How to Introduce Cats
Originally published Feb 12, 2010
I often get inquiries on how to introduce cats – or maybe a resident cat to a kitten.
It really comes down to the cats’ personalities – not their sexes. Cats are like people. Some will get along and some just might not ever get along. There are some things you can do, as a responsible pet owner, to make the transition with a new cat an easier one.
So, you have decided on bringing another furry feline friend into your home. Now you are asking, “How do I introduce cats to one another?” The first thing to remember is that your cat is going to feel like his or her area is being entrenched on. Try setting up a safe room for your new feline companion. Make sure that there are plenty of hiding places, a separate litter box, and separate food and water bowls. Block the door by either shutting it or putting baby gates up. If you decide to use the baby gates make sure that you put them on the inside of the door so you can also shut the door.
In fact, it is probably best to allow the new addition to spend at least 1-2 weeks in a room closed off from your other cats or cat. The reason for this is so that the new cat loses the smell of his or her previous home and gains the smell of your own, this is a crucial step in how to introduce cats. Of course, your new cat will always have his or her distinct odor (that only kitties can smell), but as far as fur, etc. is concerned, it is best for the new one to have your home’s smell on it as well as your smell on it. Also, you want to be sure that your new cat isn’t bringing any diseases into the house and to your resident kitty. With a little patience, you can easily avoid a disaster.
Try not to stress your new addition. Bring them in a carrier and place the carrier in the safe room. Open the door and leave, giving them plenty of time to explore the safe room on their own–another crucial step in how to introduce cats. During this time your resident cat might sit out side the door and may occasionally hiss—smelling and hearing the new addition. Don’t worry this is a normal reaction.
Once your resident cat has seemed to calm down a bit and does not seem so interested in the safe room door you can move to the next step. This could take a day or two, but patience is a virtue when it comes to how to introduce cats. Patience is key during this time since one bad reaction could cause long term damage in the cats’ relationship.
The next step is how to introduce cats to each others scents. Take a clean pair of socks or wash clothes and rub each of the cats down with one. Make sure to rub their facial area where many of the scent glands are located. Next place the socks in the opposite cats area making sure to stay away from their litter box or food and water bowls. This can also be achieved by switching the cats’ area. Letting your resident cat have time smelling the safe room and your new cat have time smelling the house. It is probably a good idea to remove the litter boxes and food and water bowls so there is no hard feelings when the rooms are switched back. Cats are very sensitive to other cat’s urine smells, so litterboxes are key elements in the how to introduce cats process. Be sure to introduce all smells.
Depending on how your cats react to this it might be time to move to the next step. Using a baby gate barrier it is time to open the door and let the cats see each other. They will most definitely be curious about each other. Watch their reactions to each other. If there is any hissing or growling then it is important to take this step slowly.
Once the cats seem to be calm at the sight of each other it is probably safe to introduce the two. Make sure that they are supervised during this initial meeting. If there is any problems during this time go back a step, allowing them to view each other on opposite sides of the baby gate. If things go well you can allow them to spend longer and longer amounts of time together till they are together full time. For the first couple of weeks you might want to provide two food and water bowls and separate litter boxes just in case one decides to get territorial.
There is no sure fire way to tell if cats will be friends for life. Like people there will be some that just don’t mesh. Slow introductions are an important step in doing what you can do to ease the tension of the new addition.
Do you have more than 1 cat? Did you introduce them to each other or did you get them at the same time? What are some of the tips and tricks that worked for you?
Louann writes, “Powder each cat with baby powder. It helps them smell the same initially. The powder also helps relieve discomfort of spay stitches.”
Colleen writes, “Sasha’s brother, Bailey, has arrived. We used your info on introducing a new cat. Looks to have been successful! After 1 day only, we made intros (Sasha was so curious about the new baby so I followed his lead) and now they are inseparable. Sasha calls for Bailey and he comes running. It validates every thought I’ve had for months that he needed a kitty companion. Bailey came home just 6 days ago….I was surprised Sasha came around so quickly, but we did go at his pace. When I saw his ears up and curious, we made initial intros through the door. Pictures ok to share too. Sasha acts like a Mama cat with the baby. It’s so sweet.
Thanks again for helping with the transition!”