Introducing Cats

The first step in creating harmony between your new cat and the existing cats in your household is to pick the best possible new cat for your household and lifestyle. All cats are individuals and some may merge into your household better than others. An anxious cat is much more likely to behave aggressively than a cat that is comfortable and relaxed. If you use patience in the initial stages of the introduction process you will increase your chances of a harmonious household.

Choosing a new cat.

Cats that have previously lived with another cat are more likely to get along with other cats than a cat who was an “only child.” The shelter may not have the information on if the cat lived with other cats, so you should ask them about how the cat behaves around other cats in the shelter.

Think about the things that the cats already in your home like to do. If they like to play getting another playful cat is okay. If your cats prefer to lie in the sun all day you should look at adopting a cat who has similar habits. A young kitten or adolescent is probably not a good idea for a household with an older or grumpy cat.

Reducing the likelihood of problems

Even if the cat you are adopting is good with other cats there is always the possibility of problems when introducing strangers to each other. There are several steps that you can take to reduce the likelihood of problems.

  • Before bringing your new cat home create a separate “territory” for her. This area should be equipped with food, water, a scratching post, a litter tray, access to natural sunlight and comfortable resting places.

  • Your other cats should have their own separate territory. Make certain that both areas contain multiple hiding places so the cats can easily retreat if necessary.

  • Use large cardboard boxes with holes cut in two sides .The second hole allows the cat to escape if cornered by another cat. The boxes will come into play once you start allowing the cats to interact directly. Introduce the boxes first so that the cats become accustomed to using them. Cats like to hide in high places so remove fragile items from shelves or block access to the shelves.

  • Place your new cat in his space as soon as he arrives home. Spend a minimum of one hour with him and the other cats in the household every day. Play with them regularly.

  • Watch them closely for signs of stress or anxiety, such as hiding, aggressive behaviour, decreased appetite, and excessive vocalisation. If you see any of these signs, your cat could be suffering from stress. If any cat is showing mild signs of stress give them more time to acclimate to the new situation. If the signs persist for more than several days or if your cat stops eating, consult with your veterinarian.

  •  If all the cats appear comfortable in their spaces place the new cat in a different room equipped with the same amenities.  After two days allow your other cats to enter the new cat’s original territory. This will allow each cat to become accustomed to each other’s scent in a nonthreatening way. Allow the cats to acclimate to their new areas for one day.

  • Start allowing the cat’s closer access to each other by placing them on either side of a closed door so that they can smell each other directly.

  • The next step is to allow them to see each other through a baby gate or a door that is propped open a few centremeters. If the cats are interested in each other and seem comfortable allow them to meet. Open the door to the rooms between the cats and observe them closely.

  •  If any cat shows signs of significant stress or aggression separate them again and introduce them more slowly. 

  • Begin again by allowing them to sniff each other through a door. If the cats are not hissing at the door bring each cat into a large room, on opposite sides. It is good to have two people so that the cats can be kept on separate sides of the room and played with or given treats. If you are alone place the more comfortable cat in a cat carrier with a bowl of canned cat food to keep him occupied and play with the other cat. Over multiple sessions gradually bring the cats closer to each other. Over time the cats will learn that they are not a serious threat to each other.

Cat pheromones

Another way to introduce cats to each other’s scent is by using their own pheromones. Cats have glands in their cheeks that produce pheromones. When your cat rubs their cheek against a wall, chair or your leg, they produce pheromones which are chemical substances that can help to relieve anxiety and provide information about the cat that is producing those pheromones. Exposing each cat to towels that were gently rubbed on the new cat’s cheeks is a good way to introduce them.

© 2013 PFL Inc