Adopting a cat is not as simple as bringing one home even if it is the first cat to live in your home. But what if you already own two cats and you are now thinking of getting a third one? Instead of being conscious of how one cat reacts, you will now need to be mindful of your two resident felines.
Introducing the third cat
You cannot just bring a new cat and expect things to work out instantly. Felines are territorial by nature and do not easily warm up to having a new cat brought home.
If you want all your four-legged family members to get along well, you should make the introductions slowly. Here some tips to make the introductions go smoother:
1. Keep the new cat in isolation.
Before your new cat meets the other feline members of your household, it is a good idea to separate him at least for a few days. This will give him the opportunity to become familiar with your home.
More importantly, keeping the new cat in isolation provides your resident cats to become familiar with the scent of the new pet.
To hasten the introduction process, you can bring the resident felines’ items into the new cat’s room. And conversely, you can bring the new cat’s items to your resident cats so that they can investigate these and become familiar with the new scent.
2. Letting the three cats meet each other.
After a couple of days, you can begin introducing your new cat to your two resident cats.
Ideally, you should place the third cat in a pet carrier and bring him into the same room as the two other cats. Putting your new cat in a carrier allows all the felines to see each other while giving the third cat a safe place to stay in. If you are using a carrier, prop it up a little higher than floor level, just enough for the new cat to see his new family members.
If you do not have a pet carrier, you can separate the third cat from the other two by using a baby gate or any barrier that allows them all to see each other while separating them physically.
Monitor the behavior of each cat during this initial meeting. Specifically, watch out for signs of aggression that indicate that the cats are not ready to go to the next stage of introductions.
Ideally, all of your resident cats should be curious about their new housemate. However, if the cats seem to be nonchalant, you can consider also this a win and you can proceed to the next step.
To help your new cat get accepted by the resident cats more quickly, put treats and toys around the carrier. This accomplishes two things. First, your resident cats form a positive association with the new cat. In their mind, interacting with the new cats means getting rewards. Second, you are assuring the new cat that there are enough resources for all your pets and they do not have to worry about competing for these resources.
3. Meeting face to face
If your resident cats show no signs of aggression, you can now move to the next phase of introductions.
Start by putting the resident cats in a room. Then get the new cat and carry him in. This step is essential because it shows the resident cats that you are protecting the new pet.
Allow the two cats to roam freely inside the room but do not try to bring the new pet near the other cats. Just watch and observe how the two cats behave. At the same time, it would be beneficial to talk to your resident cats to put them on an even keel.
It is also critical that you maintain calm and composure. If you are too nervous and afraid that a fight will break out between your cats, the felines can sense your nervousness and might react negatively to the new cat.
It is normal for the resident cats to hiss at the new pet. After all, it is the first time that they interact with the new cat. And for the resident cats, the new cat is intruding their territory. Again, this is perfectly normal. But be on the lookout for signs of outright aggression.
If the resident cats are acting aggressively, you have to go back to the previous steps.
How long will it take my cat to get used to a new cat?
On average, it can take anywhere between eight to 12 months before your resident cats get completely used to your new pet.
Take note that the actual time it will take for all your pets to get along well will depend on several factors, including the personality of each cat. Simply put, you will have to be patient with all your cats until you are confident enough that a firm bond has been formed among them, or at least that there is no aggression.
It is also critical that you manage your expectations. Ideally, all your pets should form a close bond with one another. However, the reality is that sometimes not all of your pets will become friendly with one another.
In some instances, one cat will not get along with another cat. That is fine as long as there is no actual conflict. In some cases, the cats involved just avoid one another and go about their separate ways. But be aware that there is also the possibility that the new cat will not be accepted by your resident felines even if you follow the steps outlined above.
Choosing between a kitten and an adult cat
Should your third cat be a kitten or an adult? Before you decide, you should be aware of the pros and cons of each option.
Adopting a kitten
The chief advantage of adopting a kitten is that younger cats are usually more adaptable to new environments. This can make it easier for you to integrate the kitten into your home.
Furthermore, adult cats are less threatened by kittens although initially, your two resident cats might act a bit aggressive toward your young pet.
Another thing you should be mindful of is a young cat’s energy level. Although adult cats still play, their energy levels are considerably lower. Kittens, on the other hand, possess a combination of seemingly boundless energy and curiosity. Your young cat might annoy the older cats with his frequent invitations to play. But on the flip side of the coin, adult cats can be nurturing of kittens.
Adopting an adult cat
Getting an adult cat as a third feline member of your household can be a bit trickier.
For starters, you are bringing home a developed cat with his own set of quirks and experiences. While that does not prevent him from fully integrating into your home, it can take a considerably longer time compared to adopting a kitten.
You will need more patience trying to introduce all of your pets to one another while being mindful of each one’s unique personality. Whether you are adopting your third cat from a shelter or a breeder, it is a good idea to try to learn as much as possible about the third cat’s personality.
Is three cats too many for an apartment?
To answer this question, you have to consider how much space you have in your apartment, how many people will be responsible for the cats and if you have the resources to keep as many as three cats in your apartment.
For starters, do you have enough resources available for each cat? Aside from food, you should prepare for additional expenses like the vet, accessories, litter and more.
Do you have adequate space in your apartment? If you live in a studio apartment, getting a third cat might not be the best idea. However, if you have a large apartment with extra rooms, you can begin exploring the idea of getting a third cat.
And speaking of an apartment, if you are renting your place, you need to consult with your landlord about the guidelines about pets.
Finally, getting a third pet means added responsibilities for you. Apart from cleaning the litter box and feeding your pets, you have to make sure that you give each cat enough time for play, grooming and bonding.
Are you ready to adopt a third cat?
Owning a cat is a rewarding experience. But along with rewards comes responsibility. That responsibility can compound with each new cat. If you are considering getting a third cat, you have to be sure that you can meet all of your pets’ needs, from food to your time.
Image: istockphoto.com / Nynke van Holten