How to introduce a new cat to your other pets

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The truth about cats and dogs is that they CAN get along, if introduced to one another correctly. And even anti-social kitties can learn to get along with other cats, when you follow the advice of Dr Katherine Miller of the ASPCA.

How to introduce a new cat to your other pets Already have pets and want to add a new cat to your family? Think through the new cat’s needs so you can anticipate, plan ahead and make everything go smoothly.
  1. If your existing pets have lived with another cat before, they may accept a new cat more readily. If not, it will be harder to predict their reaction to the new cat.
  2. A new older cat can be an easier fit if you already have a pet at home. They may find a kitten to be a nuisance and too rambunctious.
  3. Dogs can accept a cat into the household just as well as a cat can—sometimes even more so if the dog is older or has previous experience living with cats.
  4. Many adoption services, such as the ASPCA, can provide advice and information if the cat you have chosen will fit well with other pets.
  5. Take the transition slowly. It can take many weeks for the new cat to feel at home.
  6. Keep the new cat isolated in a room or crate at first and give the newcomer time to adjust. Cats can smell and hear very well, so even if they don’t see the other animals they will become familiar with them while isolated.
Transcript RON:  I’m Ron Corning for howdini.com and here’s a likely scenario, your bringing a new cat home but you already have another pet or pets in the household. How can you make sure that everyone gets along? Well, Katherine Miller is an animal behaviorist with the ASPCA. She’s joining us for some tips on how to make everything go smoothly. So step one Dr. Miller before introducing a new cat into the household is what?

KATHERINE:  Is to consider whether your existing pets have lived with another cat before. That’s always an important indicator to whether it will go well or not. Cats develop social skills just like we do. Many of them are learned, and if they’ve never lived with another cat before they’re ensconced in your home for ten years, there is less chance that they are going to be welcoming and very adept at welcoming the newcomer then if they lost a long time companion. And have the social skills and are used to sharing the home.

RON:  Right out of the gate people are going to assume that if you are bringing a cat home to meet another cat that thing are going to be much better then if it’s a cat and a dog. That may not always be the case.

KATHERINE:  That’s true, sometimes cats and dogs get along better then cats and cats. It might become a surprise to some people. Again the type of dog that you have at home, and whether they have experience with pets before will give you some information on how things are going to go. Some breeds of dogs like terriers are breed to chase small running animals. There is less likelihood that there will be a smooth transition for your new cat. It might be more of a supervisory situation for the pet adaptor. If you have an older mellow dog who’s lived with cats before and thinks that they’re no big deal, its going to be a lot easier to bring a new cat in.

RON:  Now there’s also the possibility that if they were adopted cats from the ASPCA, you can do sort of a dog or cat test. Many of these cats here live with other cats. But there are situations where someone can kind of see before they ever take cat home if they have a good temperament or not, a good disposition with other dogs.

KATHERINE:  That’s right, when your still looking at cats in a shelter or meeting a new cat that your considering adopting it is possible to get a bit of an indication of how accepting they are. Cat or a dog, you can test them in a very controlled and safe situation by keeping a barrier between the animals. But, bringing a cat up to the cat that you’re considering adopting, and looking at their reaction. If it is immediately a very strong aggressive reaction that’s probably not going to be a good match at home for your cat. Whereas a cat comes up and tries to rub or chirps making a little chirping sound that greeting the cat it might be a better indicator that this cat is going to accept living with another cat.

RON:  One final point here and that is just because you bring a new animal into the household and think things aren’t going well the first few days that’s not to say it wont eventually. There are specific steps you can take to get that process along. Give us some examples.

KATHERINE:  Well when you first take a new pet home whether it’s a cat or a dog it’s important to take the transition very slowly. They’re going to feel very overwhelmed. The house is new, the people are new, they don’t know why they’re there or how long they’re going to be there. And on top of tat your asking them to meet all these new animals as well. So it’s better to keep the newcomer isolated in a room by itself. It becomes comfortable in the new room, it becomes his territory, and as he comes out of his shell he very gradually comes to the idea there are other animals outside tat door. So its important to keep the door shut at first and gauge the animals reaction to hearing and smelling the other animal before actually seeing them. Cause cats and dogs have incredibly a good sense of smell and hearing. So they will know the other animals there without actually seeing them. Sometimes in a small house or an apartment you need to be a little creative. You can use a baby gate or a crate to keep the cat in it. They sell catteries that have multiple levels so the cat has a lot of room but again is enclosed. So it does sometimes take some creativity but its always possible if you use your head, think ahead, and plan ahead before you bring the cat home so your not scrambling to get equipment at the last minute.

RON:  Surprisingly good advice, we appreciate it Dr. Miller and I’m Ron Corning for howdini.com  
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  • Dr. Katherine Miller

    Dr. Katherine Miller Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Dr. Katherine Miller is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer with the ASPCA’s ® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) National Programs Office. more about this expert »

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