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The key to introducing a new cat to your other pets lies in one word: patience. It’s tempting to let the animals meet right away to see if they’ll get along, but the risk of the interaction going wrong is not worth taking. Placing a new cat in front of the fur family as soon as she comes in the door can be overwhelming for her — and for your existing pets. It’s better to go slowly and introduce your pets in a way that is as stress-free as possible.
There isn’t a specific step-by-step formula for introducing a new cat to your household; every animal and every situation is unique. There are, however, a few strategies you can use that will increase the chance that your new cat will successfully integrate into your family.
As you introduce your cat to her new home and her new fur friends, keep interactions as positive as possible for all of your pets. When you bring her home, place her in a separate, closed-off area of your home, such as a bedroom, with all her essentials — food, toys, litterbox — inside. Keep the door closed and keep your other pets out of this space.
Start the introductions by giving your pets a chance to get familiar with each other through the closed door. Pair enjoyable, calm events with the presence of the other animal. Feed your pets their meals or play and interact with them while separated by the closed door. Place food and treats on either side of the door to help your pets associate the sounds and smell of the other animal with good things.
Let your pets get to know each other by sniffing each other and hearing one another from either side of the closed door, rather than face to face. After a while, you can also encourage your new cat to investigate another area of the house while your other animals are in a different room. This allows your new cat to become familiar with the house and get to know the other animals through scent before they’re physically present and vice versa.
Once your pets are comfortable being near each other on opposite sides of the door, it’s time to move on to a visual introduction. Keep it gradual — a barrier that allows your pets to see each other without interacting, like a screen door or baby gate, is a good place to start. If you have a pet who is at risk for jumping over or breaking through the barrier, keep him on harness and leash.
To help keep your pets’ anxiety levels low in the initial face-to-face meeting, cover some portion of the barrier to limit their view of one another. A baby gate can be draped with a towel or blanket while a screen door can be partially covered in newspaper. Once your animals are comfortable seeing each other, you can begin to reduce the visual blockers.
During these early introductions, keep your pets focused on a productive activity. Ask your pets to do familiar tricks, such as sit, target or down and reward their efforts. It is also helpful to reward any calm, acceptable behavior, like looking over at the other animal or sitting still.
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