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New owner's guide: cat

A new cat in the family

Introducing your new cat to your resident cat

Some cats are more sociable than others so please have realistic expectations.

Cats in the wild tend to spend most of their time as solitary animals rather than as a group. Cats are territorial animals and need time to get used to each other before there is a face-to-face confrontation.

Slow introductions can prevent fearful and aggression problems from developing.

Confine your new cat for up to a week in a medium-sized room with the litter tray, food, water and a warm bed.

Initially - allow your resident cat to smell underneath the door - there may be some hissing or your cat may retreat. This is normal behaviour and it may take some time before this ceases. You can feed both cats on either side of the closed door to this room; this helps them associate something enjoyable with each other’s smell.

If the animals seem relaxed with this process you may then want to use a doorstop to prop the door ajar, just enough space to allow the animals to see each other but not enough to get upset.

Switch sleeping blankets/beds between your new cat and resident cat so they become accustomed to each other’s scent. Rub a towel on one animal and put it underneath the food dish of the other animal. This associates the new cat’s scent with the pleasant experience of eating.

Once your new cat is using the litter tray and eating well while confined, let it have free time in the house while confining your established cat to the new cat’s room.

This switch allows the animals to experience each other’s scents without a
face-to-face meeting. It also gives the new cat time to become familiar with the new surroundings. Introduce your cats to each other gradually so that neither
cat becomes afraid or aggressive.

You can expect mild forms of these behaviours, but if either animal becomes fearful or aggressive, separate them and start over with the introduction process as outlined above.

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Introducing your new cat to your resident dog

The positive interaction of a cat and a dog is not necessarily a normal occurrence. Dogs usually want to chase and play with cats, in particular ones who usually become afraid and in turn run away.

The following techniques may assist in introducing your cat to your dog. You will need to work on basic dog obedience, so your dog knows what is expected of him/her. A delicious treat will motivate your dog to perform what is necessary in the presence of such a strong distraction as a cat.

Confine your cat to a medium-sized room when your dog is inside the house. This way both animals may smell each other’s scent underneath the door. Feed the animals on either side of the closed door so they can associate something enjoyable with each other.

Use doorstops to prop open the door just enough to allow the animals to see each other but not get to each other. Switch the bedding between your new cat and your dog so they become accustomed to each other’s scent.

Use controlled meetings inside the house. You can achieve this by keeping your dog on its leash and using the command sit and stay while giving a treat. Allow your cat to walk around the room and explore without your dog chasing it. This will
build your cat’s confidence.

Lots of short meetings are best so your cat doesn’t become too anxious. You can repeat this process until both the dog and cat are tolerating each other’s presence without fear or aggression.

The worst thing you can do is allow your dog to chase your cat as this will produce a scared cat that often feels uncomfortable in its environment. If a cat becomes scared of its environment, it is often difficult to re-educate.

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Kittens and children

The first few weeks and months of kitten ownership can have a great influence
on your cat’s personality for life. It is therefore essential that you explain carefully to your children how the new arrival should be treated.

Kittens are not toys and need much care and attention. What can be an innocent game for a young child can cause distress to an animal.

Teach your children correct handling and how to recognise when the kitten is unhappy. Never leave your toddler unsupervised with a kitten; toddlers are known for hair pulling, jumping, throwing, hitting and screaming around animals. Kittens do have sharp claws and will use them if they feel threatened or even use them when playing.

Encourage your children and kitten to play gently using toys, so that the cat’s claws don’t cause damage to little hands. Bad habits are hard to break! If a kitten gets used to attacking your hands in play it may well continue for life.

Toys on strings are better for children to initiate play with a kitten. This will help avoid bites and scratches by keeping your playful kitten focused on the toy instead of their hands. All family members should be mindful that rough play with a kitten often results in unwanted, aggressive behaviour in an adult cat.

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