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Introducing a Cat to a Family Member or Pet

little boy laying on floor reaching hand out to brown kitten under coffee table

Are you having a baby and worried about how your cat might behave when you bring the baby home? Or, are you thinking about adopting a new pet and are concerned how your cat might respond?

Cats, by nature, are territorial and don't usually like to share. They also aren't too comfortable with change, and a new baby or new pet in the house might trigger some unpleasant behaviors.

Preparing your cat for a new baby

Cats and babies can co-exist peacefully, especially if you do a little prep work before the baby's arrival. Cats are creatures of habit — they like consistency, and any change in routine will be upsetting to them at first. Here are some things you can do to help your cat prepare for a new baby's arrival in your home:

  • Before the baby is born

    • Place some of the baby's toys and supplies (diapers, wipes, bottles) on the floor near your cat's food bowl. That way, she'll get to see these new things on her own level.
    • Use baby lotion or creams on your hands so your cat can become used to that smell.
    • Decide before the baby is born whether or not you'll allow the cat into the baby's room, or what surfaces (changing table, crib mattress, rocking chair) will be limited, and begin enforcing it weeks ahead of time.
    • If you're the cat's primary caregiver and you know that after the baby is born you won't be able to focus on her as much, start transitioning some of that care to another family member in the house a few months before the baby is born, so your cat will already be used to relying on someone else and won't feel threatened by the baby's needs.
    • A week or so before the baby's arrival, plug in a Comfort Zone Calming Diffuser in your home's main living space. The diffuser will last for four weeks, and helps your cat adjust to a changing environment.
  • When baby comes home

    • Right after the baby is born, bring home a blanket or onesie with your son or daughter's scent from the hospital so your kitty can get used to the baby's smell.
    • Even though a new baby will drastically alter your schedule at home, try hard to keep consistent feeding, playing, and litter box maintenance times.
    • Make sure your cat has her own special area in the house — whether it's where her food and water bowls are, her litter box area, or a warm, soft spot to hide for when she gets overwhelmed with change — and let her have that space.

Introducing your cat to a new cat or dog

Cats really dislike change, and often need time to get used to new animals in the house. It's important to manage your own expectations for how introducing a new pet will play out. We can't force our pets to like each other, but there are some things you can do to try and ensure a higher level of success that your cat will get along with a new cat or dog you welcome into your family. Above all, be patient. While it's great when animals take to one another right away — and that can happen — often times, it takes a few months or more for your pets to learn how to live together.

Bringing home a new dog

  • Plug in a Comfort Zone Calming Diffuser a few days before introducing your pets. Your cat may display vertical scratching or urine spraying as a result of your new dog invading his turf. Comfort Zone products can help by mimicking the soothing feline facial pheromone. Comfort Zone products can give your cat a calm, relaxed feeling in any environment, even if it is next to your living room sofa.
  • Trim your cat's claws to keep the initial interactions as safe and potentially painless for your new dog as possible.
  • Don't let the dog have access to the litter box or the cat's food and water bowls. That will stress out your cat and potentially bring about territorial behavior.
  • When bringing a new dog home, restrict him to one room with a baby gate, but don't restrict your cat — let her have the environment she's used to. Let the animals sniff each other in the doorway through the baby gate at first. Reward this first interaction with treats!
  • When you're ready to let them know each other a little better, take your dog outside and let him run around to burn off some energy before spending time with the cat.
  • Sit in the living room (or other large room in the house) with the dog on a leash. Let them sniff each other and let your cat set the pace for being comfortable. If she runs away, don't chase her or force her to spend time with the dog. If the dog starts to chase after her, say, "no" (or "leave it" — or whatever disciplinary command you're using for behavior training) grab onto the leash and keep him with you.
  • Do not scold or punish either animal during this process. You want them to associate their time together with positive reinforcement, not anger.
  • When you're not around, keep the animals confined in separate areas of the house. Most dogs and cats will be able to share your home in peaceful harmony, but for the first few months of getting to know each other, it's best to keep them apart if you can't be around to supervise their interactions.
  • When they both begin to interact in a calm, friendly manner (or even tolerate each other without any paw swipes!), reward with treats.

Bringing home a new cat

  • To give both cats a sense of calm when they're getting to know each other, plug in a Comfort Zone Calming Diffuser in your home's main living space. The diffuser will last for four weeks, and helps your cat adjust to a changing environment. Comfort Zone products are used and recommended by veterinarians nationwide.
  • Slow introductions work best. For the first week or two, put your new kitty in a small room with her own litter box, food and water, scratching post and toys, and a bed or blankets. Close the door and don't allow your cat to have access to that room.
  • Feed and give treats to both cats as they sniff each other through the door so they associate something positive — eating — with another cat's smell.
  • Spend equal time playing with both cats, separately, so they smell the other cat on your clothing. And, switch a blanket or other piece of bedding so they get used to the other cat's smell in their space.
  • After your new kitty has gotten used to her feeding schedule and litter box routine, you can begin to let her have free roam of the house (when you're there to supervise) while you confine your old cat in the new cat's room. This is another way to get the cats accustomed to one another without having a face-to-face interaction — they're not ready for it yet. And, it allows your new kitty to become familiar with her new home and surroundings.
  • After a few days of small sessions getting used to the house, you can begin getting the cats used to actually seeing one another. Using door stops, prop open the door to your new kitty's room ever so slightly so the cats can see each other, but don't let them play together yet. There might be sniffing, hissing, and arched backs — that's normal. You could always dangle a toy in front of them to encourage playing together.
  • When they've had a few days of seeing each other through the door, you can begin to let them spend time together throughout the house.
  • If either animal seems stressed throw a soft object like a pillow near them (but not at them) and clap your hands or make another loud noise to distract and redirect their attention. If the behavior continues, separate them for 24 hours and begin the re-introduction process again.
Category: New Pet | Comfort Zone