Bringing a new cat into your home isn’t as simple as letting it loose with your other furry friends — that’s a good way to end up with furballs on your floors. It’s important to introduce your newest family member in a way that ensures a good relationship between all the animals under your roof.
Introducing your pets should be a slow process for best results. It can take days — or even weeks — for a new cat to become ready to meet their new friends. Different tricks can be required for introducing your new cat to other cats or dogs, but either way, it’s possible to have your pets becoming friends before too long.
If you have another cat
In a home with other cats, you should take several precautions, as cats are territorial animals that mark their areas with their scent.
Make sure you have a designated room for the new cat. This room should include their food, water, litter box, and toys. You should also include things like blankets and cat beds so your cat can spread their scent around their new home and become comfortable.
Don’t let your cats see each other as you bring the new cat into your home. Your cat will suspect they’re not alone from the scent of your other cat. Preventing visual contact is a good way to avoid yowling and fights — and upsetting both cats.
Feed your cats at the same time. Even if you didn’t feed your other cat on a schedule, feeding both cats at the same time helps them learn to live together and share a space.
Space swap within the house. Switch the new cat out of their space and put your other cat in the other room. The new cat can explore their home and all of its interesting smells while your other cat gets used to the smell of the new cat.
Feed the cats nearby. Start feeding your cats on opposite sides of the door to increase their awareness of each other. Put the bowls just close enough so they can hear and sense each other.
Allow for visual confirmation. The next step is to allow the cats to see each other. You should use a barrier of some sort, like a baby gate, to allow the cats to see one another. Ideally, you should choose a barrier that can reliably keep the cats separated so they can observe each other for longer periods.
Introduce the cats to each other. Under close supervision, put both cats in the same room and give them equal attention. Distract them with toys when things get scary, and pet and hold both cats equally. If the cats get nasty with each other, separate them and continue the feeding schedule, introducing them again at a later time. When peace seems possible, it’s time to let the two cats share your home.
If you have a dog
Introducing a new cat to a dog can be even more challenging, as dogs — especially larger ones — can be dangerous to cats. The steps are very similar to the methods for introducing two cats, with some differences.
Give the new cat a separate room with food, water, and a litter box.
Prevent your pets from seeing each other initially.
Do a scent-swap. You should leave a blanket or another absorbent object in the new cat’s room. After the cat has had plenty of time to rub his or her scent onto it, swap the blanket with a dog bed or one of your dog’s blankets. Place the respective objects near the feeding areas for each animal to allow them to become familiar with the scents of the other animals in their home.
Make visual introductions. Just as with cats, you should allow your cat and your dog to study each other through a barrier to get to know each other.
Know your dog. Dogs can have wildly different personalities, and introducing a larger dog or a smaller dog to your cat calls for different measures. Your dog should be familiar with basic commands so you can control them verbally. In some cases, it may be unsafe to allow your dog and cat to ever mingle unattended.
Introduce your pets. You should secure your dog on their leash and coax them with treats, commanding them to stay. Bring the cat into the room and allow the animals to observe each other and smell each other. Your dog may want to play with your cat, and there’s a good chance the cat will react defensively. Several short meetings over a long period is the most reliable way to get your pets acclimated to one another.
Further steps. You should allow your cat to explore their new home, keeping your dog in their crate or on a leash. Never put the animals in a situation where the cat has no escape route. If your dog attacks your cat, discipline them appropriately. Conversely, if they behave well around your cat, you should reward them with treats.
It may take quite a while before your dog and cat are comfortable enough to be left unattended. Your cat may never stop being afraid of your dog, but the important thing is that they coexist.
New cat owner’s shopping list
Here are a few items you should consider picking up before bringing a new cat home: