June is the American Humane Association’s Adopt a Cat Month. Just because the month is coming to end, I hope the focus on cat adoption doesn’t stop. Far too many cats continue to languish in cat shelters. The harsh reality is that many won’t make it out.
One problem is that many believe that cats are antisocial. In fact, domestic cats are social animals, seemingly enjoying our company, often the company of dogs, and the company of other cats. For example, feral cats almost always choose to live in colonies with others.
As my friend Bob Rohde, president and CEO of the Denver Dumb Friends League says, “There’s only one thing better than adopting a cat: it’s adopting two.”
True enough, but for folks who are adopting a second cat, well, that means there’s already one cat living at home. The nonprofit CATalyst Council offers six tips for introducing a new cat to current cat family members.
Six Tips for Introducing Cats to Each Other
1. All cats should see a veterinarian soon after adoption for a baseline thorough exam, even if the cat shelter you adopted from may have “vet-checked the cat.” This is true for any cat of any age, from kitten to senior cat.
2. Before you bring a new cat home, prepare a room where the newcomer can be comfortable and separate from your other cats. Ensure the room has a litterbox, water, food, a comfortable place to relax and toys. Keep the door to this room shut for a day or so to allow your new furry friend to get used to being in a new place. This will also allow your existing cats to smell around the door and get used to the idea of a new cat in the house.
3. Periodically switch out a blanket or pillow in the room where the new cat is being kept with one from another room of your home. This will allow all cats to smell each other and get accustomed to the others’ scents.
4. Slowly start allowing the new cat and your other cat(s) to see each other using a baby gate (or double baby gates — so no one jumps over, a screen door or other similar device), which will keep them separate and allow you to supervise their interactions. Praise the cats when they are being curious about one another (try using treats, a favorite toy or petting) to help them realize that their new friend is wonderful and not a threat.
5. When all cats seem comfortable with each other, try allowing them to meet without the baby gate for brief periods of time at first. During these introductions, use a very special treat which the cats associate only with these meetings (giving them a reason to like each other).
6. When all the cats seem to be getting along under your supervision, allow the new cat to come out and explore your whole house (at first, for very brief periods of time) without supervision.