Home » Acclimating a New Cat

Acclimating a New Cat

Introducing a New Cat to the Resident Cats

1. This may sound like common sense, but many people don’t realize how important this is: you have to believe that the outcome will be successful. This belief impacts how you interpret events (for example, a hissing exchange between two cats could be interpreted as either something that will take time and patience to resolve, or something that simply is not going to work out and shouldn’t be pursued). Your belief about the outcome also conveys to the pets whether the situation is something that is under control, or a circumstance in which there is anxiety and uncertainty. This will work out!

2. Set your expectations to allow for as much time as is needed to do an introduction that is paced to accommodate the new kitty and the resident pets. You may or may not need extended time, but if you are prepared to undergo a very slow introduction, you will minimize feelings of frustration if things take longer.

3. Set the new cat up in separate quarters, with the basic gear. Any room will do- office, spare bedroom, laundry room. Cats tend to need time to become acclimated in new environments, and one basic room will help with keeping things simple at first, with the aim of slowly expanding the surroundings later on.

4. Keep the same routine going with the resident pets. They will notice the new cat scent and associate the new smell with the same old routine. This helps them with associating the new cat with a low stress feeling.

5. Allow the new cat to become comfortable in the single room. The newcomer may or may not hide; this usually resolves with a bit of patience. Make sure that the new kitty is eating, drinking, and using the litter box. Interact with the new kitty so that he or she trusts you to be in charge of making sure that the introduction process is a smooth one.

6. When both the newcomer cat and the resident cats are ready to progress, you can use techniques to allow for semi-meetings without actually coming face to face with one another. This can serve to keep stress levels low and convey to the cats that things are under control and nothing scary will happen. Some techniques include: putting the food bowls on either side of the door, giving treats to the resident cats and the newcomer cat at the same time on either side of the door, and batting fuzzy mice back and forth under the door. You can also rub a towel on the newcomer cat and put it under the food bowl of the resident cats, and vice versa. All of these techniques can help the cats to associate one another with positive feelings.

7. When you sense that the cats are ready to move on, you can next switch the living areas. In other words, put the resident cats in the single room and allow the new cat to roam the house. After a bit, switch back. The cats will get the message that you are handling things, that you will not expose them to stressful situations, that things are predictable.

8. Next, you can then supervise brief meetings, and then put the new cat back in his or her room. This maintains the predictability factor, which is very important to cats. For the brief meetings, you do not have to encourage interaction, just allow the cats to observe one another. Hissing is okay; if it gets out of hand or if it turns into paw swipes or such, then put the new cat back in his or her room. Repeat this for as long as it takes to see some progress in the cat interactions.

9. Extend the meetings, according to comfort levels. Until you are certain that things are running smoothly, put the new cat back in his or her room when you are not home to supervise. Cats may take some time to shape their relationships with one another; as long as there is some level of progress, things are going in a positive direction.

10. Some introductions may take longer than others, depending upon the characteristics of the new or resident cats. For example, older cats and declawed cats usually need more time to adjust. A cat who has been a solo cat for a period of time may need additional time and support to become accustomed to a new cat friend. It can be very helpful to select a new cat with a personality that is well matched to the resident cats.

Introducing a New Cat to the Resident Dogs

1. If you are bringing a cat to a home with a dog, set the cat up in a separate room to allow the cat to get adjusted to the new environment in an incremental manner.

2. Once the cat is adjusted to the single room, you can bring him/her out to the rest of the house for brief periods of time when the dog is not present, to allow the cat to get used to the dog’s scent. Repeat until the cat is comfortable with the progress. Along the same lines, rub a towel on the cat and use it as a blanket for the dog.

3. Put the dog in a crate. Bring the cat out of the separate room. You are in charge of making sure that the dog does not bark or lunge at the cat. Positive reinforcement works best, praise the dog for the desired behavior of ignoring the cat or reacting in a calm, friendly, gentle manner.

4. Once the cat is comfortable, hold him or her in front of the crate, in a higher position than the dog. This is done to reinforce the hierarchy, in which the cat outranks the dog. This conveys to the dog that the cat is a family member who must be obeyed and protected.

5. Make sure that you demonstrate your affection for the cat. Use the same soothing and loving voice you use for the dog. Give the same hugs and kisses to the cat as you do with the dog. The dog will learn that the cat is a cherished family member.

6. Go slow and maintain the separate room for the cat. Permanent desired behavior is best achieved in a slow and steady manner, in which a consistent pattern is established.

