BRINGING CATS HOME

Bringing home a new cat or kitten is exciting, but it can also be a hairball of stress.

Introducing a newcomer to an existing pet isn't as easy as it sounds. I went through it a couple of years ago and it took a few days before I actually let my cats meet face-to-face. Even then, there was plenty of hissing to go around.

As I write this column, my parents' brand-new cat had been hiding under the couch for seven hours. My mom was pleased to inform me that he'd progressed from one side of the couch to the other at one point.

Lindsey Narraway of Pickering Animal Services, a pro in setting up families with new pets, shared some tips on the best way to make those feline introductions and get the cats used to their new surroundings.

"People always have expectations that when they bring a cat home, the two cats will be friends right off the bat," she said. "They have to realize that may not be the case."

You don't want to introduce them right away. It's best to put the new cat in a small room such as a washroom or bedroom so it can get used to the new sights, sounds and smells. Set them up with their favourite toys, blankets, food, water and litter box. It's a good idea for cats moving from one home to a new one to have objects they're familiar with to help them adjust.

The existing cat will sense something is different and will gradually get used to a new pet being there.

"It's minimizing the initial stress for both of them," Ms. Narraway said.

The Humane Society of the United States suggests feeding the new cat and the resident cat on either side of the same door so they can associate each other's scents with good things such as eating. But don't put the bowls too close so they don't get upset. After they've done this a few times, move the bowls closer together.