I have previously written about getting a new cat and introducing it to your home. But what happens when you have a resident cat? How do you go about introducing cats to each other?
Our previous post about caring for your kitten spoke about setting up your home for your new arrival. There are a few differences when you have a resident cat. And how you go about the first week is important in the longterm.
Territoriality in Cats
Cats are extremely territorial. Where there are multiple cats there will usually just be one ‘Top Cat’. And strangely, it might not be the cat you expect as there are a number of factors which influence this.
When I had four cats previously, Cobie was the top cat. This was strange as she was the smallest cat and the least bossy. But, if you watched how all the cats interacted – they all deferred to her.
This was evident when I took in a pair of 9 month old sisters to join Cobie and her sister. After being told the new arrivals needed to be paired together as they were bonded it was very evident that they were not. A few months after they joined the family one of the sisters went to fight the other.
Immediately, Cobie got between the two of them (well the “picked on” sister looked to be hiding behind her). Then she growled the other cat down. She also mothered every cat and when I got Dyson as a kitten she basically brought her up. But again, Dyson always deferred to her.
Why is this important
Well cats do not like change and also if a cat is “Top Cat” it needs to keep that designation when you bring a new cat in. After all you are bringing an interloper into its’ territory.
Therefore, there is a very fine balance when you bring a new cat home. And this is why the way you introduce the cats is important. Usually bringing a kitten into the domain of a resident cat causes less issues. This is because kittens usually know their place.
Setting Up for the New Cat
It is a good idea to have a safe room available for the new arrival. However, it should be a room that the resident cat does not usually use (you do not really want to restrict the resident cat from parts of the house it regards as its’ territory if possible).
This room is going to be the new arrival’s safe room. They will need access to food and water, as well as a bed, litter box, toys and scratching post. It is also a good idea to set up a Feliway diffuser as well. This contains a pheromone which is a copy of the pheromone which cats leave when they rub against an object or people. This pheromone is released when the cat is comfortable or relaxed.
Once the new arrival has been placed in this safe room keep the door closed. It is easier for a cat to feel more comfortable when they are in one room. Especially when the room is quieter.
The two cats are now separate from each other. The new arrival is in their one room whilst your resident cat has access to the rest of their usual areas.
Once the new cat is eating and using their litter tray and seems more relaxed, then it is time to move to stage two.
Cats are very scent orientated. Much more than visual. Therefore, the two cats now need to get used to each others smells.
One way of doing this is to gently rub a clean towel over your resident cat’s cheek, chin and forehead. You can then rub this towel over the furniture in the safe room. Repeat the procedure by rubbing another towel on the new cat and then leaving it with the resident cat.
You may need to do this a few times. You can also rub a towel on one of the cats and then rub the same towel onto the other cat.
Once both cats seem quite relaxed you can let the new cat into other parts of the house. But, keeping them separate from the resident cat. The resident cat can then be left to explore the new arrivals safe room whilst the new arrival is not in the room.
They can then get used to each other scents.
The Third Stage
After this you can start feeding the cats at opposite sides of the safe room door. This will give them the chance to smell the other cat but be distracted by its food.
You can now let them see each other. One way of doing this is to have a child’s stair gate across the safe room door. You can now feed both cats keeping them still apart from each other and separated by the gate.
This means that they will get used to seeing each other and still be distracted by the food. The stair gate will also stop them from trying to fight each other if one gets overly stressed. If your new arrival is actually a kitten then the stair gate might have bars too wide to keep the kitten confined.
In this case you can place the kitten inside a dog cage with its food. Or you can use a child’s mesh playpen that is turned upside down.
There may be some growling and/or hissing at this stage but this is normal whilst they try to work out which of them is the top cat. If however, either cat seems overly anxious by tensing up or flattening its years then they need to be re-separated and you can start the scent transference again for a bit before reintroducing them.
If you just have some growls and hisses then carry on with this a few times, increasing the visual time until the two cats seem more comfortable with each other. Keep doing the scent transfer as well in between visual visits.
Once the two cats seem more comfortable then you can remove the stair gate barrier. It is best to monitor their initial interactions without the barrier and not leave them alone straight away.
If there are any signs of aggression or again the cats get overly stressed and ears flatten then replace the barrier and do more scent transference.
After a day or two you can then try to get them to interact again without the stair gate.
This process should help you to have two cats that become integrated with each other. This process could also take any length of time from one week through to one month. It is very dependent on whether the cats do not get aggressive with each other when they finally come face to face.
Hopefully, with these tips you will have two cats that will live together in harmony. This could be anything from tolerating each other through to sleeping and playing together.
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What a comprehensive article you got there. I have never had a pet, and never thought that we need to perform all these steps if we need get 2 pets together. This is something new to me. I think cats have a better instinct than any other pet and they are really lovely when treated with care. Too bad, my wife has a phobia with cats and dogs, else I would love to have one and this website is too useful for any cat lover.
Hi thanks very much for your comment. Cats are pretty wonderful – complete characters and personalities. Sad to hear that your wife has a phobia.
Last year my boyfriend and I moved in together and the most difficult part was moving our cats. He has a younger boy cat and I have an older girl cat. We introduced them pretty slowly but they surprisingly became friends pretty quickly. Now they are the best of friends.
The problem was with my cat hissing at my boyfriend. She really was mean to him and it was frustrating. We overcame it in time. What we did, was I stopped caring for her (feeding and changing cat litter) and he became the person who took care of her. It was almost as if he became “Santa” in her eyes. She now loves him to death and snuggles up with him.
So glad that you partners’ cat and your became such good friends. Sounds like you did the right thing with having your boyfriend do all the feeding – cats always seem to bond to the one that feeds them. I know when my parents come to visit my cat is always wary of my stepfather. I think that it is because he is so tall – but by the time they leave she is all over him (probably because as soon as he arrives he goes straight to the treat jar)