Introducing a new kitty in to your home does not have to be difficult, but it is a delicate balance. If you understand a few basics, the introduction will go much more smoothly.
- Create a temporary territory. Because cats are territorial, your existing cats need time to adjust to a new friend, and vice-versa. Choose a space in your home that can be closed off, like a bedroom or a bathroom, and make sure that space is stocked with fresh litter, food, water, some hand towels or clean rags and a few toys. Keep your existing family away from the space while you acquire your new addition.
- Introduce slowly and carefully. When you bring your new pet home, place the carrier on the floor where your existing cats like to hang out, and let them investigate the new arrival. Do not open the carrier. This gives everyone the chance to see that there is a new cat in the house, and your new cat the chance to meet her new companions. After everyone has investigated, or if someone gets too agitated, bring the carrier into the temporary territory you have created.
- Introduce yourself and your family. When you bring your new cat into the territory you have created, close the door, open the carrier, and sit tight. Let the cat choose her own pace, and do not force her to explore. Some cats will adjust quickly, and some will simply sit there. If you find that kitty is too frightened, sit with her for a while, leave quietly and shut the door behind you. Go back and visit every so often so she gets used to your scent and presence. Exchange bedding occasionally, and place that bedding in the places where your existing cats sleep. In a few days, bring that same bedding back to your new kitty. Mingling scents will help everyone get used to each other.
- Open the door. After maybe a week, open the door to the enclosed space. Sit a few yards outside the door and wait. Don’t force them to exit, but allow them to explore on their own. Since you have established a safe haven for them, they may take some time to explore the rest of the home, especially if you have a large one.
- Monitor your family. Once the door is open, monitor everyone’s behavior closely. Some stress or territorial behavior may be expected, including hissing, growling, and swatting. The cats in the home will establish a hierarchy on their own. However, if you find they are becoming truly violent toward each other, do not attempt to discipline them. Separate the aggressor and seclude them. If your new cat is the aggressor, place them back in their original territory and begin the entire process anew.
If after trying these tips you still are having extreme difficulty, there are some additional things you may want to consider. Hopefully, you have already taken your new cat to your vet for checkup. If not, health problems can cause aggression by or towards your new arrival. Provided that your cat gets a clean bill of health, a wonderful product found in most pet stores you may want to try is called Feli-Way. It is a pheromone-based delivery system that can either be plugged into the wall like a scent diffuser, or as a liquid that can be sprayed onto the places your cats frequent. It has a calming effect, and my veterinarian uses it in her cat examination room.
The entire process can take as little as a few days or as long a few months. One experience I had involved an extremely aggressive calico who I was certain I would have to give to a new home. With patience and by using the exact tactics seen above, our family is now well-blended and stress-free. Hopefully yours will be the same.