It’s not unusual for owners of older cats to consider bringing a younger cat into the home as a friend to help liven up the mature cat’s life. In some cases, this scenario does have just the desired effect, but sometimes this is a recipe for disaster. The following three tips for introducing an older cat to a new housemate can make the process smoother and ultimately more successful.
1. Know Your Cat
If your feline senior citizen has a long history of getting along with other cats in the house but suddenly finds himself alone, it stands to reason that he may be willing to accept a new addition. If, however, your cat is a solitary soul who barely tolerates attention of any sort, it may be wise to reconsider. Try to match your existing cat’s personality with the new cat. Perhaps a rambunctious kitten would be too much, but an older individual who is content to lie on a sunny patch of carpet might fit right in. Finally, it is simply not fair to ask an extremely old and/or sick cat to make the compromises necessary when a new pet is brought home. This is a time for being pampered, not for feeling like one’s home is being invaded.
2. Introduce the Cats Gradually
Keep the old-timer’s schedule and environment as similar as possible to his usual routine. Isolate the new arrival to a single room, ideally behind a closed door. This way, the cats can get used to each other without the stress of face to face contact. Once they seem comfortable, open the door and stack two baby gates one on top of the other in the doorway. This increases the level of contact between the cats but allows each to retreat safely when they feel the need. When all of their interactions are either positive or neutral, remove the baby gates, but only when people are around to supervise. Gradually increase the amount of time the cats are allowed to spend together.
To promote harmony between new feline roommates, feed them separately, have at least one more litter box than there are cats in the house, keep litter boxes very clean, and outfit the home with multiple perches and resting places.
3. Consider Fostering
Many animal shelters offer the option to foster. This is a great opportunity to bring an animal into your home without a permanent commitment. An additional upside to fostering is helping an animal in need. With fostering, apply the same gradual introduction strategy mentioned above.