Hello, two-leggeds, and welcome to my “Letters to Lucinda” column. Writing all those Christmas bazaars put me behind schedule, something no cat likes, and I’m just getting back to my regular writing routine. Today we will discuss cat behavior solutions for dealing with the difficulty of adding a new cat to the family.
As usual, I will answer a question from a two-legged and one from a cat about this problem. My first letter is from a Ms. Jackie Lonner, who writes:
I have had my neutered male cat for several months and I feel that he is lonesome. I would like to get another cat to keep him company, but have heard it’s sometimes hard to introduce a new cat into your home when you already have a cat. How do you suggest I go about the selection process?
Lucinda’s Answer: Ms. Lonner, thank you for writing. I will try to help you. First of all when you look for another cat, you need to try to select one that will be compatible with your present cat. Just like in two-legged relationships, there are some felines your cat might accept right away, and others he might not want for his friend. We cats have our own standards, you know, and they might disagree with yours.
I see you have a male cat. Do you want another male? If so, look for one that seems to have a calm, even temperament and is very friendly. Being more socially adapted, this cat may be a good choice.
You don’t want a scaredy-cat, because then your first cat could become a bully and order the new cat around. Also, you don’t want a cat that’s too aggressive, or it could end up in war between the two felines.
Personality Of The New Cat Will Influence Bonding
Try to find a placid cat who tends to like most other cats and two-leggeds. The cat needs to be well-adjusted and secure in itself, yet not so self-assured as to be dominating and ego-centered.
That kind of cat could be trouble. Try to spend some time with the new cat before bringing him home, so you can gauge his character a bit.
Perhaps you want a female. If she is docile and tends to regard your first cat as a fine, handsome fellow, she will most likely be fine.
However, if she is one of those females who lives to raise kittens, watch out! She may have very aggressive tendencies, as she is primed to protect. Maybe all she has to protect at the present is her unique place in things, but her insistence on these rights would make her unwilling to share a territory. We cats have our individual values to protect.
No matter what cat you select, that’s the main issue — territory. A new cat moving into a resident cat’s home will have to make adjustments, because, after all, this place is another cat’s mapped-out terrain.
Until the old cat has made it sufficiently clear to the newcomer as to rules and regulations for his terrain, there can be no agreement. I know that I would personally insist on a new cat’s acceptance of my territorial rules.
Sometimes this agreement is reached quickly and peacefully, and sometimes only after months of battling and confrontation. A lot will depend on the adaptability of the newcomer, and the willingness of your old cat to accept the change.
Guidelines For Success With A New Cat
There are things you need to do to create the best chance of success. Follow these guidelines:
1) Give each cat their own room at first. In the newcomer’s room, put a bed, a litter box, food and water, a couple of hiding places (such as a cardboard box with two doors cut in it) and perhaps a few toys.
2) Make sure each cat has some article such as a blanket or a piece of two-legged clothing that contains the other cat’s scent. After all, our sense of smell is much superior to a two-legged’s, and we learn a great deal about our environment and the creatures in it by how it smells.
3) Spend some time with each cat during the day, playing together or exchanging affection, as this behavior reassures both cats that they have not been forgotten. We cats must know that we are still loved by our two-legged.
4) Once the cats have experienced a peaceful time apart, let them see each other. Perhaps just prop the door open a couple of inches so they can observe each other through the opening. When they seem to be calm, perhaps you can open the door, but do stay right there in case of conflict.
Another thing you can do is to buy a couple of Feliway diffusers from your vet. Feliway is your word to describe this dispenser, which reproduces cat facial pheromones that lower cat stress levels. Pheromones are odorless, but cats can detect them. Their purpose is to calm and pacify a cat, which will diffuse the aggressive build-up.
Do not punish either cat for their behavior. We need to learn about each other in a natural way, and don’t need you to tell us how to do it.
Hopefully, your cats will get used to each other, and can begin to form a good relationship. However, be aware that it doesn’t always work the way you want.
Some Problems Won’t Go Away
There are some problems that perhaps you (or the cats) cannot solve. If the cats are always fighting or if one injures the other, it’s time to reconsider. If one cat stops eating or using the litter box, a remedy must be found.
