Introducing a cat to another cat takes time. It also requires an understanding of the territorial nature of felines. Shoving a cat into the world of another invites disaster in the form of bitter rivalry. Introducing cats to each other in a gradual, patient, and deliberate manner can foster the formation of feline friendship for life.
Understand Feline Social Behavior
When compared to dogs, felines have different social needs. They do not have a real intense desire to have another cat as a companion. This is true if they already feel happy being the only feline in their territory – your home.
Introducing another cat in your house is like letting another cat to encroach into your present cat’s territory. They don’t like it one bit. In the mind of the cat, it will mean sharing the invaluable resources that have come to define its existence for so long. This means it will have to share its food, its sleeping area, its bathroom, and everything else with the new cat.
The point here is that old cats look at the new cat as competition. They will have to compete for the resources in your household. The key, therefore, in introducing a new cat in the household is by making sure you have adequate resources for everyone.
If you can give these two cats their own resources in their own “micro territories”, then it’s possible to establish peace and harmony between the two. You may also foster friendship in the long run.
Start with the Right Cat
As a general rule, it is best to bring a kitten as a new cat in the household. Old cats will not look at kittens as a threat for the simple fact that kittens are still sexually immature. However, if your old cat prefers a quieter life, getting a kitten may not be a good idea.
There is also the issue of your cat’s own personality. If the cat has been living most of its life alone, introducing a new cat may take more time and patience than you can ever imagine. If the cat is one that has a history of unsuccessful living with other cats, then getting a new cat may not be a good idea.
If you already have a household full of cats or at least two, getting another feline can upset the “balance” in the group. Should this be the setup in your home, you need to make sure there are resources for everyone. This includes space.
Prepare Your Home
The successful introduction of a new cat into the home hinges on the maintenance of the existing cat’s territory. As such, it is important that you prepare another “territory” for your new furbaby. Having a spare room is best so you can create a physical barrier between the two cats. It is best to use an area that your old cat doesn’t use very much.
Buy new resources for your new cat. Place a scratching post, food and water, cat bed, and litter box in this spare room. You can also put cat toys and a cat tree in this temporary isolation room. The point here is to make sure that your new cat will feel right at home and be happy.
You can also use a device that sprays pheromones in the home. There should be at least two of these devices: one in the isolation room and another in the room where your old cat frequents. Pheromones can do more than calm and relax a cat. It can also make the cat introduction process a lot smoother. Check out our guide on cat calming spray for more info.
If you are going to get a kitten, it is advisable that you get an appropriate pet crate for it to stay in. You can place the pet crate inside the isolation room. It is important to leave the crate door open so your kitten can go in and out whenever it wants. After all, it is still inside the isolation room.
You can also borrow the new cat’s unwashed beddings or cat toys for a few days before bringing the cat home. You can place these items in areas where your old cat frequents. The scent of the new cat will “rub” onto surfaces. Your old cat can pick up this scent as something “foreign”. Over a period of a few days, it will acclimatize to the scent and consider it as a normal part of its life. When you do bring home the new cat, your old cat will already be familiar with the “scent”.
Bring Home the New Cat
Once the preparations are complete, you can bring your new cat home. Put it straight into the isolation room. Resist the temptation of letting the new cat explore the entirety of your house in the first few days. During this “waiting” period, you should focus on swapping the unique scents of both cats.
You can stroke your old cat for several minutes to get as much of its scent onto your hands. Without washing or cleaning your hands, you can then stroke the new cat using the same hand. You can alternate this by stroking your new cat first before the old cat. What you are doing is introducing the scent of each cat to one another.
Other cat parents also recommend swapping their beddings. You get the bedding of the old cat and place it in the isolation room for your new cat to sleep on. You can then get the bedding of the new cat and place it in the sleeping area of your old cat.
Cats also secrete natural pheromones from glands in their cheeks. You can rub the cheeks of the new cat with a piece of towel or cloth. You can then rub this piece of cloth on surfaces all over the house. This “new” scent will mix with the scent left behind by your old cat.
This waiting period can last from 3 to 4 days up to a week or so. This is crucial since you want them to acclimatize to each other’s scents first.
Introduce Your Cat
For the initial introduction, a pet gate is crucial. You can place this pet gate in the doorway of the isolation room. Make sure that it is secure before you open the door. This will let the cats see each other. Avoid picking up either cat to bring closer to the other. Let them explore each other from opposite sides of the fence.
You may want to give both cats something pleasurable and exciting to do. Giving them their tasty cat food or treat can help in the association of seeing a new cat with something pleasant. This will also help distract the cats from creating tension. When giving the food or treat to both cats, make sure that there’s ample distance between them.
If you have a new kitten, it is best to keep it inside the pet crate. Pet gates won’t work with kittens since it is easy for them to pass through the grates.
This initial interaction should be short. Also, it is best to always end the interaction with something positive.
Over time, your cats will be sniffing each other from across the fence or crate. It is okay if you hear occasional hisses and moans. This is normal. But if you notice aggression or fright in either cat, it’s best to prolong their introductory sessions. Keep on swapping their scents for another week or two. Always find time to allow them to see each other, but with a barrier in between. Also, continue giving pleasant activities for both cats, minding the distance.
Initiate the Face-to-Face Meeting
You can start with the face-to-face introduction once you no longer see agitation, aggression, or fear in either cat. They should also be comfortable eating at closer distances with the fence between them. If you see them smelling each other without any sign of aggression or fear, then you can initiate the actual introduction.
You can now remove the barrier and open the door to the isolation room. It is still imperative that you keep an eye on both cats. Your supervision is important at this stage in their relationship-building stage.
When not interacting, continue swapping scents. You can also continue applying natural pheromones into the furniture and other items in your house. This will help provide for a calmer and more peaceful shared environment for your cats.
Keeping the Peace
Keep in mind that cats don’t want to share their resources. Yes, you may have been successful in introducing a new cat in your household. But this doesn’t translate to successful sharing of resources. If you want to maintain the peace among your cats, it’s important to add your resources. It is a must that you have several sleeping areas, cat trees, cat toys, litter boxes, and play areas.
For your cat’s elimination needs, the rule of thumb is to provide one litter box for each cat plus one. So, if you have two cats, you need to have 3 litter boxes in different locations.
Depending on the characteristics of your cats, the introduction of a new cat into the household can take months. Be patient. It is not easy to initiate and build friendship with a very territorial animal. But if you get the process right, you’ll have a household of peace-loving and friendly cats.