You’re bringing home a cat you adopt from a shelter, but you already have an adult cat or a dog at home. When you put the two together in the same room, they are immediately hissing or growling toward each other. No matter what you do, it seems that they cannot get along really well. Frustrating, right?
Well, there are some steps you can try yourself for for introducing cats to a new home.
1. Adopting a Cat
Adding a furry friend into the house is indeed exciting! They will definitely make the house livelier, aren’t they? Adopting is not only choosing one that meets the eye, but there are also more to consider. Here are some tips on how to adopt a cat.
1.1. Be Picky About the Shelter
If you’re going to get the animals in the shelter, you need to know that instead of the stereotypical physical or behavioral issues, shelter cats mostly do not reflect these kinds of things. Often times, they end up in a shelter because their humans lose a job, move outside the city, or need to focus without having to worry about their pets. Aside from the cat’s appearance and behavior, there is something you need to assess, it is the shelter itself.
Assessing the shelter provides you some ideas about the condition the cat is living. If you see a cat that doesn’t look quite healthy, you can ask the shelter employees some questions about it. Find a shelter that has behavior assessment or disease testing which will give you appropriate information about the prospective cat. This way, not only you will be seen as a responsible kind of person, but you’ll also be seen as a smart and well-prepared one.
1.2. What to Buy Before Adopting a Cat
Before getting your little friend to your home, there are things you need to buy first. These things are daily necessities for them. If you have another cat at home, then you probably already know the things you need to prepare. If you don’t, you definitely should not skip this one out!
If you are questioning what are some things you need to buy before getting them home, here’s a list for your reference:
- Durable pet carrier
- Litter box
- Cat litter that controls stink and tracks less
- Food and water dishes
- A tough and tall scratching post
- Comfy cat bed
- Cleaning supplies for hairballs and litter-box masses
- A place to perch
These things are necessary to set up their space in the house. Aside from the things mentioned above, you’ll need to give them vaccines, microchips, and tags, or sterilization.
1.3. How to Tell How Old a Cat Is
If you’re not sure about the information about the cat’s age in the shelter from the employee, there are some methods which allow you to predict it. Though it can be challenging, estimating a cat’s age can be determined from some characteristics.
First, the teeth. Cat’s teeth can show their age. If the teeth are permanent and white, the cat is at least 16 weeks old. If the back of the teeth has yellowish stains, then the cat might be 1 to 2 years old. The cat is around 3 to 5 years old when there are yellow stains all over the teeth. Look for any wear on the teeth, if you find any, it shows that the cat is 5 to 10 years old. Just like human, old cats might be missing some teeth and have extreme yellow stains build up. This means that they are already 10 to 15 years old.
Another thing you can assess is the cat’s eyes. Look if there is any cloudiness in the lens that shows the development of cataracts. The cat might already be 12 years old if they have cloudy eyes. Next is you can check the body of the cat. Younger cats have more muscle and toned body, while the older ones tend to have extra skin hanging.
1.4. When are Cats Fully Grown
Cats are considered an adult when they reach 1 year old. Though they are basically adult, that doesn’t mean they are fully grown. In terms of size, cats reach closer to the maximum size by 9 to 12 months. Once they are already 1.5 year old, they will grow to their full-grown size even though the growth is at a much slower rate.
Different cat breed may have different growth rate. For example, Maine Coon cats take even longer to grow to their full-grown size. It may take up to 4 years until they reach their maximum size. Keep in mind that as the cat grows, their nutritional needs might change as well. You can switch kitten food to adult cat food when they already 1-year-old. The amount of food should also lessen after their first year, especially when you see that your cat develop a pudgy belly.
1.5 How to Get a Cat to Like You
Cats are very different from dogs. With dogs, you can give them some treats to get them to like you, not so much with cats. Though some of us might misinterpret cats often being mean or unfriendly, you just have to do a different kind of work to win them over.
Keep in mind that every cat is different, just like a human. Don’t take it too personally if they don’t like you right away. To a cat, unfamiliar scent can turn them off. If you’re worried about bringing that kind of smell, you could spray yourself with a pheromone.
