Bringing a Stray Cat Home When You Already Have Cats
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It’s hard to resist a stray cat or kitten you find on the street or on your property, especially if they’re very small and cute or very socialized and you suspect they were put out by a previous owner. It’s difficult perhaps impossible to leave them to their fate, and sometimes we all have the urge to spare them the trip to the shelter and the possible consequences of that trip, but if you already have cats at home, you have to plan ahead before bringing that adorable or pathetic new critter home. Don’t let your altruistic instincts make you forget your existing responsibility to your existing pets; you have to safeguard their health and safety as well.
Take the Stray to the Vet First
Even if they appear perfectly healthy and friendly, and even if they are wearing a collar, take your newfound friend to your veterinarian first. Stray cats, even if they’ve only been out in the wild for a short time, may have diseases or may be behind on their vaccinations or never had them in the first place. They may have worms or other non-obvious conditions, almost certainly have fleas, and will more than likely bring some level of misery to your existing pets if you bring them straight home. If your stray is older, make sure they have been neutered or spayed.
Consider the Cats You Have
All pet owners know that their pets have their own personalities and tics. Think about your cat or cats and how they will likely react to an intruder in the home for that is almost certainly how they will regard your new adoptee at first. Even the gentlest of neutered cats can react violently when faced with an unfamiliar animal. Make a plan for how you will handle the herd when you bring their new sister or brother into the house.
Have a Separation Plan
Your cats will have to live separate lives for a while before they can mingle. Have a plan in place for your new adoptee to have a room of their own, complete with food, water, and litter box. If you let the cats mingle right away there will be all out war and injuries. Once the mood of your other cats mellows a bit, you can begin a program of swapping bedding for a few days to let the cats get used to each other’s smell, then some supervised play time through a slightly open door (preventing cats from getting in or out of the room) and then, when you feel the situation is under control, supervised play time in the same space. Another tactic that works is swapping who is in the room and who has the run of the house for a night.
Keep Up Traditions
When your new cat is roaming freely, don’t forget your older cats. Keep up the schedule and traditions you had with them, whether it’s special games or special treats. Form new ones for your new addition instead of usurping existing interactions. Your older cats must be reassured that they have not lost their place.
When the cats are co-existing, be careful to break up fights and to punish aggressive behaviour with water bottles or other non-physical discipline. Remember that aggressive behaviour sometimes manifests weeks or months after a seemingly successful integration, so be on alert for any new behaviours on display.
It’s a good thing to be willing to take in an animal in need. Don’t turn it into a mistake by rushing into it or failing to take the proper precautions!
About the author: Jackie McLellan and her family are based in Scotland and are animal mad, living with dogs, cats, rabbits and sheep. Jackie breeds beautiful Australian Labradoodlesand regularly has labradoodle puppies for sale in the UK.