Many of us have found ourselves in the position of needing (or sometimes simply wanting) to introduce a new cat into the house. When this is going to be the only cat in the home it's pretty easy and usually goes smoothly without too much fuss. However, there are times when we find ourselves in this position and there is already one or more furry family members to consider. If this decision is something you are simply considering, always start by evaluating the home situation as it is. What that means is, are the cats at home getting along with each other, are there any personality conflicts, is there room for one more, etc. If the cats you already have get along well and don't have any conflicts you can consider taking in another one. Just remember that as you add more cats, you add more personalities and that could mean new conflicts that you haven't encountered before. If you are already dealing with personality conflicts then you need to ask yourself whether a new cat will help the situation or simply make it worse. Some cats simply prefer not to share their home with others and adding another cat is just going to add more stress to an already uncomfortable situation. In the case of a younger cat that is bothering a much older one, it can often be beneficial to introduce another young cat so that they can keep each other company and leave the senior member of the household alone.
Once you have a feel for the situation you will be able to make a better decision about whether it would be right to bring another kitty in and what type of personality or age to look for. Regardless of whether you have a stable and easily adjustable household or simply have to integrate two pet households together, you will need to take some important steps to make this as smooth as possible. The first is that the new family member needs to have their own space which is isolated from the rest of the household. That means their own room, with food bowls, litter box, water, etc. This will give them a chance to get to know you and their new environment before they have to get used to another cat. Your careful observations of the home situation will come in handy to decide how long this isolation needs to be for. If there is a lot of hissing or growling under the door you will want to stretch this process out. If they are talking and playing with each other under the door you can likely move the timetable up a bit.
On average you will want to leave the new kitty in his or her new room for about a week. At this point you can try supervised visitations if they seem to be getting along through the door. If you have had any negative reactions from either cat you may want to make the next step a simple room reversal. Give your new kitty run of the house and then put your existing kitty in the seperate room for a week.
By this point you should have had your new kitty into your veterinarian to make sure they don't have any diseases that could be passed on to your other furry family member. That means you shouldn't have to change out the litter box or bedding which will actually speed things along. The room will smell like the new kitty and without a visual target the smell will simply be something new to get used to. Again, if everything goes well you can try supervised visitations with them and see how the introduction goes. Hopefully by this point they will have come to terms with the other cat being there and will be able to live in the home together. There will be times that you find yourself with a cat who simply will not except the friend you have chosen and you may not be in a position to turn them away. It is very important at this time to work towards a truce if at all possible. To make this easier be sure to have multiple feeding stations and litter boxes around the house. This will make it easier for the cats to avoid each other if necessary. You should also make sure that they each have somewhere safe that they can go to escape if needed. Shelves for laying on, cat trees and boxes with different sized holes can be some ideas to make a more comfortable environment for everyone. Hopefully, with careful integration, your transition should go smoothly and give you another furry family member to cuddle and love.
Some of you may remember Jordan, or Scabbers as he was called at the time. He had come to The Cat Clinic from the Toronto Humane Society and didn't manage to get very far in our adoption program. The reason being that I had been actively looking to add another addition to our household and fell in love. We were in the situation where we had an older, senior cat and a younger more playful kitty. This made it very uncomfortable for both of them because our older guy (Cuddles) didn't often feel up to running around and our younger guy (Samson) is still very active and playful. We had decided that another young cat might give Samson the companion he was craving while giving Cuddles the peace and quiet that he needs. We took the necessary steps to integrate Jordan into the home and now our furry family is happier than ever. Samson and Jordan spend all day playing and sleeping together and Cuddles gets to relax in our arms and enjoy his time alone.
Written by Rebecca Hardwick