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I have always considered myself a cat person. I wear that label with pride. As far back as I can remember, I've always been drawn to cats, and I've always had at least two of them at all times. That seemed to be a good number for us. Two cats are perfect for keeping each other company when we are away during the day, and then there is no odd cat out.
We thought we had the perfect number of pets, especially when you count Rufus, our dog…but then one day while we were on vacation in Northern California and I was browsing the Internet, an ad popped up from a cat rescue organization. Normally I would click out of that faster than you can imagine, but there was a little kitten face looking back at me and all I could do was point my phone towards Pete and tell him we needed one more furry friend.
Because Pete is usually the voice of reason, I totally expected him to say we already had more than enough pets in our home, but instead, he said we needed to call asap and inquire about that kitten.
I was pretty shocked that even he couldn't resist that face, and a few days later we brought home that little kitten and named her Moon.
The thing is, we were not planning to adopt another cat, and our two cats were on the older side and brothers. They had never been around another cat before, and I had no idea how they would take to the idea of another cat in our home, let alone a kitten. We joke that they have gotten grouchy in their old age, and I had visions of them getting upset with a ball of energy running throughout our home at all times of the day. Our older cats love their sleep, and I couldn't imagine them enjoying being woken up by a playful kitten.
Thankfully, I had worked at an animal hospital in college so I had a few tips and tricks up my sleeve to make the transition from a two-cat home to a three-cat home as easy as possible.
Tip 1. Don't insist on having good sharers. There is nothing worse to a cat than having to share his owner. Cats also don’t typically enjoy sharing food, water, a litter box and toys. While you can’t help having to share yourself, you can help with the rest. Get the new cat his own supplies at first. Keep him in a separate area, but don't stop the old or new cats from using each other’s things. Having more than one toy available can help alleviate stress from the belief that there isn't enough to go around.
Tip 2. Always have your vet do a full exam before bringing a new pet into the home.
Tip 3. Give it time. The first introduction we made between the older cats and the kitten didn't go so well. It left the kitten crying and our black and white cat in a hissing fit. I quickly ended that meeting and we tried again the next day with better results. We started with half-hour meetings and slowly increased their time together.
Tip 4. Give the established pets just as much, if not more, attention. I know how cute and fun a new pet is, but this is the time to really give your attention to the older furry friends. They might be feeling jealous of the newcomer, and spending that extra time can really help them stay calm and open to the new pet.
Tip 5. Don't make any other changes in your existing pets' life. Adding a new pet can be stressful enough, so don't change your pets’ food or schedules too much. Keep everything else the same and let the new and old pets create their new normal together.
Tip 6. Let food be the peacemaker. If all else fails, put the new pet in one room with everything he needs, and then put the other pets' food and water right outside the door of that room. With this approach, the existing pets will relate the smell of the new pet with something that makes them happy – food! This one really worked for us. Our black and white cat was a holdout and not too sure of the new kitten. This strategy is what finally got him to accept the kitten into our home.
Tip 7. Don't give up. Our one cat really acted like he was never going to accept the new kitten, but then one day I saw them cuddling together on the couch. Finally, there was acceptance and they have all gotten along since!
Are you thinking of adding a new cat to your home?