Behavior

Blending Cat Families Smoothly

You may have started a new relationship with another cat lover and are wondering how to blend your cat families harmoniously.  Perhaps you have had a sole cat for a long time and have decided to adopt a new one. Whatever your situation, bringing a new cat into the picture can be a challenge, but in many cases, cats are better off with the new addition. While many people assume that cats are solitary creatures because they tend to be individualistic rather than pack-oriented like dogs, cats still need feline company. A cat can be satisfied and content on its own, although it is often better for a cat to live with another cat. Your feline friend, however, might not behave this way at the beginning because of its territorial instincts, but in many cases, existing cats are won over and accept the new arrival.

The process of introducing a new cat can be a lengthy one filled with ups and downs even if the cats ultimately end up being close. The reason for this is that cats are intensely territorial creatures. Some of the adorable things that cats do such as rubbing up against sofas or bumping their heads against us are actually their way of marking territory. Cats have scent glands located on their heads and their cheeks, and they rub up against things as a way of spreading their scent. We may not be able to smell it, but other cats are given the signal, that a certain sofa is the property of Fluffy. When another cat is introduced, it may pick up on the scent of the other cat and start to feel intimidated. The existing cat will feel like the new arrival may be a threat and is encroaching on its territory.

There are ways that cats can be encouraged to share their turf with the new cat, but this is usually not an overnight development but a gradual process. Dogs can also be territorial, but they have a pack mentality which is welcoming to new members into their group. Cats are far more selective and individualistic, but they can be blended in many cases.

The difficulties that can arise from getting an existing cat used to a new cat are the reason it is a good idea to adopt two cats from the outset, particularly, kittens from the same litter. Kittens are already used to each other and do not see each other as invaders. In addition, they can help each other adapt to new to a new environment without their mother.  Unfortunately, in many animal shelters, kittens arrive who are prematurely separated from their mothers. They may be weaned but they may not be educated properly about their world. Kittens from the same litter can help each other adapt to new situations.

That is why it is often a wasted opportunity for people to adopt just one kitten and separate it from its littermates only to have difficulties introducing a new cat later on. A single kitten can tend to be lonely and bored and get into more trouble than two kittens who keep each other occupied. Aside from the cost of taking two kittens to a veterinarian, an additional one is not expensive at least in the beginning, because they can eat the same food and use the same litter box. When cats get older, they need their own litter box, but at the beginning, small kittens can share the space.

Cats don’t have to be littermates to get along well. Two kittens can learn from each other whether or not they were born from the same mother. When introducing a new cat, it is usually better to bring a kitten into the home. Most cats will be kinder to an additional kitten than a grown cat invading the space. They will feel less threatened by a new kitten than a mature cat, and may even assume a caretaking role. Cats guard their territory because they are afraid that a new cat will become dominant in their area. A kitten is relatively helpless and they may be more accepting of a young cat in their territory than a grown one. In general, males are more intensely territorial than females, particularly if they are not neutered. In addition, cats that used to be feral cats can also be more aggressive than lifelong domesticated cats, so use extra care when introducing a new pet and keep an eye on the situation. Ex feral cats and cats who were abused or abandoned by their former owners may have additional difficulties coping with a new cat. Their sense of competition may be more intense because of their past experiences and their survival instincts might make them defend their territory more fiercely. The easiest cats to adapt to the addition of a new feline are female cats who have been domesticated their entire lives. In general, not only is it easier to introduce a kitten than a grown cat, if the existing cat is younger, it is usually easier or to adapt to the new situation.

Introducing a new cat may be a bit like bringing a newborn baby home. People who have children understand that there may be no way of knowing how an existing child will react to a new baby. Some children adapt well from the very first days while others may throw tantrums and demonstrate unusual behaviors while they are trying to cope with the change in their lives. Although cats may seem less complicated than children, the situation can be similar. From the point of view of your cat, a new feline in your home is as major a development as moving into a new house or having a baby is for you. Don’t try to rush the process or feel discouraged if the transition is not smooth at first.

