Successfully introducing a new cat or kitten into an established multi-species family can be a challenge. The existing hierarchy is a delicate balance of interrelationships, and humans are often reluctant to upset the status quo. Many people avoid this by refusing to get a new cat until older pets die. But this rigid stance denies everyone—animals and humans—the infusion of fun energy a young cat or kitten brings. It’s easy to give your family the gift of a new playmate if you follow this simple protocol.
Keep the new cat or kitten isolated in a small room for the first few days. This allows her time to get used to the smells and sounds of the household from a safe distance. She might feel lost and overwhelmed if set down in the middle of a large bustling household. A small space with a litter box, food and water, and a covered bed or box to hide in, will give her time to feel safe in her new home.
The humans in the family should visit the newcomer often, giving plenty of lap time and cuddling. This helps the new kitty to get acquainted with people, but also allows the animal family members to sniff each other’s scents mingled on the human’s clothing. The sense of smell is very important to animals, and they may react unfavorably to animals whose scents are unlike their own. Little tricks like brushing everyone with the same brush or sharing blankets between the newcomer and the established pets will help them to become used to each other before they even meet.
When it’s time to introduce the new kitty to the rest of the animal family members, it’s important that you know your animals’ personalities and control the introductions to ensure everyone’s safety. Assuming that your dog is already cat-friendly (if not, please consult an animal communicator or behaviorist before proceeding) leash the dog and allow the cat to explore. Judge the dog’s reaction. Ears forward, body and tail relaxed, tail wagging equals curiosity, while staring eyes, tense body, tail straight-out or hackles raised means your new cat is in danger. If all is well, allow both animals to greet each other and allow the dog freedom to interact when it is earned.
Introducing new cats to existing cats is a little different. As long as your older cats have been spayed and neutered, any drama should be all-for-show and fairly short-lived. Most cats feel it is their duty to teach newcomers how to behave. A certain amount of hissing and slapping is natural and harmless, and you should allow them to work it out by themselves. Take care not to give the newcomer too much attention in front of the other cats until she has been accepted. Shared playtime with lavish praise and attention for the established family members will help the new fur-baby to find her place in the new order of things. Before long, you’ll find everyone cuddling and happy together.