Introducing a new cat
Before Introducing a new cat or socializing kittens, you should think from your cat’s point of view. You are small and just taken away from a familiar place, only to arrive in a completely new location filled with unfamiliar scents, sights, and sounds. The last thing you would want is a large party and groups of people staring at you as if they are expecting you to perform for them.
After your cat has become accustomed to, and accepted, his new home, it will be time to introduce other family members, pets, and house rules. But remember, always allow your new pet time to adjust. This period of adjustment will vary with each cat.
As I mentioned before, shy and apprehensive cats should be left alone, except for love and reassurance from you, until they’re ready to wander out on their own. When you feel your cat is ready, introduce people and other pets—slowly, if possible.
The Steps of socializing kittens or cats
(A) Introducing a new cat to family members
The first step of socializing kittens or cats is introducing a new cat to family members. The procedure for introductions will depend on the individual cat’s personality. Follow these tips:
- For shy cats it is best to introduce adults first, one at a time. If the adult has already been spending time with the cat while he is in hiding, then introductions may not be necessary.
- If not, or if the person is a stranger to your home, the adult should always sit on the floor before an introduction is made. This position is less threatening to the cat and brings the person to the cat’s level.
- The adult should stroke the cat gently and speak soothingly until the cat is comfortable. With some cats this may take several tries. Never force the cat to stay if he does not want to. This will only frighten a shy animal more. Also, make no sudden moves or loud noises around the cat.
- This type of introduction also works with apprehensive and outgoing cats but should not take as long to accomplish, as long as nothing frightens the animal.
Always be gentle with any introductions, no matter what the cat’s personality. I recommend that you do not acquire an extremely shy cat if you have young children, because kids are naturally rambunctious and cannot understand how important it is to be calm and quiet around such a cat.
(B) Introducing a new cat to children
The 2nd step of socializing kittens or cats is introducing a new cat to children. Children will be excited about the new addition to the family and will want to play. This seemingly harmless activity may have serious consequences for a shy and withdrawn cat. However, if a cat of this type has fallen into your care and you have young children, it is very important to supervise all activity in the cat’s presence.
- Hold the child’s hand while you both stroke the cat gently, showing the proper way to pet a cat.
- Explain that this is a living being with feelings and not a toy.
- Never let several children gang up at once on any cat, particularly a shy cat.
- Teach them to pet the cat one at a time and quietly.
- Even with outgoing cats, a child should be taught to be gentle and how to handle and stroke the cat.
- Even a harmless ear or tail tug can result in painful scratches to the child.
- The difference with an outgoing cat, however, is that he will likely grow accustomed to the noises and activity level of children more easily and quickly than a shy or even an apprehensive cat.
A cat should never be acquired solely for the purpose of teaching a child responsibility. If your child forgets to do the dishes, they can pile up for a day or two in the sink. But a neglected cat suffers needlessly.
Always supervise to be sure the cat is fed properly, fresh water is given, and the litter box is scooped or changed regularly. Remember, young kittens may scratch or bite when they play. A child should learn how to tell when a kitten (or a cat) has had enough and wants to be left alone.
(C) Introducing a new cat to the baby
The 3rd step of socializing kittens or cats is introducing a new cat to the baby. An number of people who think they must give up their cat because they are expecting a baby. This is partly due to a few myths that still persist about cats and babies. Pregnant women are often told they must give up their cats because of the threat of toxoplasmosis, a disease that can cause birth defects.
Threat of toxoplasmosis
- It’s true that toxoplasmosis can be spread to pregnant women through the feces of a cat, but outdoor cats are much more of a threat, and in any case the problem can easily be avoided.
- If you are pregnant, either avoid cleaning the litter box or wear rubber gloves when doing so, and always wash your hands thoroughly afterward. It’s that simple.
Jealousy (on the part of the cat) is another commonly cited problem that is easily avoided. Your cat is part of the family, and some cats may become jealous when a new baby comes into the home. Follow these tips for introducing a new cat to the baby:
- If possible, you should introduce your cat to baby sights, sounds, and smells before the baby actually arrives.
