With careful planning, patience, and a common-sense approach, a new cat can be introduced into a home where it will be the only animal or in a home that already has a cat or dog, and live in the household peacefully. Be aware that while some pets become instant and life-long buddies, others may have long term objections and overall intolerance to one another. Below are some guidelines to assist in a positive introduction.
Make the Process Smooth
Find a room with a door for the cat to “live” in for several days. Equip it with a litter box, food, water, and bedding. Many cats like a hiding spot like an upside-down box with an entry and an exit cut into it. They don’t like feeling trapped. A scratching post is a good place for the cat to climb and perch. Place the food, water and bed as far away from the litter box as possible.
Place the cat in the room with you and allow the cat to discover where everything is. Do not put the cat in the litter box. Forcing the cat to go anywhere could make the cat not want to ever go there.
When the cat appears at ease with its new surroundings, you can leave the cat alone to relax.
Before letting the cat explore the rest of the house, make sure you do some cat-proofing. Make sure there is somewhere for the cat to perch (like by a window) and view the household. Put away any breakable items that may get knocked down, and make scratching posts readily available.
After about one week, you can start to open the door slightly and let the cat decide when he/she is ready to explore the rest of the house. Make sure you allow the cat to retreat to its room if necessary.
Once the cat is comfortable with moving about the house, you can choose a location for its food, water, bed and litter box that is a more convenient location for you and hopefully the cat! Make sure the litter box is kept away from the sleeping, eating and playing areas and is in a private, secure location to ensure its usage.
Make sure you let the cat decide when it is ready to come to you, interact with members of the family, explore, etc. It can take a few weeks before your cat will be completely comfortable in its new territory, but your patience will pay off when you have a happy well-adjusted companion!
Cat, Meet Cat
Start with the above steps 1-4. By keeping the new cat in a separate room, the two cats can smell/hear each other and get acquainted from under the door without a direct confrontation. Allow the resident cat to smell the carrier you used to transport the new cat in.
After a few days, let the cats swap living quarters for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. They can investigate one another’s surroundings and smells, and the new cat can check out the house.
For the introduction, make sure the cats have both been fed and nails trimmed, and that neither one is hissing or growling through the door at the other pet. Open the door and let them meet one another at their own pace. Be present when the cats are first introduced.
Feed the cats at a comfortable distance from one another. If tension still exists and they are unwilling to eat, separate the cats and keep them separated until the next day. Then try the introduction again when both cats are calm. As things settle down, you can keep extending the amount of time they are together.
Make sure you spend quality time with each pet. You want to establish a bond with the new pet, and reassure your resident pet.
Watch for any signs of stress or aggression. Some hissing or hesitation is normal and is to be expected. Make sure a frightened pet will have an escape route.
Cat, Meet Dog
Once you have completed the initial steps 1-4 and are ready to let the cat into the main house, make sure your dog listens to basic commands such as “leave it,” “down,” and “come.” To be safe, keep a short leash on the dog so you have something to grab if necessary.
Place a baby gate or other barrier to allow the cat a “dog-free” area. This is where the cat’s food, water, and litter box can be. Dogs and cats should not share the same diet and dogs will sometimes eat cat litter, which is also a hazard. Another option is to cut a cat door into a closet or vanity to keep the litter box out of reach from the dog and still give access and privacy to the cat. Cat food and water can be placed on a ledge or counter where the dog cannot reach it.
When you are ready for steps 4-7, make sure you maintain control of the dog so the cat is not threatened. Reward your dog when he/she shows good behavior toward the cat.
Spend quality time with each pet to establish a bond with the new pet and to reassure your resident pet.
Watch for any signs of stress or aggression. Make sure a frightened pet has an escape route. A cat usually will not attack a dog unless threatened or cornered.
If it is just not working out after all these steps, you may decide to keep the cat in separate parts of the house permanently. You can always try re-introducing them at a later date. Call the Tri-County Humane Society for assistance (320-252-0896) if this is not an option. It may be necessary to make an appointment to return the cat.