Bringing home the Kitty

Hello friends of BU, and welcome to our first ever BU Blog! 

This is a new venture for us and we are really excited to be able to bring you a whole host of good stuff to keep you informed, and hopefully sometimes entertained. We have a lot of interesting articles in the pipe-line, including heart warming stories from our adopters, as well as guest blogs written by pet experts covering a whole host of issues to help you achieve the best possible relationship with your dog or cat. We are always looking for new submissions to- so if you have a story or an idea you would like to share with us, we would love to hear from you, just get in touch here.

If you didn't already know, here at Balkan Underdogs we also rescue cats! And so for our first post we would like to give a little nod to our feline friends, and talk about bringing home a new cat into an already established household.

Tracy Gillingwater is one of our Trustees here at Balkan Underdogs, and runs the Spay and Neuter project in the Balkans. Tracy also directs our Cat Rescue, and has recently adopted  Poppy, Tom & Jerry, two older cats with FIV. She also has dogs, and has given us an account of how she introduced Tom and Jerry to an already established home. Tracy provided us with a description of both the ups and downs, to give you a realistic idea of what to expect!

DAY 1: "Dog and cat introductions are really important. Even If you have dogs used to cats, or cats used to dogs. A new arrival is not going to integrate instantly. Like all of us they are individuals.... and things don't happen overnight. It takes time, understanding and patience.


Nine years ago I had four cats.... all different personalities and ages. Then came the arrival of our first dog,  and then our second...and it took 6 months for them all to integrate and accept each other. 


Sadly I lost the last of my cats early this year and in September Tom, Jerry, and Poppy my new BU arrivals came. These cats were not used to dogs,  and my dogs do not know them. The cats were living in a pension for 2 years and had just traveled 1000's of miles to get to the UK.  I would like to share our introduction journey, and hopefully help others.


Firstly, it's important to prep for their arrival as this ensures that you give the cats and dogs space to adjust. I created a safe room for them with high levels, beds, a litter tray etc. When they arrived I expected not to see them (new cats can hide), but they seemed remarkably relaxed with only one showing nerves. I gave them limited space and time out on the first night, and opened up the conservatory for them (not allowing access to the garden) in the morning to allow exploring. The dogs love this room, so lots of their smells in here for the cats to explore. When they settled back in their safe beds and room again, I shut the conservatory door, and let the dogs into the conservatory. This was also to gauge the dogs and cats reaction behind glass.


On the same day, we also ensured the cat flap was shut off, and prepped the pet gate- adding height with cardboard as one of the cats Jerry is a climber!! They won't be ready to meet through this yet, but I put leads on the dogs and we sat with each dog and treats very near the pet gate. The treats help to provide a distraction for the dogs, and the cats stopped hissing when they realised the dogs couldn't get to them. This was enough for one day, but slowly is always a good start to positive results!

DAY 2:  "Nothing ever goes to plan and last night and today I was reminded how clever and instant cats can be! We were sat watching TV and a flash of tabby appeared... she scurried back (luckily the dogs didn't chase), seems she can squeeze through the pet gate railings with some effort!!! This morning Jerry had also levered an indoor window ajar and was wandering around the kitchen-and Poppy the little one had disappeared! A sharp reminder about doors and windows.... external ones.


Poppy had just got frightened and hid behind a bookcase she could not get back out from (Jerry's climbing and knocking things over had scared her). Positively all 3 cats had started to relax, play and purr and start to explore. The dogs and cats were now viewing each other (with a few distractions) without confrontation behind glass and the pet gate is no longer a growl and hiss zone... So all good!! But as you can see containing Jerry full stop is going to be a challenge...

DAYS 3 to 6: "I said I'd post my cat/dog intro updates to try and help others who might be going through the sane thing, or thinking about adopting a cat when they already have a dog. My dogs are used to cats (my previous cats), but will chase others. My new arrivals are not used to dogs. It can be anyway round, all need integration measures. After some pretty strong reactions through glass and the fact the cats had to detox from the travel stress (especially as my three have FIV). The last few days we have stayed the same. I opened up a communal area (the kitchen) and let the cats explore this area and closed the dogs out, then alternated letting the dogs in and closing the cats out, giving both a chance to smell about. The pet gate area is no longer a spit and bark zone and the dogs ignore or go for a sniff (apart from Bosko who is scared of the cardboard we used to add height to the gate ) and the cats have head rubbed the bars! Poppy is still terrified so we will take extra time with her and hopefully she will follow the others lead in time. So this weekend we shall step it up and open the door adjoining the rooms and allow the cats to venture in (if they want to) and we will sit with the dogs on loose leads. Everything takes time and all cats are different."

A WEEK IN: "After a full week we took the next few steps. Last weekend we had huge reactions just through glass, this weekend I took the dogs into one of the rooms the cats had mainly been in, but is separated by glass doors. There was curiosity but no launching at doors or any growling and spitting, with the glass doors shut this time. I got my mum and Chris to sit with dogs next to them with lose leads and just opened the glass doors, once the dogs had settled. Nothing forced... I then let the cats chose to wander in, or not. Poppy chose to stay in her bed, which is fine. Tom & Jerry both wandered in slowly, and the pictures and videos show the results. Excuse the constant "good boys", but it was just reaffirming good behavior which is very important. The dogs acted differently...Potter was not bothered (till Jerry sniffed his feet). Bosko whined throughout and at one point, as the cats hadn't bothered, I let him start to get down, but as Jerry came towards him he backed back up... Bosko remembered him and was very wary. We did this just for an hour and then I took each dog and walked them through the main room the cats sleep in-we got hissing and back arching but nothing unexpected! So good progress, the cardboard is now off the pet gate.... all positive steps and I am very proud of them all!"


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