How to Introduce Two Cats
Introducing two cats to each other is a delicate task that needs lots of patience and care.
It’s a gradual process comprising a number of stages.
The most important of these include the setting up of a sanctuary room, environmental familiarisation and scent swapping.
Here’s a guide to the entire process.
Ensure Enough Equipment
Cats aren’t always sharing types, especially when it comes to feeding bowls and litter boxes.
So in preparing for your new arrival, ensure that there’s enough equipment for everybody.
That means an adequate number of feeding bowls. You’ll also want to have multiple litter boxes.
The same applies to toys and things like scratching posts.
Even though felines often learn to share, it’s best not to push it when introducing a new cat.
Conflict avoidance is absolutely paramount here.
Set Aside a Room
A good starting point when introducing two cats is to set aside a sanctuary room for the newcomer.
Make sure that the room has soft surfaces that are preferably carpeted.
The cat should also have a hiding area or refuge such as its carrier box. Include a litter box, food and water bowls.
Take Cat to Designated Room
Take your new cat straight to its designated room, avoiding contact with the resident feline.
Once in the room, place the carrier box in one corner and open the carrier door.
Don’t try to force the cat to come out. Allow him to get used to his surroundings and exit the carrier in his own time.
You may have to leave the cat alone before he’ll start to explore.
Remember to include the carrier box bedding your newcomer cat has been using so that it has a familiar scent.
This will help with anxiety levels during what will probably be quite a stressful trip.
Close the door to the sanctuary room.
Placate Both Cats
Once the newcomer is secure, attempt to distract the resident cat with an interactive toy or some treats.
Don’t however be surprised if his focus is on the closed door!
If the newcomer is reluctant to leave his litter box or has ensconced himself in one of the hiding places, try to tempt it out with treats or food.
When he’s comfortable enough to explore his sanctuary room, consider moving on to scent-swapping.
Cat scent swapping is a process in which people exchange their pets’ scents to help them adjust to each other.
When introducing new cats, take a sock and gently rub it against his face and around the sides of his mouth.
Then place the sock in the resident’s territory. Next, take another sock and rub down the resident cat, leaving that sock in the sanctuary room.
This will allow both felines to become familiar with each other’s scent in a calm, non-threatening way. Do this several times.
When your resident cat sniffs the sock and doesn’t show feline aggression, reward him with a treat to encourage positive association.
Once the scent swap starts to go well, introduce the newcomer to the rest of your home.
Put the resident in one room and allow the new cat to investigate his new surroundings.
As he does so, he’ll spread his scent as he rubs against objects and walks around.
Provided the resident doesn’t go crazy, it might be time to consider an initial meeting, albeit with a barrier between the two cats.
Separate Both Cats
When you’re ready for the first introduction, create a barrier to keep the cats separate – a baby gate should be fine.
Try to get the cats to establish eye contact and give them both treats. This will help them get used to being in close proximity to one and other.
However, don’t force introductions! Allow your resident cat the freedom to investigate his new housemate as and when he pleases.
This will reduce stress and enable him to get used to the new arrival on his own terms, without feeling that his territory is being compromised.
You should also feed the cats at the same time but at a safe distance from each other.
Remove the Barrier
At this point, if you’re observing positive signals from both animals, then try opening the gate/barrier to let them explore.
Watch their first interactions carefully. If they stare each other down, distract them with something fun like a toy or provide a treat.
The goal is to encourage positive associations for both cats.
If they fight, break the confrontation up by clapping your hands. Don’t try to pick them up during a fight!
When your two cats manage to share their space without conflict, make sure you keep the sanctuary room set up.
This will provide an escape for your newcomer during potentially tense initial encounters.
Keep Feeding Areas and Litter Boxes Separate
Keep litter boxes and feeding areas separate. These spaces are particularly sensitive for felines.
With regards litter boxes, it’s often a good idea to multiple boxes set up around the house.
This will help minimise the chances of the cats crossing each other’s territory.
Evaluate Your Space
Remember to evaluate your home environment to ensure that each cat has enough space.
Hopefully, both cats are by now used to each other’s company. But there’ll probably be a lot of silent negotiation taking place with regards to territory.
So try to prevent them from competing. Ensure that each cat has a perch on which to relax and his own personal space in which to retreat.
