Tips and Advice For Bringing a New Cat Into a Household With Existing Cats
By now, most of you know that we have a new feline family member, little Kizmet that I got from a Pet Supermarket adoption, and the pressing question of the day is “how is he getting along with the other cats?” Well, truth be told, I have no idea because he has not met them yet and that is the subject of today’s post – how to properly introduce a new cat or kitten into a household with one or more cats already settled in it.
When you make the very serious decision to adopt a new pet, in this case, a kitten, you envision all sorts of playful hi-jinks and shenanigans with your existing cat (in my case, seven) who will welcome the new feline mate with open paws and it is so tempting to want them to meet right away. What you normally get is a long and sometimes traumatic period of anger issues, territorial issues, jealousy issues – in a nutshell – a lot of hissing, fur flying, growling, territory marking, and a host of other behavioral issues from your residing felines who are typically NOT HAPPY at all that you have invaded their delicate social dynamic just because your eyes bonded and you fell head over heels in love with your newest furry bundle of joy.
So, first and foremost, it is extremely important for the well-being of all, including the sanity of any residing humans, that the introduction is done gradually and that you don’t led a kitten to a lion’s den, so to speak. Kizmet is extremely well adjusted and bold in the office where we are keeping him, but just imagine seven gargantuan Goliath’s to one tiny and innocent little David. Hardly a fair fight! The cats are already on edge – poking at the office door and jumping several feet in the air when Kizmet’s paw pokes out from underneath and when they finally meet face to face, it is bound to be unsettling for all.
It is also imperative that you ensure the physical health of all involved. In my case, even though Kizmet came with papers documenting all of his shots and boosters and was neutered and micro chipped, that does not necessarily mean he has a clean bill of health. ALWAYS, no matter what the circumstances, regardless of the cat or kitten’s age, regardless of whether you found him on the streets, got him from a breeder, a shelter, or pet adoption center, or even if you are not bringing him into an existing cat household, please bring the cat to the vet for a checkup. Cats in a shelter environment, in particular, are quite prone to many contagious viruses, typically upper respiratory in nature, and you certainly do not want to infect your other cats.
Despite the temptation, even if your new kitty seems to look fine, it is recommended you keep the kitten in sequester for two weeks to make certain all is well. Make sure you have a separate litter box and food dish that the other cats are not sharing and wash your hands any time after handling your new kitty so as to avoid any potential germs being passed to your other cats. I have even changed my clothing the first week after handling Kizmet before I interacted with my other cats just to be extra cautious. Kizmet did go to the vet the day after I got him and the good news – his stool sample came back negative. He did have a respiratory infection which he is taking medication for and undue stress can aggravate the virus, so it is best to let it run its full course.
Once you feel safe with the health issues, you need to slowly introduce the cats to one another and I do not plan on having all seven cats meet Kizmet at once. I will first rub a towel on Kizmet to let the other cats smell to get accustomed to his scent so that it is more familiar to them. I will then put them into a spare bedroom and let Kizmet explore a larger area of the house without fear of the other cats attacking him. When the other cats do get introduced to him, I will try to do it slowly, letting him meet one or two at a time so he is not bullied and overwhelmed. This process will take quite a while and once I feel confident that he can defend himself and is comfortable, the integration process will be complete.
This, of course, is an abridged version – the process might miraculously happen quickly in days, or it might take weeks or months for them all to get along. Generally, even if they don’t 100% like one another, cats are able to coexist in a peaceful manner if there are plenty of high and low spots for each cat to claim as their own for napping and security. We have no shortage of kitty condos, beds, couches, chairs, etc. to keep all the cats happy and another way to encourage friendships between the cats and good behavior is to have the kitten participate in the daily ritual of feeding time, treats, and interactive toys so that the cats associate Kizmet with good things and not negativity. Having plenty of clean litter boxes available is critical too – cats have a tendency to react to stress with bad litter habits and if you do not keep the litter clean and give them lots of boxes to use, you are only contributing to a potential problem that can be very difficult to cure.
The other important thing, no matter how tempting it is to spend all your time with the new kitty, you must remember to give extra special bonding time with each individual existing cat in your home who might be feeling jealous or neglected. Keep their routines as normal as possible and remember that when they act out, they are doing it because that is how cats are wired and it does not mean they are bad cats. Eventually all of the effort acclimating the feline family to one another will be nothing but a distant memory….
Now, as a special Caturday bonus, I am thrilled to share this short video clip of Kizmet playing fetch with his beloved wadded ball of paper. Forewarning – what you are about to see is absolutely adorable!!