Imagine, sitting quietly in front of your television set, suddenly being introduced to someone you don’t know, who you’ve never met, and being told, "This is Arthur, he will share your home from now on!" It would be an unpleasant situation for anyone. The principle is the same for your cat. When you bring a new animal home, you say, “Here’s your new life companion; now you have to share your territory with him, whether you like it or not!” The shock and surprise of your cat is understandable, especially when you know the importance it attaches to its territory.
Unfortunately, no magic formula guarantees a successful introduction. Indeed, the age of cats, their sex and their race have very little influence on the success of an introduction. In all cases, the introduction of a kitten aged 3 to 5 months is usually easier than that of an adult with another. Finally, sterilization is almost essential for a smooth introduction.
Step 1: Make sure the newcomer is free of disease and in excellent health.
A visit to the vet is therefore strongly recommended.
Step 2: Isolate the newcomer in a room with food, a bowl of water and litter.
Let him acclimatize to his new environment, new smells and the presence of other cats. This usually takes a few days. During this period, there should be no contact between the resident cats and the new cat.
Step 3: Periodically, swap the cat's territory : let the new cat explore the house, while the resident cats are locked in the reception room.
Then put your new cat back in the room and let your other cats walk freely around the house. Repeat the exercise. This has the effect of allowing a mixture of feline smells. Why not embellish everything by having treats everywhere when you exchange cats? This has the effect of creating positive associations with new smells. If your cats are trying to feel through the slot under the door, let them!
Step 4: Do not proceed to this step until the newcomer and resident cats are calm.
Many people, so eager to see their cats meet and have fun together, make the mistake of moving too quickly to this fourth step. Make sure that a minimum of 3-7 days has passed since the new cat was adopted before starting this step. You thus put all the chances of a successful introduction on your side.
To make sure you’re successful, buy the best treat or favorite food of all cats (canned food, tuna, chicken, commercial treat or even regular food, if they’re fond of it). In short, have on hand what they will eat with great enthusiasm. It is important that each cat has what he prefers above all else. You may need to purchase different options if all your cats do not have the same preferences. When you are ready, treat your cats to the famous treat or food selected for each, then place each bowl a few metres away on each side of the closed door. When they start eating, open the door a few centimeters. It is very important that cats can see each other without being able to touch each other. If you are afraid that opening the door will cause a battle, you can install a mosquito net door as part of the isolation room door. This way, they can feel themselves without touching each other. Otherwise, just make sure that none of them can sneak in.
My cat doesn’t eat
If one cat refuses to feed when he sees the other cat, move the bowls further away until the distance is sufficient for the individuals to be comfortable and eat. After this first meal, repeat the experience as often as possible (at least twice a day) leaving the door open longer and longer, and gradually bringing the bowls closer together.
My cat reacts aggressively
If cats growl, feel down or kick each other a little by opening the door, do not intervene and keep the bowls away for a while. It’s a normal reaction: it’s the way they talk to each other and start negotiations that will allow them to set the rules that will govern their relationship.
*Do not proceed to the next step until the cats are eating normally in each other’s presence, that is, they are not rumbling, feeling or patting each other. It can take from one day to two weeks, depending on the case.
Step 5: Open the door completely during one of their meals and let the cats interact with each other.
Again, this meal should be absolutely delicious, so much so that it should motivate the cat to eat rather than worry about the presence of the other. It is possible that they will rumble, or they will feel faint, or there will be a small argument. It is important not to intervene, even if you feel that one of them is too intimidating or unfair to the other. Because this negotiation, even if it is a bit violent, will determine who among them will have the right to feed first, who will have a specific territory in the morning, then in the evening, etc. The sooner this negotiation will be over, the sooner things get back to normal. By intervening in this dispute, you will only postpone things, and the discord will continue unnecessarily. If the situation turns sour and you have no choice but to intervene, do not try to separate them: instead throw a small cushion in their direction or clap your hands without looking at them. That way, they won’t feel like you’re meddling in their affairs.
IMPORTANT – If fighting is too frequent, one cat seems terrorized by the other, or the violence of the fighting leads to physical injury, isolate the cats in separate rooms and contact an expert immediately.
The new cat won the negotiations
The new cat may win some negotiations. For example, they may have won the privilege of sleeping with you. Do not see this as an injustice. It is important that you respect this agreement. Each cat will know what to do to respect the agreements established and you will all live in harmony!
The benefits of playing
The game is a great way for cats to get to know each other. They associate the presence of the other with something positive. Play a lot with all your cats together. Since each cat normally has its favorite toy, ask for help from other family members so that everyone plays at the same time and in the same room. Not only will the game improve the relationship between them, but it will also solidify the relationship you have with all your cats, whether they are old or new!
If only one of these steps does not go as planned or if the fights are too frequent or too violent, contact an expert who can better guide you.
PUTTING A CAT IN A HOUSE WITH DOGS
If you introduce a cat into a house where there is a dog, or a dog into a house where there is a cat, the integration procedure is the same. The advantage is that a large number of dog owners normally have a cage for the latter, or they can use the leash to control it. Thus, instead of locking the cat in a reception room, the dog can be isolated in its cage or it can be kept on a leash when the cat circulates freely in the house to explore its new environment. In any case, a reception room must still be available so that the little cat can rest away from the dog. The cat will therefore have the freedom to approach the dog’s cage in order to make his acquaintance at his own pace.
Feed both animals with positive reinforcement using the same method explained above. Be sure to reward your dog for good behaviour, that is, when he is calm, respectful and not chasing the cat. However, never lock the cat in the dog’s cage. Also note that the more the cat has access to high places in each of the rooms of the house, the more he will circulate at his ease, because he knows that he can get away from the dog at any time if he feels the need. For this purpose, cat trees (see our column on cat trees) are very practical. Note that when it is perched on the top of its cat tree, your kitty will be much more inclined to look at the dog and thus understand how it should approach it safely.