I am late writing this blog (as usual). Ringo is a year old already, and you will have seen him in previous posts, but finally, this is his time to shine!
Being a mad cat lady, I had wondered about extending the cat family. Common sense had always prevailed though; Bart and Phoebe were quite settled and happy and cat psychologists will tell you that cats are not sociable dependent on each other. Multi cat households therefore are a human choice and not the cat ideal.
But many a Siamese owner will tell you differently. Siamese cats are sociable with humans as well as other cats, and are often described as being quite dog like in some ways. I can tell this by the way Bart and Phoebe cuddle up with each other (although cat relationships are always better between littermates). Siamese cats are also well known for being vocal to get what they want. Although they sometimes wind each other up, Bart and Phoebe are comfortable together, so why fix what isn’t broken?
Phoebe’s cancer had changed my outlook now. I wondered how Bart would react if we had lost her, and if it would be a greater trauma to introduce another cat later. At the same time, my son and stepdaughter were off to uni that year – I will need something to distract me from empty nest syndrome!
So along came Ringo, a havana Oriental boy all the way from Wales. Oriental cats are actually whole coloured Siamese; they have the same long lean body type. Havana is a chocolate brown colour coupled with green eyes (a gorgeous combination which reminds me of chocolate lime sweets!) I opted for a similar breed as theoretically they would be more compatible. Siamese and Orientals are quite demanding and assertive, whereas some breeds are more placid and may be more vulnerable to bullying. I also chose to go for a kitten, who would hopefully learn to fit in with Bart and Phoebe.
Ringo was brought up in a multi cat AND dog household, and was completely unfazed by us when we came to view him. He was the last of the litter to be claimed but like all his brothers and sisters, he was active and inquisitive with no signs of ill health. It didn’t take long for us to put our deposit down and after his second vaccination, we brought him home.
We had done all our research beforehand regarding introducing new kittens to the household. The conservatory was already set up as Ringo’s ‘safe’ room and the dog crate (formerly the chicken brooder) was ready with food, toys and litter tray nearby.
The object is not to introduce a new kitten straight away, but to allow him to adjust to his new environment without meeting the residents for a while. It is recommended not to let the cats see Ringo for a day or so before slowly introducing contact, with him safely in the crate. The whole process could take a few weeks, during which the scent from all cats should be introduced to each other via stroking and around the house, and also to encourage feeding close to each other.
The conservatory was the ideal room for Ringo. The other cats rarely use it unless it was summer when it is warm, but recently it was used for the growing chicks, so Bart and Phoebe were only allowed in wth supervision. However, I overlooked the fact that it had a glass door and the cats would be able to see each other – surely that wouldn’t be too much of a problem??
Ringo spent the first day pretty much getting used to us. He had his shy moments when he would hide under the couch (which Bart did when he was a kitten) but in comparison to when Bart and Phoebe first came to us, he was more outgoing and friendly. The cats were oblivious to the new addition – they were busy sleeping upstairs.
Bart came down for a snack, not even noticing a presence or smell of a new kitten. Maybe, the cats were used to me using the conservatory for sick/growing animals? Then he caught sight of Ringo through the glass door, who in turn also seen Bart. Bart did a double take and was intrigued.
I wasn’t prepared for how vocal Ringo was. After coming from a busy dog and cat family, he realised he was on his own and cried. He had seen Bart and wanted to get to him. By now Phoebe had come downstairs to see what the commotion was and decided she didn’t want to get involved. She hissed and went back to bed, occasionally coming down again to voice her disapproval.
Bart on the other hand was curious, so I decided to let them view each other through the glass door. After a while, the two adult cats were secured upstairs while we let Ringo out of the conservatory to inspect downstairs and get to know us. For the first day, we alternated keeping Ringo in his safe room so Bart and Phoebe could see him, and then moving them upstairs so he could explore. The theory behind that was so all the cats could mix their scents before meeting each other. This stage should take a few days but I knew Ringo was itching to meet his new cat family as he squawked each time he saw them. And he was LOUD! His mew was typically Oriental, not high pitched but long and throaty. Not a kitten sounding noise! Phoebe was not impressed.
The next morning, Ringo had gained more confidence and decided to show off his vocal skills for attention. He seemed already bored of his safe room and the thought of keeping him restricted to these quarters didn’t seem fair. His calls brought Bart downstairs and I decided to let these two meet, with Ringo inside the dog crate.
Bart is a very kind cat. He strolled over to Ringo and didn’t hiss once as they sniffed each other. At one point he gently put his paw through the bars to touch his new kitten friend. It went so well that shortly after, I gave in and let Ringo out. He wasn’t sure at first, but Bart was gentle and invited him to play. After that, Ringo stuck to him like glue and followed him everywhere. Even now, he will always see where Bart is and go after him!
So that was a good start, but Phoebe kept Ringo a good distance from her by yowling and hissing at him. Again, Phoebe was not nasty but she needed more time and space to suss him out. She only took a swipe at him when he got too close. She tolerated him in the same room, and even on the bed as long he stayed away from her. It was important I gave Phoebe some periods where Ringo was not in the same room to avoid overstressing her – I was glad I booked some time off work!
Luckily within two days, the cats were all sleeping together on the bed. Ever now and again, Phoebe would growl at Ringo, but I also saw Bart cleaning him, which was encouraging – I didn’t expect that acceptance so soon. Phoebe and Ringo will now groom each other, but she will verbally scold him when he starts to play rough!
This post is not how I recommend introducing a new kitten, but how I modified the text book instructions to suit my situation. The current thinking is to take it slowly over a period of days if not weeks – not two days like I did it! But I guess I was lucky and I’m curious to hear if any readers have any experiences of introducing their cats to an established cat household. I hear it is easier to introduce a dog…what do you think?