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Caring for Cats

PROPER AND SAFE INTEGRATION OF A NEW CAT
By Debra L. Stitt

NEVER, EVER allow a new animal to come into contact with your current companions until they have been completely checked out by a vet and are given a clean bill of health. Your first obligation is to your current guys and gals The safety of all of them is of the utmost importance!!!

Cats have unique needs when it comes to socialization. They are not pack animals like dogs so they cannot be brought into a home with other animals without some special integration techniques. It's important that they feel safe and secure. It's imperative that they don't get started off by feeling insecure or on the defensive. Cats immediately try to establish who's boss and you want to avoid this if at all possible when you first bring them into the house. The timeframe on this process will vary from cat to cat. Let them set the pace.

1)  Provide your new kitty with their own space / room with their own things (litter box, food & water, toys and scratching accessories -- sisal scratchers are best so that they learn what's appropriate and what's not).

Make sure this space is in an area where no other animals can enter. First and foremost, your new kitty needs to settle in by getting used to the voices, noises and smells of his or her new environment. Having a private area in which to do this is critical.

Visiting and playing with them during this time is VERY important.

2)  Take a couple of towels and use them for "scenting." Make it a playful time and get your new kitty's scent all over it. Likewise, scent the other towel(s) with your current companions' scents. Then take the towels and switch them so that they can get to know each other on their own through smell first!

3)  Allow them to be curious on their own and sniff under the door, etc. Many times this is how they will get to know each other before they come face to face. At first they will be timid about this and approach the door and then run away. But, eventually, they will get more and more comfortable and may even start sticking their paws under the door to try to play with each other.

4)  Once #3 starts to happen, crack the door open and supervise!!! Your new kitty will either be comfortable enough to venture out, or will simply look through the crack to see what's on the other side. Your other animals will be just as curious -- and just as uncertain. Whatever you do, don't allow them to get spooked during this process!

5)  Once your new kitty is comfortable enough to venture out and investigate, stay very close to them. DO NOT allow (at this point) a confrontation between them and your other animals. It's important that EVERYONE knows that YOU are the boss!!!

Allow them time to walk around, but DO NOT let them out of your sight. The first "out" should be kept relatively short. Let them see where food, water and toys are, where the litter box(es) are, etc.

The next supervised "outs" can be longer until you are sure they can come out and mingle without a lot of drama. You will know when they are ready for the door to remain open. During this time, your other animals will probably enter the new kitty's room to check it out. That's perfectly fine and is actually a good thing. Again, this is their way of getting to know each other without feeling threatened.

6)  It's important that your current animal(s) not feel that they are being ignored or pushed aside. Show them attention in front of the new guy or gal so that they know they are still important. Likewise, show attention to the new guy or gal in front of the others.

7)  The time spent in their own room will also ensure that your new companion is learning good habits. They will learn that the little box is the only place they go to the bathroom, they will learn that their scratching materials are the only thing they should scratch, etc. So, sequestering them serves a dual purpose. Once they come out of their room, they will quickly follow whatever your other cats are doing!

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