- You can set up a tape recording with the sound of a baby crying, play with your cat around baby toys, and maybe create a “mock day with the baby” where you do the kinds of things you’ll do after the baby arrives.
- Open up packages of baby products, such as wipes, lotions, and shampoos, and dab them on yourself before the baby is born so these smells become familiar.
- Once the baby comes home, don’t forget to give your cat plenty of attention. It’s probably a good idea to keep the cat out of the baby’s room and away from the crib unless you are there to supervise.
- Cats love to curl up where it’s warm, and this could be in the crib with the baby. As much as your cat may be trying to show affection to the new child (cats can and do fall in love with babies), a ten-pound cat lying atop a small infant can smother a child.
- The fact that cats love to knead with their paws to show contentment, lie on top of a child’s warm body, and at times taste the milk that may be left behind on a child’s mouth, has been the genesis of many strange myths.
- Once the child is old enough and big enough to handle the cat’s weight and to knock the cat off if he or she chooses, then the main caution is to prevent scratches or bites by teaching the child how to behave around a cat.
(D) Introducing a new cat to other cats
The 4th step of socializing kittens or cats is introducing a new cat to other household pets. You cannot explain to your other pets how to behave around the new family member, so introductions must be made carefully. All cats react differently to new arrivals. Some will be acceping, others indifferent, and still others defensive.
My neutered male cat Pounce hisses with the arrival of new adult cats, but loves kittens. I once fostered many kittens before they were placed in homes, and Pounce would take it upon himself to make them feel right at home while they were here, even allowing them to suckle his belly fur while he bathed them—just like a mother cat. Most males are not as maternal as Pounce, but some females may be. I’ve even known people whose kittens “nurse” on the dog.
- If you are getting a new kitten or cat as a companion for a resident kitten or cat, try to find one with the same personality, manner, and activity level, and near the same age.
- Many experts suggest getting a male cat for a female and vice versa. However, once cats are altered (castrated or spayed) it usually does not matter.
- Many shelters nowadays alter kittens through an early spay/neuter program, so you will not have to worry about having it done later. Spaying or neutering a young kitten is not dangerous to the animal and is becoming more common as a way to reduce the numbers of unwanted kittens.
- It is easier to introduce kittens into a household with other cats than it is to introduce an adult cat. Even so, whether you adopt a kitten or a cat, the following method is suggested.
This introduction method can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a day, depending on the reaction of the cats to one another. Follow these tips for successful introduction:
- Place the newcomer in a separate room with food, water, and a litter box. If the new cat is in a carrier (which he should be) and is reluctant to come out, allow him to stay there. Leave the door to the carrier open and leave the room.
- Cats use scent as a communication tool, “reading” the pheromones secreted from another cat’s glands. Letting your resident cats sniff around the door of the room the new cat is in will help the cats identify one another before meeting face to face.
- If a towel or a blanket came with the newcomer (or anything else with the new cat’s scent on it), set it down for your other cat(s) to inspect.
- Feeding resident cats near the base of the door will help them associate something pleasant with the new cat’s scent.
- Give your resident cats plenty of attention during this time so they will not feel abandoned.
- Visit the new cat frequently as well for calm reassurance. When all the cats have relaxed, move your new cat to a different location in the house.
- Allow resident cats to enter the room your new cat was in, so they may sniff around and become more accustomed to the scent. If you have the space in your house and the time to spend, you may want to try moving your new cat to a different room each day for several days until his scent fills the house before allowing him to mingle face to face with your other cat(s).
- Once the cats begin to appear more comfortable with one another’s scent, try placing your new cat in a carrier with a barred door and let him and your other cats smell each other through the door. Again,expect plenty of hissing and growling.
- The next step is to let your new cat or kitten mingle with resident cats, but keep a close eye on them.
- Feeding them together might help. Some experts recommend placing a dot of butter on the new cat to help persuade resident cats to lick him and learn to accept the new cat. However, never force newly acquainted cats together.
