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Introducing Cats

introducing cats to each other

Integrating a new animal into your home requires time, effort and patience! You may experience some frustrations. All animals need time to adjust to their new surroundings. This is especially true when bringing a cat into a home which is already inhabited by another cat.

Please be prepared to engage in a systematic, three week introduction process that will help keep the peace in your household. Your cats will thank you for it.

Personal space for each cat

Prior to adding a new feline to the family, be sure to invest in a second set of feeding dishes and a second or third litter box. The existing cat may not be willing to share these personal items with another cat, resulting in conflict. It’s bad enough, after all, for your pet to realize that he is no longer the only king of your jungle. Sharing his food and his toilet with your new “baby” is adding insult to injury. Prior to arriving with your new cat, set up an area that is isolated from your existing cat. A spare room or bathroom may work well, but be sure you do not pick one of the residing cat’s favorite places.

An easy-does-it introduction

If you want to avoid great trauma, hostility and possible cat fighting, make the introduction between the two felines as gradual and comfortable as possible. Bring the new cat into the house in a carrier and go straight to the isolation area. You can let the new cat explore the new space and get used to the new odors. Then, give the residing cat his first taste of existing in a multiple cat home. Take the carrier back out to the other part of the house and leave it on the floor for your cat to encounter on his own. You may be surprised by how much just the odor of the new cat may upset the existing cat. Typically, you will have to endure some spitting, hissing and growling during this entire process. Leave the carrier out for some time until it is causing only a minimal reaction. It is best not to try to comfort the cat until he has had time to relax. Then you should spend quite a bit of quality time with him, reassuring him that he is still very important to you. It may be uncertain whether cats feel jealousy, but it can certainly seem that way given how your existing cat will behave, if the newcomer gets too much attention.

Be sure to always put the resident cat first. Feed her first, talk to her and pet her first, in addition to just spoiling her in general. If good things happen to the incumbent cat in association with the presence of the new cat, it will help in assuring the second cat’s acceptance. To increase subtle exposure and counter condition the cats, try feeding the resident cat and the newcomer near either side of the isolation room’s door. Don’t put the food so close to the door that the cats are too upset by each other to eat. Slowly move the dishes closer to the door as the cats appear to become more comfortable with one another’s scents and sounds. This process eases tension because the cats get accustomed to enjoying a meal in proximity. You can also encourage this by sharing each other’s scent with something positive; an interaction with you. After spending time stroking and cuddling your new cat, go out and play a favorite game or stroke and cuddle your existing cat and vice versa. If you get any negative reaction from either cat, go and change clothes and wash your hands thoroughly.

Limited interaction

Once the two-week isolation period is over, you can begin to let the cats have more exposure to each other, but never advance to the next step until the resident cat seems ready. The door of the isolation area can either be blocked off using multiple plastic mesh baby gates or by wedging the door with two doorstops in a slightly open position. The goal is to allow the cats to see one another, but not be able to physically touch. This will help prevent injuries. Also, allow them to see and smell each other only when you are present. You can also put a long strip of fleece under the door and encourage the cats to play with it.

Get ready to referee

Once the cats seem comfortable with the limited interaction, you can provide the new cat with more freedom. To prepare for this step, first gather a couple of towels or pillows, a squirt gun full of water or something to make a loud noise. Make sure the resident cat is busy elsewhere in the house. Let the cats find each other and be prepared for a little friction.

When the two cats finally sniff each other out, don’t be surprised if neither one of them respond well to each other. If friction and physical contact is made, do not attempt to physically separate the two cats. Loud noises, soft flying objects, or a stream of water are more than sufficient to stop a scuffle. Luckily, most encounters will sound much worse than they are and the cats should be unharmed as long as you are present to intercede. For that reason, you should only let your new cat out into the rest of the house when you are home.

Peace at last

Once the cats seem entirely comfortable with each other, you can leave them alone together all the time. Hopefully, with the right introduction, your cat family will get along so well that they groom each other and sleep together.

If you would like to work with a Wisconsin Humane Society behaviorist one-on-one regarding this behavior topic, please call 414-431-6173 or email  to schedule a consultation.