Introducing a new cat into your home is an exciting time, but there are a few things to consider before making the big move. Even though you couldn’t be happier about your new family member, your existing cat may feel differently.
Max was a beauty, a Himalayan Cat with a beautiful coat. He was an senior cat that my niece had to rehome, due to moving to an apartment that didn’t allow pets. Max was a sweetie. He curled up on my lap and purred all the way home, not the least bit bothered by having to ride in a car. I carried him into the house, and let him down on the floor next our cat, Me’owmers.
Big mistake. It was an instant cat fight with hissing, growling, and fur flying! I quickly scooped up Max and took him into a bedroom, and closed the door. I was totally unprepared for the idea that they might not like each other!
Later that night, my son laid in his bed with Me’owmers curled up and purring on his chest. Max had been in a separate room, but he was out now, and was following me around. I went to my son’s door and said something to him, through the closed door, with Max right behind me – and Me’ow went crazy! He attacked my son’s face with the same furry he had attacked Max with earlier. Evidently he could smell or sense that Max was outside the door. Things were not going good.
I have since learned that there are better ways to introduce cats to each other, and to hopefully avoid that kind of aggressive behavior.
If You Have Multiple Cats
If you have multiple cats at home, they will already be used to having other felines around and the introduction process should be much easier. Your new cat, however, may or may not have been around other cats before and may be quite anxious or defensive at first.
If you only have one cat, he may be more territorial and might not take kindly to a new arrival. Regardless of the situation, always take things slow when introducing a new cat to your home.
Pre-Introduction Scent Exchange
First, if it’s at all possible, make sure that both (or all) cats are spayed or neutered. This should help reduce any possible aggression and territorial behavior. (I emphasize “should”, because as with Max and Me’owmers, it did not help. Both of them had been neutered.)
Next, if you can, bring something home that has the new cat’s scent on it, before actually bringing the new cat home. Let your cat smell the object and become familiar with the other’s scent. This will help your cat feel less surprised and more prepared when meeting the new cat. Likewise, try to take something with the scent of your cat to the new cat, so they can get used to each other’s smell before meeting face-to-face.
Start With Separate Spaces
When you first bring your new addition home, give the new cat it’s own space in your home – a room that it can call its own, where it feels safe and comfortable. This could be a spare bedroom or bathroom, or even an extra-large closet. Keep it in its own space for a few days to let it get settled. Be sure to provide food, water, a litter box, a scratching post, and some toys. And be sure to visit the new cat often to provide love, attention and some play time. Allow your resident cat to sniff under the closed door and become familiar with the new arrival.
If your resident cat sleeps with someone, this could be a time when you could close that person’s door, and let your new cat spend some time exploring the rest of the house. But keep in mind that some cats may feel overwhelmed with all the new surroundings, and will just run and hide.
After a few days, you can start letting them see each other face-to-face, but they should always be supervised. Let them approach each other on their own terms and at their own pace. But be ready to separate them quickly, if trouble breaks out. Don’t force them to interact with each other. If they hiss or growl, separate them and try again another day.
Try A Baby or Pet Gate
Some people suggest letting them meet face-to-face by separating the cats with a baby gate or a pet gate between them. This can work, because it’s less of a physical barrier than a door, and it gives the cats more access to each other while still keeping them somewhat separated. But some cats figure out how to jump over the barrier or may become agitated and upset at being confined. If you go this route, only keep them separated this way for short periods of time at first. Gradually extend the amount of time as they get more used to each other.
Once both cats seem comfortable with each other, you can let them interact more freely. Remember to go slowly, and give your cats the time they need to get used to each other.
Provide plenty of food, water, litter boxes, climbing trees, perches, toys, and scratching posts so that both cats have what they need and don’t have to compete for resources. This will help reduce stress and make them feel more comfortable in their home.
It’s important to give the new cat its own food and water bowls, as well as its own litter box. This will help him feel more comfortable and less like it’s intruding on the territory of the other cat. And it will also help prevent fights over resources, and keep the resident cat from feeling like it has to protect its food and water from the new cat.
Hey! That’s my food!
Feeding time is also a good time for cats to start getting used to each other. Set up two separate food and water stations, so both cats can eat in peace. Once your pets are more comfortable with each other, you can begin to gradually move their bowls closer. As they become more accustomed to each other, they may even start eating from the same bowl.
Make sure both cats have access to plenty of places to hide so they can escape if they feel overwhelmed or threatened.
Never punish your cats for fighting or hissing at each other. This will only make them more stressed and less likely to get along. Instead, try to provide positive reinforcement when they behave well around each other (e.g., with food treats or petting).
Using treats, petting, and other forms of positive reinforcement can help your cats learn to associate each other with good things. Over time, this can help them become friends.
Take It Slow
Finally, take things slow. Allow the two cats to gradually get used to each other’s presence. With patience and time, you’ll have two happy and healthy cats living together in harmony.