(E) Introducing a kitten to an older cat
The 5th step of socializing kittens process is introducing a kitten to an older cat by following these tips:
- If you acquire a kitten and have an adult cat, watch them closely. A spunky kitten may pester an older cat relentlessly. When I first brought my cat Pounce into the house as an eight-week-old kitten, he would romp around attacking the adult cats even as they were trying to sleep.
- Some of the cats were very patient with him, others were not. Even as an adult cat, Pounce is rambunctious (some cats don’t outgrow kitten hood as quickly as others) and he still tries to play with the older cats, whether they want to or not.
- Now they are accustomed to his ways, and he usually receives one of two typical responses from them. Either he’ll be humored with play, or he’ll find a paw swiping across his face followed by a hind-end view of the offended cat walking away.
- An indoor cat who has been an only cat may be even less patient with the antics of a young kitten than cats in a multi cat family are.
- Keeping the kitten busy with toys and games, or acquiring two kittens, might help take the pressure off the older cat. However, in some cases a kitten will actually bring out the frisky in an older cat. Some of my older, more sedentary cats acted like kittens again after Pounce came into the house.
And then there are those rare instances, unfortunately, when the resident cat(s) will simply not accept a newcomer. This is more likely to happen with an only cat who has been alone for quite some time.
(F) Introducing a new cat to dog
The 6th step of socializing kittens or cats is introducing a new cats to other animals, particularly dogs, requires more caution than when introducing a cat to another cat. When you bring a new cat into a home that already has other animals, your priority should be the safety and security of all involved. You don’t want your dog to injure your cat, but you also don’t want the cat injuring your hamster dog.
- If you are introducing your new cat to a dog who has never been around cats before, introductions will require care and patience.
- Introduce the cat at the dog’s eye level, holding both carefully. If the dog seems agitated or aggressive, remove the cat and try again another time.
- Never leave the cat and dog unsupervised until they are perfectly comfortable and accustomed to one another. Even an overly playful larger dog who is accustomed to cats may inadvertently injure a cat or kitten, so close supervision is essential.
- There are occasionally times when the dog and cat will not become accustomed to each other, no matter how much time and patience you have. If this is the case, it would be in the cat’s best interest to find him a more suitable home.
- Usually cats who have grown up with a dog or a puppy are more likely to become friends with another dog. If you acquire a puppy, things should go a bit smoother with introductions. A puppy, like a kitten, has not yet fully developed the instincts he will have as an adult, and the most trouble you will probably run into is the puppy’s unending energy.
- A puppy will see your cat as another puppy to play with. Although a cat is intelligent enough and able to defend himself if the puppy becomes too rowdy, a declawed cat, an ill cat, or a more-sedentary cat may not be able to defend himself or get away from the puppy’s advances. Be careful that the puppy (particularly a large breed) does not harm the cat in his enthusiasm to play, or wear an older cat out with constant demands.
(G) Introducing a new cat to other pets
The 7th step of socializing kittens or cats is introducing a new cats to birds, reptiles, and rodents by following these tips:
1.It is not necessary to actually introduce your new cat to these types of pets unless they will be interacting regularly.
2.Even so, these pets should be kept in secure cages and out of your cat’s reach. As with dogs, use extreme caution when introducing these types of pets to your cat.
3.A cat’s natural instincts are to play with or even kill these animals, depending on the cat’s background and personality.
4.Many cats who are raised indoors seem to lose some of the hunt-and- kill drive, but they still retain the instinct to chase and even catch prey.
5.I have pet rats and I allow them to interact with some of my cats. Precious, when she was younger, retained a strong hunting drive, but now that she is older and has been living indoors for seventeen years, her main focus is on getting as much attention as she can.
6.Some cats will never be able to interact with “prey” animals safely. Others will mother these pets and treat them as if they were the cat’s own babies.
7.To introduce a rodent, bird, or reptile to your new cat, hold the pet carefully and watch the cat’s response. If his instinct seems to be to attack, take the animal away.
8.Otherwise, let them interact and keep a close watch. Never leave a cat unsupervised with a small animal, no matter how good the relationship between them. Be sure your pet is secure in a cage that nothing can get out of or into.
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