In the bad old days, veterinarians offered zero advice for a client who was getting a new kitten or cat. Here’s what normally happened:
- Person brings a cat who’s either frozen with fear, taking flight around a cardboard box almost ready to achieve orbital velocity, or hissing and ready to bring the fight like the fifteenth round of a Rocky fight into the house to meet the other occupants.
- The other occupants of the house are all standing on two or four legs around the laundry basket, cardboard box, or towel holding the new kitty, ready to sniff, hiss, snap, or snarl at the new creature who they believe is either invading the territory or, at the very least, upsetting the status quo.
- Fur fills the air with various animal body parts visible in a whirling tornado of welcome.
As part of the Fear Free movement, we now know a lot more about how to reduce or remove the triggers that cause fear, anxiety, and stress (FAS) in pets. Here are my top four tips for welcoming a new cat into a home — something we’re about to do ourselves:
1. Safe room. I’m not talking about the type that millionaires create for vault-like protection in case of a robbery or attack, but a spare room with only one entry and exit, where the cat is not going to be disturbed as she eats, drinks, and settles in for the long haul. So don’t use your master bedroom or the bathroom everybody uses, but instead a spare bedroom or bathroom.
2. Use pheromones. I recommend getting two plug-in diffusers of a product called Feline Multicat (CEVA) and plugging one on in the safety room and another in the room on the other side of the door (or the main room the cats spend time in). These pheromones can help set the mood for a joyful meeting.
3. Meet me at the door. If you have other pets, dogs or cats, feed the family pets and the new pet on either side of the door so they get used to each other’s smells. For at least one day before you decide to let them actually check each other out—up close and personal—feed a food that is a tasty as possible (like chicken heated up in the microwave) on both sides of the door; half way through the meal, switch bowls so that they literally get a taste of each other.
4. Smell ’em up. The day of the meeting, take a towel and rub down all of the pets with the same towel, spreading the mutual scent to all animals.