Help! My family wants a second cat, but our first cat won’t let us get one

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  • Each week, we respond to a question from our readers and give them advice and resources they can turn to
  • This week, we help someone who wants to get another pet, but needs to handle the jealous one they have at home
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With a little work and patience, you can help your cat become adjusted to a new cat in the house. Photo: Shutterstock

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Dear friend,

My family wants another cat. However, my cat, which is seven years old, won’t allow it. Whenever we bring a new cat home, it chases the new cat and bites it. I respect my cat, but we really want to have a second one. What should I do?

Sincerely, More kitties more problems

How to make a new cat feel at home

Dear kitties,

Cats are very territorial, so it makes sense that your old cat would have trouble adjusting to a new one. The key is to go slow: do not just bring a new cat home and expect them to get along right away. If your mum brought home a stranger and said they were sharing your room from now on, you would probably be upset too!

The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA) outlines the process for helping your cat adjust to its new fur sibling.

Before you bring a second cat home, you should set aside one room in the flat for the new cat, away from your old cat’s favourite spot. Make sure to prepare all the essentials: a comfy area with a soft towel or blanket to sleep on, a litter box, food and water, and a carrier or another spot where your new cat can hide. You can also consider getting Feliway – a plug-in that produces cat pheromones and helps them calm down. This would be useful both in the room with the new cat, and where the old cat spends time.

BUT I’M THE BABY! Photo: Shutterstock

Put the new cat in the room you have set aside right away – do not introduce your old cat yet. Open the carrier, and do not force it to come out: it will when it is ready. Leave the room and shut the door.

Cats rely on scent to learn more about each other. After a few hours, take something from the new cat’s room (such as the towel they were sleeping on) and put it near your current cat’s favourite spot, encouraging them to approach. If they avoid the spot, or hiss or spit, move it away. Each day, move the towel closer to the cat’s food bowl. Do the same for your new cat.

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After a few days, swap the food bowls between the cats. This will help them learn to associate eating (which they love) with the smell of the other cat. Obviously, if one of the cats is on a special diet and needs special food, you should ask your vet before trying this. Only once they are completely OK with the scent of the other cat should you introduce them face-to-face.

When you introduce them for the first time, make sure they have some sort of barrier between them – you could open the new cat’s door just a little, so the cats can see each other but cannot fit through the space. Give them treats while you do this – again, it will help them associate the other cat with something positive. When they are comfortable with each other they will touch noses or rub against the door. When you see this, you can take away the barrier between them. Remember there should be no growling or hissing!

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Finally, you can open the door and let the cats explore and interact with each other. Do not force them to play together. They might want to keep their distance for a while, and that’s fine. If they fight, interrupt them with a light noise, such as clapping, that will distract them but not scare them.

In the meantime, each cat will need its own litter box, food and water bowls, and space until they are comfortable sharing.

This is what we would like to avoid. Photo: Shutterstock

It will take time for the cats to become comfortable around each other, and it requires a lot of patience. The whole process could take anywhere from a few days to weeks, even months. You will need to watch your cats to make sure one isn’t bullying the other. If you see this, you will need to take a step back; the new cat may have to go back to staying in one room for a bit.

The cats may never be friends, but at least they could eventually be fine sharing a home. If you continue running into problems after trying all these steps, please call your vet to ask them for advice.

Hope that helps, Friend of a Friend

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