Your New Cat(s)
Kittens are very cute and cuddly and impossible not to fall in love with. But they may not be the best choice for you. Why? Here are some very good reasons for adopting an adult cat instead of a kitten.
- Having already been through the training needed to be “house friendly,” adult cats don’t require the care and attention that kittens do.
- Kittens climb and chew on just about everything, especially cords and wires. Adult cats are more at peace with their environment, and are more content to simply lounge in their favorite spot. This does not mean they aren’t playful – they definitely are!
- Being small, kittens get underfoot easily. Though most love to rub up against your legs, adult cats are more aware of your movements and their size also makes it easier for you to avoid crushing a paw or a leg or…
- Personality and disposition are established in an adult cat. When choosing a kitten, it can be “pot luck” when it comes to personality.
- If you have an older cat(s) in the home, they may not appreciate the intrusion of an energetic youngster; they much prefer those closer to their own age.
- Last, but not least, adult cats are usually a better choice with children and/or dogs around because they don’t break so easily.
Cats are colony animals and, with few exceptions, are MUCH happier with companionship. This is true for cats of all ages and is especially true for kittens. Yes, you are companions for them, but it’s just not the same. They need you AND they need their own kind.
Having more than one cat:
- Reduces possible cat behavior problems due to boredom
- Eliminates family squabbles over who has the cat
- Eliminates guilt feelings when you are away from home
- Does not detract from their bonding with you
- Allows them to play whenever they want instead of waiting for you
- Cuddle when they want to (with their feline companions and/or with you)
- And provides you with endless hours of pleasure
It really takes very little work to care for more than one cat – you already have litter box and feeding responsibilities.
There are few things more delightful than watching cats romp and play together, or more serene than watching cats curled up together.
Please consider bringing companionship for your cat friend – it will more than double the joy and the love they bring to your home!
- Leave no small objects or toys lying around that your cat or kitten can choke on. Kittens, as well as some grown cats, put everything in their mouth. Watch your small pieces of jewelry.
- Do not leave dangerous kitten toys lying around when you are not present. Examples of dangerous kitten toys are toys on strings, which can easily become tangled around your kitten’s neck or the string can be swallowed; bells, buttons, and baubles on toys can be chewed loose and choked on.
- Leave no strings, rubber bands, or threads (with or without needles attached) lying around. Cats often ingest them, frequently causing death.
- Keep breakable items out of reach. Shut doors that might be hazardous to your kitten or where it might wreak unwanted havoc.
- Make sure there are no toxic household items within reach. Again, kittens put everything in their mouth, and they do learn to open drawers and cupboards.
- Look high and look low for any unknown holes that you might not easily see but where a cat or kitten could get stuck or fall down. Cats love to jump and explore. They may get on cabinets that go up near the ceiling; builders sometimes leave uncovered holes, especially on corner cabinets. Similarly, look along baseboards for any gaps.
- Cats and kittens will chew on electrical cords. Secure, hide, or wrap excess lengths of cords.
- It is very important to provide scratching posts and train your cats to use them. It is best to have more than one post—preferably at least one that is vertical and one that is horizontal. (See scratching.)
- It is very important to introduce your cat/kitten properly to your home. It is best to start them in a quiet room for the first 3-5 days before introducing them to the rest of the house. They can easily become overwhelmed and frightened by too large and noisy an environment when everything is new to them.
- Make sure all window screens are tightly secured to the window frames. Also be sure there are no holes in the screen material and that it is securely fastened to its frame.
- Make certain all doors leading to the outside, including screen doors, are latched at all times. Your cat/kitten can easily push open a door that is left ajar.
- When receiving deliveries, or when saying goodbye to a guest, do not stand in the doorway with the door ajar. Your cat can and will run through the open doorway without you even knowing it.
- When family and friends (especially children) come to visit, it may be a good idea to keep your cat/kitten in a bedroom until it gets accustomed to strangers. It is good to educate guests about the importance of closing doors behind them.
- Be especially careful to watch the doors inside your house when you close them behind you. Cats of all ages tend to follow you and can easily be shut in the door. Serious injury can result. It’s easy to step on kittens, too, so watch your feet as they often tend to be underfoot!
- Be careful and look when closing open drawers. Cats and kittens love to hide in them and can become trapped—and injured if they are climbing out when you close the drawer and perhaps don’t notice their head, body, paw, or tail partially out.
- Keep toilet lids Kittens can fall in and drown. Cats may drink from the toilet and ingest toxic chemicals. Also, your cat should not be allowed to drink tap/toilet water; it should only drink water that has been filtered in some way. (See the importance of water.)
