Introducing A New Cat Or Kitten To Your Other Pets (part 1)Written on October 03, 2012 by Kathryn Wrubel, PhD Hospital: Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital & IVG MetroWest

Introducing a new cat into a family with existing pets can be a difficult task, however, when it is done correctly, behavior problems such as inter-pet aggression, predatory aggression, fearfulness, anxiety and bullying can be avoided. Over the next few days we’ll be posting some guidelines, tips and methods for introducing a new cat into your home, given existing dogs, existing cats, or both. We hope this information will help as you negotiate the murky waters of a multi-pet household.

Selecting The Right Cat For Your Family

Cats can take a while to warm up to new surroundings and it is best to take this process slowly. Rushing into it when your cat or other pets are not comfortable yet can be asking for trouble.

It is best to pick out a cat that you know will fit in well with your family and existing pets. Ultimately, the addition of a new pet should be a positive one for your whole family, pets and people included. It’s important to ensure the quality of everyone’s life is enhanced with this new addition.

When NOT To Add A New Pet To Your Family

If you have a dog that attacks small animals and shows an uncomfortable level of interest in cats (staring, stiffening, chasing, or other predatory behaviors), it isn’t fair to introduce a cat to your household. If you are already in this situation, be prepared for a lifetime of avoidance, management and control measures to keep your cat safe. Your cat should never be left unsupervised with a predatory dog.

If you have a cat that doesn’t like other cats or has a history of fighting with them in the house, you may just be in for more of the same.

Finally, if your resident cats or dogs have behavior issues that could interfere with the addition of a new cat or that require time-consuming fixes, you should seriously consider attending to these issues before adopting a new cat.

Deciding On Temperament

If you feel your existing pets will eventually get along, take a moment to consider what feline temperament or personality will fit best into your home. Some breeds of cats are stereotypically more bold, playful, laid-back, or affectionate. When you meet a kitten or cat for the first time pay attention to how they behave towards you, other cats in the litter, other people in the room and so on.  You know your pets, so use this information to your advantage when picking out a new feline family member.

Is the kitten gregarious, outgoing or playful?
Some resident cats and dogs will benefit from an occasional swat, hiss or vocalization and will do best with a cat that stands their ground.

Alternatively, is the kitten shy, more standoffish than his or her litter mates, fearful, skittish, or hiding?
If you suspect that your existing cat or dog will have a field day terrorizing the little guy- even if you feel sorry for them and that “mommy/daddy” instinct is kicking in- this is not the cat for you.

A Few More Considerations

If you are getting a young kitten, it is best to socialize them with your other pets prior to 9 weeks of age (they are more open to new things during this time period of rapid learning and socialization).

If you are adopting an adult cat, it is a good idea to adopt a cat that has lived previously with other cats or dogs instead of a cat from a previous home with no other dogs or cats.

If you are introducing a new cat to a dog, your dog should be under good verbal control and know several commands such as “Sit”, “Down”, “Come”, and “Stay”. If your dog knows these commands already, freshen up on them prior to your new cat’s arrival. This should be done in distracting environments since a new cat will be an exciting addition for your dog.

Finally, take your new cat to the veterinarian for medical tests, deworming, and vaccinations before you bring your new pet into your home. Skipping this step could lead to doubling and tripling your veterinary bills if your new little kitten has an untreated contagious disease or parasite.

Useful Links:

Next Post - Part 2: Introducing a new cat or kitten to your existing cats

Final Post – Part 3: Introducing a new cat or kitten to your resident dog

For more information on personality types associated with different cat breeds, follow these links:

Animal Planet – Cat Breed Selector

Catster – Cat Breeds

Kathryn Wrubel, PhD has expertise in animal learning, memory, psychopharmacology and canine aggression.  She has volunteered in animal shelters and has experience fostering mixed breed rescue dogs.  Dr. Wrubel enjoys working with owners and their pets. She likes educating owners about the effects of their pet’s past experiences and genetic background on behavior. Dr. Wrubel is energized by her ability to help resolve behavior issues by teaching people and pets positive-based behavior modification techniques. She joined the IVG network of hospitals in February 2009.

Dr. Wrubel is available for appointments at IVG MetroWest and Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital.

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