Introducing Cats to New People
This article appears courtesy of Dr Kim Kendall
East Chatswood Cat Clinic
329 Penshurst St. Willoughby NSW 2068
Ph 02 9417 6613 (24 hours)
Making feline friendships as painless as possible
Cats really prefer things to stay the same, and they are usually very unsubtle about indicating their displeasure. Introducing a new anything - from another pet, to another human to even new furniture - is a source of anxiety for the cat and the owner; so these are some strategies to help reduce the disruptions.
The easiest one
This is achieved when your cat selects you, and you can be pretty sure it will be love at first sight. Your new feline friend will quickly train you to their unique requirements, and most owners do not present any obstacles. (In fact, it amazes me what owners will put up with from their cats - their feline dictator's training methods are obviously very effective!) Remember; no cat ever changes - all you can do is change the environment so the cat no longer shows the undesirable behaviour (this goes for spraying, scratching - posts and people, roaming, food fetishists, etc).
If you want to improve your chances of getting a lap-cat (the real snugglers are born and not made, usually), then you can try feeding the cat only when it is on your lap for a few days. Make your rules at the start, and be consistent. Cats are smart (smart enough to need antidepressants!), but they have no way of associating something they did more than HALF A SECOND AGO with any kind of punishment. In fact, PUNISHMENT NEVER WORKS WITH CATS; all the Feline Stars of TV perform of their own free will, usually for food rewards, and it is the cameramen who make it look easy and directed.
Introducing another person
The main concept here is to let the cat make the first approach.
This is important when bringing a cat into a new home or bringing a new person into the cat's home. They have to get the measure of the person, and they do that by smell, watching and listening. Remember that when a cat walks into a room, it knows (by smell especially) who is already there, who was there half an hour ago, and who is coming down the hall now. It is a lot of information to process, and if you rush it, you can unnerve the cat. Give the cat a chance to 'take it or leave it' and never look straight into a cat's eyes - it is a very confrontational thing to do in cat language. Wait, with your head to the side and look past the cat with half closed eyes. They will come just out of curiosity then.
Introducing a baby (or toddler)
This is a bit harder
Cats view babies and toddlers as different species from adult humans. The key is to supervise the cat's natural curiosity, while protecting the baby and the cat from each other's unexpected actions. Cats don't smother babies (that was the traditional explanation for SIDS deaths), and they get into the cots because it is SOFT: WARM AND HIGH UP; Provide a shelf with a view of what is going on nearby; and your cat will probably be happier there, as they are not really keen on the way babies move around in bed. Most cats will keep their distance from babies and toddlers, and are usually more tolerant of handling - they will tolerate more things from a youngster than an adult - but always ensure they have an escape route to lessen their anxiety should the small human become too boisterous.