Introducing cats is a science. How you follow this science directly impacts how harmonious your living situation with your cats will be.
I often get inquiries about introducing cats or a resident cat to a new kitten. It really comes down to the cats’ personalities, not their sexes. Cats are like people. Some will get along, and some might never get along.
However, there are specific approaches to take to help your feline companions get accustomed to each other, so you can all live peacefully together. And in this guide, I’ll take you through those approaches.
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Introducing Cats – A Step-by-Step Guide
Felines are adorable and unique animals but can be challenging to introduce. There is a lot to consider when introducing a cat into a home environment, especially if you already have cats.
There are some things you can do, as a responsible pet owner, to introduce a new cat to a resident kitty.
You want to:
- Try to choose a cat that matches your resident cat’s personality. (Be mindful about balancing personalities – complimentary personalities, not whether the cat is male or female).
- Set up a safe room for your new cat for the first couple of weeks to let them get used to your home.
- Make sure your new cat has a clean bill of health.
- Try scent swapping so both cats get used to each other’s scents before meeting.
- Arrange the first face-to-face meetings with barriers between the cats.
- Take every step of the process slowly.
I’ve gone into more detail on this introduction process below.
1. Choosing the Right Cat
Before introducing a new cat into your home, adopt one that is the correct fit.
By that, I mean one that is ideally a complimentary personality and age to your resident cat. If your resident cat is elderly and frail, do they need a rambunctious new kitty zooming around the place? Or would two kittens that entertained each other and left the older kitty alone be better?
And if your cat is energetic and playful, is it a good idea to get a shy cat?
These are easy rules because, depending on your circumstances, you may want or need to introduce different cats. And ultimately, every cat is an individual.
But if you can find a cat complementary to your resident cat, you have a good chance of getting off on the right foot.
2. Set up a Safe Room for Your New Kitten
The first natural step to take at home with your new kitten or cat is to make sure they have a safe room. Your new feline will likely feel curiosity, mild anxiety, and uncertainty when they enter your home. It’s a new home with all new smells, sounds, and more, and you need to give them a safe space to relax and acclimatize.
This is the room where your new cat will live for the first couple of weeks. It needs toys, a bed, a litter box, and bowls for food and water. If you have a bedroom with its own bathroom to keep the litter box away from the food and bed, that’d be perfect.
The purpose of this room is to let your new cat adjust to the sights and, more importantly, the smells and sounds of your home. It also gives the kitten a chance to smell like your home and shake off the smell of the breeder it came from or the shelter. This is good because it means your resident cat will be more accepting of the newcomer if it smells like your home.
If you don’t have space for a safe room – you live in a small apartment, or you have a roommate – then a large, secure playpen is an alternative option.
3. Have the Kitten Checked By Your Vet
In the first few days of your new kitten or cat joining your home, you should have it checked over by the vet. You may already have a clean bill of health from the breeder, but it’s best to get the all-clear again. And it’s likely to be even more critical if it’s a rescue cat.
Otherwise, if you introduce them to your resident cat, that may be two sick cats that you end up with.
4. Scent Exchange
The next step in introducing cats is to present them with each other’s scents. This is known as scent swapping.
Take a clean pair of socks or washcloths (you could also use the t-shirt you slept in, so it has your oils on it) and rub each cat down with one. Make sure to rub the facial area where many scent glands are located, embedding the cat’s pheromones in the item.
Next, place the socks in the opposite cat’s area, ensuring you stay away from their litter box or food and water bowls. The cats’ scents will help each cat get used to the other before their first meeting.
This can also be achieved by switching the cats’ areas. Let your current cat sniff the new cat’s room, and give your newcomer time to smell the rest of the house. However, do this without them seeing the other cat.
Or another way to do it is to add a blanket to each cat’s bed and let them sleep or lay there for a few hours. Then, swap the blankets over. Ensure you only do this step once you know the new cat is healthy – you don’t want to transfer any bacteria on a sock or blanket if they are not.
5. Face-to-Face Meeting
You can try a face-to-face meeting once you’ve had time for both cats to get used to each other’s scents. This should still be managed, keeping the cats from being able to fully interact.
A baby gate between the rest of the house and the new cat’s room could work, although it would need to be tall. Or you could stack one on top of another.
An alternative is to use a cat carrier or crate that ideally smells of your resident cat already. Place the new kitty into the carrier, close it, and then bring it into the rest of the house.
Give the cats time to interact. Please don’t force it; let them approach each other at their own speeds. If your resident cat is hissing, don’t immediately shut the meeting down. But if it acts aggressively (swatting, launching towards the new cat, or hissing with aggression), or the new cat becomes scared or overwhelmed, end the meeting and close the door fully again.
Please note that hissing is very normal. If the resident kitty is acting curious but hissing, that is fine. Build up the time you allow these introductions to run for. Start with small intervals; if it goes well, increase the time the next time with breaks in between.
6. Same Room Meeting
Once the cats seem calm when they can see each other, you can try to introduce them without barriers. They have to be supervised during these initial meetings, and it’s even better if you can have both cats held.
The resident cat should be held by the person they are most comfortable with. You can start at longer distances and then decrease those distances each day.
This sounds like a long process. Still, you will reap the rewards when everyone gets along and enjoys each other harmoniously.
Once the cats are OK being near each other, you can move to have them in the room without being held.
7. Have Patience
The golden rule of this entire process is that you have to be patient. If you rush it, you could ruin the chances of creating a happy household.
Take your time and do things slowly. Then, if there are any problems – any signs of aggression or fear – move back one step and try again in a couple of days.
Ultimately, you are aiming for tolerance. If the cats tolerate each other without fighting, great. If they get on more than that, even better. But feel satisfied if tolerance is all you get. That’s enough, and it is much better than having the cats fight constantly!
