Cats can be territorial and may not take kindly to a new kitty coming into the household. These six steps will help maintain harmony when making introductions.
You already have a cat. But there’s a precious tabby at the local animal shelter waiting for his forever home — your home! The question is, how will your current cat respond? She may love the idea…but on the other hand, she may need help adapting to the newcomer. To help ensure a smooth, stress-free introduction between two cats, follow the six steps in this article.
Note that these steps are meant to be completed over the course of several days, or even weeks, depending on how the cats respond. They can also be adapted for households that already have multiple cats, and are hoping to add another.
Create a separate space for the new cat. This should be someplace where he and your existing cat cannot see each other. Ideally, choose a room with a door and set up the space with everything your new cat needs, such as food and water, a litter box, bed, and toys. Keeping him in this separate room at first will help him adapt to his new surroundings. It also allows your other cat to maintain her own space in the rest of the house, and helps avoid territorial tendencies and feelings of displacement.
Let the cats get used to each other’s scents and sounds from beneath the door. Don’t let them see each other yet; allow them to familiarize themselves with one another through smell and hearing only. A bit of hissing and growling is normal at this point, but it’s up to you to make sure it doesn’t escalate so keep these under-the-door interactions short at first. Continue this step with gradually lengthening durations of time until each cat is comfortable and does not show signs of stress or aggression.
After your new cat has settled in, give him a turn at being loose in the rest of the house — but only when your current cat is contained someplace where they won’t see each other. This step accomplishes two things. Your new cat becomes accustomed to the remainder of his surroundings, and your existing cat gets used to having the newbie’s scent in the rest of the house.
This is a big one! Let the cats see each other for the first time through the safety of a barrier. A screen or gate can be used, but perhaps the easiest way is to use a cat carrier. Place your new cat in his carrier, and take him to a room where your current cat can see him, and vice versa. Allow the cats to observe each other through the barrier, but do not force them to come any closer than they are willing to on their own. Give them each a turn at being in the carrier, while the other is loose in the rest of the room. Once again, a bit of hissing or growling may occur. It’s important to do this face-to-face interaction in short spurts at first.
When the cats are comfortable seeing each other through a barrier, allow them to be free in the same room together. Open the door of your new cat’s separate room and allow them to visit each other’s space at their leisure. Careful supervision is absolutely crucial here for the safety of both cats. Be sure to keep these visits short at first. Watch for signs of stress or aggression, and end the visit on a positive note.
The final step is to increase the duration of each cat’s visits to the other’s space. As you increase the time your cats spend together, the separate spaces will become less and less separate as each cat roams freely. Eventually, this step will give way to permanently integrating the new kitty into your home and family.
Integrating a new cat into the household is no small task. It requires a careful strategy, a lot of time and effort, and oh-so-much patience. But it’s worth doing because it exponentially increases the likelihood of a successful introduction, while maintaining peace, harmony, and safety.