by Barbara George – Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
Integration in to a new home is separate from introduction to existing pets. Acquiring a new cat presents a number of challenges. This may be a first pet, or there may be existing cats or other pets. The previous home may have had a very different in activity or noise level. Kittens are often easier to integrate as they have less previous life experiences that have shaped their outlook on life.
The behaviour and personality of the resident pets can cause a new cat to feel either welcome or unwelcome. It can also be only one of the resident pets that is accepting or rejecting the new cat; this will affect the others, and cause disruption in the home.
A cat that has been an only cat may find it difficult to come to terms with sharing resources. This only cat can be either the resident cat or the new cat. In the same way, a cat that has shared his life with other cats or pets may find it difficult to settle as a single cat.
Every kitten or cat that joins a new family needs a time to adjust, not only to other pets, but also to the new family and routines. Much of what the cat knew about living with people is not relevant in the new home. Apart from food, beds, environment and litter trays, there are also smells and sounds that are different. Activity levels and routines in the new home can be confusing until they are more fully understood.
There is also an emotional element, both for the new cat and the new owner. The cat may have lost his previous owner to whom he was attached, and the new owner may be anticipating an instant connection which the cat is taking time to establish.
Other changes are not always so obvious to us; moving to a different country, city or town involves travel, which can be very stressful. A change in altitude, weather, season, or temperature can also affect a cat, until he adjusts.
Words, signals, and triggers can be misconstrued in the beginning and retraining may be necessary. Even the cat’s name can sound different when spoken in a different voice and with a different emphasis, so the cat doesn’t recognise the sound.
It can take a while for a cat to settle in a new, and different, home. The stress of change can cause behaviour changes; behaviour should return to the previous level once he settles. The length of time it takes depends on the cat and the level of understanding and support offered in the new home.
To contact Barbara, please email firstname.lastname@example.org