Monday, March 16, 2015

Cat-to-cat introduction tutorial: How to do site swapping

Troy the cat looking out the window

By my count, Eamon and Maggie have been introduced to four cats. Each and every time I've brought a new cat into the home, my introduction has been brief (30 minutes or less) and things have gone swimmingly. The residents have always accepted the newbie with little more than a touch of hissing.

But, all of these cat-to-cat introductions have involved adult cats meeting one kitten. And it's possible that the greetings went so well because my cats felt compelled to protect the newcomer (not kill it).

So now that I'm trying to introduce an adult to a pack of adults, I need to do things a little differently. The first stage of the plan involves sequesters and site swaps.

During the sequester phase, Troy (the newbie) is kept away from the other cats. During the day, he's in the cat-free studio with the dogs, and in the evenings he's in a guest bedroom by himself. He can see just a little beneath the bedroom door, so he can watch the other house cats as they come and go, but he can't touch those other cats.

But I want him to know what these cats smell like, and I want them to know Troy by smell. So we're working on 30-minute site swapping.

During a site swap, the resident cats are confined while the newbie has free run of the house. That allows the newbie to map the house a little, and it gives that newbie a great deal of information about what the other cats smell like and what they have access to.

During Troy's first site swap last night, he ate a bit of the house-cat food, drank out of the house-cat water bowl and used the house-cat litter box. He sat in each and every one of the cat beds in the house, and he sunbathed on the windowsill for a bit. In short, he spent some time figuring out what it might be like to be a member of this household.

While Troy walked around, the resident cats spent some time in the bedroom, using his litter box, drinking his water and eating his food. They got to know him just a little better as a result.

I'm happy to report that there were no signs of bad behavior during this swap. No hissing, no inappropriate peeing and no open-mouth breathing. Everyone was very, very relaxed. And when they went back to their accustomed spots, no one seemed stressed about the behavior. That means I'm doing everything right, and I can keep using these swaps to help everyone get to know one another.

And, I can start work on the next phase of introductions: Door-to-door eating. More on that later this week!

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