TWO’S COMPANY~ Adding another adult cat requires preparation and patience
Adding another adult cat requires preparation and patience
By Gina Spadafori
It’s not often that I have to take my own advice on something I’ve never done before, but that’s exactly what happened recently, when I adopted a middle-aged cat and brought her home to live with an established middle-aged cat who didn’t seem that interested in sharing his space.
The introductions were by the book — my own book, “Cats for Dummies,” to be precise — and now both cats are happily co-habitating, enjoying the company not only of each other but also of my two dogs. The bed is a little crowded with all four of them on it, but I don’t mind: It’s worth it to see them all so happy together.
If you’re thinking of adopting another adult cat, there is never a bad time. Here’s how to ease the strain on new cat, old cat — and you.
Successful introductions require laying the groundwork before you bring home a second cat. Your current cat and your new one should be spayed or neutered to reduce hormone-related behavior challenges. Your new pet will also need a visit to the veterinarian before coming home to be sure he’s not bringing in parasites and contagious diseases that can put your established pet at risk.
Prepare a room for your new cat with food and water bowls, toys, and a litter box and scratching post that needn’t be shared. This separate room will be your new pet’s home turf while the two cats get used to each other’s existence.
Then, start the introductions by pushing no introduction at all.
Bring the new cat home in a carrier and set the pet in the room you’ve prepared. Let your resident cat discover the caged pet on his own, and don’t be discouraged by initial hisses. Let your resident cat explore awhile and then put him on the other side of the door and close it. When the new cat is alone with you in the room, open the carrier door. Leave the new cat alone in the room with the room door closed and the carrier door open, and let him choose to explore in his own way and time.
Maintain each cat separately for a week or so — with lots of love and play for both — and then on a day when you’re around to observe, leave the door to the new cat’s room open. If there are dogs in the house, put a baby gate across the door to give the cat an escape route where the dogs can’t go. Don’t force any of the pets together. Territory negotiations between cats can be drawn-out and delicate, and you must let them work it out on their own, ignoring the hisses and glares. As for dogs, let the cat decide how much to interact, if at all.
As the days go by, you can encourage both cats to play with you, using a cat “fishing pole” or a toy on a string. If they’re willing, feed them in ever-closer proximity, taking your cue from the cats as to how quickly to proceed.
Some cats will always maintain their own territories within the house — I’ve known pairs who happily maintained a one upstairs/one downstairs arrangement for life — while others will happily share everything from litter boxes to food dishes. Let the cats figure it out, and don’t force them to share if they don’t want to. Some cats will always need separate litter boxes, scratching posts, bowls and toys — and providing them is a small investment if it keeps the peace.
After six weeks, mine have — and probably will always have — separate litter boxes, but they share food, water dishes and space with obvious contentment. In fact, my established cat seems so happy for the company of his own kind that my only regret is not adopting another cat years ago.