- Many houseplants are poisonous to cats and they love to chew on everything. Take care to learn which plants are toxic to cats and keep them well out of reach or remove them. Remember, cats climb. (See dangerous plants.)
- Home offices are a great place for cats to get in trouble. They also love to do “kitty editing” on your computer. Do what you can to cat-proof your home office, or close the door so they can’t get in.
- Make sure all furniture is either flush against the wall or a minimum or 12 inches from it. We know of situations where a kitten playing on the back of a couch fell, became trapped between the couch and the wall by its neck, and choked to death.
- Be particularly careful of moving recliner chairs up or down without checking underneath first. Cats and kittens love to sleep under or up inside these chairs and more than one has been killed this way. Also check rocking chairs for the presence of cats before rocking.
- Keep clothes dryer and washer closed or make sure to check inside before starting dryer or washer. Cats/kittens have been known to crawl inside to play or nap. Also, make sure there is no access into the back of your washer or dryer. Kittens can crawl inside the motor works and become injured by moving parts.
- It is not a good idea to let cats out on your balcony. Cats/kittens can and do either fall from balconies or jump.
- Never take your cat/kitten outside the house or in the car unless it is in a carrier. This is to protect you as well as your cat. An unexpected or unfamiliar sight or noise, as example, can frighten any cat (even the calm ones). A frightened cat can scratch and bite or jump out of your arms with surprising force and run—possibly headlong—into the path of danger. A frightened cat loose in your car can cause a deadly car accident.
- If traveling with your cat on a commercial airline, be extremely careful to research which airlines have a good animal safety record. Some airlines will allow you to bring your cat on board with you in the passenger cabin, in an appropriate carrier. This is ideal and well worth finding an airline that allows this. There have been many occurrences of pets being injured, killed, or lost when traveling in the cargo holds of major airlines.
- Never release the parking brake before starting your car engine. Homeless cats often nap under cars next to tires and a rolling car could crush them. (The engine starting will often frighten them out from under the car and out of danger’s way.) When your car is outside, before you start it, make noise. Cats do crawl inside engines for warmth and may be severely injured when the engine is started.
How To Introduce Your New Cat Into Your Home
Before bringing your new cat home, you should decide where you will keep it for the first few days or so. Setup a spare bedroom or bathroom where your new cat can adjust to its new surroundings with as little stress as possible. Be sure that you have kitten/cat proofed this area first, then cat-proof your entire house (see section titled Cat/Kitten Proofing Your Home). Put the litter box and food and water dishes in this room; you can move these to their permanent places later. Please go in and visit the cat often but don’t force it out into the house if it doesn’t want to. Some cats will need only one night to adjust and then be ready to join the family; others may take longer. Allow your cat to tell you when it is ready. If your cat still appears nervous, give it more time, before you leave the door ajar for it to explore the new house. Once your cat feels safe, it will want to come out and see what’s out there, but NEVER push it. If you push your cat out too soon, it will only find a place to hide and may not come out. Hiding is a natural behavior for your cat when it is uncomfortable. Just give it time; it will adjust; please be patient. Remember many of these cats have had sad experiences so you want to make this one as positive as possible.
In selecting your new cat(s), make sure you have considered the correct age of cat for your children. A general rule is no kitten under six months for a child under five years. There are exceptions, but most families have found this rule very accurate. Next, take into account the cats’ temperament. The background of many of these cats is unknown, so it will be hard to say if they get along with children. The best way to tell is to bring the child or children to meet the cat at the Adoption Center. If this is not possible and the first meeting is at the house, take it VERY SLOWLY. Follow the same guidelines as in the general introduction. When your cat is set up in its temporary room and seems comfortable there, bring the child or children in one at a time. DO NOT overwhelm your new cat with a room full of people. Make sure a parent is present at ALL times if the child is young. Let your cat tell you when it is ready to go out into the house. These cats are all INDOOR cats so you must teach your children to ALWAYS be aware of where their cat is when going in and out of the doors. Let your children know what can happen to the cat if it gets outside. They need to fully understand the dangers of letting their cat get out. A cat can live 15 to 20 years if kept healthy and safe, and we all want to keep them with us as long as possible.
