Reintroducing hospitalised cats back home into a multi-cat household

Multi cat household, cat friendly clinic

Your cat may have been in the clinic for a day, a few days, a week or more. Bringing them back home is normally a joyous occasion and so it can be easy to forget that other members of the household may not feel the same way.

If you have multiple cats in the household, they may see the returning cat as a threat. The returning cat may have strange objects on or with them like a feeding tube, bandages or a buster collar. They will also smell of the clinic and scent is extremely important in cats; the strange smell of the clinic on the returning cat can be a stimulus for conflict, even from a well-bonded cat. In order to prevent possible conflicts, a few simple measures can ensure a smooth transition back home.

Consider the use of pheromones (e.g. Feliway™) to help your cat settle back into home life and reduce tension in a multi-cat household, with the plug-in switched on at least 24 hours before the presumed return. Allow the cat to remain in the carrier if they wish – just open the door in a quiet room away from the other cats, leaving them to exit the carrier in their own time. Never tip or force your cat out of their carrier as this can be distressing for your cat.

Separate the returning cat initially for 12-24 hours and during this time, swap scents between cats by grooming and stroking them. This transfer of scent will help reduce the smell of the clinic on the returning cat so as to not overwhelm the other cats in the household. If the stay in hospital has been lengthy, a much slower reintroduction may be needed like when moving house.

Stay calm and quiet, keeps things as routine as possible for all cats, and supervise reunions. If you have any questions about reintroducing hospitalised cats back into a multi-cat household, please phone us and discuss any concerns with a Cat Friendly Professional for more advice.

Joanne Wills MRCVS - Cat Friendly Clinic advocate, Bridgnorth (IFSM Gold Award)