Introducing a New Family Member

Introducing a new family member, whether canine or feline, can be a daunting task. As with people, dogs and cats have distinct personalities – and not everyone gets along! Recently, I had the pleasure of welcoming a third cat to my already two-cat household, but of course, it wasn’t without its trials and tribulations.

There are a few simple tricks to help ease the introduction process.

My existing cats are two females – Jade and Opal. We welcomed a male, Delta, into the house at the beginning of the year. For the first two weeks, Delta stayed in one room; Jade and Opal were welcome to go up to the door and sniff underneath. This way, they can start to smell each other, and Delta wasn’t as unfamiliar to them when he was allowed to roam the house at large. Putting cats together cold turkey can cause unnecessary stress and fights.

I also took advantage of pheromone therapy. It comes in sprays, diffusers, and for dogs, collars. Pheromones help to make surroundings seem more familiar and less foreign. Diffusers work best in heavily trafficked areas of the house – I chose my front foyer, as my cats must go downstairs to use the litter boxes. My cats walk past the diffuser several times a day. Sprays last a short period but can make cat trees, sleeping areas, and even cat carriers a bit less daunting.

When we started introducing Delta, he was allowed out for short periods of time, to begin with. We slowly worked up to let him have more and more of the house open to him. If he grew anxious, he was allowed to retreat to “his” room. The most important thing with cats – which is also true when introducing dogs to existing cats – is that everyone has a safe place to go. It is usually somewhere up high, like a cat tree, or a part of the house not open to everyone. It ensures they have a place to get away from conflict.

Another important factor to consider for cats is the feeding time. In my house, everyone is meal fed, which means they have specific times to eat – and don’t they know when it’s dinner time! Cats do not enjoy eating together in the same space; they are solitary eaters and tend to hide away with their meal to eat in peace. Putting cats’ meals side by side can cause tension and may lead to a cat leaving the area to feel safer, thereby not finishing their meal. To make everyone comfortable, they each have a spot to eat in a separate corner of the main floor.

In the end, I did have to move a litter box to my main floor from the basement; Jade was the most displeased about the new addition and wasn’t keen on being in the same room as him. She took to inappropriately urinating on my clothing to show her displeasure at having to go downstairs into his “territory.” We added one more litter box (a general rule with cats is to have one more litter box than there are cats in the environment) and moved one upstairs to make everyone happy.

My house is still a work in progress – he and Jade are not the best of friends, but we are at a tolerable level of interaction. These tips can hopefully help make the process as painless as possible.

Written by: Sarah, RVT