Reintroducing cats after they have been apart requires basically the same process as introducing them for the first time. This gives each cat time to get back to normal and to not be stressed until they become comfortable with each other again.
This is done by separating the cats for the first few days or weeks. Feed them on opposite sides of a door where they can hear and smell each other. This will make them associate the other cat’s smell with the pleasant experience of eating. After a few days, let the cats see each other and monitor their play time carefully. Continue until they are completely comfortable with each other and start to bond.
If you want to know more about how to reintroduce cats after being apart, keep on reading.
What is cat reintroduction?
Cat reintroduction is when two cats have been separated for a time and now need to be allowed to become comfortable with each other’s presence again. Letting the cats see each other immediately can be counterproductive because both cats are still on such a high level of reactivity.
The proper reintroduction process is very similar to introducing two cats for the first time. It gives you more control and helps your cats avoid potential injury. It also allows you to keep the interaction between the cats at a level that does not spark extreme reactions.
How long does cat reintroduction take?
It depends on how serious the aggression has been, how much time the owner can dedicate to behavior modification, and how receptive each cat is. So, there is no set timeline: you have to go at the cats’ pace.
How do you reintroduce cats after they have been apart?
Separate the cats. Create a sanctuary for each of the cats. If you can divide your house so that each cat has its own territory, that can work well. But it is ideal that each cat’s sanctuary be closed off with a door. Each cat is to be provided with its own bowls, scratching post, toys, bed, and litter box.
If you are wondering which cat to put inside a room and which one gets to roam the rest of the house, the cat displaying the offensive aggression is usually the one kept in the room. This way, the aggressor cannot claim that it ran the other cat off and it is now reigning over the household. But if the “victim” cat seems stressed about having the run of the house, placing that cat in the sanctuary room may be more ideal. The bottom line is they just need to be separated.
How do you handle the time of separation?
The separation is needed to allow both cats to relax and avoid injuries. Spend time with each cat by playing with them in their respective territories and do not make them feel like this separation is a prison sentence. Make this experience as enjoyable as possible.
Cat behavior modification through feeding
The main purpose of reintroduction is to give the cats a reason to like each other. It is the behavior modification you do when the cats are once again exposed to each other that makes the difference. Do not expect your cats to have forgotten that they are enemies just because they have been separated for an extended period.
Your cats will need to see that good things happen when they are around each other. Do this gradually and allow each cat to stay within their comfort zones. This will keep their aggression from boiling over exponentially. During this exposure time, food will be used as a behavior modification tool.
Feed the cats by placing food bowls on either side of the closed sanctuary door. If one cat eats faster than the other, use a slow-feeder bowl. If you are giving them wet cat food, push the food against the bottom and sides of the bowl so the cat has to work harder to get it.
Cat scent swapping
Scent is probably the most important communication tool between cats. It is important to make sure that both their scents are distributed around the house. You want to keep the scents fresh, so doing a room swap will be a big help.
The cat who has the run of the house has been distributing its scent around, so make sure that the cat in the sanctuary room has an opportunity to do the same. Do a scent swap by letting the cat in the sanctuary room out into the rest of the house while the other cat is kept in another room.
You do not have to do the scent swap for very long. It will depend on how reactive your cats are and how serious the aggression between them was in the past.
Feeding with a partially open door
Now you can have the cats eat within sight of each other, but far enough away so neither feels threatened. Keep these feeding sessions brief by only giving a small amount of food. Frequent short sessions are more productive than lengthy sessions where you push the cats’ tolerance limits.
Feeding with a wide-open door
Only move forward with this phase after the cats are comfortable with the previous one. Do not rush the reintroduction process. What is most important is that the cats return to a friendly relationship.
If the thought of a fully opened door between your cats while they feed scares you, install a temporary screen door. The cats will be able to see each other but will not be able to engage in a physical fight. As you progress with the feeding sessions, increase the exposure time and let them wander around more.
As you increase the time the cats are exposed to each other, use clicker training to click and reward any positive move. Click for any absence of unwanted behavior. If you choose not to clicker train, use treats or food as praise for positive behavior.
Playtime during reintroduction
Use interactive playtime as a way to help the cats associate positive experiences with being together. Do parallel play with the help of another family member so the cats do not have to compete for one toy. Let them enjoy their individual games while seeing the other cat do the same thing in their peripheral vision.
Over the next couple of days, let the cats decide on their own if they want to approach and play with the other cat. Before long, they will do so of their own accord. They can then be left alone together without you having to worry.
Reintroducing cats after being apart is very similar to introducing cats for the first time. The main objective is to get the two cats to like each other.
Start by separating the cats for the first couple of days or weeks. Feed them by a door on opposite sides so they can smell and hear each other. This way they associate the other cat with a positive experience. Then try to feed them with a partially open door between them. Continue until they are comfortable with eating with a fully opened door between them.
If you feel confident that they can have play time in the same room, do so with positive reinforcement. The longer you allow them to spend time with each other, the more comfortable they become. It will not be long before they start to form a bond.
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