Warning Signs When Introducing Cats to Each Other and to Dogs!

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warning signs when introducing cats

Warning signs when introducing cats! The introduction and socialization of cats is one of the most important jobs in a multi-cat household. Whether you want to introduce a new cat to your home or would like your cat and dog to get on well, read on for advice about introducing pets. 

If you already have one cat and are planning to introduce a new cat or kitten to your home, its best to allow your pets to meet slowly. Successful integration of your pets will result in a harmonious relationship between two or more cats, allowing them to coexist without serious conflicts or injuries. You can create a success story by paying attention to your cat’s needs and behavior during the integration process. Here are some tips to help you introduce your pets!

Warning signs when introducing cats to each other

Introduce cats slowly to reduce the chances of fighting. The initial meeting should be done through a mesh door. This will allow social interactions to occur withouteither cat getting hurt.

First, let’s see how not to do it. The biggest mistake that most people make when introducing cats to each other is to take things too quickly, allowing them to meet too soon without supervision. Don’t just leave your pets in the same room and hope for the best.

Cats can be hurt during introduction sessions, as one of the cats may scratch the other, and this is even more likely to happen if you leave them unsupervised. The cats may also form a bond based on fear rather than mutual trust, resulting in bullying behavior.

Cats need time to get used to each other, and socialization should be done gradually. Even if your cats have been living in the same house for a few days, there are several reasons why you should never allow them to meet without supervision:

Cats are territorial

Cats are highly territorial by nature, so they feel threatened when a new cat enters their territory. It is, therefore, logical that they fight with the intruder as this is how they defend their territory. Even if your cats are getting along very well, there is always a chance that the resident cat may feel challenged by the new cat’s presence in his environment.

A fight may occur

The new cat may feel scared or challenged by the resident cat’s behavior and become aggressive. The resident cat may then start bullying to show his dominance. Both cats should have a safe space they can retreat to if needed.

Changes can cause stress

Cats don’t only fight when they don’t know each other very well. Even if your cats are used to living together in a multi-cat household and were happily integrated, they may become hostile towards each other if a new cat enters their territory. This is because they may not like the stress or changes in their environment and need time to get used to them.

Warning signs when introducing cats

If you notice any of these behaviors in either cat, its probably time to separate them and take a break:

  • Growling or hissing
  • Producing a low rumbling noise
  • Prolonged eye contact with dilated pupils
  • Your cats are standing with their fur on end with tails stiff in the air
  • Ears flattened and head bowed is a sign of being submissive
  • Hiding underneath the sofa or other objects to get away from each other. 
  • Twitching tails
  • Attacking or fighting
Warning signs when introducing cats: Hissing, growling and snarling are signs the meeting isn't going well.

How to safely introduce two cats

Keep introduction sessions short to reduce both your cats stress levels.

There is no right way to introduce your pets, but several suggestions will make the process much easier. The risk of aggressive behavior between your cats is high if they are not introduced correctly. The cats should meet gradually and with a lot of patience from you and the cats.

Ensure that you do not leave your cats alone in the same room until they get used to each other and their environment. It should be a minimum of two weeks before you allow them to meet without supervision. This way, if one of them becomes aggressive or shows any sign of being stressed, you can separate them quickly and easily.

This is the integration plan that I suggest. You’ll need a mesh barrier to put over the doorway, be aware that if you use a barrier that’s too low, your cats will be able to jump over.

Related article: New Kitten Checklist

Stage 1: Introduce your cats through a mesh door

One of the simplest and most effective introduction methods is to keep your cats separated by a mesh door. This will allow them to see and smell each other from a distance. You’ll need to provide one room for each pet.

It is vital that the new cat feels safe in her room and has all she needs: a place to hide, water, food, and a litter box. You should also have a litter tray in the other cat’s room and their own food and water bowls.

Both cats should have their own toys, cat trees and scratching posts. If you are introducing a new cat to an existing cat, make sure there are enough resources for each of them. The resident cat may not feel very eager about sharing his belongings! Cats don’t like sharing litter boxes, even if they have been living together for a while. 

The first introduction should be short so as not to stress either cat.

Stage 2: Swap smells

Another great way to get your cats used to each other is by swapping their scents. Place something that belongs to your resident cat in the new cat’s room. You can also rub a blanket over your new cat and then place it in the other cat’s room. This way, they will get used to each other’s scent and, when they meet again, will recognize each other.

