Slow Introductions in a Multi-Species Household: Bringing Home a New Cat

By: Abbey Johnson and Chelsea Murray, Special Thanks to Christy Robertson for the media contributions

Thinking about bringing a new kitten or cat into your home can be so exciting! You likely have dreams of your new addition and your current animals hitting it off immediately, then successfully integrating it into your family dynamic and routine quickly. While this sometimes can be the case, it’s very important not to leave this possibility up to chance as there are also lots of possibilities that things could start off on the wrong foot, too. To make sure that you DO get that happy, healthy dynamic you’re dreaming of, we need to take several factors into consideration as well as prepare yourself and your current animals for successful integration.

Check-In On Your Expectations

Visualizing what you want your animals’ relationships to look like can be a great place to start off on the right foot when bringing a new cat home. But, before even thinking about your current animals, you first need to think about your own ability to manage a multi-species household. With adding a new cat into the mix, not only will the beginning integrations take a lot of time and effort, but the following years will too! Make sure that you’re willing to divide up your time and resources further to accommodate another animal long-term.

Once you’ve decided that you’re ready for the additional commitment, it’s also important to consider the current animals in your home and their suitability to accept a new member into the household. Through this entire process, your current established animals also need to be a priority, so make sure to consider whether accepting a new animal into the home would be too stressful or too disrupting to their daily routine for them to continue to have a good quality of life. For example, adult dogs with high prey drive outside who have not yet been socialized with indoor cats may not be a suitable home for a new kitten. And for our well-socialized dogs, adding in an adopted adult cat who has not been around dogs could be too overwhelming for the cat. While there are definitely means to help your new addition feel more comfortable and help your resident animals learn appropriate ways to live in the same home, sometimes these dynamics just end up not being the best fit and it may be better to hold off on bringing that new pet home for a while for your current pet’s sake.

Preparations for Bringing the New Cat Home

Once you’ve made a decision on a new cat and put consideration into the dynamic you realistically can expect in your new household, it’s time to get prepared! The best place to start for success is to invest in preparing a good management setup. This includes baby gates to separate different rooms/areas of the house (ones with cat doors), incorporating vertical spaces and safe boxes (for cats) to allow them to get away from the dog when needed, crates, playpens, a good tethering system, etc so that you have several means of keeping your new cat separate from the current animals, or connected to you when needed.