Many cat owners eventually desire to add a new feline family member to their existing solo cat resident (and sometimes, multiple cats!) and are often faced with the difficult question: how do I integrate a new member into the family as smoothly as possible?
Luckily, we at Hot Diggity have put together a handy guide for new kitty integration, to make your new family member feel right at home in no time!
Give Your New Friend A Comfy Space!
Cats usually take a bit of time to adjust to new surroundings, especially with the scent of other animals near! Give your new friend a chance to get settled into a secure location in their new home. In a small room or bathroom, set up your friend with a litter-box, a bed, food and water, and a few creature comforts – toys, soft blankets, etc. – to help them to feel secure.
When visiting your new family member, keep your voice calm and speak softly. If your kitty is particularly shy, we recommend that you sit on the floor close to your new kitty, and allow him to approach you. You may also set a couple treats on the floor in front of him to allow him to assess that you are not a threat.
If you have small children, please be sure that they are supervised around your new kitty! Help them to place their hands to gently pet your new kitty’s head, and reiterate the importance of leaving tails and paws alone – both for the safety of the kitty, and the safety of your child.
It’s important that your existing cat(s) begin to become accustomed to the smell of your new cat. We recommend that you take as many clean towels as there are cats, and rub the cats with the towels, particularly around their cheeks – then place the towels on the other side and allow your pets to explore the new scents!
We recommend that you keep the routine of rubbing towels on your cats and moving them across the door for three to four days. This will give your pets an opportunity to settle in and become accustomed to the new scent, simplifying the integration process.
Start Small, Stay Home!
After three to four days of scent integration, you may give your pets an opportunity to meet one another. Crack the door of your new kitty’s personal space a couple inches and allow them to approach the door on their own, supervising closely. Likely, it’s your existing pets that will be more curious to meet the companion they’ve been smelling for the past few days!
When you notice your cats noticing each other, say their names and offer each cat a treat – they will begin to associate one another’s names with a tasty morsel. It is easier to do this if you have a friend or family member to help. If your fuzzy family is hesitant, or positioned far apart from one another, having a human with each of your animals makes it simpler to offer all treats and individual attention as they adjust to one another’s presence.
Don’t be alarmed if you hear an occasional hiss, or a bit of a low growl – this isn’t necessarily indicative of an approaching fight, but simply a show of dominance as your cats establish new systems of hierarchy in your home.
We recommend that you keep these interactions short at first, over the course of several days, and only while you are at home. Start with twenty minutes, then an hour, then two, and so forth. Allow your new kitty to have their own space while you are away from home or sleeping.
Speaking of Helpers!
If you have a friend or family member that knows your existing kitty well, supplement your kitties’ interactions by having a friend hang out and play with each of your pets while they’re out and being adjusted! If one kitty is particularly shy, set a little can of wet food next to them, and give them lots of pets and attention while they’re eating. They’ll quickly begin to realize that the others’ presence is not indicative of a negative sign, and build pleasant associations with one another.
Patience, Patience, Patience!
Most cats will be adjusted enough to their new homes to be integrated over the course of a couple weeks.
However, we recommend that you continue to keep your new kitty’s area available to them as they adjust, including their own facilities, food bowls, and bed, separate from your other pets, and if you notice any distress from your other kitty, or kitties, give them a little space and try again. Don’t be discouraged – love takes time to grow!
Above all else, remember that patience is the key to success; if you give your pets the necessary adjustment period early on, you will be the most likely to set a stage for a harmonious household for years to come. And if all else fails, please consult your veterinarian – they are always there to help you!