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Bringing Your New Cat Home to the Family

Bringing a new cat into your home can be a joyous occasion, but getting him settled in and acquainted with your partner, children, and other pets could be tricky. Here are a few tips on how to orchestrate a smooth transition.

Home Sweet Home

Introducing Cats to Children

If possible, take your children with you to select the cat, and give time for both parties to become acquainted. Though most cats tend to ignore newborns, do not leave cats and newborns alone together, and do not allow the cat into the crib. When your baby starts to crawl, and then toddle, safety issues will shift from the crib to other interactions. Find a way to protect the litter box and food bowl from a curious toddler. Also note, some cats dislike being lifted and restrained by toddlers.

Introducing Cats to Cats

Before bringing your new cat home, check your resident cat’s vaccine history. Make sure your resident cat has been sufficiently vaccinated to protect against diseases your new cat may be carrying. Before the cats begin sharing litter boxes, have a fecal test done to check for internal parasites. Then keep your new cat completely isolated for at least a week before introducing him to the resident cat.

Some cats accept each other immediately; others do not. It is best to get an adult cat to cohabit with an adult cat, and a kitten to live with a kitten. This is because kittens can be quite bothersome to adult cats that are no longer interested in rambunctious play.

The safest way to introduce two cats is gradually. Start when your household will be quiet and the cats will not be upset by noise and activity.

Set up a separate room or area for the new cat. Do not allow your resident cat to enter this room or to stay at the door growling and hissing. After one week allow your resident cat to explore the door of the room where your new cat resides. After all signs of aggression have subsided, open the door a crack. Use a door stop or hook–and-eye to secure the door. Again wait for the hissing and growling to die down before progressing.

If you have a large carrier or crate, place your new cat in it. Bring the cat into your main living area. Try feeding both cats at the same time. When the cats seem comfortable in the same air-space, allow them interact. If signs of nervousness or apprehension are seen, limit the cats’ exposure to five to 10 minute sessions Then, try gradually to increase the length of time the cats spend together as long as they are friendly or, at least tolerant of each other. Remember, cat play can appear pretty rough.

Introducing Cats to Dogs

Any age cat should be suitable to live with a dog, but a kitten is most likely to adapt to a lifestyle with a dog better then an adult cat. The process for introducing them is similar to that of introducing cats to each other. Just add a leash to the resident dog and employ obedience exercises for food treats as a distraction. Don’t ever let the dog rush toward the cat, even if it is only in play.

Provide your cat with a variety of escape routes and high hiding places that can be easily reached at all times. Your cat must be able to get away from the dog whenever necessary.

Slowly let the dog and cat spend more together but always supervise them until you are sure there is no threat of danger to either of them.

Introducing Cats to Birds and Small Mammals

It is natural for a cat to be interested in birds and small animals as prey, especially if your cat goes outdoors. It is unlikely that you will ever get your cat and small mammal or bird to become pals unless you start introductions during a critical period of learning (2-7 weeks for cats).

Protect your smaller pets by keeping them in an enclosure that cannot be opened by an agile paw. Follow the same advice with your feathered friends. Check with a veterinarian specializing in exotics if you have concerns about where to place your birdcage.

Whether your other pet is a bird or small mammal, you should make sure its enclosure has adequate hidey-holes so it can escape from the cat’s view if it wants. It can be very stressful for any animal that wants to hide and can’t.

Be Patient

In general, spend lots of time with your kids and all your pets – and be patient. They’ll eventually get used to each other. Keep in mind that more than one million dogs and cats are unnecessarily put to sleep each year before they reach one year of age because of behavioral disorders. So, if you do have problems ask your veterinarian to refer you to a behavior specialist or trainer.