Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
You’ve navigated your way through the dating ritual, and now it’s time to move in together. But what if you and your partner are feeling the love, but your respective cats aren’t?
Dr. Ilana Reisner, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist, admits that introducing a new cat into an existing cat household, or merging unfamiliar cats into a completely new house can be fraught with adversity. At the Western Veterinary Conference, she shared some tips on how to make the transition easier.
A little bit of squabbling among unfamiliar cats, in the form of growling, hissing or darting away is not unusual, according to Dr. Reisner. But there’s a whole range of behaviors that may indicate something more serious is afoot.
An assertive cat, for example, may aggressively attack another, seemingly without cause or warning, often inflicting injury. At the other end of the spectrum, a previously social cat may seek isolation by camping out under the bed or in the basement.
Cats may also express their dissatisfaction in more subtle ways: by staring or stalking another cat, or blocking his access to food, litterboxes and favorite resting places. The stress can lead cats to mark or have “accidents” outside the litterbox.
Before merging any cats, especially indoor-only with outdoor cats, check with your veterinarian to make sure all cats are healthy and vaccinations are current. In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend that cats be isolated for a few weeks before exposing them to each other.
Once your veterinarian gives the thumbs up, Dr. Reisner recommends placing the new cat(s) in a room with their own food, water and litterboxes. Keep the door closed, but allow the unfamiliar cats to sniff and bat at each other under the door. Swap food bowls and litterboxes every few days to further expose the cats to the others’ scents.
After a week of separation, place the resident cats in another room, close the door and then allow the new cat(s) to explore the house and sniff the surroundings.
The next step is to bring the cats into the same room, but distract and reward them with the most enticing cat-safe food you can find. Place the more confident cat in a large carrier at some distance from the other cat(s). The carrier allows the cats to be exposed to each other visually without the danger of them physically attacking each other. The more confident cat may be more likely to be aggressive with the others, so the carrier limits his or her movements. Be sure to allow all cats to indulge in the food.
If your cats don’t like to be confined, simply separate the cats at opposite ends of the room while they’re occupied with their food. Repeat this on a daily basis, gradually increasing their exposure from five to 10 minutes to an hour.
After about a week, or once cats appear to ignore each other, they can be allowed to mingle a bit. There may still be a little hissing and growling, but eventually the tension should subside. If aggression between cats persists, consult your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist.
To promote a peaceful household, Dr. Reisner offers some additional counsel:
1. You can never have too many litterboxes. As a rule of thumb, there should be one litterbox for each cat, plus one more. Since new cats may be unsure of litterbox locations, and others may block their access, the more boxes you have, the better.
2. Add food and water stations, and climbing areas. Make sure cats have easy access to food and water, as well as places to climb and observe other cats.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
In a massive airlift, 33 circus lions from
Peru and Colombia boarded a flight to a
sanctuary in South Africa.
Saturday is National Adopt a Shelter Pet
Day, so we’re featuring photos of shelter
pets our readers have rescued!
We looked at our database of more than
78,000 Persian cat names to come up
with the top male and female monikers.
In honor of National Hairball Awareness
Day today, Dr. Patty Khuly is sharing four
expert tips on how to prevent…
Secondhand smoke isn't just hazardous
for humans — it can cause many of the
same illnesses in pets, too.
The APBT has a formidable reputation
and appearance, but he is meant to be a
dog who loves and accepts people.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
Visit HealthyPet magazine for interviews with pet-loving celebrities, health advice from our experts, training tips and…
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.