“We used to be called ‘pet psychics;’ now we are known as animal communicators, interspecies communicators, or pet whisperers.” –Joan Ranquet, Animal Communicator and Healer
Introducing a new animal to the resident cat in your household can take on epic consequences. Volumes have been written on this subject and for good reason. Do it right and there is a good chance peace and harmony will reign in your little kingdom. Screw it up and you will rue the day you decided to get a companion for Fluffybutt, your resident cat.
Some people bring the new member into the house and just let the cats work things out. I know of someone who did this and their new kitten ran away the first day and was later found to be living happily at a neighbor’s house two doors down the street.
Others are a bit more anal about introducing their cats to each other and go to extremes, such as not handling the new cat for fear the resident cat will get jealous and attack anything that moves.
As anyone with a cat knows, felines are completely unpredictable when it comes to changes in their territory. An older resident cat may welcome a younger kitten but reject a cat that is a month or two older. A female cat may accept a male cat—or not. A kitten might accept another kitten from another litter—or not. Kittens from the same litter tend to get along, but two kittens might bond more closely, leaving another kitten “the odd man out.” And cats are more likely to get along with a mellow, mature dog than they do with each other.
Given the unpredictable, petulant nature of the cats in your life, it is nearly impossible to give a tried-and-true routine that will work in every situation. However, I can suggest some ideas that have been successful in helping Fluffybutt and Hurricane get along.
- Cats are very territorial and very cognizant of boundaries. When you bring home little Hurricane, put him in a separate room that has been prepared in advance with his own bed, litter box, food, water dish and toys. Keep him separated from Fluffybutt and allow him to settle in to his new surroundings.
- In a couple of days take some cloth or paper strips that have the newcomer’s scent and leave them around the house for Fluffybutt to smell. You can even allow your resident cat to sniff the door of the room where Hurricane has been.
- Lock Fluffy in a bedroom for a brief time and allow the newcomer to explore parts of the house. Put Hurricane back in his own room and let Fluffy out to smell his scent on her “turf.”
- Depending on how Fluffy accepts the presence of another cat, open the door to Hurricane’s room just enough to let the two cats sniff each other. If there is any hissing or snarling, quietly close the door. Try again later. Some people like to use a gate that keeps the two cats safely separated but allows them to see each other.
- This process might take a few weeks or a month. At some point you want to allow little Hurricane out of his room and into Fluffy’s turf. The first time supervise very carefully. You might also want to distract Fluffy with a fly toy while Hurricane is exploring the new territory.
- To minimize any jealousy from the resident cat, make sure you spend lots of time with and provide attention to Fluffybutt. Some behaviorists suggest that you not pay too much attention to Hurricane until he has bonded with his new friend.
- If none of the above works, try using a plug-in pheromone called Feliway Diffuser for Cat Calming. Many of my clients swear by it. Pheromones are non-toxic, non-invasive essences that act on a cat’s nervous system to alter behavior. The diffusers plug into a wall socket and can be discontinued once the unwanted behavior stops. Found on Amazon.com
As more people decided to have multi-cat households, it is so important that all residents, human and feline, feel safe and secure. Nobody likes change, especially cats. Especially a resident cat. Taking the extra precautions to insure a smooth transition will make everyone’s life more pleasant and harmonious. The best of plans don’t always work out—that’s when it’s time to call in a fresh set of eyes to observe things you may not notice. A cat behavior coach can empower you to restore peace in your home.
Your Cat Behavior Coach,
Personal Coaching available for You and Your Cat(s)
If you would like to feel empowered by learning more about the inside world of the lion or tiger asleep on your couch, cat behavior coaching may be just the answer. Whether you have one pet or many, you have a responsibility to be seen as the “emotional leader” of your tribe. When you understand the world from your cat’s point of view, you can handle behavior issues effectively to restore peace and harmony.
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What Your Cat Tells Me
Seeing things from your cat’s perspective is the first step in addressing any issue. A cat’s world-view is different from ours. They have very clear boundaries and strong survival instincts about territory. Hierarchy or “pecking order” plays a critical role.
The most common issue I encounter as a cat behaviorist and animal communicator concerns territory and boundaries, especially in multi-cat homes.
If your household contains one cat, he or she is bound to feel like royalty and rule over everything he or she observes: space, furnishings, even people, including you. Your kitty feels relaxed and confident. All is well.
Introducing another cat into the household can be like dropping a grenade in the middle of a picnic. All the rules change, boundaries are up for grabs, and a mini-war for status is inevitable.
Different scenarios can alter the outcome. Bringing a young kitten home to an older, crankier cat can end in resentment, hissing and growls or in tolerance and play. Bringing a puppy or dog home to an established cat needs some fancy maneuvering to keep peace and harmony. Bringing home a kitten or a mature cat to an established dog has a greater chance of success if the dog is mellow and easy-going. Forget it if the dog is a terrier or high strung. The personalities of the animals and their individual upbringing can determine if there is peace or war at home.
The best chance for harmony is among siblings or kittens from another litter that are close in age and temperament. Happy endings occasionally happen when a kitten is introduced to an older senior cat. The opposite can also happen with the senior cat feeling displaced and unwanted. Older cats can feel secure and confident about their status when other mature cats are added to the tribe, but don’t expect Kumbaya to break out. Tolerance with an occasional skirmish over territory and/or hierarchy is natural.
Cats are naturally solitary, and some cats enjoy being in a one-cat household. Siblings or even cats who have bonded with each other enjoy each other’s company. Knowing in advance which personality your kitty is before deciding to bring another cat into the family can prevent heartache and guilt in the future.
Next Month: The best way to introduce a new cat into a multi-cat household.
I welcome all questions, comments and stories about your own experiences.