Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cat-to-cat introductions: Why do site swaps help?

Popoki the shy cat looks out the window
Some rescue cats, including Popoki here, have absolutely no experience of life with other cats. They don't know how to read cat body language, they don't know how to make introductions and they don't know how to keep their cool when other cats are in the room.

To these cats, all other cats are absolutely terrifying, and that can make introductions challenging.

In a traditional cat-to-cat introduction setup, the resident cats and the newbie are encouraged to eat on either side of a baby gate. That way, they can see one another while they're doing something they both enjoy. Win win!

But scared cats like Popoki will not eat when another cat is nearby. And, scared cats like her sometimes hiss and spit, which can make the resident cats stop eating, too.

A site swap can help, as it allows the resident cat and the newbie cat to check out smells without fear. And it's somewhat easy to do, depending on the number of cats you have. Here's how I'm doing it.

Popoki has been spending the majority of her time in two places: My writing studio and the guest bedroom. Those rooms are absolutely packed with her stuff and her scent, while the rest of the house is full of smells and stuff from the other cats.

When my workday is through, I keep Popoki in the writing studio for a few minutes while I rustle Maggie and Lucy into the guest bedroom. Then, Popoki comes in and runs around the main portion of the house for a few hours.

At the end of that time, I place Popoki back in the studio, and I let the girls out of the guest room. When they're out, I take Popoki out of the studio, and I put her in the guest room.


While the cats are in these different spaces, they're swapping smells and vital information. But they cannot see one another and they cannot hear one another. They are exploring one another, but they just don't know it yet.

So how long must this go on? I'm really not sure. When hissing under the door stops completely, I might move up to meals 2-3 feet away from the door. But I have no idea when that will happen. For now, we'll just keep swapping.

Anyone out there have a great cat introduction story? I'd love to hear it. Drop me a note in the comments! And if you love Popoki, follow her on Instagram! I post new photos almost every day.