Consider introducing a new cat when you have the time off work or over the weekend when you have time to oversee the transition. Note the behaviors of both pets and take cues from them. Your existing cat wants to feel that he or she is not being invaded and that their territory is still theirs. However, they will learn to share their space with another cat which isn’t necessarily easy for all felines. In addition, you cat is likely to feel particularly vulnerable especially if its initial welcome from your existing cat is not a pleasant one. Keep in mind that most cats do get used to the change, but try not to be put off by some hissing at the beginning.

Although you cannot sense your cat’s scent, keep in mind that new cat picks up on the other cat’s scent all over the house. Before introducing the new cat to the existing cat, try to give the new arrival some time to explore the house by itself. Let the cat investigate all of the rooms of the house and rub its head on surfaces as necessary to blend its scent with the scent that is already there. The right kind of blending of cats in a home starts with the blending of their scents, so let the cat do its own exploration. After letting the new cat explore, it is a good idea to give the cat its own space away from the present cat so it can get used to its new home without interference. Choose an area or room your present cat is not interested in as a safe space for your new pet. Let the cat walk around and get to know the area. The room should include a litter box, food bowl, and some toys. There should also be a place where it can hide if necessary. Engage with the new cat but let have time alone if that is what it wants. In addition, be sure to get plenty of attention to your present cat.

The transition of the new cat takes time, and it is worthwhile to be patient because a successful transition often predicts a good relationship between cats. Even though the introduction may be rocky and there may be some hissing and avoidance, in many cases, cats eventually get used to each other. When the cat emerges from its safe space to meet the other cat, they are likely to be cautious in the first moments if not hostile. Cats often hear each other first, as you may notice when they perk up their ears as soon as they sense the presence of another feline. They will then look at each other in a cursory fashion or they will hold each other’s gaze intently. The latter is an indication that the cats are prepared to be in fight mode. This doesn’t mean they will necessarily fight, but you may notice that they curve their backs, that their hair stands up on their bodies and they may begin hissing. If the cats do not respond to each other with hostility, they may approach each other, sniff each other and then may retreat into their own areas. In some cases, the cats hit it off immediately, but this is often the case with female cats relating to a new kitten. Don’t be discouraged if the new cat retreats to its hiding place for a long time after its initial interaction with the present cat. It should have plenty of places to hide such as under the bed in case it is intimidated. It may take some time before a new cat has the courage to approach the present cat again. It may need more time to get adjusted.

There are a  number of things you can do to help facilitate the process of cats adjusting to each other. One trick that often works well to take a pair of clean socks or preferably those that have never been used. Take one sock and rub it all over the present cat’s body. Let the cat play with the sock and observe that it rubs its scent glands against the sock. A cat’s scent glands are located on its head, and that is why cats often relate to the world by rubbing their heads against objects or people. Give the other clean sock to the new cat and let it play with the sock. After your cats rub their scent on the socks, exchange them and have the cats play with the sock the other cat rubbed its scent on. The cats may be startled at first, but the sock method is a good way of getting cats to get used to each other. If the cat shows no interest in the sock or if it takes one simple sniff and moves away, give a reward for playing with the sock.

If you have enough room in your house, it is a good idea for the new cat to be in a separate room with the door closed so that it can spend time alone and not feel threatened by the existing cat. This could be a spare guest room where your present cat doesn’t spend very much time. Avoid using a place the present cat feels is his or hers to avoid territorial conflict. It is a good idea to have cats confined during their first introduction. Keep them in separate carriers and let them observe each other visually before going to the next step. If your cats start behaving aggressively even when they are within a carrier, that might be a sign that the transition will be challenging.

Once the new cat has spent a good amount of time its own space, let your existing cat approach the area where the new cat is. Ideally, the new cat should be taken away from its place for a few minutes so that your existing cat can pick up on the new cat’s scent. If the interactions are positive, reward the cats with treats for their good behavior. It may be a solid week before you are able to put the cats together in the same room. One sign that they are ready to intermingle is if they no longer seem tense when they see each other but ignore each other somewhat. If they remain hostile toward each other and the feeling does not abate, it is a good idea to contact your veterinarian or an animal behaviorist for advice about what to do.

