Ask Dr. Anna: Introducing a new cat to the household

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We have been seeing a lot of puppies and kittens this week so I thought I would talk about how to introduce a new cat into the household.  There are a few things to consider before learning how to introduce cats in the same household.  Before getting another cat it is important to ask yourself three questions.  Will I be happy if the cats aren’t best friends or need to be separated long term?  Do I have the finances to care for another cat?  Is there enough space for multiple resources in multiple areas?  If you answered yes to all these questions then you are ready for a new family member. 

Anna Coffin is the Veterinarian at Guthrie Pet Hospital and can be contacted at (405) 282-8796.
Anna Coffin is the Veterinarian at Guthrie Pet Hospital and can be contacted at (405) 282-8796.

For a successful and pleasant experience, I would recommend following these guidelines.  If you already have an adult cat, get a kitten because a kitten is not as threatening to their territory.  If you have a geriatric cat (>10 years old) get two kittens.  If you are getting two cats at the same time I would recommend getting two siblings, as they will have the same energy level and are the same age or get mother and kitten.  Believe it or not gender does matter and I was surprised by the fact that two males will get along better than any other combination.  Two females in the same household would be my last choice as far as gender goes.  

Once you have acquired a new cat, the first thing that needs to be done is take it to your veterinarian and make sure the cat is healthy, has been vaccinated, dewormed and doesn’t have any contagious diseases.  Prepare a separate room with all available resources (food, water, litter box) in your house for the new cat.  I also recommend using a product called Feliway that will increase the sense of familiarity and reduce stress.  This produce should be placed in the new cat’s room and in other areas of the house where your cat spends most of its time.

The biggest mistake that most people make is trying to get the cats together to early.  Depending on the cats, it can take up to one month for them to get accustom to each other.  If you try to hurry the process and things go bad it could impact their long term relationship.  After a few days, start to feed both cats on opposite sides of the door.  This helps the cats have a positive experience near each other.  Next, get the cats to play with an interactive toy under the door.  At this point, you could even try swapping smells by exchanging bedding.  If all is going well then start to open the door just a crack.  Don’t force any interaction and remember to be patient.  If either cat hisses or bristles go back to the previous step for a few more days.

Please e-mail me with your questions at ACoffin@aol.com and put “Ask Dr. Anna” in the subject line or mail your questions to 123 West Harrison Guthrie, OK 73044.

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