Another thing you can do to get a cat to like you is using a method called by Michaelangelo from Jackson Galaxy. This is a finger to nose technique:
- You hold a finger in front of you, but not pointing
- You’re just presenting the top of your finger as a nose to your cat’s nose
- Cats can greet another cat nose to nose
- By using this technique, you basically give your cat the opportunity to pet you
When their nose touches your finger, they will push into you, allowing you to pet their head or cheeks. This is definitely a perfect introduction technique. It’s a way to feel more comfortable for someone who doesn’t know cats.
2. Natural Behavior of Cats
Are cats social beings? Well, you might wonder about
it yourself. But here’s what is known about their basic nature.
Are cats social beings? Well, you might wonder about it yourself. But here’s what is known about their basic nature.
Cats are indeed social animals as they are often be seen in groups under particular circumstances like shelter, protection, and food. That being said, ever thought that they can live in colonies like bees? Though they do not necessarily consist of one queen, large colonies can consist of several queens and their kittens, while the small ones tend to only have one queen and her kittens.
Though cats are territorial in nature and might show hostility towards the new guy, they can learn to socialize given the right treatment at the right time as they are capable of observational learning. In most of the cases, cats would be cautious when meeting another cat they don’t know, like turning into their defensive mode when the other one makes a sudden movement. Though, some of them might allow the other to smell their back.
Just like Michel Foucault said, there will always be power relations between two parties in every interaction. Thus, there will be one that is more dominant than the other. In terms of our furry friends, dominance can also be seen as an underlying factor in their daily interactions.
In general, the key steps on how to introduce cats to each other, the new cat to the existing pet you already have at home can be sum up like this:
- Assessing the cat behavior
- Setting up a basecamp for the new cat right after adoption
- The other side of the door feeding ritual
- Eye-to-eye contact
- Putting them in the same room
- Play together
Steps above came from the cat expert, Jackson Galaxy who is a leading expert in handling various kinds of cat’s behavior. Now, with this knowledge, how can you make your new cat get along with your other pet (or pets)? Well, let’s start by assessing their behavior first.
3. Assessing Your New Cat and Other Pets Behavior
Do you get your new cat out from the shelter? Well then, one thing you need to know that in a shelter, the cats are often handled in more forceful methods than necessary. Some examples are when the handlers used force to pull the cats out of the cage which might trigger some kind of worse behavior like resistance, which results in aggression.
One thing for sure when you’re going to introduce a new cat to the existing cat or let’s say, a dog, is to know each of their behavior. Is your new cat playful? Fearful or even aggressive? How about the other cat at home? How to introduce cats to a new home? You need to know what their behavior so you can take the right step for getting them to live along peacefully.
According to a well-known animal behaviorist, Dr. Gary Landsberg, a typical kitten or puppy who is not too fearful, might want to play with another animal. But, the question is if the animal who is asked by the kitten or puppy to play can tolerate the presence of another pet. Keep in mind that even though a cat is being friendly with a dog, doesn’t mean they can tolerate or communicate well with different cat or dog.
It is imperative to know the kind of behavior you’re dealing with. In general, it is suggested to confine the newly brought home cat in a separate room from the other. This way, they will have time to adjust as getting used to the smells, be it the household smells, new cat’s smell, basically all the smells.
How long does it takes for cats to get used to each other? Well, that depends, the question is whether you have the patience and knowledge or not. We’ll go further as to how to introduce your new cat to the other cat or dog you have at home later in this article.
4. How to Deal with Aggressive Cats
Now you’re already bringing home your newly adopted child. What if they have behavioral issues like aggression? Well, rest assured, though aggression is the second most common feline behavioral problems, that doesn’t mean you can’t handle them.
Keep in mind that although cat aggression is not like your typical dog aggression, that doesn’t mean they are not risky and pose a threat to deal with. They have potential weapons like their teeth and all four clawed paws. They can cause cat scratch fever if you’re being attacked by their claws. This is a potentially serious infectious disease that causes flu-like symptoms.
4.1. How to Calm Down an Aggressive Cat
To calm down an aggressive cat, you need to protect yourself first if they attack you. This is imperative if you’re being attacked by a cat actively. The best option is to give them space and avoid handling them directly. If you must touch them, try to wrap them in a towel or blanket to disable them. As for your safety, you need to shield your most vulnerable body parts with your arms during an attack. Prioritize areas such as your eyes and face.
