Cats make great companions, but they will require some time to adjust to their new life and home. Below are a few tips to help you and your new addition.
It would be nice if introducing a new cat to your established pet was as easy as a handshake and a couple of hellos. Unfortunately it’s not usually as simple as that.
As the carer of a new cat, you need to be realistic about this process. Patience is required while your pets adapt to the change and establish their own way of living together.
- Many pets will never be best friends and the most that can be hoped for is for them to tolerate each other.
- Introductions can take time, anywhere up to a month or more.
- Do not expect that they will get along immediately.
- Be patient and do not force them together.
- Think carefully when selecting a new animal, keeping in mind the personality of your existing pet.
- Make sure you have the time and patience to dedicate to a new animal and to help it through the settling process.
- Some cats are more social than others depending upon age and the situation they have come from.
- Slow introductions help prevent problems from developing due to a fearful or aggressive socialisation period.
Confinement and scent
- Confine your new pet for the first 48 hours in one room set up specifically for them.
- Make sure the room is safe and secure. Areas such as the bathroom or laundry are great providing that the dryer and washer doors are closed and the toilet seat is down.
- Feeding your new pet close to the door with your existing one on the opposite side will help then associate the pleasure of eating with the other cat’s smell.
- Swap blankets and bedding with the other animals in the house. This way they get used to the other animal’s scent.
Time to explore
- When the new cat is eating regularly and using the tray, confine the existing animals and let out your new addition. This allows the new cat to explore freely without face-to-face contact.
- Return the new cat to their room and prop open the door so that both residents can see but not get to each other. If the reaction is fearful or aggressive start the process again from the beginning.
Cat and dog interaction
- This requires careful supervision as a dog can seriously injure a cat, even in play.
- Dogs usually want to chase or play with cats, resulting in a fearful or defensive stance by the cat.
- Use the same techniques with dogs (confine, scent and explore time) as you would with a cat-to-cat introduction.
- Practice obedience with your dog and praise acceptable behaviours when the dog behaves well (using food treats etc.) and correct bad behaviours.
- If the dog has had little training or is very excitable it will take some time until the desired behaviour is achieved.
- The aim is to associate ‘good things’ happening when the cat is around. If the dog is always punished in the cat’s presence, the dog may redirect aggression towards the cat.
- It is time for the first direct face-to-face meeting.
- Place a leash on the dog and encourage the dog to sit using treats.
- Get a family member or friend to quietly sit down near the new cat.
- Keep both animals on opposite sides of the room and allow escape routes for the cat.
- Offer lots of praise and offer rewards to both animals.
- Keep it short and repeat the process over the next few days until they will tolerate being in the same room.
Once the controlled meeting is successful allow the cat (only) freedom of movement while praising the dog for good behaviour. If the cat runs away or is aggressive then go back to the previous step.
Make sure that you supervise all meetings. Keep the animals separate when you are not at home.
Take special care with puppies and kittens until they are fully grown. Even then they may not be safely left alone together.
If introductions don’t go smoothly, please contact us immediately. Animals can be severely injured in fights and suffer behavioural problems due to bad or continual harassment from other animals.
Most cat carers prefer to have cats that live indoors and outdoors. We receive about 70 phone calls a week from carers whose cats have gone missing.
There are benefits and downsides to both sides of living. It is best to decide before you bring your cat home rather than trying to convert an outdoor cat to indoor-only living.
Some cats adapt more readily to being inside than others. A cat that has been outside for many years is less likely to adjust to being solely indoors. A timid cat however may be quite happy to stay inside all the time. The carer must decide which arrangement will best suit their cat’s needs and their own.
