New Cat: Safe, Civil Introductions

Adding a new cat to the family can be a simple, painless event, if you prepare properly

cat and dog

Q.We have opened our home to an additional cat, and we would like to know how best to introduce the cat to our existing cat and dog. Can you give us some advice on how to make this transition safe and easy?

A. You will need to use training and behavioral modification. You must also provide an adequate amount of resources—toys, beds, bowls—to make this transition easy on everyone. If possible, ask other family members to help, so all the pets get their fair share of attention.

Be sure each animal has plenty of space and resources to call his own. For example, one litter box per cat plus one more, multiple food and water dishes, multiples of favorite toys, and multiple beds. Use this step-by-step process to help ensure the least stressful transition:

To introduce a cat and dog:

1. Isolate a new cat for three days to a week in a room with a litter box, soft bed, food, and water. That gives him time to become accustomed to the new home’s smells and sounds before encountering other pets. Do this even if no other pets are in the home so the cat can develop a sense of place.

2. Let the cat explore the house while the dog is outdoors, confined to a crate or restrained by a leash.

3. When you bring the animals together, keep the dog on a leash so you can control playful or predatory lunges. Give them both treats as long as they react calmly. You want them to associate good things with each other.

To introduce a new cat:

1. The same as the previous Step 1. Isolate for three days to a week in a room with a litter box, soft bed, food, water.

2. Exchange their odors. Rub each cat with a washcloth, especially on the cheeks and the top of the tail, which has scent glands that cats use for identification. After letting them sniff the washcloth, rub each cat with the other’s washcloth so they can become accustomed to each other’s smell. If a cat sniffs the washcloth and hisses or swats at it, expect to spend extra time getting them to accept one another.

3. After the first seven days of isolation, set up a situation in which the cats can see each other without physical contact. You can separate them with a glass or screen door or use two baby gates on top of each other. This separation period should last three to seven days. During this time, feed the cats within view of each other. You want them to associate good things with the presence of the other cat.

4. Finally, introduce them with both cats wearing harnesses and leashes so you can separate them if they fight. Give them treats if they react calmly. Go slowly and they will become friends.

All my best,