Next thing to do is to interrupt aggressive behavior. You can give them a toy that they like to engage and relieve their aggressive behavior with it. On the other hand, you can also make noises like clap or a hiss to scare or shock them. To deal with the aggressive cat, often times you need to leave them alone. This is the best way to let them decompress and calm down on their own. Minimize the interaction until they have calmed down and come for you to interact or seeking attention.
To eliminate aggressive behavior, you can start your intervention early. If they’re still kittens, you can prevent it from becoming a habit. You need to figure out what is the cause of the aggression. Find out the root of the problem, this will minimize the aggression. Preventing is the best cure! If you’re able to find out the source of the devil, then you might be able to mitigate that behavior. When you’re dealing with aggressive behavior, give them a reward when they calm down.
4.2. Understanding Cat’s Body Language
Now, this part is really important to you. Carve down into your head this piece of information so you’ll have the knowledge what your cat is trying to tell you. This is very important rather than wondering about what that particular behavior could mean whether your cat is happy or not.
Just like us humans, cats have emotions like happy, sad, afraid, relieved or frustrated, and capable to show that emotions through body language. Here are signs that you can observe to know what they’re trying to tell you:
- Relaxed → Lie down, stretched out, curled up into a ball. Eyes are blinking softly or half closed. Relaxed body without any tensions.
- Focused → Eyes are wide open with pupils narrowed, ears and whiskers pricked forward, with their body angled towards the focus of their attention.
- Happy → Sit with a relaxed and upright gesture. Swivel gently towards your voice.
- Anxiety → Tail stands still or moving slowly side to side at the tip, with eyes open and not blinking.
- Fearful → Ears flattened back against their head, tail held under their body, or slashing from side to side.
- Frustration → Focus intently on their object of frustration. Being impatient if they can’t get to what they want.
- Angry → The cat will be rigid, with tail held out stiff and straight or curled around under their body. The cat can be silent, hissing, spitting or growling. A tense body and crouching in a threatening manner.
With this in mind, you’ll know what the aggressive cat currently feel, so you can act accordingly.
4.3. Spending Time with Your Cat
Once you can get near and interact with them, it is time to spend more time with them. This is necessary to create a bond and teach them to mitigate that aggressive behavior. You should let them know when they’re doing a great job. This is necessary when you try to change behavior. Give them rewards such as treats or toys when they behave to show that it is the desired behavior you expect from them. Let’s say that your cat becomes aggressive when you pet them in the head, you can give them a reward when they show no aggression when you do that.
If physical interaction is no longer a threat to you, then you can go on as to brush their fur or even cuddle them. Not only it is nice, brushing the fur also cut down their shedding and keep matted fur at bay. You can also cuddle your cat (well, of course, if they also love doing that). Do this while you’re watching your favorite TV show on your comfy couch, or listening to music on your bed. This will definitely build the bond between you two.
4.4. Ask for professional Support
If anything you do doesn’t seem to be fruitful, you can always ask for help from a professional. Contact your vet and see if there are any health problems. Aggression can also be caused by a health problem, like when they feel sick. The sickness that can cause aggression includes hyperthyroidism, arthritis, and dental problems.
Even if there’s no medical issue that causes aggression, you can ask the vet about how to deal with the cat’s aggression. They might even hook you up with a cat behaviorist. A cat behavior specialist can help you when the aggression is quite severe. With their guidance, you can work on to change the behavior and have the knowledge to interact with your cat safely and in a positive way.
5. Jackson Galaxy’s Way to Introduce Your New Cat to the Other Cat
There are some things that you can do when you’re going to introduce your newly adopted cat to the resident cat at home. After assessing your cats’ behavior, though they are quite playful, you might want to put them two in different rooms. Well, it’s just so that the one at home doesn’t feel that his space is being invaded. Remember, cats are territorial in nature, okay?
The steps below are what Mr. Jackson Galaxy suggests us to do when we’re introducing a new cat to your home. As an expert, he knows full well about how to deal with cat-related problems
5.1. Setting up a basecamp
For the new guy, you need to set a safe haven, a cat home first by keeping them in a room provided with food, water, litter box, toys, bed, and the most important thing, the scratching post. Keep them separated for several days. This safe haven will be an area around the house that will be the new cat’s territory. With this, they will feel like they own the space that you set for them.