Indoor cats – risks
- Increase in behavioural problems due to the lack of opportunity to express normal behaviours
- Becoming fearful of change and overreacting when small changes occur within the house
- Being more prone to obesity
- Lack of stimulation and exercise
- Household hazards
- Furniture being damaged
Minimising indoor cat risks
- Stimulate your cat’s natural hunting behaviour through play
- Provide toys, scratching posts and other enrichment tools
- Monitor weight and give a well-balanced diet suitable for your cat’s stage in life
- Monitor food intake
- Grow some cat-loving plants such as cat nip or cat grass
- Provide different surfaces for the cat to walk on, hard and soft
- Adopt another cat for companionship.
Indoor cats – benefits
- Safe from road accidents
- Less likely to ingest poison or chemicals
- Can’t be trapped or poisoned by neighbours
- Won’t be attacked by other animals in the neighbourhood
- Fewer risks of catching viruses and diseases
- Will not get lost and unable to find their way home
- Unlikely to be stolen
Outside – risks
- Road traffic accidents
- Dog attack
- Skin cancer
- Being stolen
- Coming into contact with outdoor chemicals
- Getting lost, locked in shed, stuck on roof/tree, stuck under house
- Trespassing on neighbours’ properties and council being called
- Cat fights (males in particular) and potentially contracting diseases and viruses
- Harming/killing wildlife
Minimising outdoor risks
- Let your cat outside during the day and keep them in at night
- Encourage your cat to return home at night with the use of their evening meal
- Ensure your cat is vaccinated
- Make sure your cat wears a collar with your contact details
- Make sure your cat is microchipped and your contact details are up to date
- Desex your cat
- Register your cat with your local council
Outside – benefits
- Social stimulation with other animals in the area, if they choose
- Regular exercise – less likely to suffer weight problems
- An outlet for behavioural needs – less likely to develop behavioural problems
We recommend the best of both worlds!
- In order to keep your cat safe and still allow the cat to go outside, consider building/installing a cat run.
- Some cats will tolerate being on a harness and can be walked by their carers around the backyard.
For further information on any of these problems or recommendations please speak with our staff.
Remember that your kitten is learning about their environment and will likely to be excitable and playful. Cats engage in behaviours such as stalking, pouncing, jumping, chasing and catching which are normal and instinctive behaviours.
Play aggression is normal and can be recognised by the kitten’s body posture. The tail lashes back and forth, the ears are flattened to the head and pupils (black part of the eye) are often dilated or large just before the kitten pounces or attacks.
- If your kitten is becoming overly aggressive and biting or scratching you, it is important to stop this behaviour as soon as possible. A nip or scratch from an 8-week-old kitten may seem cute, but the same behaviour from an
adult cat can be very painful.
- Never use your hands or feet as playthings for your kitten to bite on. All toys should be a distance from your hands so the kitten has no opportunity to bite or scratch you even by accident. Balls or stuffed mice to throw and
toys or feathers on a string can be good choices.
- Play with your kitten at least 10-15 minutes twice a day or more. Cats are often most active in the early morning and early evening. Exercise and vigorous playing can help get rid of excess energy and keep your kitten calmer for the remainder of the day.
- Never use physical punishment on a cat. Cats do not link the punishment with their bad behaviour and they will only become fearful of you and other humans.
- If your kitten bites or scratches you during play, say “Ouch” loudly, stop playing and walk away. Stopping play immediately is the most effective way to convince your kitten that his behaviour is not acceptable. After a minute or two, call the kitten and resume playing. Give lots of treats when the kitten is playing nicely. Continue to reward good behaviour and stop the play whenever the kitten is too rough.
Scratching is a normal cat behaviour used primarily to mark territory rather than just to sharpen claws, although keeping the claws trimmed is still important. What we want to do is control what the cat scratches on rather than try to eliminate the behaviour entirely.
- Figure out what your cat likes to scratch on and try to provide him with something similar that is OK to scratch. Does the cat like vertical or horizontal surfaces? Carpet or fabric? Place a scratching post near the areas the kitten is currently scratching; you may need more than one at first and you can try different types until successful.
- Make the scratching post fun. Put toys or treats or catnip on it. Scratch at it yourself and if the kitten copies you, reward him with a treat.