7. It is essential that you stay at one stage until the dog’s behavior indicates that it is safe to move forward. When everyone is ready to progress, allow the dog out of the crate for supervised meetings with the cat. The dog must be leashed; a harness is best for optimum control. If your dog has not had previous cat experience and/or is demonstrating a high prey drive toward the cat (e.g., fixating on the cat, snapping at the cat, behaving aggressively), you will need to have a pet behaviorist consultation before proceeding with this step. The cat’s safety is the primary focus.

8. Do not allow chasing. This is vital. It is very difficult to undo this behavior in dogs, as they can associate the chase with “fun.” Cats can associate the chase with fear, and take off every time the dog approaches, making for a cycle that is hard to break.

9. You can make such a difference if you play an active role in the introductions. You can shower the dog with praise when he/she shows the desired behavior (either ignoring or calm and friendly), and correct instances in which the dog gets too close too soon. In other words, show the dog what you want.

10. Do not leave the dog and cat unsupervised until a period of time has passed in which their positive interaction is consistent. In the meantime, put the cat in the separate room when you are gone.

Home Setup:
When things are predictable and running smoothly, you can set the house up to maintain the good relationship between the dog and cat.
•Arrange several areas in which the cat can perch up high, to get out of the reach of the dog.
•Position the litter box in a private area that is not accessible by the dog.
•Keep the cat food out of reach of the dog.
•Make sure that the cat cannot access a doggie door, as the cat could easily escape and scale the backyard fence.

How to Acclimate a Shy Cat

Potential adopters can pass over a shy kitty because he or she doesn’t immediately shower them with kisses and purrs. What many do not realize is that shy cats can actually be the ones to shower people with more love than they ever imagined- if given some time to get acclimated.

Cats can be shy for a variety of reasons, such as limited socialization with humans when younger (only the basics, but not much handling and love), a stressful prior home life (never knowing what to expect from people or other pets), or enduring a tramautic experience (abuse, neglect, dumped outdoors or at the shelter).

Rescued cats can be triumphant survivors of the very worst- and they can show great resilience and the desire to give love and be loved. Some just need a slower adjustment process. Helping a shy cat to feel more comfortable is one of the most rewarding endeavors, as you can see the progress and know that you are responsible for making such a difference.

Here is what to do:

1. Start your shy cat out in a basic room. The smaller, the better. Set the room up with the basics, along with a hiding place of some sort, such as a cardboard box. It is ideal to use a room in which you can have ready access to your cat; a bedroom can be tricky, as the cat can hide underneath the bed. Create a routine so that the cat will know when to expect you and what you will be doing. Predictability can help to alleviate stress for a shy cat.

2. Go into the room, sit down and read a book, let the cat get used to your presence. It really helps to look downward and not directly at your cat. Talk to your cat in a soothing voice. Put some canned food or a treat out each time you come into the room. The cat will look forward to your visits and the associated positive outcomes.

3. When you sense that your cat is more relaxed with your visits, you can sit close and gently reach out to begin petting. Talk in the same soothing voice, bring treats or a tiny bit of canned food. The idea is to slowly progress so that more confident behavior is reinforced, resulting in permanent change. Work toward revving up the purr motor, as that is strong reinforcement in itself.

4. Move toward being able to put him or her on your lap, all the while petting and generating a purr. Keep up the soothing talk. You are adding new positive associations to the ones already established.

5. When you sense that things are progressing, then move on to feather wand toy time! See what your cat thinks about playing a bit. The feather can usually make a cat forget that he or she is shy. The ultimate feather wand toy is Da Bird Feather Teaser ; it works wonders with shy kitties.

6. Keep up the routine, assess your cat’s comfort level. He or she may be ready to take some short tours of the rest of the house. Bring your cat out to the couch and sit a bit. Then, back into the “safe room.” Keep up the short tours to give your cat an idea about the home layout. Next, open the door to the safe room to see if your cat is ready to venture out on his or her own. Keep an eye out to make sure that the kitty doesn’t get into any difficult hiding places (cats can really find the most unlikely hiding places!) Until progress is noted, it is recommended that the cat stay in the safe room at night or when you are not able to monitor things.

9. Use the gentle talk, petting, treats, feather toy, and so forth, to support your cat during the process of becoming comfortable with the rest of the house. Your cat will pick out some comfort zones in the rest of the house and will likely observe things from those places. This is excellent progress! If your cat is eating, drinking, and using the litter box, just give it some time (and plenty of reassurance and feather wand toy action) and he or she will establish a routine. You will be amazed at the gradual progress over time- and positively reinforcing each tiny step will help with permanent change.