To Other Cats
The “In General” guidelines also apply for introducing your new cat to your other cats. Remember you will need to have separate litter pans, dishes and toys. Most cats will share once they get to know each other but not all, so be prepared to always have two or more of everything. The best and safest way to introduce your new cat to the resident cat(s) is to let them do it themselves. Let them explore under the door with paws and noses – a cats’ curiosity will be the key to making this work. Remember the resident cat was there first and so OWNS EVERYTHING, including you and the family. The resident cat will have to teach the new cat this in their own way. Be prepared for hissing, spats, cat explosions and just really unfriendly sounds. When you hear these noises try not to react in a negative way. DO NOT scold your cat because they are protecting THEIR STUFF. Not only will they have to fight with the new cat then, they will have to fight you too! Remember to spoil the resident cat – they get fed first, petted first and played with first. You don’t want them to feel that you are replacing them. Some cats adjust quicker than others do; there is really no set time limit. If problems arise, call your Veterinarian; they can help you through the difficult times. (When I first introduced my kitten to our then eleven year old cat I thought they would never get along. I was on the phone daily with our Vet, asking if this would work out or not. After telling me numerous times that it would, just give them time, he asked me if the older cat had “killed” the kitten yet. I of course told him “no” and he said then leave them alone. They became the best of pals.) Cats are colony animals, they do well with companionship. A misconception people have is that cats are solitary animals, wishing to be alone. When you have two or more cats in one family you will see how wrong that thinking is and how happy your cats can be.
Yes, dogs and cats can live together in peace and harmony, trust me. It’s just that cats and dogs view their worlds differently. Cats OWN EVERYTHING – that chair, that sofa, that litter box, those people. Dogs BELONG to those things. Dogs are pack animals; their people are their pack, including other animals in the house. Food dishes and some toys are definitely off limits and should be treated as such, but everything else is up for debate. Follow the guidelines for the general introduction except DO NOT leave the door ajar to let your cat wander. When introducing your new cat to the dog ALWAYS have the dog on a leash. NEVER bring your cat to the dog: let the cat explore the dog. NEVER corner your cat with the dog; if the cat doesn’t wish to meet the dog right now, let it go. Always supervise the meetings until you feel comfortable leaving them alone. Make sure your cat always has a way out of the dogs reach – a table, a counter top, etc. Dogs just want to have fun. They don’t usually want to hurt the cat but when the cat runs away, they want to play chase. If the cat doesn’t, it will teach the dog how much is too much by using a paw with claws. Don’t panic, the dog will learn. Eventually everyone will settle down and a truce will be made. If possible, make one room in the house the cats’ room. Use a baby gate to block off the room from the dog, while allowing access for the cat and humans. This is a wonderful way to keep the dog out of the litter box and to give your cat a place of its own away from the dog, if it chooses. Dogs and cats, even though they view the world differently, can make wonderful life time friends.
Following these guidelines will help tremendously toward making your cat(s) introduction to its new permanent home the easiest, safest and stress-free possible. Remember, they, as we would, just need time to adjust.
It’s important to have realistic expectations when introducing a new pet to a resident pet. Some cats are more social than other cats. For example, an eight-year-old cat that has never been around other animals may never learn to share her territory (and her people) with other pets in the household. However, an eight-week-old kitten separated from her mom and littermates for the first time, might prefer to have a cat or dog companion. Cats are territorial and need to be introduced to other animals very slowly in order to give them time to get used to each other before there is a face-to-face confrontation. Slow introductions help prevent fearful and aggressive problems from developing. PLEASE NOTE: When you introduce pets to each other, one of them may send “play” signals which can be misinterpreted by the other pet. If those signals are interpreted as aggression by one animal, then you should handle the situation as “aggressive.”
Confine your new cat to one medium-sized room with her litter box, food, water and a bed. Feed your resident pets and the newcomer on each side of the door to this room. This will help all of them to associate something enjoyable (eating!) with each other’s smells. Don’t put the food so close to the door that the animals are too upset byeach other’s presence to eat. Gradually move the dishes closer to the door until your pets can eat calmly, directly on either side of the door. Next, use two doorstops to prop open the door just enough to allow the animals to see each other, and repeat the whole process.
Switch sleeping blankets or beds between your new cat and your resident animals so they have a chance to become accustomed to each other’s scent. Rub a towel on one animal and put it underneath the food dish of another animal. You should do this with each animal in the house.
Switch Living Areas
Once your new cat is using her litter box and eating regularly while confined, let her have free time in the house while confining your other animals to the new cat’s room. This switch provides another way for the animals to experience each other’s scents without a face-to-face meeting. It also allows the newcomer to become familiar with her new surroundings without being frightened by the other animals.
Avoid Fearful and Aggressive Meetings
Avoid any interactions between your pets that result in either fearful or aggressive behavior. If these responses are allowed to become a habit, they can be difficult to change. It’s better to introduce your pets to each other so gradually that neither animal becomes afraid or aggressive. You can expect mild forms of these behaviors, but don’t give them the opportunity to intensify. If either animal becomes fearful or aggressive, separate them, and start over with the introduction process in a series of very small, gradual steps, as outlined above.