How to make a cat feel comfortable in a new home? One thing that you need to know is that you need to put the basecamp where the human scent is quite strong, this way, they can develop a sense of home. Aside from your own scent, putting up soft items is necessary to act as the experts call “scent soaker”. Well, a scratching post will do, but you can also add blanket, carpet, cardboard scratchers to the list. Why this is necessary you ask? Most definitely because it’s all about scent when we’re dealing with a cat.
There’s a rule that needs to be followed during the isolation period is to not let the cats meet. Remember, cats are all about the scent! So, once they’re comfortable enough in their own room, swap the place. This way, they can be getting used to the other’s territory as well as each other’s scent without having to see each other face to face.
5.2. Other Side of the Door Feeding
This is indeed has become some sort of ritual. It is somewhat establishing a positive vibe between the two by providing food which is set on both sides of a closed door. Notice how each of everyone behave when they’re presented with their dish, if one of them is growling or hissing at the other one through the door, then it means the isolation time will be much longer.
In introducing two stranger cats, you need to take it really slowly. The other side of the door feeding is to develop positive associations with each other, thus, your judgment and patience are also important aspects. Start by setting up the bowl far enough from the door, but close enough that each one of them can sense the other one’s presence. If both cats don’t display any hostile behavior toward each other, then begin to move the food bowl closer to the door.
5.3. Introducing the Two
If there’s no growling and hissing toward the door, you can go on the next step, that is introducing the two cats eye-to-eye. During the meeting, there should be a neutral party to deal with them if anything goes south, and that is you, of course. Try to use a screen door or a baby gate where they can jump over to the other side.
Put the dish across each other, and give treats to the cats where the other one can see. Before, you’re giving them food across each other’s door without them seeing each other, now you’re building a positive vibe through visual. If they look like they’re comfortable enough, you can move the dish closer towards each other. This is one of the essential steps to get the cats together.
Again, you need to assess their behavior during the introduction process. Observe carefully before you’re moving onto the next step.
5.4. Play Together with Both Cats
Okay, now we’re getting to the most crucial step in the getting the new guy and the resident get along well. Now get them in one room, face-to-face. It won’t be a big of a problem if they just ignore each other or hiss a bit and leave. Just 15 seconds of the first meeting is enough, this way, they will have the chance to slowly get to know the other one.
As their supervisor, you need to keep watching them while letting them take things on their own as long as no one is displaying any hostile behavior. When dealing with cats, patience is important, always do things slowly according to their pace.
Slowly let them interact with each other every day within a limited amount of time. Let’s say they can be in the same room for 15 seconds before being aware of the other one’s presence. The next day, you can try to double up the amount of time.
In this step, not only you will act as a supervisor, but also their friend who rub their belly or head, and fetch them toys to let them enjoy themselves. Caring, loving, and playing are the essential things to build this positive association in the interactions.
5.5. Warning Signs when Introducing Cats
and Resolving the Conflict
Things may go not as one expected. There may be some stress which causes them to be hostile to each other. If this happens, you need to calm down and take the appropriate measure to deal with them.
Once there are signs of increasing aggression, like growling or crouching, you can make a loud noise by clapping your hands or throw a pillow nearby to make a distraction. If it goes on, take them away from each other and put them in their own basecamp.
When you try to get them to interact the next day and the hostility continues, you may need to start the process all over again. If necessary, you can ask for advice from the vet or animal behaviorist.
6. Introducing New Cat to the Resident Dog
We’ve already discussed how to introduce the new cat to the other cat you already have at home. But, what if you have a dog at home instead of a cat? How should you introduce them well enough to get along? Well, we’ll give you some tips on introducing cat to dog.
6.1. Pet’s State of Mind
First thing first, you need to know your pet’s personality before you’re going to introduce them. Dr. Kathryn Miller, an animal behaviorist at American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), said that before you introduce the new cat, it is important to consider whether your existing pets have lived with another cat before.
This will be an important indicator as to whether things will go well or not. She added that the type of breed also plays an important role, like terriers which were bred to chase small animals. These kinds of things will affect how the transition goes.
