How do I introduce the new cat to my cats and dog & household?


Some cats are content sharing a small space while others want to possess and dominate the home. Some cats are naturally more sociable than others. While some cats are particularly playful, others just want a warm, comfortable place to nap and view the outside world. Matching personality traits and individual animals' needs/wants are factors that should be considered when deciding whether or not to foster and whether a given cat can live in peace and comfort in your multicat household. Neutered and spayed cats are *much* less likely to fight than whole animals.

A cat who has never lived with a dog may be very frightened, especially if the dog is large, and it may take quite a while (if ever) for it to tolerate the dog. It is strongly advised that such a cat not be fostered with a dog unless no other options are available. If that is the case, suggestions on making the introductions are provided below.


The introduction process is extremely important. First impressions can be lasting impressions when it comes to cats. The range of relationships that can develop when a new cat is introduced to a household with other cats and a dog can run the full gamut from best friends who share and do everything together to to all out war. Cats and dogs are territorial, and some are clearly more territorial than others, so the time required for the introduction process varies greatly depending on the cats and dog involved.

Introducing cats who are strangers to each other should be done in a gradual systematic fashion in which pleasurable experiences (food/attention/play) are associated with the other cat(s). The key is having patience with the process and knowing that it takes time to accomplish and you may be required to repeat steps in the introduction process more than once.

Throughout the introduction process, speak quietly and calmly to the cats and dog and make no sudden moves. Praise them generously when they are tolerant of each other's presence, using words, toys and food as positive reinforcement. Never scold or use harsh or loud tones when they are together or they will associate unpleasantness with being near each other. Give special attention to the resident cat(s) and dog to reassure them of your loyalty and love and help minimize jealousy. Give the new cat loving attention only during the resident cat's and dog's absence until such time as they become true friends.

The initial stress of the move to your home may cause increased fearful or aggressive behavior, so a settling in period is called for before introductions are made.

It is highly recommended that you assign a room to be used for temporary quarters for the new cat. A bedroom with attached bathroom where the litter box can be kept works well, though any room, bathroom, or even a walk-in closet will be adequate as long as they aren't heavily trafficked. Put a litter box, dry food and water (not too close to the box), scratching post, a comfortable bed and any cat toys in the room for the new cat, and keep the door closed. Leave the carrier in which the cat arrived open on the floor so the cat can retreat there if he/she feels threatened. If the military person has toys or bedding the cat used (if not, a piece of any clothing the owner has worn will do as long as it hasn't been washed), ask them to provide that to you as it will have the scent of home on it and help ease the stress. When you bring the cat home, put other cats away ahead of time so that you can take the cat to its room without encountering the other cat(s) or the dog. Then close the door securely and go visit your other cats and your dog. They will smell the new cat on you. Give them treats at this time.

It is often helpful to wash both your cat(s) and the new cat in the same shampoo so that they smell similar to each other. Also, applying a spray of Feliway to each cat & his/her bedding daily is also reported to help.

After day or two, exchange the new cat's bedding with that of the resident cat so that they can become acquainted with each other through the all-important sense of smell before they have the opportunity to see each other.

Next, rotate rooms for a few hours daily for 2-3 days while the dog is on a lead or out in the yard. Let the new cat explore the rest of the house while the resident cat spends some time in the new cat's room. This will give your resident cats a chance to smell the new cat and rub their own scent on objects. Allowing this behavior helps prevent more dramatic displays of territorial behavior between the cats. Bring the dog into the new cat's room for a few minutes to sniff and leave his scent during this visitation time.

Feed the cats and dog in each area with wet food twice daily, and play with the cats in each area at least twice daily. Setting up a schedule of feeding treats of wet food and a play time routine minimizes anxiety and makes the cats feel more secure.

Playtime is a special time where you can cement a bond between you and the new cat. Many experts suggest using a feline flyer or other similar toy which allows the new cat(s) to maintain a distance while getting to know you and, once the cats are introduced, also distracts their attention from each other while maintaining a distance from each other.

Keeping the cats in separate areas for 5-7 days allows the cat(s) a chance become desensitized to the smells and sounds of the cat(s) in the other area and the scent of your dog. When they all seem particularly relaxed with this process, begin to expose them to the sight of each other.

At this time, you can bring the new cat(s) in a carrier to meet your cats and sniff each other through the carrier wire door. Place the carrier on the floor and allow the cats and dog to meet this way several times a day for about an hour. Seeing your cats tolerate the dog will help the new cat with accepting the dog's presence. Continue these repeated protected meetings for several days or until they remain calm in each other's presence.

When the cats and dog are calm in each other's presence during these repeated meetings, it is time to let the new cat out into the rest of the house for a few minutes with the dog on a leash. When it appears that the dog doesn't lunge at the cat or behave aggressively, you can put a barrier in the doorway of the room the new cat had occupied that allows the cats to back get in but not the dog, so the new cat can escape the dog should it want to while the dog is off lead. The length of the visits can be increased gradually each day. This process may take a few days or a few months depending on the personalities of the cats and the dog. If any actual fighting between the cats and/or dog appears imminent while you are supervising, put the newcomer back in his/her room and proceed more slowly. However, if they seem to tolerate each other remain vigilant and supervise them together during these visits for several days, playing with the cats with a feline flyer or other similar toy which allows you and them to maintain a distance from each other and you and the dog.

If those supervised play times go well, you can begin to allow them to cohabitate in your home. If any aggressive behavior occurs at any time, begin the introduction process again.
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