I was reading the other day an article in CP Clinic which is The Cats Protection journal for veterinary professionals. I think you will find it really useful if you are looking to introducing a new cat to your family.
What we know in practice is that in spite of best efforts to introduce a cat to a new home not every feline adoption is successful.
So first of all let's consider the social behaviour of cats and why cat-to-cat introductions can led to aggression. The domestic cat descended from the African wild cat and as a result of the environment in which the species lived and survived the ancestor of our cats did not develop the complex visual communication signals that are typical of more social animals. Domestic cats have limited ability to show visual signalling which makes it difficult for them to communicate their state or interpret the signals of others. Despite this, cats can live together very successfully.
Here are our tips:-
- The new cat should be provided with his own room, food, water and a litter tray and somewhere to hid - an upturned box or under the bed. The room chosen should not be in an area where any existing cats currently spend their time. The use of a Feliway diffuser may be useful in reducing anxiety.
- Initial introductions can be made a feeding time as cats form social bonds best around this time. Position food bowls as far away as possible from each other. Choose somewhere where either cat can escape to another room, get behind furniture or jummp up high if it wants to. After feeding they should be separated again.
- Continue to feed the cats together and gradually start increasing the time during which they have visual contact but fussing with or playing with them for a short time so that their attention is on you, before the food is put down. If this is tolerated move the bowls closer together very slowly as they become more comfortable with one another
- Once the cats are relaxed while feeding start including periods of time where the cats are not distracted by playing or fussing. The aim is for the cats to associate each other with pleasant occurrences, not shouting or chasing
- Be prepared to be patient. Should there be any violent reaction the casts should be separated immediately and the programme should go back a step.
The points to remember are:
- froma cat's point of view another cat poses a threat to their food and other resources. To reduce this feeling of competition, both cats should be provided with plenty of placed to sleep, eat, drink and toilet that can be reached without having to pass one another
- Cats should be given the option to avoid each other. Cardboard boxes to hide in or empty shelves to hop on are ideal.
- Although a cat may have lived with another cat in the past this does not mean that he will tolerate a new cat immediately - each relationship is specific to the individuals.
- Cats may choose to live in different parts of the house. If this is an acceptable realtionship to them and neither cat seems to be suffering and you as the owner are ok with it the provided each cat has its own resources all should be fine.
With thanks to The Cats Protection League and Author Gemma Lovegrove.
The Cats Protection Legue have a range of free leaflets available at www.cats.org.uk where they can be downloaded.
Don't forget we are here to help you every step of the way - just contact the practice and let us work with you to settle in your new family member!