Cats are a pleasure to be around, and as a result, many cat owners find themselves looking for a second or third cat to keep them company. While most cats are solitary creatures, in some cases, they can create lasting friendships with other cats. It can be difficult to predict how your cat will behave when a new one is introduced into the home. Think about their past interactions with other animals. Was their response calm or extreme?
For the sake of this article, we are providing tips based on a home with one existing cat, and the introduction of one additional cat. In cases where multiple cats are being introduced to the home, or a single cat is being introduced to a home with multiple cats, these steps can be followed but should be adjusted to suit each cat and their needs.
Before you bring your cat home
A day or two before you bring your new cat home, you need to get a few things ready. The first thing is a room. Putting two cats in the same room, who have never met before, is a poor idea in almost every case. It can be traumatic to both of them. You want your cats to get along in the long term, so the best way to approach this is by separating them at first and taking your time.
Set up a room with food and water dishes, a new litter pan/box, somewhere comfortable for them to rest, and a place up high or down low for them to hide (see our blog on tree and cave dweller cats). Some people also like to use a pheromone diffuser (which can be bought online).
Bringing your cat home
If possible, try to bring with you any sort of towel or blanket the new cat may have previously slept on. It will have their scent on it which provides them some level of comfort during the transportation and introduction processes. Draping a towel over the cat carrier can also reduce the chances of them becoming overwhelmed by the outside world.
Once you arrive at your home, move them straight inside without letting them see your existing cat – this can be very stressful to both of them. Take the cat into a room and shut the door. Once inside, place the carrier on the floor and open it. Do not try to remove the cat yourself.
When you open the carrier, if the cat comes out right away and seems friendly, you can pet them and give them attention. Just know that if you do pet this new cat, your hands will be covered in their scent and you should let your existing cat sniff your fingers before touching them again.
If the new cat stays in their carrier, make sure they have food and water, then leave the room for a while. This will give them a chance to relax and discover the space on their own.
It is important to give the new cat a few days inside the room without your existing cat seeing them. This allows them to get comfortable and for both cats to start investigating each other by sniffing underneath the door.
Introduce their scents
Unlike humans, cats interact with each other heavily with their sense of smell. Introduce your existing cat to the smell of your new cat by placing something like a towel or blanket near them (that the new cat has slept on). If their reaction to it is negative, leave the item with the new cat’s scent in the room and let them discover it on their own. Do the same for your new cat with an item containing your existing cat’s scent.
Initiate a visual introduction
With all of the above steps completed, and your cats seemingly more curious of each other as opposed to hostile (you can get a sense for this in two ways: how they interact through the door of the room the new cat is in, and by how tolerant they are of each other’s scents), it is now a good time start a visual introduction.
Visual introductions need to happen very slowly, without any loud noises or interruptions, and with you, the cat owner, using a very positive and encouraging tone of voice. Both of these cats will likely be a bit spooked at first sight of each other, and with their defenses up, additional noises and interruptions can be the spark that causes them to flee or fight.
In the beginning, they may hiss and growl at each other. If one begins to pant, it might be time for a break. These are normal reactions – though panting is a sign they are over-stimulated.
It is also suggested to have some sort of barrier, such as a screen door, to separate them during the meeting.
In most cases, cats will eventually lower their defences and attempt to make contact with each other. Both sides will be extremely defensive at first, with the existing cat worried about losing their territory or home, and the new cat wondering what sort of new habitat they are being brought into.
-As an owner, it is your job to do the research and make sure the setting is ideal for both cats. The introduction process is one that can have a lasting effect on the relationship of both your cats. For example, if your existing cat swipes at the new cat on day one (because you are not following the proper steps to introduce a new cat), one or both of them may associate the other cat with fear and spend most of their lives hiding. This is a bad scenario and one that can often be avoided by taking your time and doing things right. Remember: both of these cats depend on you to feel safe. Avoid putting them in a situation where they will feel vulnerable.