Tips For Integrating Cat Families
I recently moved into a brand-new apartment with a fellow cat-lover, and while we're excited to start our very own cat palace, we realized we weren't quite sure how to go about combining our cat families under one roof. Enter Mieshelle Nagelschneider, cat behaviorist, author of The Cat Whisperer, and spokesperson for ARM & HAMMER™.
According to Nagelschneider, the first month can be the most difficult when integrating pets, but if you follow these few tips that she suggests, your felines should be the best of friends in no time!
- In preparation for having multiple cats in one home, make sure that each cat has his own resources like a litter box, food dish, water dish, toys, scratchers, etc. "You must always add important resources to avoid competition that can lead to very unhappy cats," Nagelschneider said.
- Before the cats meet, introduce them by scent. Nagelschneider suggests taking a sock and petting your cat's face with it to then bring to the other cat. This gives the cat an idea of who will be sharing their space. You can even leave the sock next to the other cat's dish to associate positivity with the new cat.
- You want to establish a group scent for the cats so that they will form a bond. One way to do this is to brush your cat with the other cat's brush, but make sure you let your kitty sniff the brush first. By doing this, you're transferring the other cat's scent onto your cat so they will form this group scent.
- At this point the cats still should not be seeing each other. They should be contained in their own spaces. Now you can alternate letting the cats explore the home to spread their scents. "Spending time in the rest of the home will help improve your cat's confidence and reduce the chance of fearful or aggressive behavior with your other pet in that area of the home later," Nagelschneider said.
- Once you've gotten your cat acclimated in the space and with the smells, you can now introduce him to the other cat. Nagelschneider emphasized, though, that they should only be able to see each other from a distance. Do not put them together in a room without something separating them. These first meetings should also be very short.
- Rather than just showing the cats to each other, engage them in something that makes them happy. If your cat loves those dangly feather toys, entertain him with it while the other cat is visible. This helps show your cat that happy things are associated with the new cat.
- After the cats meet, reward them! This process is a big deal for them and very stressful, so you definitely want to reward the good behavior after the meetings. Bring your cat back to his private territory and reward him with a treat and more play time.
- Gradually increase the cats' time together and proximity until they are together without barriers. Just make sure you go slowly and really pay attention to each cat's behavior. They will let you know if they're stressed out, which might mean the process was too rushed. "When in doubt, slow down and back up the process," Nagelschneider said. She also suggested seeking out a professional for help if integration isn't clicking.
Integrating cats is stressful for everyone involved, but once completed, it is so rewarding for everyone: your cat has a new pal and you and the other cat owner can rest easy knowing everyone's getting along.