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Introducing new cat to household

Bringing a new cat home is an exciting time! Just imagine all the fun you can look forward to in the years ahead. Your love along with a little planning can get the experience off to a great start. On the first day, count on spending the whole day with your new cat. And help your other pets roll out the welcome mat, too.

Prepare for a healthy and happy hello. Make sure the pets you already have at home are healthy and current on vaccinations before introducing them to your new cat. Unhealthy pets can not only pose a health risk to your new cat, their behavior can also get the relationship off to a bad start.

  • Caution is key when it comes to introducing your new cat to your other pets. Proceed calmly to help keep the animals calm and lower the risk of a nasty first encounter.
  • Introduce pets one at a time in a neutral atmosphere, preferably away from a food bowl.

Make sure there's a refuge for your new cat. It's best to provide your cat a separate "safe room" from the other pets where he or she has veterinarian recommended food, water, litter, toys, scratching and climbing structures. A separate room can really help by:

  • Creating a separate environment for direct attention from you
  • Allowing your new cat to feel comfortable in one part of the house, while allowing other pets to continue to have the rest of the house as they get used to the sounds and smells of the new pet
  • Giving your new cat a confined area for up to two weeks — the length of time some cats need to get used to new surroundings

What to expect between pets. When existing pets, especially cats, and the new cat start showing a healthy curiosity toward each other, it's time to give them a chance to get a little closer.

  • Put the new cat in a carrier so the existing pets can smell the new cat without fear
  • If it takes longer than a couple of weeks for your cats to get used to each other, start feeding on each side of the door to the safe room or playing with toys under the door to entice them
  • During an introduction, separate pets at any sign of aggression. If hissing or fighting occurs, separate the pets by making a loud noise or using a squirt gun. Never get in the middle because once angered, even a beloved pet could redirect the aggression toward you. Contact your veterinarian for expert advice if aggression continues.

Supervise closely and give individual attention. Never leave your new cat unsupervised with any of your other pets until you are certain they get along well. Take time to reassure each pet of his or her importance by spending time alone with each one daily. Keep smaller pets such as birds or hamsters safe and out of reach.

Add structure to an experience involving children. A new cat will need lots of time to settle into your home. It could take weeks. During that time, put a strict limit on playtime involving children to reduce the risk of unnecessary stress on your new pet. Sharing and assigning care responsibilities is a good idea too, including feeding, providing water, and litter box cleaning.