Sara recently wrote to me to tell me that her cat Oliver had passed away. She plans to open her home to a new kitten — maybe two — when enough time has passed. However, she has two Lhasa apsos already and was wondering how to integrate a new cat into a home with resident dogs.
When my feline, Miss Kitty, came to live with us, she was 5-years-old. We had a 8-year-old Dalmatian and a 7-year-old cat in the family at the time. We brought her into the house in a crate and took her into a room with a litter box and food. This gave her and the current pets in the house a chance to swap scents underneath the bedroom door without actually meeting.
After about a day, I brought Miss Kitty outside the room and let the other dog and cat into the room. Again, I wanted them to get to know each other through scent first. We did this several times a day for a few days.
Eventually, we put a baby gate at the top and bottom of the stairs and let Miss Kitty wander out of her room to meet the other cat on the second floor. The gate at the bottom kept the dog from charging up the stairs and barking at her through the top gate. The top gate prevented her from bolting down the stairs and suddenly seeing the dog at the bottom of the stairs.
Once she made peace with our cat, which took a few days, we put the dog on a leash and allowed Miss Kitty to come downstairs at her own pace. By having the dogs on leashes, you are ensuring the first meeting doesn’t involve a high-speed chase. If that happens, introductions generally must start over.
Once I knew my dog wouldn’t chase her, I only used the baby gates when I wasn’t home. I placed the gates a few inches from the floor so that my cats could get away from the dog by slipping under and past it. I don’t use them at all now. Everyone mingles harmoniously.
Just a few cautions: Never carry your feline over to meet another pet for an introduction and never leave your cat in a crate with other pets surrounding her. These are frightening situations for felines. Cats must meet other pets at their own pace.
Pamela Bennett Johnson, feline behaviorist and author of “Think Like a Cat,” has many great tips and suggestions on feline introductions on her Web site at http://catbehaviorassociates.com that readers also might find helpful.