Introducing a New Tiger into The Household

Dec 2, 2012 @ 01:17 PM — by Ridgewood Veterinary Hospital

It is important to remember that cats and tigers are the extreme ends of the same family in order to understand their behavior. Since the end of the dinosaur era, which left the world free of giant carnivores, the remaining carnivores grew and changed. Two bloodlines developed, the Vulpavines or Fox Tribe, and the Viverravines or Mongoose Tribe, which included cats. The Fox Tribe evolved into more of a middle ground, eating some vegetable matter, partially because it is difficult to eat insects without eating some plant matter. The Mongoose Tribe ate fewer vegetables, and the big cats in particular ate almost none. Since survival depended upon mostly meat, cats continue to be preoccupied with hunting. They couldn't casually munch on a leaf or wait for fruit to ripen and fall from the trees. Cats were dependent upon food that was frightened of the cat and dedicated to living itself, often bigger, faster, and more powerful than the cat.
It is important to recognize this heritage, since much of cats' behavior arises out of this risky path to survival - hunting. Of course our domesticated felines have adapted their behavior to be allowed into our homes, but some cats still revert to their instinctual behavior when threatened or stressed. This is why we must carefully introduce the new "tiger" into our family, whether as family members or foster children:
  1. First take the new cat to your veterinarian, preferably before exposing him/her to your existing family. You will want to know if the cat is healthy and free of contagious diseases and vaccinated before bringing him/her home, and get the care specific to your new cat's age and history.
  2. Keep the new kitten/cat separate from the others for an adjustment period of 7-10 days to get past the incubation periods of most contagious diseases that your new cat may have been exposed to. If possible, set up separate food dishes and a litter pan in a separate room that has a door, such as the bathroom. This gives everyone a chance to smell each other, hiss and growl without hurting each other, and gives you a chance to show them that there is plenty of food and love for all. Lavish attention on every cat at this point in the relationship to avoid jealousy, since cats can be territorial about people as well as space. You are, after all, the "source" of food.
  3. If all goes well, eventually the cats will be curious about each other, and may begin sniffing at the door. They are ready for the next step.
  4. Put the new cat in a closed carrier, and place him/her in another room. Next, allow your cats to come in and sniff and see the new cat. Your cats may first run into the bathroom and check out every inch of where the new cat has been. 
  5. After the cats have explored each other through the carrier, take them to another room. Open the carrier and allow contact. If at any point there are signs of aggression, start over at step one and begin again.
There may be little "arguments" in the beginning as the cats accept one another, but generally ultimately there is acceptance. Each cat may get a little upset as they set up boundaries for each other. For example, an older cat may allow a kitten to climb all over her, but the kitten may learn quickly with a light swat from the older cat that the bed is off limits. To avoid accidents, be sure to add another litter box if possible. Cats can get territorial, and may decide to start marking their territory if they feel crowded or threatened. Castrating male cats at six months of age can help to prevent this spraying behavior. Even though cats have an "independent" reputation, unlike dogs who travel in packs, they do agree to travel together and hunt together, and you can look forward to a loving friendship between all your cats and their humans.

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