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Cat Integration / Introduction

If you have a resident cat and are adopting a new cat/kitten, this process MUST be followed for successful integration and a harmonious relationship between feline companions 

The phases detailed below offer approximate timelines. Some integrations may proceed slower (or faster) and integration success is dependent on the personalities of the cats involved. Monitor the behavior and body language of each cat while you follow the process. If you neglect to follow these steps there may be fear, anger, aggression, spraying, and litter box problems with the new and/or resident cat(s).  SLOWER IS ALWAYS BETTER and PATIENCE is the key.

Phase 1 - Prepare a Safe Room:

  • A safe/starter room or sanctuary for the new cat will provide the cat with the quiet and safety s/he needs while becoming familiar with the scents and sounds of your home. The starter room can be any size but must have a secure door and ceiling.

  • Equip the safe room with cat food, water and litter. Place food and water on one side of the room and an open (unenclosed) litter box on the other side. Shyer cats may not eat much during the first 24 to 48 hours and may experience temporary diarrhea from stress. If your cat has not eaten in 48 hours, try some extra tasty treats such as canned tuna or salmon. If this is not successful, consult your veterinarian.

  • Put a new scratching post (at least 3' tall) inside the safe room. Scratching is a natural and comforting behavior for cats. It’s also important that the scratching post is new and has not been used by other cats. Your new cat does not want to be stressed by the smells of other cats while s/he is first adapting to his or her new surroundings. Give your cat some cat toys for entertainment. Provide toys such as mice and balls in the safe room for when you are not around.

  • Spend time in the safe room with your new cat. In the beginning, visit frequently for short periods of time. Visiting can mean interacting directly with the new cat in the form of play or petting, or quietly reading a book or chatting on the telephone in the same space as your new companion. Keep in mind that a nervous cat may growl, hiss, twitch its tails or pull its ears back. The best response is to speak softly followed by giving the cat some time alone.

  • Keep the cat in the safe room alone/behind closed doors for a minimum of 2 weeks and visit often during this time.

Phase 2 - Cat Smells Cat

  • Successful introductions take time! DO NOT (and we cannot stress this enough) try to introduce the new addition to your resident cat(s) immediately upon arrival. You may damage the new relationship irreparably and initiate fear, anger, aggression, spraying, and litter box problems in the new cat and/or resident cat(s). We repeat: Successful introductions take time.

  • Let the cats sniff out the situation.  Let “smell” be the first introduction as the cats sniff each other from under the “safe room” door. Within the first week you may begin exchanging the bedding/towels/blankets between the new and resident cat(s) daily. This helps familiarize the cats with each other’s scents.

Phase 3 - Cat Continues to Smell Cat

  • Let the sniffing continue. If there are no marked signs of aggression from the cats, such as hissing and growling, the next step is to confine your resident cat to the safe room and let the new cat explore your house for a couple of hours each day for several days.

Phase 4 - Cat Sees Cat

  • Organize a carrier meeting. Place your new cat in a carrier and put the carrier in a location of your home outside of the safe room (for example, the living room). Allow the cats to look at each other and sniff through the carrier door.

  • Any signs of aggression? Keep the visit short and return the new cat to its safe room.

  • Repeat this phase 2 to 3 times daily (or as often as possible based on their comfort levels), until cats appear to be more comfortable with each other.

Phase 5 - Cat Meets Cat

  • Let the cats meet at their own pace. If there are no signs of aggression between cats, leave the door to the safe room open a crack. This will allow the new cat to explore and/or your resident cat to visit. Supervision is necessary for the safety of both cats

  • In case of aggression have a spray bottle filled with water or a towel handy. Always stop serious threats and/or aggression immediately, as a serious fight may damage the potential for successful integration and relationship.

Warning signs of aggression:

  • Dilated pupils, direct staring

  • Thrashing/twitching/flipping tail

  • Tail is stiff and lowered or held straight down to the ground

  • Hissing, growling or spitting

  • The ears flatten against the side of the head or rotate backwards

  • The body posture often becomes crouched or tense

  • Hackles up, including fur on the tail

  • Growling, howling or yowling

  • Swatting, striking with paws

  • If over a period of weeks your integration process is not going well, consider the installation of an inexpensive screen door from a building supply store. The screen door allows the cats to continue to get to know each other by sight and smell, while keeping both parties safe. Each cat can take turns in the screened room.

  • A Feliway diffuser may also prove helpful when integration is difficult.

Phase 6 - Integration Complete

  • You may notice some occasional hissing, swatting or grouchy behavior over the next few weeks/months. This is normal. Cats are hierarchical by nature and must establish and affirm the pecking order within your household. Plus, much like humans, all cats have the occasional “off” day.

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