Cats make wonderful pets. With temperaments ranging from affectionate to reclusive, cats bring joy and playfulness to our homes with their unique personalities and endearing quirks. So, you’d think that bringing a second, third, or fourth cat into your home would be bliss right?
While, in theory, this may seem simple, the process of introducing cats to one another and teaching them to coexist can be a somewhat involved process. Because cats are often loners by nature, it’s important to take the proper steps to ensure that your two cats feel comfortable and safe around one another. Here’s what you can do to give your resident cat and newcomer the best chance at a successful introduction and set them up for a lifetime of companionship or at the very least, a peaceful coexistence.
When you first bring your new cat home, it’s important to keep them completely separate from your current cat. The best way to do this is to enclose the new cat in a room with a door, like a bedroom or office. Preferably one that your current cat has spent significant time in so that their scent is present in the room.
Make sure this room is pleasant and comfortable for your new cat and keep in mind that isolating them isn’t a punishment; it’s an effective way to make them feel safe in their new home. Some things you may want to stock their room with are toys, a cozy bed, food, water, and a litter box. Also, it’s best if this room is easily accessible by human family members, so that they can enter often to play and socialize with your new cat.
A room with a door that has a little bit of space underneath is ideal as this gives the cats an opportunity to be in somewhat close proximity and in some cases even see one another, if they choose, without forcing them to socialize.
When it comes to feeding your cats, think of the door dividing them like a mirror. Whatever you do on one side, you do on the other, meaning the cats should be fed at the same time, with their food placed close to the door, on their respective sides.
If either cat hisses or shows aggression when coaxed to eat near the door, simply move that cat’s food a few feet back from the door and allow them to eat from a distance. With each mealtime, try inching their food bowl a little bit closer to the door. When the cat complies, be sure to reward them liberally with enticing treats they love.
The Great Switcheroo
After about two or three days of relatively calm behavior between the cats, it’s time to make the big switch. Give your new cat free reign of the house and put your current cat in the room where the new cat has been living. Don’t switch anything else – they should be using one another’s toys, food bowls, litter boxes, etc. (Do be sure to clean the bowls and the litter boxes before the switch, though).
This step may need to be repeated, particularly if one or both cats is showing signs of stress. Repeat this process until both cats are comfortable around one another’s scents. To help facilitate this, consider rubbing the cats with a towel that possesses both of their scents. Start by rubbing a small, clean towel or blanket on one of your cats. Then, without washing it, rub the same towel on the other cat, so that their scents are mixed. Then take this towel back to the first cat, so that both cats have one another’s scents on them.
If all goes well, it’s time to let the cats see one another while still keeping them physically separated. It’s likely they’re not ready to be together quite yet, so you can open the door to the new cat’s room and secure the entrance by stacking two baby gates in the doorframe. This creates a barrier tall enough to keep your cat from easily scaling it, otherwise you’ll witness firsthand just how agile felines can be. This will allow them to be contained but still see one another.
If the cats both seem calm enough, you can attempt a more formal introduction. If possible, each cat should be accompanied by a human on opposite sides of the barrier. Place each cat a couple of feet back from the barrier and let them see one another. If they acknowledge one another, introduce them by saying their names, and don’t forget to reward them with a treat.
Time to Meet
If your cats have progressed through all of these steps without fear, anxiety, or aggression, it’s time for the official meeting, which should be brief and supervised, with a human standing by to separate the cats if things take a turn-you’ll want to avoid any cat fights.
If this is successful, you can start to increase the time the cats are together, until they’re finally both comfortable occupying the same space. And if they aren’t ready yet? That’s completely okay! It can take some cats up to a year to fully accept another cat into their home territory. Have patience and keep trying- you’ve got this!
If you found this interesting, check out these related stories:
What Scents Do Cats Love?
How Cats Help Your Health