Introducing another Adult Cat or Kitten to your Cat
Updated: October 3, 2023
For those enamored with feline companions, the thought of not one, but two cats, is nothing short of a dream come true. While your heart may swell with anticipation, it’s crucial to consider your current cat’s perspective on expanding the family circle. Introducing a new cat into your household can pose challenges, but the benefits are equally noteworthy.
If your schedule keeps you away from home often, the addition of a companion can alleviate your cat’s bouts of loneliness. For those with high-energy feline friends, a playmate can redirect their vigor away from potentially destructive activities. Perhaps your motivation lies in providing a loving home for a cat in need.
Irrespective of your rationale, the groundwork you lay before the introduction is paramount to fostering a harmonious relationship. Introducing a new cat without proper preparation significantly diminishes the odds of a successful bond. Moreover, the sudden arrival of a new member can instigate undue stress for both cats.
Investing a small portion of time beforehand to ready your space for a new cat is a prudent choice. Ideally, this addition will grace your life for years to come. Thus, dedicating time initially to ensure a secure and tranquil transition is a valuable investment.
Make a Smart Choice
When considering a new feline addition to your household, it’s vital to find a cat that complements your current setup. For instance, introducing a high-energy kitten to a household with an older, nap-loving cat may lead to unnecessary commotion. Similarly, if you have a young adult cat seeking companionship and play, an older solitary cat might not yield the desired connection.
Granted, circumstances may dictate that you can’t always handpick the cat you bring home. When offering a haven to a specific cat in need, you give your best to foster a harmonious relationship. Nevertheless, if you have the liberty to choose a cat for your family, it’s prudent to factor in your existing cat’s temperament and energy level before sealing the deal. This thoughtful consideration sets the stage for a smoother integration of your new feline companion into your household.
Allow exploration of each cat’s area
If both cats show no negative reactions to each other’s scent on the bedding and rubbed areas, you can take an additional step. The resident cat could be temporarily confined, for example, overnight in the owner’s bedroom, giving the new cat the chance to inspect the resident cat’s area of the home.
However, this confinement should only be implemented if it’s unlikely to cause any distress or frustration for the resident cat. On the flip side, the new cat could also be temporarily relocated from its room and confined elsewhere to allow the resident cat to explore the space. It’s advisable to consider this only when the new cat is completely at ease, which may not be advisable until several days after the initial introduction.
If your household has a history of being a multi-cat family, your cat is more inclined to readily accept a new addition. However, if she’s been the sole feline in the household her whole life, the transition might not be as seamless. Similarly, if the cat you’re introducing to your family originates from a multi-cat environment, she’s likely to adapt to companionship more swiftly compared to one who’s been accustomed to a solitary life.
Try the Sock Method
Cats rely heavily on scent for communication. A useful technique to help your felines acclimate to each other is known as the “sock method.” Cats have scent glands on their faces that emit pheromones.
Gently rub a sock across your new cat’s face and strategically place it where your existing cat is likely to come across it. Repeat the same process with your existing cat. This gives both cats the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the scent of the other in a secure environment, and at their own pace.
Gradual Introductions are Best
Even if your cat is highly sociable and you’re sure the introductions will go smoothly, it’s wise to proceed with patience and spread out the introductions over several days. Hastening this process only leads to undue stress and heightens the chances of the cats becoming agitated with each other.
Prepare for Success
Before bringing your new cat home, take the time to prepare a dedicated space for her. This room should have a door to separate both cats, ensuring a controlled introduction. Equip the room with all the essentials for her comfort and safety, including a litter box, food and water dishes, a scratch post, and cozy sleeping options.
Keep your existing cat out of this area to allow the new cat to acclimate in peace. Remember, she’s not only adjusting to a new feline companion but also an entirely new environment, which can be quite stressful depending on her disposition.
Offer hiding spots and high perches, as many cats find solace in them. A room with natural light, or better yet, a window for her to gaze out of, can have a soothing effect.
When you first bring your new cat home, place her directly in her designated room. Depending on her temperament, give her some time to explore on her own before attempting to interact. Allocate daily quality time for play, cuddling, and quiet companionship. These interactions foster a bond and help her feel more at ease in her new surroundings. Playtime is especially vital for a young, energetic cat, as it prevents potentially destructive behavior due to pent-up energy.
While engaging with your new companion, keep an eye out for signs of stress like excessive aggression, hiding, loss of appetite, or constant vocalization. If these signs persist beyond a few days or if your cat stops eating altogether, consult your veterinarian.
Minor signs of stress are normal in such a significant transition. Allow time for your cat to acclimate before introducing her to the existing cat. Wait until she appears relaxed and is eating well in her new space.
Once your new cat has settled, initiate low-key introductions. Both cats are aware of each other’s presence at this point but have yet to meet. Swap their living spaces, ensuring there’s no overlap during the transition. This allows both cats to familiarize themselves with each other’s scents without direct contact.
While your new cat explores the house, your existing cat can spend time in the designated room. Give your new addition the freedom to investigate, sniff, nap, and play.
After a period, switch the cats back to their original spots. Repeat this process over a few days to help your new cat become accustomed to the scent of the existing cat and her new home. Simultaneously, your existing cat will have the opportunity to acclimate to the scent of her new family member.
Physical access but supervised contact
This next phase should only proceed once the cats are completely at ease with seeing each other through a barrier. The removal or opening of the barrier should be done quietly, preferably when both cats are engrossed in a pleasant activity like play or feeding. Never coerce the cats to come together, and strive to observe passively. The primary objective is for the cats to feel at ease in each other’s presence; they don’t necessarily have to be engaged in physical interaction.