Additional Tips and Tricks
As well as following these steps, there are a couple of other ideas you could try to help encourage the cats to get along:
- Feed both cats near the safe room door so they associate positive behaviors with the scents of each other.
- Reward positive reactions between the cats with treats.
- Play with both cats simultaneously when they can see each other.
Feed Both Cats Near the Door
One thing that may work is feeding the cats close to the door to the safe room.
The door can stay closed for this, so you could do it during the earlier steps of the process. It’s about encouraging the cats to smell each other while eating and enjoying a positive experience.
This may also help the cats learn to eat close to each other once they are comfortable together.
Reward Positive Interactions With Treats
You want your resident cat and new cat to associate positive, happy thoughts with the sight of the other cat. And you can help to reinforce that using treats.
If you are working through the stages above and have a good session – no fighting or hissing – then reward both cats with a treat.
This may help with positive association – each cat associates seeing the other cat with a positive experience.
Play With Both Cats
An excellent way to encourage that positive atmosphere is to bring playtime into those face-to-face meetings, especially when the cats have a barrier and can’t roughhouse too much together.
You’ll need a toy for each, but if you have two string wands and can get the cats to play near the baby gates, you can make sure they’re getting accustomed to each other while also having fun.
It also serves as a distraction – each of the individual cats has something to occupy them if they are upset by the sight of the other cat.
What’s the Best Way To Introduce a New Kitten to an Adult Cat?
The best way to introduce kittens to adult cats is to follow the abovementioned process. Ensure the new kitten has time to get used to your home, and your older cat can get used to the new kitten’s smell before meeting them.
There aren’t any differences between introducing a new adult cat or a new kitten to your resident cat. Take things slowly in both scenarios and give each cat time to adjust.
I had a lot of success playing with Charlie (kitten) with a wand toy and allowing Caymus and Murphy (resident adults) to observe him playing.
How Do You Get Cats to Like Each Other?
You can’t force cats to like each other, but by introducing them slowly, you can give them the best chance of getting along. Of course, cats are individuals with their own personalities, and just like humans, some may not get along. But by introducing them slowly, using a safe room for the new cat, and letting each cat adjust, they are more likely to like or tolerate each other’s presence.
What Happens if You Introduce Cats Too Soon?
If you try to introduce cats too soon, they are less likely to accept each other. They may feel threatened, and they may fight. The resident cat may act on their territorial nature, which could cause the new cat to become too anxious to relax in their new home. So you must ensure your newcomer has time to adjust to their new surroundings, with a safe room as their hiding place in the early days.
Cats introduced too soon may urinate outside the litter box, poop outside the box, and end up with stress-induced medical conditions like UTIs. Therefore, it’s imperative to take your time with cat introductions.
Should I Let My Cat Hiss?
It’s OK for your cats to hiss while they are first adjusting to the other cat’s scent in the home, but ideally, you want this to calm down as they get used to each other. You must be extra patient if the cats are hissing at each other. Don’t introduce cats face-to-face if they are hissing at the door.
How Do I Get My Cat To Stop Hissing at My New Cat?
The best way to get your cat to stop hissing at your new cat is to give them time and take it slow. They should be allowed time to adjust to the scent of the new kitten or cat before they meet them. If the cat continues to hiss once they are aware of the presence of another cat, let them have time.
Hissing isn’t always a bad sign. If the cat is curious and hissing, they are just saying, “Back off; I am not sure if I want you in my space.” It doesn’t mean it won’t be OK eventually. Let them speak cat language – but start over if the hissing is coupled with swatting or other aggressive behavior.
Hissing does not guarantee that the cats will fight, but it does mean the cat is not happy. Therefore, take extra care when planning on introducing the cats. Even if the hissing has stopped, you must always supervise cats when they are brought together for the first time and for the first couple weeks.
How Long Does It Take Cats To Get Used to Each Other?
There is no set timescale on how long it takes cats to get used to each other. It varies depending on their personalities and the cat’s age, with younger kittens and cats typically more inclined to accept newcomers. However, letting them go at their own pace would be best. You might feel confident zooming through the steps of the process above, but don’t be overzealous. The new kitten or cat should have at least a week in their safe room before you move on from that stage.
Can You Introduce Cats Straight Away?
It would help if you didn’t introduce cats straight away. Always give them time to adjust to their surroundings. Your resident cat needs time to adjust because suddenly, their home – or at least parts of it – will start to smell different. Immediately introducing cats can irrevocably damage your chances of getting along, as it is too much for them to handle at once. Gradual introductions are critical.
What Is Scent Swapping for a Cat?
Scent swapping is where you introduce the scents of each cat to the other cat before they have met. You can do this by wiping clean clothes or cloths around the glands of your cats’ faces or letting them sleep on a blanket for a few hours. Then, swap the scented items over so they are left near the other cat and allow them to adjust to the scent of their new sibling.
Reader Tips and Tricks for How To Introduce Cats:
Submission from Floppycat Reader Joel
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 hour’s 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 in 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 too 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 woman 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 wireframes 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.
It’s 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 day’s 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 territorial animals. 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 online from Amazon or Chewy.com. Having the tent means you can now put one cat in the tent and the other 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, unrestricted 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 one 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 six 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 are OK to share too. Sasha acts like a Mama cat with the baby. It’s so sweet.
Thanks again for helping with the transition!”
When you have a new cat or kitten joining your family, it can be tempting to hurry things along. Understandably, you are eager to bring your cats together.
But the importance of patience really can’t be overstated. You should make sure you take your time, as rushing things could cause problems between your cats and prevent them from ever getting along.
Take your time – it will be worth it!
Did This Post Help You Answer How To Introduce Cats? Check Out These Other Posts About Cat Behavior:
Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,