Territorial Cats: Introducing Your Senior Cat to New Kittens, Puppies, and Babies
I'm sure cat owners have thought at least once about how their cat will react if they bring another pet (kitten or puppy) home or if a little human joins the family.
It is well known that cats are territorial - and maybe a tad jealous, too. Your home is their territory and they like to feel in control of their territory. Territorial aggression in cats can manifest in several ways and for several reasons. They have their own way of saying to other pets "this is mine"!
Just ask any cat owner with scratched furniture or walls. They might also even use "territory messages" or use their scent glands in their paws, on the legs, cheeks, face, and tail. They can also mark with urine – I know, gross. They also might become aggressive towards other pets – ever watched a cat stalk or hide and then leap out after another pet?
Sadly, some cats can become territorial with one of the family members, which makes the situation difficult for the "unloved" one because the cat can suddenly attack, scratch, or bite him.
Cats perceive the territory differently than dogs and can be much more aggressive. They can see newcomers as intruders, whether it's your neighbor's cat, a kitten, or a puppy. Cats can accept other animals just like that, but they can just as well reject those they don't like. In terms of bringing a newborn into the home (your cat's territory), most cats even end up protecting them (playing with them, sleeping with them, defending them, etc.).
So how do you prepare your not-so-friendly feline for the arrival of another member of the family? Let’s explore cat territorial behaviors and some strategies for setting a new meeting up for success.
Scenario 1: Introducing Your Senior Cat to a New Kitten
It seems that adult cats are friendlier and more welcoming to newcomers, such as kittens or younger cats.
The biggest mistake that is most often made is that when the owners of the senior cat decide to bring another kitten into the house ,and they do not have the patience to introduce them properly. Some pet owners figure on leaving them to "handle" things on their own.
While this method works with some senior cats, most cats do not receive this well. The kittens are seen as intruders, even if the senior cats are more cooperative.
When you bring a kitten into the house, give your senior cat time to adjust to the newcomer.
Try this step-by-step introduction approach:
- Both cats shouldn't be left to see each other when you bring the kitten into the house;
- For a few days, as the case may be, the kitten will be kept in a room of his own, where he will have food, water, his own toys, and a litter box;
- Now is the time to exchange scents between cats - you can start by letting the senior cat smell you (clothes and hands) while you talk to it calmly and pet it. The same goes for the new kitten;
- In the first week, beddings can be exchanged between cats so that both get used to the scent of the other. If the senior cat becomes agitated or even aggressive at the scent of the other cat, reassure it that everything is ok by giving it treats when it is calm. The idea is to associate the new scent with something positive, and what cat doesn't love treats?!
- If it seems that both cats accept the other's scent well, you can let them explore each other's territory (no cat in the room);
- If everything went well, in the next few days you can let them see each other from a distance (the kitten can sit under a turned-over laundry basket or in a pet carrier). At this stage, they can
see and smell each other. Here you can also opt for a leash - one of the cats (preferably the senior one) is on a leash and you control the whole interaction. You have to repeat this step several times, in different rooms, alternating the "secure" cat and the "free" cat, until they react calmly to each other.
- If all goes well, you can move on to the step where you leave both cats free in a room. At this stage expect long hissings and looks - they need to do that in order to get used to each other (this is normal in the feline world). After all, the kitten violates the territory of your senior cat! It is recommended not to intervene unless they want to scratch or bite each other. If this happens, this step must be stopped and resumed on another day. What you need to remember is that you need to give both cats enough space to hide or run away if they feel the need. They should not be forced to stay with each other if they do not want that.
Here are a few more tips on introductions:
· Use pheromone sprayers, especially in the places where the two cats live. These will help them calm down and accept more easily the presence of other cats.
· The senior cat mustn't feel abandoned. For example, if you pet the kitten, pet the senior cat at the same time.
· Play with both! Give them treats when they interact calmly with one another.
· Also, try to create space for them vertically because in the end if they still do not accept each other, it is best to have the opportunity to divide their territory - one takes the top and the other the bottom (of a room).
· If the cats still do not accept each other and are constantly fighting or chasing around, seek the advice of a veterinarian or feline behavior specialist.
Scenario 2: Introducing Your Senior Cat to a New Puppy
Who doesn’t love puppies?! They are so goofy and sweet! Although they are super cute when they are little, they can cause problems for your senior cat.
Even though cats are typically welcoming to new, younger animals, puppies are generally hyperactive, which makes them the perfect "enemy" for a senior cat who may also have some health problems and just wants to sleep all day.
When choosing the new puppy, it is good to talk to the breeder or shelter staff about how socialized the puppy is and if it had any contact with cats before.
Regarding the introduction of a puppy with your senior cat, this is done gradually as if you are bringing a kitten home.
Follow this introduction method:
- Before bringing the puppy home, bring a blanket or cat toys with you so that the new puppy will get used to the scent of your cat.
- Once you get the puppy home, keep them both separate for a while, so the newcomer will have time to get used to the environment.
- If you notice that the puppy is calm and accustomed to the new home, it's time to introduce him to your senior cat. Expect hissing, running, or hiding.
- Make sure your cat is in an area where it has a place to run or hide. It is very important to make it feel safe. Do not corner the cat, and the dog must be on a leash!
- Reward the dog if it is calm and the cat as well. You need to associate this interaction with something positive.
- Take a break after a few minutes, and take the dog out of the room. If both animals are calm and relaxed, you can repeat this step.
- Get them to know each other through short interactions, for a few minutes, in different rooms, several times a day, until they get used to seeing each other and smelling each other around the house. Keep the dog on a leash.
- Let them study each other and make sure you give them a lot of love and affection if everything happens relaxed. Don't forget to stay calm if any of them seem alert. Do this frequently, visiting as many rooms in the house as possible.
- You can only release the dog from the leash when you are sure that it will not chase the cat around the house.
Another important aspect is the feeding time - they must be fed separately when it's mealtime so they can eat quietly. The cat's litter box should be in an accessible place, but away from the dog's eyes.
If after a certain period the two still do not accept each other, seek a veterinarian or a specialist in feline/canine behavior.
Scenario 3: Introducing Your Senior Cat to Your Newborn Baby
As in the case of bringing other pets home, cats must be prepared for welcoming a newborn human into their home.
Cats see and feel that something is happening to you during pregnancy. And usually, future moms prepare in advance for the birth of their baby – they buy a crib, a swing, and everything else to make the baby comfortable. So your cat will notice the changes around the house and your changing scent and body during pregnancy. Often cats take ownership of these new objects - they leave their scent or sleep in them.
Give your cat as much affection as before so it won’t feel left out. Include it in the new stage of your life and that of your family.
Your cat can get used to your baby right after you give birth to him. So, before presenting him directly, you can bring your cat a newborn's piece of clothing to get used to his scent.
You can also pet the cat with the baby's socks and then put them on his feet during the presentation. Thus, the newborn will partially carry the scent of the cat and it will be able to accept it more easily as part of her family.
Reward your cat when it behaves nicely and calmly.
All that remains is to teach the baby, once he grows up, to respect the cat in turn. Together they can develop a close relationship and a very beautiful friendship, which is definitely for everyone's benefit.
I hope these strategies for different scenarios help you prepare! Also, your veterinarian may have the contact information for a feline behaviorist who can work directly with you if you have serious concerns about the changing dynamic in your house