How To Minimize Allergies to Cats

Here are some recommendations for making some easy changes in your environment and home routine, in order to reduce your allergic reaction to your cat. In seeking out information, you are clearly a problem solver who believes that you cat is worth it. It goes without saying that your cat will be more than willing to make a few lifestyle changes in order to keep his or her wonderful home and bond with you.

  1. Create a “cat-free” zone. Since you spend about 8 hours in your bedroom sleeping, it can greatly help to make that room your “cat-free” zone. It is also a good idea to reduce other allergens, since people with cat allergies also tend to have allergies to dust, pollen, and mold. So, go on a cleaning spree with your vacuum cleaner (HEPA filter vacuum is best), wash all bedding in hot water, put pillow and mattress covers on to keep dust mites at bay, remove curtains and replace with blinds that can be vacuumed and dusted. If you can, remove the carpet in your bedroom and replace with an easy to clean flooring, such vinyl, tile, etc. And, the cat can have access to every place but the bedroom. This is so effective that it is the top recommendation, and while it can be difficult to not sleep with your cat if that is your routine, it is worth it to keep your cat as your family member.
  2. Use a HEPA filter in the other rooms that your cat visits.
  3. Vacuum frequently. Easy-to-clean surfaces are best, such as blinds and non-carpet flooring. Keep your cat off of the furniture if possible, or else use throw blankets over the couch and such that can be washed in hot water. Get rid of scented candles, potpourri, anything that can trigger other allergy symptoms
  4. Wash your hands after petting your cat. This can minimize any allergens that you inadvertently introduce into your body by rubbing your eyes, touching your face, etc.
  5. Brush your cat on a regular basis. This reduces the amount of fur and dander that lands elsewhere. People tend to be allergic to the saliva in cats and that can stick to their fur and also their dander (microscopic skin with saliva) as they groom. If you can get someone else to brush your cat, that is even better.
  6. Use products for your cat that are designed to eliminate the allergen in cat saliva and cat dander, such as Allerpet for Cats
  7. Consider an allergy medication such as Zyrtec or Claritin (both OTC and available in generic).


How To Trim Your Cat’s Claws

Trimming your cat’s nails can really help to curb unauthorized scratching, and also can save you from the “dagger effect” the next time your cat is kneading her paws and purring away on your lap. Trimming is so easy to do yourself and if you make it a routine that you do every 2 weeks, your cat will know what to expect and will realize that it is no big deal (especially if treats follow!)

Nail Trimming Steps:

  1. The scissor-like trimmers are preferred to the guillotine type ones, as they are easier to maneuver and have a gentler impact.
  2. Hold your cat in a position in which he or she cannot wriggle free, such as stradding over your cat on the floor or holding your cat on your lap. You can also have a helper to assist with holding.
  3. Take one paw in your hand and press down on the joint just above the nail, in order to extend the nail.
  4. Trim off the white part of the nail. Look for the pink part (can often also see red veins) and trim just before it.
  5. If you and your cat are just beginners at nail trimming, it is perfectly fine to just do a few at a time, with breaks and treats in between.  
    After you trim them a few times, you will be a nail-trimming pro and will be able to whip them off all in a flash.

    How To Apply Nail Caps

    Nail caps are easy to apply and they can last for up to 6 weeks.

    1. Assemble what you need for the job: 10 nail caps, nail adhesive, adhesive tip, and nail clippers.
    2. Trim just the very ends of your cat’s claws. You need enough nail length for the nail cap to adhere to.
    3. Fill 5 of the nail caps with the adhesive, about 1/3 full, using the adhesive tip to get it into the tip of the nail cap. Do not overfill.
    4. Either straddle your cat or sit your cat on your lap and put the 5 filled nail tips onto one paw. Hang on to your cat for a few minutes for the adhesive to dry.
    5. Do the same with the remaining 5 nail caps: fill them 1/3 full with adhesive, slide them on your cat’s other paw, and hang on to your cat for a few minutes for the adhesive to dry.
    6. Your cat may try to dislodge a nail cap or two at first until he or she is used to them. Keep an eye out and quickly replace any bare nails with a new nail cap.
    7. The caps should last for 4-6 weeks. Your cat’s claws will start to grow, making the nail caps look a bit ragged. To remove nail caps, use the nail clippers and trim off the very end of the nail cap. That should loosen the adhesive, making removal easy. Then, you can apply new nail caps- in just about any color imaginagle- for a fresh start.