Cat trees are especially useful in this regard, particularly those with multiple levels and perches.
These allow your cats to occupy the same area without feeling that their territory is being compromised.
Positive Signs to Look Out For
There are plenty of positive signals to indicate that your cats like or will at least tolerate each other while living under the same roof. Here are some of the most commons indicators.
Cats rub against cats and people because they want attention or they want to play. It can also be a sign of affection. Peaceful co-existence is a real possibility if your newly introduced cats exhibit this kind of behavior.
Cats purr when they are content and happy. They’ll also purr as a means of communicating with other cats. This should most definitely be considered a positive sign.
Gentle Head Butting
This is actually a strong indication that your cats are showing affection to each other. As with rubbing and purring it’s one of the most obvious signs that your introduction is going well.
Grooming Each Other
Another positive signal here – cats groom each other to show that they are friends, to share a moment of intimacy and to maintain their social ties.
Cats often show their affection by touching their noses on things such as humans and other pets. You should therefore be pleased if your cats indulge in this behavior. It’s an encouraging sign that they’ll get along.
Warning Signs to Look Out For
During these early stages, keep an eye out for behavioral warning signs that indicate that your cat is not best pleased.
Keep in mind though, that these signals don’t necessarily mean that your cats won’t be able to co-exist in the long run.
For more detailed information on this subject, you can read our article about warning signs when introducing cats.
Cats hiss when they are scared, angry, or feeling threatened. They may also hiss if they feel like they are being cornered or trapped. Cats typically use their hisses to warn other cats that they are in danger.
Nonetheless, it’s common for newly introduced cats to hiss at each other. So don’t be too disheartened if it happens.
Growling is another sure sign of stress. In our present context it usually means that the cat is attempting to protect itself and its territory from the rival feline.
Flattening of Ears
Cats have a natural tendency to flatten their ears when they are scared, angry and feel threatened.
The reason for this behavior isn’t really known but it’s certainly a warning sign.
Cats have a unique way of fighting off stress and anxiety. They can do this by piloerecting their fur.
Roughly translated, this means that they raise the hair on their backs.
Again, this kind of behavior is not uncommon when two cats are introduced.
A cat’s tail is one of the most expressive parts of its body and is used to communicate with other felines, animals and even us humans!
During introductions look out for a twitch. This will indicate that the cat is feeling threatened.
Hiding and Fleeing
Like humans, cats will hide if they feel threatened or fearful.
Hiding behavior indicates that one cat is very uncomfortable about the other.
It may also be that the cat has taken a passive role to a more domineering rival.
Cats Bite and Attack Each Other
Cats bite each other because they’re trying to establish dominance, defend themselves or escape from a fight.
They also bite out of fear or anger. This behavior is obviously the biggest danger sign of all and is something you’ll want to avoid if at all possible.
How to Introduce a New Kitten to an Older Cat
Introducing a new kitten to an older cat is pretty much the same process that you’d follow when introducing two mature felines.
This means initial confinement for the kitten, scent swapping through bedding or clothing, supervised introductions either side of a barrier and the gradual sharing of space between the two cats.
A Lack of Social Skills
Remember that kittens lack social skills. So once both cats are sharing the same space, you’ll need to supervise their interactions very carefully.
For instance, being constantly followed or pestered by a kitten to play might irk the adult.
This could potentially result in a swift swat upside-the-head, or worse. The young feline will eventually learn restraint.
But until he does, you’ll need to be there to smooth the learning process and possibly prevent injury.
The kitten might also lack feeding etiquette and quite happily raid your older cat’s food and water bowls. Keeping feeding areas separate might not be enough here, though.
You might have to keep them completely out of the youngster’s reach.
How Long Does It Take for Cats to Get Along?
It’s estimated that cats can take from eight to twelve months to get along with each other.
Gender and personality can have an impact as well as the fact that cats are such territorial animals.
However, if they are introduced properly and gradually, there’s a good chance that they can live in harmony.
How Long Does it Take for a Cat to Accept a New Kitten?
Again, temperament can have a big impact here. A lot of the time though, older cats find it easier to accept younger felines.
This is because they don’t feel as threatened, especially when it comes to their territory.
Hopefully the above advice will be of some help. Remember to introduce the new cat into a new environment slowly.
This will allow both to get used to each other. Don’t rush the process and try to be patient. Good luck!