If your dog is the aggressive one who will pin or pick up any cat, then it is wise to reconsider your decision in getting a cat, or, you can proceed with the utmost caution. So it is best to assess both personalities. Is the dog aggressive? Playful? Or timid? How about the cat? What kind of personality does the cat possess? Once you assess the personalities, then you can proceed.
6.2. Setting Up a Safe Haven
Just like we’ve discussed in point 3.1., cats are territorial in nature, so it is all about scent and a claim for their own space. Thus, you need to keep the new guy in a room where everything he/she needs is provided. They will claim this space as their own and become a safe haven where there is no threat within.
We’re not introducing a cat to another cat here, but to a dog. Dogs are mostly bigger in size (depends on the breed though), thus, have more strength compared to a cat. If your dog is quite the aggressive one, then the safe haven will act as an escape room when they sense any danger. You can also to swap the place between the two to make them more familiar with each other’s scent.
Just like introducing a cat with another cat, you need to do the other side of the door feeding. This way, both of them will get familiar with each other’s scent. Aside from cats, dogs also have a high sense of smell, which makes scent is the most important aspect in their daily life.
So, since the introducing the new cat to the dog is not really different from introducing two cats, here are some things you need to do in this process.
- The other side of the door feeding
- Face-to-face meeting
Once they are comfortable with each other in terms of the familiarity of the scent when they eat, a face-to-face meeting can be conducted. Though you may have your concerns, the meeting will be held in a controlled manner.
We all know that most dogs have the strength to hurt a cat, thus, the introduction process should have a safety measure for both parties. You need to put the cat and the dog on opposite sides of the room when you start. Put a leash on your dog, so if there’s an aggression, you can hold them back from the quarrel.
There are essential items needed to make the introduction process go well, that includes:
- Food and snacks to reward them for their behavior
- Toys to keep them entertained
- Leash as safety measure
As always, patience plays a big part in this process. Start the meeting in short duration, later on, you can increase the amount of time. Given time, even aggressive cats or dogs can coexist peacefully
6.4. Reward for Calmness
A good boy or a good girl will always love some treats, be it snacks or a pat in the head. When trying to introduce two strangers, a reward system will be crucial. For example, your dog bark when seeing the cat for the first time, then you try to calm him down. Once they stop, you have to give him a treat as a reward for the desired behavior.
This reward system will also serve as positive reinforcements. Aside from showing the dog that chasing the cat around is bad, they should also be taught how to behave. This includes sitting, coming when called, or wait when you tell them to in return for some kind of reward like a treat.
With positive reinforcement, your dog will most likely don’t feel like they’re always scolded or yelled at when the cat around. If this happens, the dog’s disappointment may lead to aggression in the introduction process.
6.5. Play together with Both Cat and Dog
Now we’re getting to the most crucial part of introducing the new cat to the resident dog, it is to play together. Just like before, you will act as their supervisor and friend. Give them as much love as you can, while supervising the activity.
Give them treats if they behave, and provide lots of toys for them to play around. Signs cats are getting along: first, they seem to ignore each other, it’s like they don’t care about each other’s presence. Second, they don’t show any hostility toward each other when you play with both of them.
If you see any hostility, step in and separate them. It is advised you put the dog on the leash during this activity, this is to prevent any aggression aimed toward the cat. Also, you need to make sure that the safe haven is easily accessible for the cat so they can have a place to hide.
6.6. Resolving Conflict
Just like before, if anything ever goes south, you need to calm and take the necessary action. Make a distraction when they display hostility, and move them to their own space if the thing looks quite serious.
If the next day the negative vibe continues, then start the process all over again. Just remember that one of them can be injured when they fight, and if last too long, the problem will be harder to be resolved. Contact your professional to get some advice for dealing with this matter.
Cats are social animals and have the ability to learn through observing. Even if your new cat is fearful or shy, with the right treatment, they can learn how to befriend the existing pet you already have at home. Dealing with them can be quite tiring, but remember, it’s all about love, patience, and take things in their pace.
We’ve discussed the step on how to introduce the new cat to the resident as well as how to resolve the conflict if things ever go wrong. With knowledge about the nature of cats and the knowledge about how to manage the introduction process, you can act according to the situation.
To wrap things up, when dealing with cats or dogs, never lead them to build negative association toward each other by scolding, yelling, or (god forbid) hitting them. Love will make your every effort worth a shot, and patience is what gives you a result.