How to introduce a new cat
Before answering the question how to introduce a new cat, you should know the cats are solitary creatures by nature. That said, some cats are able to live quite happily in groups. Bringing a new cat into your home may change his whole outlook on the people and other animals around him. But if introductions are made carefully and sensitively, your cat will grow into a confident, friendly animal that can cope with all social situations.
The steps to socialize a cat
- Socialization should start in kittenhood.
- Give your kitten plenty of opportunities to meet new people, cats, and dogs, and make it a fun and rewarding experience.
- Introduce him to friends, neighbors, and the vet at an early age; keep initial encounters brief and reward your kitten with treats for good behavior.
- A cat that is not exposed to new situations as a kitten may grow up to be timid and fearful, and is liable to react badly to being touched or approached by strangers. Kittens start to learn social skills from their mother between 8 and 12 weeks of age.
- Be wary of bringing home a kitten younger than this, otherwise his socialization will be your responsibility. It is important that your kitten gets used to being handled, with plenty of play designed to hone his predatory skills, but let him sleep when he wants to.
- Kittens left to spend a long time on their own without stimulation or attention may develop antisocial behaviors and grow up to be aloof or aggressive toward people and other animals.
Socializing an adult cat
Adult cats take longer than kittens to adapt to new people and surroundings. Changes in routine are upsetting for an older cat, and unless you are familiar with your cat’s previous home there may be issues related to how he has been treated in the past.
- Try to get as much information as possible from the previous owner or rescue center about the cat’s personality, habits, motivations, and favorite food and toys.
- Familiar objects can also help him to settle in, so try to bring some of his old bedding or toys to make him feel more secure.
- Provide him with a refuge, such as a carrier or box, to which he can retreat and feel safe when things get too overwhelming.
An older cat may initially be wary of contact with his new owners and may resist being touched. Let him explore his surroundings in his own time. Talk to him in a low, soothing tone so that he gets used to your presence and the sound of your voice. Gradually accustom him to being handled by rewarding him with treats.
- One of the main problems with poorly socialized cats is that they play too rough, biting and scratching to get what they want. If that is the case, simply stop playing with him, say “no” in a firm voice, and give him a toy instead.
- If your cat learns that biting or scratching achieves the outcome he wants, it will be difficult to get him to break the habit. Give plenty of praise when your cat is playing nicely with you, but also praise him when he takes his aggression out on a toy. That way, he will learn that he can play hard with toys but not with you.
- New people need to be introduced with care. Never force your cat to meet strangers. Instead, let him approach the person when he is ready; once he realizes that nothing bad is going to happen, he will be more confident and trusting.
- You can speed up the process by laying a trail of treats up to the stranger. This works best when your cat is hungry.
- When your cat is comfortable with the person, a friendly stroke or two on the head or back can be attempted.
- If you have to leave your cat to be looked after by friends or neighbors, get him used to the new people in advance. Ask them to come to your home frequently to feed him treats and pet or play with him. He will soon look forward to their visits.
Introduce a new cat to the children
The first step for how to introduce a new cat is meeting with the children. If you have small children, your cat may feel threatened and frightened by their exuberant, noisy behavior and sudden movements—especially if they chase him. His preferred defense will be to run away, but when cornered he may respond by hissing, scratching, or biting, all of which may scare or hurt a small child.
- It pays to prepare your children for the cat’s arrival by reading through a book about cat care with them.
- First meetings should be supervised, especially if toddlers are involved. Let your cat or kitten take the initiative and approach the child. If he decides to flee, let him go.
- Play sessions should involve the child sitting still on the floor with a lure toy or ribbon that encourages the cat to come closer. To make your children feel involved, give each responsibility for some aspect of the cat’s care, such as filling the water bowl, shaking out the bedding, putting his food away, or collecting his toys.
- To avoid overfeeding, make sure only one child has the job of feeding your cat.
- Never let a young child clean out your cat’s litter box. Cat feces can carry intestinal parasites, such as worms, and an infection called toxoplasmosis that can be harmful to a young child
Introduce a new cat to a new baby
The 2nd step for how to introduce a new cat is meeting with a new baby. Follow these tips for successful introduction:
- If your cat has always been the center of attention, he may become jealous of the competition for affection when a new baby arrives. Some careful preparation can help prevent this.
- Before the birth, allow your cat to examine the baby’s room and gear, but make it clear that he is not allowed in on his own and that the crib, bassinet, and stroller are distinctly off limits.
- If you have friends or family with a baby, ask them to visit so that your cat becomes familiar with the sounds and smells.
- To accommodate the new domestic situation, you may need to change your cat’s routine or how much time you will be spending with him. Introduce such changes gradually in the months leading up to the birth.
- Likewise, if your cat has any behavioral problems that you need to put right, now is the time to do it, since they may get worse when the baby arrives.
When you bring the baby home for the first time, allow your cat to sit next to the baby and give him treats for good behavior so that he associates the baby with a positive experience. Never leave the baby and cat alone together. Close the door to the room where your baby is sleeping or buy a screen to cover the door frame. You can also get nets to put over cribs and strollers, which will deter your cat from trying to snuggle up to your baby or from spraying if he is stressed. Try to keep your cat’s routine as normal as possible and make sure he gets his share of attention from someone in the family.
Introduce a new cat to the dogs
The 3rd step for how to introduce a new cat is meeting with a dog. Whether you are introducing a new cat to a dog or a new dog to a cat, the same methods of socializing them can be used, with slight modification. Follow these tips for successful introduction:
- When you first bring your new cat home, put him in a room that the dog does not need to access until the cat has settled in.
- Alternatively, put up a barrier or put the dog in a crate.
- While the cat is getting used to his new surroundings, let the dog smell the cat’s scent. You can do this by rubbing the dog with a towel that you have previously rubbed on the cat or letting the dog sniff your hands after handling the cat. Do the same with the cat.
- Once the dog is familiar with the cat’s scent, put the dog on a lead and bring him to the door of the cat’s room.
- Do not allow any bad behavior such as barking, scratching, or lunging. If the dog behaves properly, try letting him off the lead.
- allow the dog through the door while on the lead, or put him in a crate in the cat’s room. Let the pair sniff each other, but remove the dog if he attempts to jump on or chase the cat.
- Supervise encounters until the cat is comfortable around the dog. Initial contacts should be short and repeated several times a day.
- Praise and reward the dog for good behavior, so that he comes to regard the cat’s presence in the house as a good thing.
- Finally, you can try leaving the two alone in the room by walking out then walking back in right away. Gradually extend the period of leaving them alone, but stay within listening distance. If you hear hissing, growling, or barking, return immediately.
- Make sure the cat has a safe place to hide that is out of the dog’s reach. Continue this process until the dog no longer reacts to the cat, and the cat is happy to eat or sleep when the dog is in the same room.
Sadly, some dogs may never be safe to leave with a cat. If that is the case, you will have to keep them separate or supervise their encounters at all times.
Introduce a new cat to other cats
The 4th step for how to introduce a new cat is meeting with other cats. Follow these tips for successful introduction:
- Because your cat sees your home as his territory, bringing another adult cat into the house may be seen as a threat.
- A new kitten, however, is more likely to be tolerated by the resident. Keep a lookout for bullying and jealousy on the part of the adult cat.
- If it looks like the older cat is picking on the kitten, keep the two apart until the newcomer is more able to look after itself.
- Remember, this is the older cat’s territory and his natural instinct is to protect it from interlopers, however small. Make sure that the older cat gets his share of love and attention, and reward him with treats for good behavior. The two will gradually get used to each other and develop a companionable truce.
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