Two cats in a room
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.

Start With Your Current Pets

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.

Get to Know the New Cat

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.
The cat’s temperament and energy level will also be a big factor in her relationship with your existing pets. A very shy cat, for example, may see an overly energetic canine with no regard for personal space as a threat rather than as a companion.

In many cases, especially with animals without a clear socialization history, it’s wise to seek professional help in making the right decision on adoption. Your veterinarian, a reward-based trainer, an adoption counselor or the animal shelter’s rescue staff can provide insight and guidance during this process.

Put Them All Together

While it is important to look for signs of potential strife between your existing pets and the new cat, there are also ways to know that everyone is likely to get along just fine. If your current pet or pets and the potential adoptive cat have all had positive relationships with other animals of the coinciding species, this is a positive sign. So if your dog loves your current cat (or is missing a cat that is no longer with you) and the adoptive cat is coming from a home that had a dog, this may be a match made in heaven.

Pay attention as well to the personality and energy level of each pet’s previous animal companions, as this can help you find an appropriate match. A playful and high-energy cat, for instance, may do better with a compatibly confident and curious feline as a playmate, while a more laid-back cat may be a better match for your couch-potato dog.

Finally, a word of caution: Be wary of adopting a cat as a potential solution to a problem situation with a current pet. It can be dangerous to treat a cat as the answer to another pet’s troubling behavior, such as being unfriendly with other animals or becoming anxious when left alone. There are no guarantees that the new cat will serve as your current animal’s security blanket or socialization coach, and you may actually be putting the cat in harm’s way. Deal with your current pet’s issue before you add another pet to the family. If you need help, talk with your veterinarian about a referral to a trainer or veterinary behaviorist.

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