Stage 3: Allow your cats to meet through the mesh door daily

Once your new cat is familiar with her room and feels comfortable in it, you can leave the door open to allow your cats to see each other through the mesh. They should be able to do this without getting stressed, so it is important to be there to supervise. Let your cats meet each other for around 10 minutes a day as long as they aren’t showing any sign of aggression or fear.

Stage 4: Meet for more extended periods

When your cats are comfortable with each other, you can start to leave the door open for longer periods. This way, they will be able to meet and observe each other through the mesh but are still safe from being attacked by the other cat if one is startled or feels threatened.

Stage 5: Short supervised visits

If you can supervise and keep both cats calm, you can now allow them very short supervised visits. Take away the mesh door and see how they react. By this point, your cats should be used to each other.

Make sure there is enough room for each cat to move around, and they don’t feel trapped or cornered by the other. You must always reward good behavior and separate them if there is aggression. This way, they can learn that it is good to be near each other.

Stage 6: Allowing them free access

The next stage is to allow your cats free access to each other and the whole house. You can allow your cats to share the same space if you know they get on and their behavior in each other’s presence has been calm and respectful. Make sure you watch them closely and reward any good behavior.

Give your cats a safe space to go if they don’t feel comfortable. It’s best not to leave them alone until you know they both feel relaxed in each other’s company, as the new cat may be very stressed by the presence of her housemate.

Stage 7: Continue to monitor your cats

Once your cats have been introduced, you should monitor them for a few weeks to ensure they are still getting on okay and not showing any signs of stress or aggression. If they show any signs of anxiety, stay calm and move them back into separate rooms. Then try again later when they may be feeling more settled.

The most important thing is for you to keep your cat’s welfare as a priority and be patient.

Cat attacks can have serious consequences

Any stress can cause changes in your cat’s behavior, so it is very important to monitor their reactions closely. Always take things slowly when introducing your cats.

Cats that have been poorly socialized or attacked by other cats may regress in their training, and you will have to go back to the beginning of the introduction process. Bad first impressions last, and a cat that’s been attacked may never get on with the other cat.

Cats that are stressed by other cats may stop using their litter tray and may also become aggressive themselves, especially if they turn back into a defence mode or feel trapped.

If your cat has been injured or you are worried about his behaviour, contact your vet or the ASPCA

Related article: Why do cats poop outside the litter box?

Warning signs when introducing cats and dogs

Even before the first date with a new pet, it’s important to be aware of certain warning signs that might indicate this relationship is going to develop into a difficult one. Some signs may include:

Bad behaviour: Dogs

Dogs barking and growling as soon as they see the cat through the window. Dogs who bark at cats, chase them, or even try to bite them are highly likely to be territorial, possessive, or dominant.

Fear in the cat

A cat who hisses arches their back or stalks when they see a dog is showing signs of defensiveness and fear, which may escalate into an attack if the warning signs are ignored. To avoid aggression from both sides, keep them separated until you have time to work with them together.

An overly friendly dog

A dog who is extremely friendly and wants to play with the cat all the time may cause problems. Dogs and cats have different body language, making it hard for them to understand each other. For example, a dog will make eye contact and wag their tail as a sign that they are happy and friendly. Cats see eye contact as threatening and wag their tails if they are annoyed.

Stress and anxiety in the cat

A cat who is extremely timid and shy, hides from visitors, or stays in one room by themselves is likely very stressed out and may lash out with aggression as a result. In this case, it’s crucial to work on desensitizing them before introducing them to a dog or even to other cats.

Warning signs when introducing cats: Final thoughts

Cats need time to establish a relationship with each other based on mutual trust. Be careful not to introduce cats too quickly. If one of the pets feels challenged by the newcomer’s presence, fights can break out. Even though your pets may have lived together peacefully at one time, the presence of a new animal in their home is likely to cause disruptions.

Introducing cats can be stressful for them but also for you as an owner who needs to pay attention all the time to prevent any problems from happening. By being proactive, you have the best chance of helping your new pets get along.

Also, make sure that you continue giving your cat lots of attention after getting a new kitten. You don’t want your pet to feel left out or like his position is being threatened by the newcomer.

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