Culture & Entertainment

Is your multicat household making you crazy? 5 tips for integrating a new feline into your family

By: Stephanie Zolis
Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

Is your multicat household making you crazy? 5 tips for integrating a new feline into your family

By: Stephanie Zolis
I thought I was ahead of the game when I adopted my second cat. Both my first, Sadie, and the newcomer I took in this past summer were described as liking people and other cats by their respective shelters. I'd seen what unsocial cats coming together looked like: biting, scratching, stalking, screaming, hissing, urinating (everywhere). Not pretty. I intended to avoid such a cat catastrophe. It was this past August when I became a pet parent of two. Sadie was clearly understimulated, spending 10 hours alone most weekdays. Our small one-bedroom apartment had become something of a prison for her, with only the birds and squirrels outside our first floor apartment window and her own imagination to occupy her time while I was away at work. For those nine months, it was just the two of us. Weeknights she would jump off the walls and gnaw on the drywall whenever my attention was diverted from her. I knew she was bored and lonely and, as I had satisfied my own need for a companion, it was now time for me to satisfy hers. But she wasn't as thrilled as I thought she'd be when I brought in a one-year-old tabby, Josephine, for Sadie to spend her days with. She hissed—something I'd never witnessed before—repeatedly and stalked Joey from outside the door of her "cat sanctuary," a.k.a. my bathroom. Finding a new pet is easy. Most shelters are overflowing with homeless cats and dogs in need of a forever home. It's what comes after you take them home—particularly when that home is already a pet-inhabited environment—that's the hard part. So what happens when you bring home a second, third or fourth cat and he or she isn't immediately accepted by pre-existing pets? Try and try again. With a little love, a lot of patience and these five easy steps, your furry felines will become fast friends—just like Sadie and Joey. 1. Choose your new pet carefully Unfixed felines tend to be more aggressive and territorial, so all animals should be spayed and neutered at the appropriate age. Intact cats are unable to coexist peacefully, leading to spraying and fighting. Moreover, females and young males are easier to introduce to the household since they're less likely to disturb the existing feline hierarchy, and status is often what leads to confrontations between cats. 2. Introduce the felines one sense at a time Shelters consistently inform adoptive guardians to keep new pets cordoned off in a room or a small section of their new homes (the aforementioned cat sanctuary) before introducing them to the rest of the space. It keeps them from becoming overwhelmed by and anxious about their new surroundings. This method is even more important when existing pets are in play. Let the animals smell each other from under a closed door and implement the sock technique (petting each animal with a sock or other small piece of fabric and letting them smell each other's pheromones). Mixing their used cat litter in small quantities (starting with tsp amounts) is another way of acclimatizing the cats to each other's scents. Once they begin to react less aggressively, let them view each other from a distance (through a cracked door or gate) before allowing face-to-face contact. 3. Give the pets a reason to like each other Treats and playtime are experiences both cats can enjoy together. Not only do these activities distract them from a confrontation with each other, but it provides an enjoyable event that they'll begin to associate with one another if it occurs on a consistent basis. Be careful when reprimanding your existing pets, who will associate punishments with the new animal. 4. Provide your pets with ample resources Territorial squabbles are most likely to occur when one feline monopolizes a shared space, so satisfy each cat's needs individually. The general rule of thumb for quantities of litter boxes and food dishes is one for every animal in the house, plus one extra. Keep this same equation in mind when placing cat beds and toys around the house. 5. Expand your home's territory Larger homes are ideal for multicat households. After upgrading to a two-bedroom apartment, Sadie and Joey's fighting halted overnight. If moving to a bigger space isn't an option and your cats are still fighting, look for vertical space that's safe, comfortable, easy to ascend and descend and well-located (perhaps by a window) in your existing home. Feline-friendly shelves and steps can make use of wall space and give them a safe place to view their surroundings, while tunnels provide shelter and refuge from bully pets. Also consider investing in a cat tree with wide and comfortable perches, and sisal-covered posts for scratching.
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Is your multicat household making you crazy? 5 tips for integrating a new feline into your family

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