What’s better than one cat? Two cats, of course! The more, the merrier right?
However, when it comes to adding new cats into your already occupied household, many don’t realize that it’s a whole new change to be considerate of. Moreover, there are many factors to take into account when you introduce a new cat to a cat who’s already in the home. This is a gradual process, so bear with me here! If you want to curate a fun and loving environment for your furry little cats, here are some important tips to ensure a friendly introduction!
Divide and Conquer
The most convenient route to take is to dump the two cats in one room, walk away, and say “They’ll get used to each other soon enough!” Yet, 99% of the time, the cats do not get along. Cats, in general, are very territorial. If a new cat suddenly appears in the home, your resident cat will immediately see them as a threat to their environment. It’s stressful and overwhelming on both cats’ ends with all the new scents and changes in their home.
Although it sounds counter-intuitive, you must separate the cats at first arrival. Like humans, cats take first impressions very seriously. A hiss on the first meeting sets the tone for the rest of the relationship. To avoid any of this, keep very distinct and separate rooms for them each filled with their own respective blankets, toys, food and water bowls, and litter. This way, you can avoid any bad first impressions the cats may curate. Allow the new cat to settle in their new home. The new cat is carrying a lot of weight (new cat friend, new home, new routine, new humans), so be extremely patient with them! It’s best to study up on bringing new cats home in general, regardless if you already have a cat or not.
That being said, when you want to begin the process of befriending your cats, the rule of thumb is to allow the cats to hear and smell one another, but not touch or see. A reminder that each step of the introduction process should span over a couple of days. It gets easy once you implement these little things into your daily routine!
As mentioned, smell is a strong asset to a cat’s perceptions. Cat expert, Jackson Galaxy, recommends the strategy of “site swapping” to get two cats used to each other’s scents. Essentially what you do is allow each cat to explore the other’s “base camp” AKA where they sleep, play, do their business, etcetera.
Start by moving the new cat to another room and shutting the door. Then, allow your resident cat to roam around the newcomer’s headquarters and shut that door as well. Then allow the newcomer to scope around the house for themselves. This way your cats will be familiar with the scents of another, making their first official encounter much easier!
If site-swapping seems too tedious, you can also swap different items between the cats (toys, food bowls, blankets). For example, you take your new cat’s towel or blanket and place it near your resident’s food bowl. Inch it closer and closer to establish a comfortable relationship with your newcomer’s scent.
Scents serve as the foundation to cat relationships. Your cat can smell their favorite person, smell their favorite foods, and even smell their crate when it’s time to go to the vet. All of these little things add up to make both your and your cats’ lives much less stressful. It always varies on how long until both cats are fully comfortable, from a few hours to even months. Be sure to monitor and take note of your cats’ behavior along the way!
After some time, you can slowly allow your cats to visually see each other. Once again, it should be very gradual. If there are no signs of aggression, you can use various methods to ensure a safe and gentle meeting.
One way is to still keep the cats separate but use a screen or pet gate in between them. Encourage a positive association near the gate by providing treats, playing alongside the divider, or placing their food bowls nearby. The cats may be hesitant, so start a good distance away from the barrier and slowly inch closer and closer until they’re more comfortable. If this seems too overwhelming, use a “curtain” technique where you use a blanket or curtain to cover the screen or gate. This technique helps ease the more fussy cats and gives you more control over the visual access the cats have to one another.
Again, this process may vary but when you start to notice your cats sniffing closely through the gate or even trying to play through the gate, then it’s time for a proper introduction! What if you spot signs of aggression? Then take back a few steps: keep the curtain down, make the opening smaller, or move their food bowls further away. Use your best judgment and adjust accordingly to your cat’s line of comfort. We want to keep all the hissing and snarling to a minimum!
As long as you monitor your cats, motivate with treats, and encourage playtime, then your cats should be absolutely fine in one room together. Not all cats are super loving and cuddly. Just getting them in the same room without fighting is accomplishing enough! You should never force them to interact.
On the same note, some cats can be straight-up bullies. Seriously! Some cats will corner another and even block their way to the food bowl! Never punish your cats if they ever act like this. Take a deep breath and reset by scent swapping and gate separating.
You have complete control over the space to prevent any mess or chaos from occurring. Fighting often starts with one of those frantic cat chases. To lessen the chances of this happening, block off any small spaces, closets, or underneath-es that your cats may squeeze into. Chasing always ends in spaces like a closet or underneath the bed. By controlling your space like this, your cats may not even try fighting at all!
We’ve all heard the saying: Sharing is caring. But cats are quite adamant about having their own things. If two cats aren’t newborns from the same litter, you should always give them each their own litter boxes. The same goes for food bowls, beds, and hiding places. Place all their essential resources where they’re accessible so that they don’t ever feel lost or trapped to find them. Even if two cats are accustomed to being around one another, it’s only respectful that they keep their own privacy!
While you should always be monitoring your cats’ interactions, another human by your side is always helpful in cases where things get chaotic. As said before, two is better than one!
In a handful of cases, sometimes you just need a serious reset or lockdown for the cats. In the moment where you need a last resort option to separate the two safely, grab a blanket, toss it over a cat, and scoop them up and out of there. Fighting isn’t the only reaction you should be worried about. Some cats can get injured, lose their appetite, start spraying, or hide more often. With drastic changes in behavior like these, the best option is to contact your veterinarian for professional help.
The best time to have these little interactions is when both cats are relatively calm, such as after a meal. Keep their playtimes brief and gradually make them longer and longer. Soon enough you may be able to leave them in one room alone!
You Got This!
As a cat lover, one of my dreams is to own a condo full of cats. Whether that comes true or not, I will be sure to remember the necessary steps in introducing one cat to another. And also remember: patience, patience, patience! All cats are different. And if you truly care about them, you will meet them where they’re at and do everything you can to ensure a loving cat home!
Some say that if a cat has mingled with other cats prior, then a newcomer will be no problem for them. However, it’s still impossible to predict whether two cats will get along or not. Regardless, I hope this information provides clarity and serves as a foundational guide for starting your little cat family!