9539 Liberty Road, Frederick, MD 21701
Phone: 301-898-4009 ~ Fax: 240-668-3664
Gentle, complete veterinary care for the felines in your family
Link map for Frederick Cat Vet for directions, hours, bio of the veterinarian and staff, veterinary services offered and a tour of the veterinary practice

Introducing a New Cat to the Pride

Everyone gets excited when adding a new feline family member to their home, but when you already have at least one cat, this can be tricky. Quarantine should always be the first step. No matter where your new cat came from there is always a chance of spreading parasites, viruses, and other ailments to your feline residents. Separation will also help your new family member from being overwhelmed with their new surroundings and give them the chance to adjust. Keep your new cat in the isolated room with food, water, toys, a litter box and frequent company from you until you are able to visit your veterinarian. Quarantine should last about one week with a clean bill of health from your local vet.

Isolating your new family member will not only help with keeping the residential cats protected from illnesses but it will begin introducing the strangers through scents and sounds. After the initial week, go slowly with the next steps. Without the cats interacting, have them trade places. Let your cats check out the new scent in the room where they were kept out. The new cat should then be allowed to explore your home, giving him a chance to get used to the smell of his new companions. You may also introduce them by scent by brushing all of the cats and allow each to sniff one another's fur. Once they are all done exploring the new scents, put the new kitty back into the quarantined room and give your cats a chance to realize that there was another cat out while they were in the room.

The next step is to allow interactions that can't escalate into a potential fight. Introductions after meals are best because cats are more relaxed on a full stomach and feel less competitive. This can include letting them play with one another's paws under the door, sniffing noses through a baby gate, or through a door opening that is propped open just a few inches. If this is going very well, it is time for a more complete introduction.

Allow them to meet so that they can see each other from a distance of at least ten feet. Each cat should be allowed to escape into another room or a safe hiding place in the room if they choose. Most new interactions between adult cats result in at least some hissing, so don't worry if this happens. Swiping and growling are greater causes for concerns. Have a broom or something similar handy to keep them separated if you are concerned they will fight. Fortunately, this is quite uncommon in these situations. While you should be cautious, it is best if you do not hover too closely, as they will pick up on your tension and stress, and in turn, become more anxious. Try to strike a balance between being watchful, but also letting the meeting unfold naturally.

In general, if the first meeting goes well, it will only get better with time. However, be patient as hissing may go on for weeks and months before they snuggle with each other, or at least act indifferently towards each other. Petting each cat at arm's length simultaneously lets each know that you have accepted them both, and they don't need to worry about being displaced by the other. The product Feliway, synthetic feline facial pheromone, can also be effective at providing a positive scent signal to all cats in the house that this is a good environment. Maintaining many clean and easily accessible litter boxes (usually one more than the number of cats) is essential to avoid a common source of tension, and prevent inappropriate elimination. For long-term success, having an interesting and varied environment, which includes climbing towers, a variety of sturdy scratching materials and hiding nooks provides a healthy outlet for cats of all ages. The smallest living space can easily be home to more than one cat, if there is plenty of 'vertical' space and 'environmental enrichment'.

-Mike Karg, DVM