If there are any indications of negativity or distress between the cats, promptly reintroduce the barrier to separate them and revert to the previous stage. However, if the cats seem comfortable and relaxed in each other’s company, supervised physical access should be encouraged as frequently as possible.
Warning Signs of Aggression and Stress
Expecting your cats to instantly become best friends might be too optimistic. While some initial disagreements are typical, full-blown fights are a concern. Additionally, if one cat consistently intimidates or bullies the other, it can lead to significant stress for the bullied cat.
Recognizing the signs of aggression and stress is crucial. If you notice that your cats are displaying more than mild levels of stress or aggression during the adjustment period, consulting your vet for potential medication to help ease the introductory phase could be beneficial.
Indicators that your cat might be under stress encompass excessive grooming, scratching, increased vocalization, loss of appetite, and using the bathroom outside the litterbox. On the other hand, signs of excessive aggression include biting, striking with front paws, growling, and engaging in physical fights.
It’s essential to understand that while some cats may act aggressively to assert dominance, others may do so out of fear. Just because one cat displays visible aggression doesn’t necessarily mean she’s the primary instigator. She might be reacting to subtler aggressive behavior from the other cat.
Cats are intricate beings, and discerning their motivations can be challenging. A degree of conflict is normal; occasional hissing or swatting can be part of the process as they acquaint themselves with one another.
However, if fights outnumber peaceful interactions, if one cat consistently takes on the role of aggressor, or if either cat displays signs of anxiety, consulting your vet is wise. They can provide guidance on steps to facilitate a smoother transition to a two-cat household and ensure that the behavior isn’t linked to any underlying health issues.
Making the Introductions
After a few days, you might feel eager to bring your cats face-to-face. If both cats are eating well and appear nonchalant about exploring each other’s space, it’s likely time for introductions. Begin by gently opening the door to your new cat’s room just an inch or so.
Ensure the door is ajar enough for them to see each other but not wide enough for potential conflict. You may need to stand by with your hand on the doorknob, and that’s perfectly fine. Your aim is to observe their behavior.
If they exhibit curiosity and remain relatively calm, you can proceed to fully open the door. However, if there’s excessive spitting, arching, hissing, or signs of distress, gently close the door and try again in a day or so.
Remember, aggressive behavior often stems from anxiety, not genuine aggression. So, if either cat seems unhappy, it’s important to slow down the introduction process. If you don’t see improvement in the next couple of attempts, consider seeking assistance.
With a helper, each of you can handle one cat in the same room. Engage with your respective cats, offering treats, playing, or engaging in activities they enjoy. Over a series of short and pleasant sessions, gradually move from opposite sides of the room to being side by side.
Make these interactions enjoyable and rewarding. This is the opportune time to share special treats reserved just for these moments.
Free access without supervision for short periods
Once the “physical access but supervised contact” stage progresses without any negative behavior between the cats, short periods of free, unsupervised access (a few minutes) can be allowed. This free access should be encouraged as often as possible. However, outside of these times, the new cat should still be kept separate.
If positive interactions are observed between the new cat and the resident cat, they can be kept together for increasingly longer periods, though always ensuring they have access back to their own designated areas of the house. At this point, it’s crucial that each cat has their own resources in separate locations, distinct from each other and from the resources of other cats in the household. This helps prevent feelings of competition between them.
As time progresses and if things are going smoothly, the separate room can be permanently left open, allowing the new cat and resident cat(s) to come and go freely. In some instances where conflicts arise, a separate room or restricted area (e.g., accessed through microchip-operated cat flaps) can be made available for individuals that get along well. This allows them to access the entire environment while still having a retreat in the absence of cats they may conflict with. Providing additional vertical spaces like shelves, walkways, and perches can aid in giving each cat their own territory. It’s crucial to keep monitoring, as cat relationships can evolve over time and in different contexts, and adjustments should be made accordingly.
If you encounter difficulties in successfully completing this introduction process or if there’s a breakdown in an initially positive introduction, seeking professional assistance is a wise step. Consult your vet, who can offer advice or refer you to a qualified behaviorist.
How do I know if my current cat is ready for a new companion?
Observing your cat’s behavior is key. If they seem generally comfortable in their environment and with other cats, they might be open to a new addition.
Should I get a kitten or an adult cat as a companion?
This depends on your current cat’s personality and preferences. Some cats get along better with kittens, while others may prefer the company of an adult cat.
How should I prepare my home for a new cat?
Clear any potential hazards, provide separate feeding and litter areas, and create safe spaces for each cat to retreat to if needed.
What’s the best way to introduce two cats to each other?
Gradual introductions are crucial. Start by allowing them to scent-swap through bedding, and then progress to short, supervised meetings in a neutral space.
What if my cats don’t get along at first?
Patience is key. It’s normal for there to be some initial tension. Monitor their interactions, and if there are any signs of aggression, separate them and try again later.
How can I prevent territorial disputes between my cats?
Provide plenty of vertical spaces (like cat trees or shelves) and ensure each cat has their own resources (food, water, litter box) to minimize competition.
Should I intervene if they have a minor disagreement?
It’s best to let them work it out unless it escalates into a serious fight. In that case, separate them and consult with a veterinarian or animal behaviorist.
How long does it usually take for cats to adjust to each other?
The adjustment period can vary widely. It might take anywhere from a few days to several weeks or even months for cats to fully accept each other.
Introducing a new cat to your household is a thoughtful process that requires careful consideration and planning. While the prospect of having multiple feline companions can be exciting, it’s important to recognize that both your current cat and the newcomer may need time to adjust.
Taking the time to assess your cat’s readiness for a new companion, choosing the right age and personality match, and preparing your home accordingly are crucial steps. Patience is key during the introduction phase, allowing the cats to gradually acclimate to each other’s presence.