Q: I am thinking of adopting a stray cat that I have been feeding for the past six months. However, I have pet hamsters at home and am worried that she might attack them. What can I do to help the animals live together happily in my house?
A: I have seen so many pets co-exist in a home, be it cats and dogs or cats and rodents. The first meeting is crucial; like humans, animals also need a proper introduction to existing members of the family.
For starters, I would recommend that the two pets be separated by keeping the hamster in its cage. The next thing is to convince the cat that the rodent is a friend, not prey. Begin by letting your kitty sit beside the cage and observe her body language.
Look For Tell-Tale Signs
If she sits there relaxed and wagging her tail, speak to her and explain that the hamster is neither a toy nor food. However, if she is stiff and keeps hunching over to watch the rodent’s every move, comfort her and get her to relax. Take her away if she starts acting out, as your feline might have a prey-driven temperament and introducing her to the hamster could be dangerous.
Likewise, you can demonstrate to the cat that the hamster is a family member by talking to the rodent and stroking it. Gradually, let them sniff each other out since animals rely on their sense of smell to identify and get used to one another.
Separate them immediately if either party displays any hostility. Continue doing so until you are certain your cat will not harm the rodent. This will be the time to release your hamster to roam. Always supervise all interaction; this requires patience and persistence.
While it might be days, weeks or even months before that happens, once you see them getting along, the satisfaction at having a harmonious family will be a great reward.
If your newly adopted cat has a high predator instinct, a plastic or acrylic cage will be ideal to house your hammy in as those with bars provide gaps for her swiping claws and the rodent might get scratched. Make sure that the cage is secure as it could get traumatising for your hamster.
Provide items in its house that can allow it to hide and relax if need be.
*This article was updated on 27 Oct 2020. It first appeared in PetsMagazine.com.sg on 5 Jun 2014.