Jenny Boulom from Sydney writes:
Q. I brought home a new cat about a month ago, and she still isn’t getting along with my older cat. What can I do to make the transition easier?
A. Cats are wonderful creatures – highly intelligent, playful and exude a calm, meditative state most of the time. As solitary creatures, most cats would happily be in a one-cat family. Bringing another cat into the home can be a rewarding & fulfilling experience for you and your current cat. They have extra company when you are not around, they can play games together, and they can demand food together. However, if you have not successfully introduced your cats and fur is flying, there are several effective solutions you can try to create harmony between both cats in your home:
Setting boundaries for your new cat
Your current cat sees bringing a new cat or kitten into your home a challenge for food, territory and attention from you. It is highly important to set the rules or boundaries for the new addition from the beginning. The first meeting should be one of separation. The new cat needs to be put into a separate area such as a spare bedroom for at least the first day. Then you can move your new arrival to another area. You do this so that your current cat can go into that spare bedroom and realise there is a new smell. Your cat may be frightened at first but give them time to explore and get used to that smell. Then let them go to the second area and do the same. Your cat may be aware of the other cat and try to sniff them through the door. Allow this as they need time to get used to each other in a safe environment. It is natural to hear a growl from either cat as they get used to a new situation. After a few days try the new cat in a large cat carrier in the main living area so your cat can move around without fear. Again they are getting used to each other. We are trying to avoid a confrontation as this will set up an aggressive tone between them. Keep your cat’s routine exactly as it was as this is highly important to the success of the situation. After this process has been carried out for sufficient time that things seem relatively calm you can allow them together highly supervised.
It would be wise to encourage higher status with your current cat, as they have been with you for the longest time, and then the other cat will get to know what the hierarchy is going to be. The younger cat may try to bully your older cat out of their favourite places in the home such as sleeping spots and outdoor watching; you can solve this by picking up the younger cat and moving them to a different place that your established cat has not claimed. If the new cat still tries to claim territory, use a water spray bottle to correct their behaviour – a quick squirt (as the situation is occurring) gets the message across and your established cat knows you have the situation under control. If the spray bottle technique doesn’t work on your new cat you can try a clap of the hands to break the tension and bring the attention back to you or you can throw a small soft toy softly near the new cat to again divert the attention away from your cat. Your cat must at all times feel YOU WILL DEAL WITH THE SITUATION and that they WILL BE SAFE.
Depending on the level of aggression between both cats, it is wise to feed them in separate rooms or separate areas of the kitchen. Food is an instinctual need, and your established cat will defend their bowl. As they become more acquainted with each other, encourage feeding in the same space such as the kitchen or living area.
Another issue that arises is your new cat pouncing and hunting your older cat. Younger cats like to test their hunting skills and live ‘prey’ makes for a great target. This can cause your older cat to feel stressed, unsafe and they may hide away most of the time. It doesn’t help if your established cat is trying to run away, your younger cat’s ‘prey drive’ will kick in and pursue the chase. Use the water spray to break up fights and to discourage your younger cat from terrorising your older cat. Your younger cat will learn quickly what they can and cannot do, and your older cat will feel happier and safer knowing you’re controlling the situation. Use cat toys, such as feathers on a string, or balls with bells in them to exercise your younger cat. Distracting them with more playtime will encourage them to play with toys and you instead of chasing your cat. Remember, the new cat does not know what the boundaries are so they will not know any better. This process may take months, stay consistent and patient, and you will have a harmonious environment for your cats.
The transition period is a stressful time for both cats and yourself too. Maintaining their emotional wellbeing will reduce the risk of stress-related health issues such as cat flu and diarrhoea. You can help reduce the tension by using Bach Flower Essences such as Rescue Remedy to calm your animals. Add 3-4 drops in your cat’s food 2-3 times a day, and maintain the dosage for both cats whilst they adjust to the change. You can increase the frequency to 5 times a day if the tension is high and there are fights going on.
Ultimately, the best way of managing their wellbeing and moving forward successfully is to communicate with both cats and ask how they feel about the situation. Consulting with an animal communicator can setup a four-way communication between you, the animal whisperer and the cats to help understand each other’s position. Your animal communicator will be able to translate your cat’s silent language to help you clear up any confusion for them and for you. It is amazing what can be achieved once communication has happened!
Do you want to find out how to stop the aggression between your cats?
Book your consultation with Animal Talk here http://www.animaltalk.com.au/bookings/
Devoting One on One Time
Your cat loves nothing more than getting a great cuddle, head rubs and simply getting adoring attention from you. And I am sure you enjoy receiving this love and attention from your cat too! Maintaining a one on one relationship with your cats will keep them happy and loved always. Find out what kind of interaction your cats like to do; as unique individuals they will have their preferences for games, cuddles and particular activities they would enjoy with you. If they both enjoy a lot of games, lock one cat in a room or to a section of the house so the other cat can enjoy one on one playtime with you and get your undivided attention. Then you can swap around and do the same with the other cat. It makes them feel special and who doesn’t want that? One of your cats may wish to simply sit with you, on your lap or just be in your presence. Just being with your cats is simply sitting together quietly and calmly without stimulation or interaction. Cats are always in a meditative state, so when you join them in this state of being they love sharing it with you.
Sharing the home
Particularly for indoor only cats, sharing their home with a new cat is a time to defend their territory. It is quite natural, and they may go through a few fights or hissing battles to develop their hierarchy. It will take adjustment; keeping those boundaries for both cats and providing more places for them to claim will make it easier. There are other ways you can help this by adding more beds or a cat tunnel in your home. Cats love to curl up in small spaces, so providing a tall cat scratcher with hidey-holes gives them another great place to be. Be mindful that one of your cats may claim that entire scratcher as theirs – you may need to consider another if your other cat tries to take it! If you are in a ground level apartment or home with a courtyard or backyard, having a cat enclosure that connects to your home is also a fantastic way of creating more space for your cats to have solitude. They will get fresh air and sunshine as well as a place to escape when they feel like it. The more neutral territory there is for your cats to claim, the less fights and tension there will be.
It will take patience and commitment, and some solutions may work better for you than others. But at the end hopefully your cats and YOU will be happy, loved, and fulfilled together.