A long-standing myth declares cats as solitary creatures who only mingle with other cats to fight or mate. This is untrue, as cats greatly benefit from socializing with other felines. Shy cats can also benefit from this kitty camaraderie, but need gentle coaxing to foster a relationship with their housemates.
The Benefits of Socialization
Although some cats are the feline equivalent of cranky loners, offering cats a furry companion can have positive emotional and physical effects on both kitties. The two cats can play together as cats do, happily running and pouncing on each other while you're away. This keeps them mentally stimulated and physically fit, preventing either from being bored or packing on the pounds. Grooming is easier for both, as a friend can get those hard-to-reach areas. Having a furry playmate can help prevent destructive behavior that may occur due to boredom or loneliness.
If you're expecting your new shy kitty and your current loud, rambunctious kitty to start playing and grooming together immediately, you may be disappointed. Although some cats accept a new housemate quicker than others, with a shy cat it will take time and lots of patience to encourage him to venture too far away from his safe spot under your bed. Sometimes your shy kitty will overcome his shyness and end up fast friends with your other cat, and sometimes simply being in the same room will be enough socializing for him. You need to give them time to get used to each other and figure out a relationship that works for everyone.
Cats like to know, and announce to the rest of the world, what's theirs, and they do this by marking things with their scent. That adorable rub-his-head-against-you behavior is partly to display affection and partly to rub a bit of his scent on you to claim you as his. You can help cats become accustomed to each other's scent by rubbing them each with separate towels and placing each under the opposite cat's food dish. So the shy cat's towel would go under the resident cat's dish, and vice versa. This way they become familiar with each other's smell in a positive area -- food is always a good distraction -- and don't feel threatened or confrontational. Use this scented towel trick to place the new cat's scent around the house, such as in your current cat's bedding or on the couch.
The moment you bring your shy kitty home, he'll most likely make a beeline for the nearest hiding spot, such as behind the couch or under the bed. Unless you want to fish your new cat out from these hiding places on a regular basis, offer him a safe zone to stay in until he becomes familiar with the sounds and smells of his new home. This separation also helps keep him safe in case your current cat decides to try and show this “intruder” who's boss. Place your shy cat in a room with everything he'll need, and let your new kitty roommates smell each other under the door to become acquainted. Feed them on opposite sides of the door so they eat near each other, as offering this positive experience helps them create positive associations with each other's scent.
Once the two cats seem comfortable, it's time to switch things up and turn the tables. Put the resident cat in the shy kitty's safe room and let the new cat roam the house and check things out. This may take a few days, as his fearful nature may make him hesitant to venture far in his explorations. Give him time to check out your first cat's litter boxes, food dishes and bed, while your original kitty does the same in the shy guy's room. End the swap if your shy kitty seems stressed or afraid. You want this exchange to make him more comfortable with his new home, not more afraid of things. Keep swapping the cats until they are each comfortable in the other's living area.
You'll know the time is right to set up a face-to-feline-face meeting when the two don't growl at each other through the door and seem used to the other cat's scent. You're not completely out of the woods yet, as the face-to-face meeting could end up with growling, hissing and clawing, sending your shy cat under the couch and throwing you back to square one. Always supervise the first few meetings and have a squirt bottle ready to separate them should things turn violent. There may be some growling and hissing, but that's typically a way for cats to work out their pecking order. If they seem comfortable with each other and are generally calm, you've successfully integrated your shy newcomer into your household!
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