Have you had guests arrive at your home, only to find that your cat disappeared as soon as the guests entered? If that’s happened to you, don’t be surprised if your cat distances herself when new pets or kids come into the household. Cats like stability, so adding someone (or something) new to the mix can be a game changer. Rest assured, your cat will come around, but it can take time.
Here are some tips and strategies to help your cat feel safe and comfortable.
Introducing your cat to a kitten
Cats react better to kittens than to adult cats. Why? Your adult cat is the dominant one! Even so, here are some things you can do to make for a match made in feline heaven.
- Don’t rush the introduction. Give the kitten a separate room for a few days. This gives both cats time to recognize each other’s scents without interacting and possibly harming each other.
- For the first meetings, keep the kitten in a cage or carrier, so the kitties can smell and see each other. This will also help you gauge how they will react before letting them into the same open space.
- Give the kitten its own litter box, and place it in a different area than the cat’s.
Introducing your cat to another adult cat
Your first cat will feel a sense of ownership and priority when a new adult cat comes in.
- Give your cat a toy that the new cat played with, so he can get used to the scent. Or let him explore a room that the new cat has already visited.
- Play with each cat on your lap separately, so they can recognize each other’s scents and accept that scent on their human.
- Feed the cats in separate bowls, but put the bowls close to each other and feed the cats at the same time so they have positive associations with eating together.
In general, the following combinations in a multiple cat household seem to work best: two kittens; a mature, neutered cat and kitten; or two mature neutered cats (either two females or a male and a female). The most volatile combination seems to be two un-castrated mature male cats
Introducing your cat to a dog
“Fighting like cats and dogs” is less common than you’d think! Surprisingly, it’s easier to introduce cats to dogs, than cats to cats.
- Scent is important with dogs, too. When introducing a new dog into the household, keep the pets apart in separate rooms to begin with, so they can smell each other.
- It's very important to supervise the cat and dog when they are together to ensure that they will get along and not hurt each other, especially at night. A cat might scratch a dog, and a larger dog might attack smaller animals, including your cat.
Introducing your cat to a child
If you have young children, the American Humane Association recommends getting an adult cat rather than a kitten, Kids, especially those six and younger, can be inadvertently rough with kittens. And playful kitten claws and sharp teeth can injure your child.
- It’s more important to train your child how to interact with a new cat, than the reverse.
- Show your child how to slowly approach a cat, letting it smell his or her finger.
- It's important to pay attention to the cat's body language. Teach your child that he or she should leave the cat alone if it hisses or backs away from your child.
- Show your child how to use toys to play with the cat, instead of engaging in hands-on physical activity.
- The phrase “let sleeping dogs lie” is equally (and figuratively) true for cats: If your cat is eating or grooming itself, it’s not play time.
- If your cat was your first baby, introducing an infant can be challenging. Get your cat used to baby sounds by activating things the baby will use, such as a swing, and playing recordings of a baby crying. In addition, to get the cat used to the idea of a baby in the house, you can try carrying a swaddled baby doll around with you. Then, when the baby does come home, the sights and sounds associated with your new bundle of joy will seem normal to your feline baby.
While transitions are a part of family life and often bring with them great joy, they can be challenging for all involved. Remembering to take care of your cat’s needs will make for a smoother transition and a happy family!
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