If one of your pets has a medical problem or is injured, this could stall the introduction process. Check with your veterinarian to be sure that all of your pets are healthy. You’ll also want to have at least one litter box per cat, and you’ll probably need to clean all of the litter boxes more frequently. Make sure that none of the cats are being “ambushed” by another while trying to use the litter box. Try to keep your resident pets’ schedule as close as possible to what it was before the newcomer’s appearance. Cats can make lots of noise, pull each other’s hair, and roll around quite dramatically without either cat being injured. If small spats do occur between your cats, you shouldn’t attempt to intervene directly to separate the cats. Instead, make a loud noise, throw a pillow, or use a squirt bottle with water to separate the cats. Give them a chance to calm down before re-introducing them to each other. Be sure each cat has a safe hiding place.
Dogs can kill a cat very easily, even if they’re only playing. All it takes is one shake and the cat’s neck can break. Some dogs have such a high prey drive they should never be left alone with a cat. Dogs usually want to chase and play with cats, and cats usually become afraid and defensive. Use the techniques described above to begin introducing your new cat to your resident dog. In addition:
If your dog doesn’t already know the commands “sit,” “down,” “come” and “stay,” you should begin working on them. Small pieces of food will increase your dog’smotivation to perform, which will be necessary in the presence of such a strong distraction as a new cat. Even if your dog already knows these commands, work with obeying commands in return for a tidbit.
After your new cat and resident dog have become comfortable eating on opposite sides of the door, and have been exposed to each other’s scents as described above, you can attempt a face-to-face introduction in a controlled manner. Put your dog’s leash on, and using treats, have him either sit or lie down and stay. Have another family member or friend enter the room and quietly sit down next to your new cat, but don’t have them physically restrain her. Have this person offer your cat some special pieces of food or catnip. At first, the cat and the dog should be on opposite sides of the room. Lots of short visits are better than a few long visits. Don’t drag out the visit so long that the dog becomes uncontrollable. Repeat this step several times until both the cat and dog are tolerating each other’s presence without fear, aggression or other undesirable behavior.
Let Your Cat Control the Pace
Next, allow your cat freedom to explore your dog at her own pace, with the dog still on-leash and in a “down-stay.” Meanwhile, keep giving your dog treats and praise for his calm behavior. If your dog gets up from his “stay” position, he should be repositioned with a treat lure, and praised and rewarded for obeying the “stay” command. If your cat runs away or becomes aggressive, you’re progressing too fast. Go back to the previous introduction steps.
Although your dog must be taught that chasing or being rough with your cat is unacceptable behavior, he must also be taught how to behave appropriately, and be rewarded for doing so, such as sitting, coming when called, or lying down in return for a treat. If your dog is always punished when your cat is around, and never has “good things” happen in the cat’s presence, your dog may redirect aggression toward the cat.
Directly Supervise All Interactions Between Your Dog And Cat
You may want to keep your dog on-leash and with you whenever your cat is free in the house during the introduction process. Be sure that your cat has an escape route and a place to hide. Keep your dog and cat separated when you aren’t home until you’re certain your cat will be safe.
Dogs like to eat cat food. You should keep the cat food out of your dog’s reach (in a closet or on a high shelf). Eating cat feces is also a relatively common behavior in dogs. Although there are no health hazards to your dog, it’s probably distasteful to you. It’s also upsetting to your cat to have such an important object “invaded.” Unfortunately, attempts to keep your dog out of the litter box by “booby trapping” it will also keep your cat away as well. Punishment after the fact will not change your dog’s behavior. The best solution is to place the litter box where your dog can’t access it, for example: behind a baby gate; in a closet with the door anchored open from both sides and just wide enough for your cat; or inside a tall, topless cardboard box with easy access for your cat.
About Kittens and Puppies
Because they’re so much smaller, kittens are in more danger of being injured, of being killed by a young energetic dog, or by a predatory dog. A kitten will need to be kept separate from an especially energetic dog until she is fully-grown, and even then she should never be left alone with the dog. Usually, a well-socialized cat will be able to keep a puppy in its place, but some cats don’t have enough confidence to do this. If you have an especially shy cat, you might need to keep her separated from your puppy until he matures enough to have more self-control.
When To Get Help
If introductions don’t go smoothly, seek professional help. Animals can be severely injured in fights, and the longer the problem continues, the harder it can be to resolve. Conflicts between pets in the same family can often be resolved with professional help.
Punishment won’t work, though, and could make things worse