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Introducing your new cat

Introducing any new pet into the household takes patience. Some cats are social and others are not, largely determined by their age and previous experience. An 8-year-old cat that has been a sole pet is less likely to welcome a new family member than an 8 week old kitten.

Slow introductions will help prevent fearful and aggressive behaviours. Follow these 5 steps to give you and your pets the best chance of living in harmony.

Step 1: Confinement

Confine your resident pet to a medium-sized room with its litter box, food, water and bed. Feed your resident pet and the newcomer on each side of the door to this room. This will help them associate something enjoyable (eating!) with each other's smells. Be careful to not place the food so close to the door that the animals are too upset by each other's presence to eat.

Next, use two doorstops to prop open the door just enough to allow the animals to see each other, and repeat the whole process. You might do this over a few weeks or even months, depending on each animal’s comfort levels.

Step 2: Swapping scents

Switch sleeping blankets or beds between your resident pet and your new cat so they can familiarize with each other’s scent. Rub a towel on one animal and put it underneath the food dish of the other animal. You should do this with each animal in the house.

Step 3: Switch living areas

Once your new cat is using its litter box and eating happily while confined, let it roam around the house while the other animals are confined.

Step 4: Controlled meeting

After following Steps 1-3, you can attempt a controlled face-to-face introduction. Place your new cat into a closed carry cage and bring it into a room where there is plenty of space. Once the new cat is settled, bring your resident pet into the room and offer food to both. At first your pets may hiss or growl through the carrier but persevere. Allowing two or three minutes for the first introduction and then separating the pets is ideal. However always permit your resident pet to walk away earlier if it desires. Repeat this step several times until both pets are tolerating each other's presence without fear, aggression, or other undesirable behaviours. This could take a few weeks or months but never leave them together alone just in case.

Step 5: Let your cat go

At the next meeting, open the carrier door and allow your new cat to explore at its own pace. Permit the cat to exit the cage independently and don’t force them. Leave the carry cage there, just in case the new cat feels the need to flee. Remember to keep the sessions short, gradually making them longer and over more of the house. Again, this might take several weeks to months.

Following these steps will give you the best chance of success at introducing your two pets. If ever there is a setback, it is then important to go back a step in your training and re-introduce your pets once more.

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