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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I’m considering a move which would be the best thing for me financially, socially, and mental-healthyfully (you know what I mean). However, the one issue is cats. The new place has four neutered male cats; two are 14 years old and two are 8. They get along together very well, and are all co-grooming, co-eating, etc. One is actually a stray who just wandered in a year ago and stayed. My two cats are 15-year-old spayed females. One is confident and happy, although probably a little lonely. The other is timid, grumpy, and prefers to just hang out with me and nap. The males are indoors-outdoors, as is my confident cat. The timid cat is pretty-much only indoors, aside from occasional outdoor experiences closely supervised by me, late at night, when everything is quiet and calm. My two have been together for 14 years, but timid-cat has never been keen on confident-cat. They used to hiss and box each others’ ears, but nowadays they mostly ignore each other. This is probably a bad idea, isn’t it? It’s just that the move would be a godsend in every other way….

~ Heather

Three Oriental Shorthair cats snuggling (CC-BY-SA) by Earth68

If you’re lucky, the integrated clowder of cats will produce piles of snuggle buddies like these — but if they’ll tolerate each other, that’s wonderful too. Photo (CC-BY-SA) by Earth68

Siouxsie: We certainly understand that humans need to move for lots of reasons, and if you know this move is going to be good for your mental health, that’s especially important. Mama says humans often underestimate the importance of taking care of their mental health.

Thomas: Probably the first thing to take into consideration is the size of the place you’re moving into. Hopefully it’s big enough that there’s plenty of space so the current gang of cats won’t become overstressed by adding two more to the mix.

Kissy: Another important thing is that you should have a room of your own with a door that closes firmly. This is going to be especially important for your cats as they get used to their new environment.

Siouxsie: It’s a lot easier for us cats to make our initial introductions by smell rather than just finding a new cat plunked in our midst. Isn’t that right, Kissy?

Kissy: Yes, it sure is. It was easier for me to smell you before I … EEK! *hiss*

Thomas: Jeez, Kissy, I just wanted to touch noses with you. *sniffle*

Kissy: You scared me! *sniffle*

Thomas: Well, you should stop being such a scaredy-cat!

Siouxsie: Stop it, both of you! We’ve got work to do here! Now, let’s get back to Heather’s question. We strongly recommend that you read about techniques for introducing new cats to one another. This information from the Humane Society of the United States covers this topic pretty well.

Thomas: We’d also recommend using Feliway Comfort Zone diffusers — in your room especially because your cats will be stressed with the move as well as the smell of other cats, and in other areas where the resident cats like to hang out. The “happy cat” pheromones in the product will help to reduce the tension and hopefully reduce any acting out that comes when cats meet each other for the first time.

Kissy: You’ll also want to introduce your new human roommates to your cats. The best way to do this is one person at a time, in your room. Make the introduction easier on your cats by asking the people to sit on the floor or on the bed and letting the cats come to them rather than trying to approach the cats.

Siouxsie: Another thing: Don’t let either of your cats outdoors until you’ve lived at your new home for at least three weeks. They need to have the time to set their “internal compass” to the place where they live, so that when and if they do go outside, they have a better idea of how to get home.

Thomas: Make sure they have plenty of vertical space by investing in a good cat tree. Vertical space expands their territory and will make being confined to one room much less stressful.

Kissy: Of course, it goes without saying that your cats will need to have a litterbox in their room. The box should be as far away from their eating and resting areas as possible. We don’t like to crap where we eat, and if the litterbox is too close to our food bowls, we’re likely to either refuse to eat or go to the bathroom outside the box.

Siouxsie: Have your cats met the people who would be your roommates yet? If not, you might want to invite them over to your place and let the cats check them out. We cats have very good judgment, and sometimes when you humans are blinded by seeing things the way you want them to be, we can help you see how they are.

Thomas: What it boils down to, Heather, is that moving into a home with other cats doesn’t have to be a disaster. You just have to be very diligent about following the rules for introducing new cats. You also may have to accept the fact that it could take months for your cats and the resident cats to get to the point where they tolerate one another.

Kissy: But if you’re feeling better — less stressed, less depressed, and so on — your cats will pick up on that and it could very well turn out okay. Hope this helps, Heather.