• Let's set this scene:

    You're home after a long days work. You're watching the brand new season of Orange is The New Black on Netflix that has just been released and ready for a complete binge fest after a lonnng day at work.

    Suddenly, your front door bursts wide open and in comes a complete stranger declaring that they are your new room mate. Before you can even finish saying "what the f..", they've grabbed a handful of your chips, popped open the fridge and grabbed a drink and then went and used your bathroom without even shutting the door.

    They plop down on the couch beside you and you are left in shock as to what just happened.

    As a part-time introvert, this is my worst nightmare.

    Yes, it seems extreme but imagine your resident cats and how they may feel when a new animal is suddenly in their home? They had no prior knowledge of it happening and were not allowed to process anything before it occurred. This is where I typically see issues result.

    It's not that the cat doesnt like other cats, it's that they had absolutely no choice in the matter and the stress of the situation played out in a poor introduction.

    To avoid issues, I always recommend a planned integration. See below for some quick and simple steps to set your resident and new cat up for success. 

  • Tip #1

    Always have a separate room prepared for the new cat coming home. This room should have a litter box, food and comfortable resting places (and hiding spots) available. This is going to be the new cats integration room where they can gain their footing and comfort in their new environment before being introduced to the resident animals.

  • Tip #2

    Don't attempt introductions until the new cat is showing that they feel confident and comfortable in this room. Cats thrive on routine and adding too many new things at once will likely prolong the integration.

    Once your new cat is showing signs they are confident and comfortable (no longer hiding), try scent swapping by bringing in items that have your other animas scent on them and leaving them in the room. 

    Whenever I recommend scent swapping, I don't put those items near high value resources like litter boxes, resting places or food bowls. I usually recommend placing them in a separate area but placing a few high value treats around them.

    The idea behind this is that the new scent is not a threat to existing resources but the new scent brings along additional high value items such as brand new treats surrounding it.

    You can do the same with your resident cats by placing bedding from the new cat around for them (away from resources) and placing high value treats around it.

  • Tip #3

    After a few days, try allowing the cats to see each other from a distance. If you have a barrier like a baby gate, that's perfect. The idea behind this is to allow the cats to see each other briefly (visual introductions) and create positive associations with each other using treats and play.

    When the cats notice each other, right away give them some high value treats (Temptations, etc. ) or food or start playing with them. The idea behind this step is that the sight of the other cat equals good things happening (play, food, etc.).

    Keep these visual meetings very brief in the beginning as tempting as it is to push ahead to next steps.

    The goal for this step is to create very positive experiences that are kept short and sweet in the very beginning- removing the opportunity for anything to go sour.

  • Tip #4

    If things are still going well after all of these steps, you can try allowing them to get closer with a slight barrier like a baby gate. Or on some occasions, I actually suggest to have the more confident cat in a large dog crate and allow intros that way.

    The idea behind this is allowing access that is controlled to prevent any fighting or chasing. If you choose to go the dog crate way and are brand new to cat intros, I highly recommend speaking with a Cat Behaviour Consultant prior to ensure a smooth greeting during this step.

    Again, during this step, you want to create positive associations around each other. Let the treats flow, lots of play and again, keep this short and sweet. 5-10 minutes is enough for the cats to be around each other, get good stuff and then be separated to process what they were just introduced to.

  • Tip #5

    All is well..

    After several practice sessions of having the cats around each other, playing, providing treats and seeing no aggressive body postures or behaviour, I'll recommend keeping the cats together for longer and longer periods of time.

    For the first few weeks, I always recommend that time together is only ever happening when somebody is there to supervise and intervene.

    I provide counselling on body language and behaviour of what to look for that may mean they should end their visits early to avoid a full out confrontation.

    If you've had several shorter visits end well and no aggressive body language or behaviour, I recommend increasing the amount of time they get to be around each other. Always first supervised and then trusting them to stay around each other without any supervision.

    Some cats may blow through the process in a couple of weeks, many others may take a couple months before integrations are successful.

    Then there are others that have taken months. These cases are not always black and white.. meaning, some of these cases where the cats have been struggling to integrate for months, they may still be able to integrate.

    If you've been struggling to integrate after months of time, I always recommend a consultation with a Certified behaviour consultant or veterinary behaviourist before throwing in the towel.