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As an animal trainer, I frequently work with families who have adopted a cat and are struggling to establish harmony between the new arrival and their current pets. In most of these situations, subtle warning signs, like one animal being disagreeable with the new cat, were overlooked until it became a bigger problem and the owners came to me for help.
Before bringing a new cat into your home, think carefully about how this change will impact everyone in your family — humans and pets alike. In particular, consider your current pets’ personalities and how they are likely to react to a new fur family member, as well as the personality of the new cat and how well she will fit in.
Each of your existing pets may react differently to the arrival of the new cat — for instance, your dog may be overjoyed at his new companion while your cat is completely panicked. But your dog or cat doesn’t have the ability to discuss his concerns about a new cat with you. Fortunately, there are some ways to determine if your existing pets will welcome a newcomer.
Begin with a careful look at each of your current pets’ history. Your pets’ past and current behavior will offer some good clues about how they will fare around a new cat and can also offer insight into what particular pairing has the highest likelihood of success. If your current cat likes the dog but has never really warmed up to other cats, bringing a new cat home may not be a good choice. But if she came to you from a home or shelter where she successfully socialized with other cats, she may do fine with the new arrival.
Proceed with caution if your existing pets have any history of aggression or fear around other animals. If there is any possibility that one of your current animals will view the new cat as a foe rather than a friend or as a prey item, you should reconsider your decision to adopt. No matter how much you may wish for your current pet to be more social, some animals do best with very select playmates or as single pets only.
You will also need to learn as much as you can about the new cat’s personality. Be sure to take into account her history with other animals (particularly the species you already own) and her temperament.
A cat that’s appropriately savvy about other animals is likely to do better in a multi-pet household than a cat with a sensitive personality. Friendly kittens taken in at an early age can also learn to consider dogs as friends if given positive experiences early on and into adulthood. When it comes to cat friendships, litter mates often pair together best, but if both felines are friendly and social, they may be open to one another if introduced properly.
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