Introducing a New Cat Can Be Tricky so Follow This Guide for the Best Results
Are you thinking of adopting a new cat but you are not sure how your existing furry friend will react? Cats are independent and are most often content living alone. They are not necessarily looking for a ‘friend’ as they are not social creatures. They can however cohabit happily with other cats if the conditions are right.
Introducing cats to each other in your home may run very smoothly. You just need to give it some thought prior to making the introductions. Choosing the right companion for your cat is very important. In this article, I will suggest strategies to introduce a new cat to your household. I will also give you pointers on compatibility between cats.
Cats can be social with other cats but with limitations. It’s important that you do your research and that you seek professional advice before introducing a new cat to your existing furry friend.
Cats that have been brought up together from kittenhood are more likely to keep being social with each other, even if they are not related to one another.
Related kittens that have spent their socialization period together are more likely to live peacefully in adulthood. The socialization period of kittens is between 2 and 7 weeks of age. This is the sensitive period when kittens need to be exposed to as many positive experiences as possible in order to develop long-term developmental benefits.
Cats that are introduced during adulthood are more likely to be rivals and to compete.
It can be easier to introduce a kitten to an adult cat, as opposed to an adult cat being introduced to another adult cat.
Mother and kitten don’t necessarily get on with each other once the weaning process has finished so be cautious of keeping any offspring.
Personality is a big factor when it comes to introducing cats together. It’s best not to introduce a very confident outgoing adult cat to an already timid adult one for example.
It Takes Time
I advise that you introduce new and existing cats very gradually over time. Keep the new cat in a separate room for a few days with food, water, litter tray and a bed. It gives a chance for your new cat to get settled in his new environment. It will also give you the opportunity to introduce the scent of the new cat to your existing cat, and vice-versa.
Scent is Important
Scent is probably the most important aspect of cat recognition. Introduce existing items of bedding or toys to your new cat so that he can familiarize himself to the household cat’s scent. He will, in turn, apply his scent to the toys and bedding. After a few days, swap items again so that your existing cat can get used to the scent of the new cat.
You can also stroke your new and existing cat alternatively so that they can gradually get used to the scents. You can also use a glove for stroking and leave the glove in with each cat for a few days. Give them time to get used to each others scent. This step could take a few days, or even a few weeks if you feel this is necessary.
Pheromones Can Help
I would advise to use synthetic calming pheromones in the form of a plug-in diffuser to help the new cat settle in his room. Feliway is a very good product that I have used many times at home or the vets. It really helps creating a sense of relaxation. It mimics the feel-good pheromones of cats and helps them feel more relaxed.
The next step is to visually introduce your cats. Start from a distance at first, for example each cat at opposite ends of a long corridor. Give treats to each cat individually during the process as it may give a positive feeling to each cat. Then put the new cat back into its room. You can repeat this process many times, gradually increasing the time that they can see each other, as long as you can see that each cat is enjoying himself.
If you see any of the cats growling, flattening ears, looking anxious, then the cats need to be separated immediately. You then need to repeat the process from a greater distance and continue swapping scents in between.
If you are limited in space, you can use a wooden and chicken wired frame into the recess of a doorway with open door. This will permit visual encounter but prevent any physical altercations.
Time to Get Closer
Once both cats seem comfortable during visual encounters, you can allow physical interactions. Make sure that both cats can get away quickly or hide easily at any point, and don’t force them to interact with each other. 1
During the introductions and thereafter, make sure that they each have their feeding and drinking stations, away from each other. They also need to have a litter tray each, and ideally an extra one somewhere else in the house. Keep the existing cat’s routines and resources as they were before the introductions so as not to create any disturbances.
A Cage Can be Used for Introducing a Kitten
If you are introducing a kitten to your existing cat, you can use a cage with plenty of room for a soft bed, toys, food, water and litter tray where your kitten can play and eat happily without jumping on your other cat. The cage’s dimensions should be at least 150cm x 60cm x 60cm.
When you visually introduce the kitten to your cat, keep the kitten in the cage and make sure that they are both distracted, either with treats or toys. Keep the cage door shut. Allow your existing cat to explore the cage, as long as there is no hissing or signs of anxiety.
Introducing a new cat to your existing furry friend can cause a dilemma, but if you take every step to allow your cats to get used to each other, it can truly be possible and peaceful. Consider compatibility issues prior to choosing a new cat or kitten. Remember that not all cats will become best friends. The goal is for your cats to tolerate each other and not be stressed in each other’s presence. Good luck!
- Finka, L. (2016) Managing stress in cats: single vs. multi-cat housing – is it that simple? Feline Focus, 2016; 2(4): 121-128.