Introducing A New Cat

March 1, 2010 at 3:10 pm Leave a comment

My brother is combining domestic forces with the woman in his life (and her cat).  He asked me what would be the best way to introduce their two cats.  I’ll call them Primo and Secundo (remember Big Night?  First and Second, or in this case, Resident Kitty and New Kitty) to keep them straight.

As I’ve read somewhere, “Amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics”.  I think with cats you are always an amateur so we’ll talk both.

Tactic:  Introduce slowly, safely; allow plenty of time for both cats to get used to the idea.  Build space into your plan.  Remember that you are setting the template for their future relationship.  If you rush this process, it may backfire, and you may not be able to undo bad blood.

Logistics:  I read a thorough, clear method by Tracie Hotchner in her book, the The Cat Bible, and I’ll summarize here.  Start with providing a safe zone in the home you’ll all be inhabiting together (the resident cat, Primo’s, house).  Ideally, an entire room with a door that closes.  This will be where Secundo lives, eats, plays and poops, so you’ll need bowls/toys/bedding/litter box.  If you don’t have extra room you can substitute the bathroom.

Bring Secundo into the house in a carrier with appropriate ventilation/viewing holes.  Walk right into the safe room with Secundo in carrier.  Primo will get a whiff of the new cat smells and that’s about it.  Once in the safe room, open the carrier but don’t force Secundo to come out. Reward in form of treat outside carrier door as encouragement, and try not to get Secundo’s scent on you.  That’s interesting isn’t it?  You don’t want Primo getting jealous.

According to Tracie, “any change from the norm is cause for concern in a cat”.  So don’t overdo it with attention to either one.

She recommends Feliway, as do I.  It’s an odorless (to humans) spray or diffuser that mimics the pheromone secreted by the cat’s cheek glands.  You know how cats rub their cheeks on vertical surfaces usually then they are happy?  They are leaving a pheromone signal of a safe, happy environment.  You can help increase your chances of succes, or ease any kitty’s anxiety, if you use the Feliway to mark their indoor environment as safe.

This is my favorite part of her recommendations, “Scent Socks”.  Again according to Tracie Hotchner:

“A cat’s senses, in order of importance, are smell, sounds, sight and touch-so the best way to get right to the heart of it with a cat is through her nose.”  The socks (4 clean, unscented) are used to absorb the smell of each cat (2 per kitty) and allow introduction by proxy.  Rub each cat with two socks, one over each hand, and don’t miss the cheek glands.   Put the socks in the other kitty’s zone, one near food, and one near sleeping quarters.  Allow them to sniff eachother’s socks, and reward with a treat or food when they do.  Hotchner writes that “the cats’ individual reactions to the scented socks will tell you a lot about how the actual introduction will go.”  This is very, very useful.  If the cats seem indifferent, that is a great sign that you can move ahead with the actual introduction; but if there’s a lot of hissing or growling, you’ll have to take it  more slowly.

Then there’s a period of trading places.  Primo is put into a carrier and kept out of sight while the door’s opened to Secundo’s safe room.  Primo is brought into Secundo’s room, and they are each allowed to inspect the other’s smells and spaces.  Both are rewarded after with a treat, or their food.  Be sure not to get Secundo’s scent on you, as that might make Primo jealous.  Just let them explore.

After a few days of this, if it’s going well you are ready to allow them to meet.  Be sure to have “escape routes”, like high places to jump to.  Remember that you are not to rush the process.  A short, happy meeting is plenty.  Have treats or toys on hand to toss to each one of them while they are in the same room.  Continue to mix them in the same room for short periods of time, with Secundo returning to her safe room for eating and sleeping, and only giving attention during that time to Primo, until you see them sitting peacefully together in the same area.  When that happens, give yourself a treat, because you’ve done a great job in mixing two very independent creatures.

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