Cats are good at letting you know what they want, either vocally or with their bodies. It won’t be long before you understand what your kitten is trying to tell you.
As your kitten grows up, you start to hear distinctive “meows” from her. Low-pitched meows usually mean your cat is uncomfortable or unhappy. High-pitched meows mean she’s happier, and if she keeps repeating them, she’s wanting your attention. Maybe she feels it’s time for her favorite kitten food? With a little practice, you’ll soon get to know what your kitten’s trying to say. Interestingly, meows are hardly ever directed at other cats, nearly always at humans. So listen up, she’s talking to you.
Purring is usually a sign of contentment, although it doesn’t always indicate happiness. A cat that is ill or anxious will sometimes purr as a comfort. However, most of the time if your kitten is rubbing against you and purring loudly, it’s a sign of affection or she’s asking for something, such as food.
Hisses and growls
If you’re hearing these, you’ve got one frightened little kitten. She’s trying to puff herself up to sound scary so she can protect herself. You’ll usually hear her hiss and growl during tense encounters with other animals.
When your kitten rubs her face up against you, it means she’s really comfortable in your company and is showing she likes you.
If your kitten rolls over onto her back and stretches her legs, she is indicating complete submissiveness and trust in you. She’s also asking for attention. And when she hops onto your lap and snuggles down contentedly, there’s no doubt how she views her new environment.
A cat’s tail is an excellent indicator of her feelings. A happy kitten will hold her tail straight up; if she’s frightened, she’ll tuck it between her legs. The broad swishing, of an adult cat’s tail shows annoyance or impatience. If she’s really agitated, her tail will move rapidly from side to side — this is clearly threatening behavior. A twitching tail is a sure sign of your kitten’s excitement and curiosity.
Pricked ears are an indication of interest in what’s going on around her as well. Ears held erect and inclined forward, she’s relaxed and friendly. But when a cat’s ears go down, flat against her head, it’s a sign of aggression; this is done to keep them out of the way should a fight erupt.
Administering medication to your pet is sometimes a challenge.
Medications come in many different forms. Pills, capsules, pastes and liquids are administered by mouth. Ointments, creams and drops may be administered to eyes, ears or skin. Proper administration of these medications is essential for the animal to receive maximum benefit from the prescribed treatment.
Medications should always be given for the full amount of time prescribed, even if the pet starts to look and act better.
- When giving pills, tilt the animal’s head back, gently open its mouth and drop the pill to the back of its throat. This works best if you are positioned behind the animal.
- Gently hold the animal’s mouth closed, with its head pointed straight up, and gently blow on its nose to make it swallow. You may often feel the animal swallow or see it lick once the pill has been swallowed.
- As an alternative, you may try to give pills in a small amount of food.
- Tilt the head back, open the mouth and slowly dribble the liquid from a syringe or dropper onto the back of the animal’s tongue. If the animal coughs or sputters, decrease the amount of the head tilt.
- If the medication is bitter tasting, the animal may foam at the mouth.
Administering eye drops and ointments
- To administer drops, tilt the animal’s head back slightly, bring the bottle of drops over the eye and drop in prescribed amount.
- To administer ointment, tilt the animal’s head back slightly, squeeze a small amount of ointment inside the lower eyelid and close the eye to distribute ointment evenly over the surface of the eye.
Administering ear drops and ointments
- Grasp the tip of the ear with one hand and hold the ear flap perpendicular. With the other hand, drop in the
prescribed number of drops or amount of ointment.
- Continue to hold the ear firmly to prevent the head from shaking and massage the base of the ear to work the medication down inside the ear canal.
Lort Smith offers a socialisation and training program for kittens and their new carers. Led by an experienced animal welfare officer, participants will learn how to best raise their kitten and ensure they grow up to be a well-mannered and socialised member of the family.
Each session will include themed activities and enrichment tools. You will learn tips and tricks that will grow your own confidence around felines, and strengthen the bond with your new best mate. Topics will cover everything a new cat carer should know.