Once the cats have adjusted to each other somewhat, keep in mind that they will probably need their own litter boxes. Cats are quite territorial when it comes to the litter box location, and some pet owners notice a change in their cat’s behavior if they even move their box somewhere else. Each cat should have its own litter box, feeding bowl and scratching post. Even though the cats seem to to have gotten used to each other, one cat could panic and attack the other without warning. Make sure that they are supervised whenever they are together. One handy tool could be pheromone diffusers and sprays that can calm cats down. Your veterinarian or pet supplier can direct you to these products.

Cats senses are quite keen and they respond to the slightest noise. One way to condition cats is to use a bell or clicker to help them anticipate treats. Prior to introducing the new cat, help your cat associate the sound with a delicious treat it especially likes. This can be a valuable way of diffusing conflict between the two cats. When they seem locked in each other’s gaze and are hissing at each other, make a noise with the clicker or the bell and distract them with treats. Some cats can forget their annoyance or feeling of alarm in the presence of another cat if it knows they are treats available.

The introduction of a new cat may involve fighting and conflicts. If the cats actually become aggressive and start to fight, avoid trying to break it up yourself because you could get caught in the middle and be scratched or bitten. Use the clicker and treatment to calm them down. If this doesn’t work and they are fighting, try separating them with a large slab of cardboard or large pillows to get them away from each other.

One way of predicting the success of introducing a new cat is your cat’s personality. Some cats are confident and independent. They may resent the introduction of a new cat not because they are afraid of it, but because they feel they are in charge and they are the boss. These kinds of cats might feel like human’s are there to serve them and that they are the center of the universe. Other cats do not necessarily have to be in charge but are willing to meet other cats and humans halfway. Another cat category includes felines who are underconfident and tend to be fearful. They may have been abused or neglected or were feral cats at one time. These cats may find it difficult to accept the introduction of a new feline because they feel threatened. Be careful that these insecure cats might prone to attack a cat they regard as an intruder. Introducing a new cat when the present feline is either overconfident or underconfident can be a challenge, but the middle category of cats is more eat easy-going. It may be a good idea to introduce a kitten to a very confident cat who will then play a parental role and take charge.

You may have heard the expression “curiosity killed the cat,” but not allowing curiosity can harm new cat introductions. While you should give each cat its own space during the transition process and should be vigilant to guard against fights and other problems, it is important to allow cats to express their natural curiosity whether they are being introduced into a new home solo or they accept the new feline into their lives. Forcing introduction is usually not the most productive way of forming a new relationship between two cats. Felines are fiercely independent creatures, have their own impressions and want to form their own notions about the world around them.

From your existing cat’s point of view, there was a space in your home that simply generated this new cat with its distinctive scent and unfamiliar presence. Your cat will explore this new reality the way it does anything else that is novel. In a typical situation, your existing pet will simply get used the presence of the other cat. At first, your pet will want the newcomer simply to go away. It may show signs of dread every time it sees or senses the new cat. Over a period of weeks, your present cat eventually will become accustomed to the idea that there is another feline in the house. As with introducing siblings to children, it might be difficult to predict how this acceptance is going to come about. You may get hints from your cat’s personality, but there are so many factors involved in introducing a new cat that an otherwise easy-going cat may become tense and a very domineering cat might soften up. Just as there are siblings who have ongoing conflicts, your first cat may never truly get used to the introduction of the new cat, but barring extreme behavioral abnormalities, most cat families make the adjustment to the new reality. One of the biggest mistakes pet owners make is trying to rush the process and expecting a smooth integration right away.

The best scenario for people who decide to adopt a cat is to get two of them, preferably kittens from the same litter. Two cats, even if they are not related, can become buddies and explore the unfamiliar terrain together when they are introduced to a new home. This is great advice for people who are thinking of adopting a cat, but if you already have one and want an additional cat, keep in mind that the introduction of a new feline is a process that requires patience for true harmony in the home. Cats are independent and territorial, but they also like company. Even though there might be suspicion during the first introduction, most cats will eventually accept newcomers into their home and may become close friends.

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