If one starts spraying, he’s too fixated on the territory thing, and this behavior has to be dealt with. If one of the cats hides all the time, he is having emotional problems and is feeling like he wants out of the situation.
If any of these behaviors occurs regularly, it is time to consult the vet (or a cat behaviorist). Perhaps he can suggest something helpful, or perhaps you have two cats that are never going to get along.
Now it’s up to you. Do you want to try another cat, or do you want to give up? Decide what would be best for you and for your cat.
Just remember, when you introduce a new potential family member into your home, it could be a matter of days or even months before they adjust. It can be an exercise in patience for you.
Our second letter comes from a male cat named Cisco. He writes:
My two-legged keeps asking me if I’m lonesome, and now she has decided I must need a companion. I haven’t asked for one, but it seems I have no choice. She is bringing home another cat.
What do I do? My life is organized on a routine I like, and my territory is well-marked and belongs just to me. Now I’m supposed to share it with some stranger?
Why does my two-legged have to bring home a different cat? Doesn’t she love me any more? How do I deal with this invasion of my home? My days have gone by peacefully and happily, but now everything will change.
How can I deal with this breach of faith? My secure world is being shattered and my territory invaded. What can that two-legged be thinking, to do such a thing?
Perhaps she just doesn’t understand that a cat’s safe, secure world depends on the boundaries he’s established. We can patrol and protect, but now some stranger comes in who will try to take over what is rightfully ours.
Lucinda: Cisco, I do understand. Of course you are upset, as I would be, because your home ground is being invaded.
You have a few choices here. First of all, of course, you have to make sure to teach the newcomer your routine and your rules for using the territory. It is important that the new cat accepts your behavior guidelines in this matter. After all, he is now in your exclusive territory.
A lot of your adjustment time will be dependent on the kind of companion your two-legged has found for you. Keep an open mind. As you teach the newcomer the rules you have set down, see if he or she accepts them readily and learns them quickly.
What About A New Kitten?
A cat who understands that this place is yours and your rules must be followed will be much easier for you to befriend. Of course, if your two-legged brings home a kitten, your job is both harder and easier.
It’s harder because a kitten does not completely understand the concept of territory yet, and may have some basic lessons to learn. Just remember, a kitten is small, and you must be careful not to discipline it so strongly that you injure the little baby.
It might be easier with a kitten because you can establish right away that you are in charge, just as his Mama Cat was. He may be easily convinced to follow your guidelines.
If the kitten is young enough, perhaps you will find it easier to teach the boundary rules. Your lessons can mold the young cat’s behavior just as if you were its parent.
Try to teach this stranger, no matter his age, without actually getting into combat. If a swat and a growl get the message across, don’t add extreme anger to the mix.
After all, the cat didn’t choose to come to your house. Your two-legged is the guilty party.
Carlos’s Unfortunate Experience
My CCL (Cantankerous Cat Lady) tells me that she learned that her last cat, Carlos, who came from the shelter, went home with a lady to be a companion to her cat before he’d even met the CCL.
The cat-in-residence became quite aggressive toward Carlos, trying to use force to get the cat to leave. Of course, Carlos stayed, as he had no other choice.
The woman finally brought Carlos back to the shelter, because she felt sorry for him. Her cat kept trying to pick a fight, and Carlos wouldn’t defend himself.
Well, of course he didn’t. He knew he was in another cat’s territory, not by his choice, but because he understood, he did not fight back. CCL says she is so glad that lady brought him back, because he turned out to be such a wonderful companion.
Think of Carlos as you get acquainted with the newcomer. It’s not easy on him, either, being in this negative situation. Give the new cat a chance. Once he accepts your rules, he could turn out to be a fine friend, and you will be glad to have him there with you.
This concludes our “Letters to Lucinda” column for this post. Remember that you can ask a question of me if you wish — just include it in the comments section below this post. I hope you have found this information beneficial.
References used for this article:
Christensen, Wendy. (2004). Outsmarting Cats: How to Persuade the Felines in Your Life to Do What You Want. Lyons press.