For some, having one cat is great, but having two would be better. If you’ve made the decision to become a multiple cat household, then you might be wondering the best way to introduce your new cat to your existing cat, and how you can minimize any potential problems.
Cats aren’t social in the same way as dogs are. Some cats can happily live alone for their entire lives. It can be a little easier to introduce a new cat if you have two or more cat already. They’re already used to having other cats around. It sill needs to be done in the right way, but they be a little more open to the idea than a single cat.
The Right Cat
Before you get another cat, you need to think carefully about your existing cat. If he likes to spend his days lazing around the house, then a cat with a much more outgoing personality is probably not the right cat. If he’s very playful, then he might not get on well with a lazy cat who would want to be left alone. If you have an older cat, who is a bit grumpy, then he’s probably not going to want to have a hyperactive kitten under his feet.
You need to try to find a cat that matches the personality of the existing cat. This can be harder if you’re looking at a rescue cat, as some cats might not really show all of their personality in a rescue, but will when they’re more settled in their new home. This doesn’t mean that you can’t give a rescue a second chance, only that you’ll need to be very honest with the staff about what your existing cat is like.
Before you bring the new cat home, you’ll need to spend some time getting your home ready for him. You’ll need some items that belong to him alone, such as:
- Cat bed
- Scratching post
- Litter box
- Cat toys
If he comes with his own belongings, then use those. If he doesn’t then you’ll need to use brand new items. You really shouldn’t use anything that belongs to the resident cat, as it can make the new cat nervous, and your resident cat may become distressed about losing some of his belongings. You should prepare a room that your resident cat doesn’t have access to, and make this your new cat’s home for a few weeks. Make sure that he has high areas, and hiding spaces in his room.
Cats use scent much more than people think. They have scent glands in their faces, and they use this to mark. Other cats can smell the pheromones, and it tells them about the cat who left the scent. Many people have found that using synthetic pheromones can help when introducing cats. It can help the new cat adapt to his new environment, and help the resident cat feel secure in his territory.
Your new cat needs time to settle, and get used to the routines in your home, as well as you and your family. He’ll also need to let his scent become part of his room. He’ll do this by rubbing his face on the furniture, corners of walls, and the scratching post, and by using his bed, and playing with his toys.
Your new cat can take anything from a few days, to a few weeks to get comfortable. You can keep an eye for signs that he’s ready for the next steps such as:
- Friendly behaviour – listen for purring, meowing and chirruping, as well as rubbing around your legs
- Scent marking – rubbing his face on furniture, walls, other items in the room, and you
- Other behaviours – playing with his toys, resting on his side with his belly exposed, rolling on his back, eating normally, drinking normally, grooming and toileting normally are all signs that your new cat is comfortable.
Some cats need a bit more space than others, so you may need to expand the new cats territory if you notice him scratching at the door or windows, pacing, rearing up, meowing for prolonged periods, or swiping at you as your leaving the room. If you can’t expand his area, then you might need to begin the introduction process earlier.
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The Introduction Process
The introduction process takes time. It’s not a good idea to just put the two cats together and hope for the best. You can follow these steps, and always watch both cats for signs of distress.
Before you introduce the cats, you should scent swapping. They won’t physically meet, but will get an idea of each other. Cats use scent to identify others in the same social group, so basically, scent swapping is let the cat know that the new cat is a friend, and vice versa. It allows them to feel comfortable, and means that when there is a physical meeting, there’s a greater chance of them accepting each other as part of their social group.
The best way to begin scent swapping is by exchanging bedding. You can take a blanket from the new cat and leave it with the resident cat’s bed, and take the blanket from the resident cat and leave it with the new cat. When both cats are relaxed around the other’s bedding back to its original owner. If you see the cats behaving negatively around the bedding, then you may need to move slower. You can repeat scent swapping as many times as necessary.
If your cat comes with bedding, then you may want to use it for scent swapping as well. It can help your resident cat adjust when you bring the new cat home to a confined space.
You could also try wearing a gloves, and stroking the cats. Use one glove for each cat, and stroke under the chin, the face and cheeks, and the areas in front of the ears. Then wipe your gloved hand over the furniture in the cats living spaces.
Once you’re satisfied that the cats are settled with each other’s scents, you can let the cats explore each others living areas, without the other cat present. You could enclose your resident cat in your bedroom, while the new cat explores the rest of the home. Then take the new cat to an enclosed area, while the resident cat explores the new cat’s living space. Both cats need to be relaxed before this can happen, and temporary confinement shouldn’t cause any distress.
Once both cats are completely relaxed about living in the same house generally, you can begin to allow visual contact. Visual contact means that they can see each other, but that there’s a physical barrier between them. You may be able to use a glass door, a net or mesh temporary door, a baby gate, or if the cats are crate trained, you could use their crates. If you have no other option, you can use a regular door, and open it a small bit, making sure that there isn’t enough room for either cat to get at the other.
Visual contact should be associated with positive feelings, so feed the cats treats, play with them, or let them eat their meals. These activities should be separate, and each cat should be happy to glance at the other, but carry on with their own activities. They may want to sniff each other through the barrier, but if there’s any display of negative behaviour, you should distract the cat. Punishment for negative behaviour would not be helpful, and could frighten the cat. Instead distract the negative cat, and lure him out of sight of the other cat.
Keep these sessions short, and try to end them on a positive note. If you have more than one resident cat, then you should only use one cat to begin. When the selected resident and the new cat are relaxed, you can begin to introduce the other residents.
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When both the cats are comfortable with visual contact, you can allow some physical, supervised contact. Quietly remove the barrier when both cats are engaged in an activity such as eating, or playing. Don’t force them together, and simply observe. The most important point of this is that the cats are comfortable with each other, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to interact. If they do display negative behaviour, replace the barrier and continue visual, but without physical contact. If they are relaxed, then you should try to have supervised access as often as possible.
If there hasn’t been any negative behaviour, and both cats are relaxed, you can allow short period of unsupervised access. Keep these periods to a few minutes at a time, and you can only move forward if there has been no negative behaviour during the supervised visits. Once you’ve started unsupervised access, you should allow them as often as possible. You can increase the time period if you have seen friendly behaviour between the cats. Always make sure that both cats can return to their own space at any time. You should also make sure that both cats have their own resources, such as food, water, bedding and litter trays, in separate areas. This means that they won’t be competing against each other.
When the cats are completely comfortable with each other, you can leave the doors open so they can come and go as they please. You’ll still need to monitor their behaviour, and watch for any signs of negativity. If necessary, you can give the cats separate spaces, but you may also want to give them shelves, walkways and perches that they can retreat to.
If you are finding it particularly difficult to introduce the cats, or if something seems to have gone drastically wrong somewhere in the process, then you should talk to your veterinarian, or contact a qualified animal behaviourist for advice.