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.”
Additional Reading – from discussions on Floppycats’ Facebook:
- Introducing Ragdoll Kittens who have giardia
- Introducing a 1-year old Ragdoll to a kitten
- Pros and Cons to adding another kitty to your house
Reader Tips and Tricks for How to Introduce Cats:
Submission from Joel – Nov 20, 2017
Hey Jenny !
I would like to tell you our new kitten introduction story, as well as offer my experiences introducing a new Ragdoll Kitten to a slightly older Ragdoll kitten. (Leo and Shelby)
When we brought Leo home, we knew that Ragdolls were a social breed and appreciated companionship. The breeder that we got Leo from did not have any other kittens available when we got him so we decided to try and get a female from a breeder that was closer to Rochester. Leo’s breeder was about an hours drive away in Albany. We didn’t want to try and introduce a new kitten to Leo until after he was neutered, so we waited a few months until Leo had turned 4 months and was able to be neutered. Once he was “snipped”, we immediately contacted Pams Doll house – a breeder near Rochester that sold Ragdolls and Golden Doodle dogs.
She had two bi-color females available so we went to visit her home and picked out Shelby. We waited another two months until Shelby was old enough to be spayed and ready to be adopted. While we waited we read lots of articles about introducing a new cat or kitten to an existing cat – including anything you had on Floppycats as well as all Jackson Galaxies videos dealing with introducing cats into a household.
We brought Shelby home and immediately quarantined her to our second floor office and spare bedroom :
I took over caring for her for the first week, sleeping upstairs with her and keeping her entertained. She had her own litter box, food, and water up there with me.
But it was hard on Leo. He wanted to play with his new sister so badly !
It was hard to keep the door closed and keep him from darting up the stairs or Shelby from coming down the stairs to see who was making all those trilling sounds under the door.
So after the first week, we tried a few short, supervised interactions with Leo by letting him come upstairs. But he was much too big and aggressive for Shelby. She was still very small and timid to play with Leo. She hid behind boxes and under the futon, and cried. We carried Leo back downstairs and closed the door again.
Looking for ways that would allow Leo and Shelby to interact WITHOUT direct contact (Leo tended to pile on top of her and then bunny kick her mercilessly) we went to the pet store to see what they had for blocking a dog from entering a babies room when unsupervised.
We quickly realized that all the dog gates had bars that were way to far apart to keep a determined skinny Ragdoll from squeezing through the bars to get where he wanted to go. We could not find anything that would allow Leo and Shelby to see each other and smell each other while keeping them separated. We went back home and Shelby returned to Isolation with me upstairs. But then the next day – salvation ! A women that Tammy works with just gave away a bunch of puppies from a litter her neighbor had and gave Tammy something that made all the difference !
What she gave her was a puppy tent !
A puppy tent is basically a nylon expandable mesh enclosure with springy wire frames around its edges. You fold it up into a flat pancake, and when you pull it out of its storage bag it springs open into a fairly large enclosed space with zippered openings.
Its designed to let your puppy play safely while keeping them out of trouble.
But guess what ? You can also use it for kittens !
What would happen if we put Shelby safely inside the puppy tent, and let Leo play, jump around, and interact with her safely OUTSIDE the tent ?
It worked great !
We started out with Shelby in the tent, and Leo outside, for about 15 minutes each day. Leo would get very excited, and would bat and play with Shelby while she was safely inside. Shelby could see and smell and interact with him without getting pinned and kicked by Leo.
We gradually worked each days interactions to about 1 hour. We also traded places, by putting Leo in the tent and letting Shelby play outside in the living room. After about two weeks of using the tent, Leo and Shelby could stay together in the same room without Shelby getting dominated by Leo.
We were SO happy when they could finally co-exist without hurting each other.
Now we are one happy family !
So to summarize, my tips and tricks for introducing a new cat or kitten to an existing cat or an older kitten would be as follows :
- You MUST take this process slooooowly ……. Ragdolls may be docile and dog-like, but they are still a territorial animal. Especially males, who may feel threatened or aggressive toward another cat or kitten who is not a sibling.
- You should ISOLATE the new cat or kitten in its own space, separate from the rest of the house for the first couple weeks. DO NOT “just throw them together and let them work it out.”
- There may be hissing, growling, and spitting from the new cat or kitten or the existing cat, or both. Don’t worry too much. This they will get over in time.
- Allow the new cat or kitten to smell under the door as well as the existing cat or kitten. This is the start of the introductions.
- When the two cats begin to play “footsie” with each other under the door, you are making progress. Playing footsie means they are ready for the next step.
- A great next step would be to get a PUPPY TENT. Some pet stores carry these, or you can get them on-line from Amazon or Chewy.com. Having the tent means you can now put one cat in the tent, and the other is outside. Both cats can now meet face to face without being able to touch each other, and possibly hurt each other.
- Keep the direct meetings with the puppy tent short to start with. Maybe 10 minutes. Make sure these sessions are supervised. If one cat gets too aggressive, or if one cat gets too stressed (lots of hissing, sharp cries from a kitten, or excessive growling) separate the two again and try again later.
- Gradually work the session times in the tent longer and longer. You will know when its work is done when one cat gets bored and starts ignoring the cat inside the tent.
- Now you are ready to try a face to face, un-restricted meeting. Make sure these are also supervised. Be ready to step in if things get rough.
- Don’t give up if things don’t go well the first few weeks after allowing direct interactions. Leo did need a few “TIME-OUTS” after allowing Leo and Shelby to share our entire house. Cats a very smart. They know that undesirable behavior has consequences. We had to do this to Leo a few times, but he learned quickly that “Mauling the Shelby” meant that he would be banished to the bedroom for an unpleasant 5 minutes. When we let him back out he would behave.
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!”