Adding a new kitty to your home can be exciting! But before you bring your new little bundle of fur home and throw him in the octagon, it’s best to take steps to prepare for a successful meeting with your resident cat (who I can assure you thinks he owns the place!)
Getting a cat introduction right from the start will give your cats the best possibility of getting along successfully. And in this article, we will give you a tested step-by-step approach that will help you understand how to introduce cats.
The “Throw Them In The Deep Water and Let Them Swim” Approach
You might receive guidance from the other humans to just throw the cats in a room together and let them work it out. I cannot caution you enough against this approach.
Forcing a whisker to whisker meeting too quickly will likely result in a situation where claws come out and fur flies. The chances of things working out well this way are slim to none.
What’s worse, this can set a negative tone going forward, potentially causing cats who may have otherwise learned to get along to see each other as enemies going forward.
Cats Are Territorial Creatures
Not only are you bringing your new kitty into an unfamiliar space where they will need time to adjust, but your existing cat may also feel compelled to defend its territory from the intruder.
Incorporating a kitten into the mix or bringing in a mature rescue can lead to two very different outcomes as well.
If your current cat is very mature in age, a kitten might just seem annoying, and they may prefer to keep their distance and peace! Two full-grown adult cats, on the other hand, may take longer to adjust. And, they might never become “friendly” with one another.
All of this said, you might find in either equation quite the opposite is true. Things may just work out, and they end up becoming best companions.
What Is Your Cat’s Personality Type
Take into consideration your existing cat’s temperament. This will help you make the best decision about the age and personality of the kitty you can most successfully add to the clan.
And remember, this is a big change for both your current cat and the newcomer. It will likely be a gradual process that requires patience! Following a mapped-out plan of execution will make all the difference in how it goes.
Here is the step-by-step approach that has always worked for me – after a lot of trial and error – when I bring a new member into my cat clan!
Before bringing your new kitty home, switch your existing cat to a scheduled meal plan if they are not already on one. You will do the same with the newcomer.
Eventually, feeding time will serve as a shared activity for the two cats and will help bridge them together with a similar routine.
Prepare a separate room for the arrival of the new cat. This space should have a feeding station, litter box, and bed exclusively for the new cat.
Be sure this room is one where your human scent exists so the newcomer can get used to it. Also include toys, blankets, and other items the kitty can lay, play, and rub on.
Cats are all about scent, and these items will be essential later for getting the cats used to each other.
Remember that during this home introduction for the new kitty, both she and your resident cat should not yet meet face-to-face.
Bring your new kitty into the home while the resident cat is in another room. The purpose of the separate room for the newcomer is to keep them from feeling overwhelmed and keep both cats from physically meeting and seeing one another.
After a few days, and once the new kitty has become comfortable in the designated space, it’s time to swap the cats and let each one explore the other’s territory.
Be observant to the newcomer, and they will let you know when they are ready to branch out and explore. This process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
To swap the kitties for scent exploration, you can place your new kitty in the bathroom, at which time you can let your resident cat into the new kitty’s room to explore, closing the door so they feel safe. Then let the newcomer out of the bathroom so they may be free to roam the house.
Repeat this process a few more times to continue getting your fur babies familiar with one another’s scent.
Some new kitties (especially little guys) may find a big home with many rooms to be scary or overwhelming at first.
You can reduce the available space by closing the doors to a few rooms at first so there is less territory to observe. Each time you repeat this step, you can open more doors so they may expand their investigation of the place.
At this point, you’re ready to start bringing your cats together, but we still need to be in warm-up mode. The best way to do this is by utilizing the door between them.
With their feeding times aligned, begin placing each cat’s food bowl by the door. You can start with the bowls farther away and gradually move them closer each feeding time.
Establishing this co-feeding will get them even more aware of each other and begin the ritual of a shared activity. This is a key step, so don’t skip it!
You can also give treats to each by the door at the same time. (If you have another human to be on one side with you on the other to hand out the treats at the same time, that is great.)
Now the two will clearly hear and smell the other’s presence from behind a safety barrier.
Once you have established comfort – or at least tolerance – of the shared feeding routine by the door, it’s time for a visual introduction.
(Be sure that if there have been any growling or other aggressive behaviors by the door, that both cats are beyond that phase before moving forward.)
Once you are ready for the reveal, you’ll want to do so cautiously. You don’t want to scare or overwhelm either cat. So best to pull those bowls further away to where you originally placed them.
At this point, you can crack the door between them to let them see one another. Some people opt to place a baby gate or screen door divider that allows visual contact but still a controlled separation for the first several encounters.
Then gradually, you can work on removing it completely. Try giving treats during this time too. Over time, with more visual meetings, you can toss the treats a little closer to the gate or screen divider.
The idea here is to get both cats in the same room, tolerating and hopefully eventually becoming friendly with one another.
Rather than abruptly have them both enter the room (which usually just leads to a staredown and an inevitable antagonistic tango), try to get both cats engaged in a state of play separately while leading one after another into the same space.
Again, this step will need another human to facilitate one of the cats.
The key here is to keep both cats engaged in play, so they don’t focus exclusively on each other. Eventually, they may naturally begin to become more aware of the other cat and possibly want to explore one another (or not!)
Be highly observant as you will want to have an exit strategy should the energy in the room go awry. A good method here might also be to keep a squirt bottle handy in case of calamity ensues!
Cats are highly sensitive and, with one twitch, things can turn defensive or aggressive. Have an immediate exit strategy in case this happens. Do not allow an uncomfortable moment or a line being crossed to turn into something more.
If this happens, just separate them, and come back to try this again later. Remember, take baby steps. It may require time for this to become entirely comfortable for one or both kitties.
Utilize treats during this playtime, too, anything to create positive reinforcement. Again, if things become tense, then end playtime and remove one of them from the room.
Either they will end this playtime, or you will. And even if co-mingling doesn’t end with success on the first attempt, don’t be discouraged. Continue this ritual to normalize the cat’s comfort with being in the same room. And be patient. This could take time.
Once this becomes successful, congratulate yourself! You are good to go and ready to let your fur babies cohabitate!
Things To Remember About How To Introduce Cats
In some scenarios, it can take several months for cats to get used to and accept sharing a home. Keep in mind that while some cats may become best buds, some will just never get along.
Different cats have different personalities, and some may just prefer to be the only pet. Even if you can get them to merely tolerate each other, that is in itself a success story. But it is always best to gauge your current cat’s temperament before deciding whether to incorporate a new fur baby into the house.
No matter what, by following this step-by-step approach to introduction, you are giving them the best possible starting point for becoming friends.
I wish you great success in uniting your new kitty with your resident fur baby. May the odds be ever in your favor!