unsubtle about indicating their displeasure. Introducing a new anything - from another pet, to another human to even new furniture - is a source of anxiety for the cat and the owner; so these are some strategies to help reduce the disruptions.
Introducing another cat
Cats really don't like other cats most of the time, so THIS CAN BE HARD.
A great deal depends on whether the resident cats have ever had a friendship with another cat, and depends on the age of both the resident and the new arrival. If the newcomer is a KITTEN, then isolating it in one room with its food, litter tray and toys for a few days (till the resident cat becomes curious rather than furious) works well. 'Toweling' the resident, then the newcomer; then the resident again mingles the smells and makes the new cat less 'strange'.
Once you open the door between them, DO NOT INTERRUPT THE HISSING AND SPITTING THAT IS BOUND TO HAPPEN. You can cause confusion, and cats can't apologize, so it will then take much longer for them to figure out an amicable arrangement. If one cat seems to be constantly under threat (and sometimes the resident is the one losing the battle), then separate them again and start over. Young cats (less than six months) will usually bond quickly and permanently.
Older cats take longer and may take up to six months to sort out their 'timeshare' arrangements around the cozy spots of the house. It is rare for these confrontations to become lethal, or even lead to a severe enough fight to cause damage. You can use the Feliway Diffuser here to make the room where they meet more 'emotionally cozy' and reduce anxiety, but the cats will have to have a 'discussion' and speak their mind as well.
Introducing a dog
Dogs are really no challenge to a cat - as long as they can escape if they have to. The cat will always just 'go high' and then view the dog with disdain if it prefers not to be in canine company: The trick about the introduction is to prevent the DOG's hunting instinct from creating a CATastrophy by chasing the cat - sometimes out onto the road or other dangerous places. So, put the dog on a lead and let the cat investigate. You are in control then and can disrupt any problems.
Once the cat is aware of the fact that the dog is allowed to live in the same house or yard, then in general, it will control the meetings. The dog may get a few biffs on the nose, but rarely any major damage unless it manages to bail the cat into a corner: Then it will have to learn the cat rules painfully: Many cats learn to adore dogs (they are, after all, mobile warm cushions.), especially if they are introduced when the kitten is young enough to accept it as a friend. Some cats, like some people, love everybody they meet, and will tolerate all kinds of change.
However; as it is for most of us, First Impressions Do Count, and done thoughtfully and respectfully, can reduce conflict. How closely feline lives reflect our own.