Does anyone have a surefire way to introduce a new cat to an established multi-cat family. We are right now at the wheezing/slashing stage and would like to progress beyond that without injuries to anyone.
KeriHeise July 20, 2017 at 07:35 AMBest Answer
We have a protocol we follow that seems to help. We put the new cat in their own room, separate from all other pets in the home. They stay separate until all animals are calm and relaxed when around the door/each other through the door. Some tricks to help that along are to use feliaway calming diffuser, and to feed the cats on opposite sides of the door but at the same time. Once calm has been established (can take anywhere from an hour to over a month, depending on the household), then move to putting up a barrier like a baby gate. That way, they can see each other but not interact. Start over with the feeding, praise if they are calm near each other, etc. You may have to backtrack if looking at each other is too aggravating. Once the baby gate stage has consistently been going well, you can start letting them interact directly. All of this takes time and patience, but it typically works out. Once everyone has been integrated, you'll want to make sure there are multiple ways to get to "resources" like litterboxes, food and water. Every cat should be able to get to a resource without worrying about another cat. Hope this helps!
I do a very similar protocol, but would add what eby recommended about switching bedding. I also like to plan for the worst and hope for the best, so I have added harnesses and leashes when taking the baby gates down (be sure to acclimate the cat to them beforehand!) and also keep some things handy just in case things get a little heated between the kitties. I like a heavy blanket that I can toss on top of the agitated cat and then (carefully) scoop up cat and blanket to remove from the situation. I had another client that used a clothes basket turned upside down to "catch" the aggressor so that she could safely contain the situation if it got out of hand. Remember cats need a long period of time to cool off if they get upset. Don't expect them to be ready to make friends again in an hour. Sometimes they need days to decompress first.
(BTW, your "intruder" is adorable!)
I have tried this protocol and recommended to adopters at my previous job as well. While the cats are separated, I would also add to switch out their bedding. Take whatever the cats are sleeping on and trade it. I have a super cranky cat who does not like anyone, including her son cat who she has lived with for the past 14 years. When my cat was about 7, we had a new roommate move in with her cat. I totally thought it was going to be a disaster, but we went very slowly...very slowly....very, very slowly. We put the new cat Zoe in my roommate's room while Mama had run of the rest of the house. We switched out their bedding and feed them on their respective sides of the doors. Mama isn't huge on food, so we also put catnip (which she loves) outside of Zoe's door. The key is to find whatever the cats like to create a positive association with what is on the other side of the door--food, treats, toys, you, a special bed, Feliway, etc. After about 3 weeks, we let them come out and sniff each other. Of course, Mama swiped and hissed at Zoe and Zoe hissed back and ran away. We separated them again and tried later that day. After they were calm around each other, we let them have supervised visits ending in catnip. After a week of supervised visits, we let them be together unsupervised. They co-existed but were never friends. We lived with Zoe and her mom for about 2 years without any major incidents.
We just had this same challenge for one of our adopter families - we reached out to one of our team members and this is the response:
I was able to resolve it by installing two child gates providing a six-foot barrier between the cats. I fed them on each side of the barrier so they would get used to being next to each other and I was lucky with only a few instances they eventually learned to accept each other (they lived together for 12 yrs). I looked up my recordings of Jackson Galaxy and he deals with aggressive cats in the episodes 5/20/17, 6/04/17 and 7/22/17. I presume there is a way to view those episodes on Animal Planet network (My Cat From Hell).