Introducing cats to cats: some tips

There have been many benefits of having more than one cat, provided they are well matched and have plenty of space to live together.

Cats will keep each other company while their owners are at work, they will be more likely to exercise through play together, and provide mental stimulation for one another. Cats housed together have more opportunity to ‘be cats,’ by socialising and playing with each other.

They will also be able to groom each other and get to areas they can’t reach on their own. Cats that have other cats for company when their owners are out are also less likely to engage in destructive behaviour out of boredom such as destroying wallpaper or rooting in the dustbin.

There are many factors that can influence whether two cats will get along, and there are no reliable guidelines for deciding the best matches.

Generally speaking, it is easier to introduce a kitten to an adult than two adults together. Cats of the opposite sex can tend to get on together better, though this isn’t to say that two males or two females can’t get on together either. The key is the introduction process. With any cats, introductions will be much easier if the cats are neutered.

The individual personalities of the cats are more important than any other factor, including age or sex. For example, cats that have grown up in the company of other cats are more likely to adjust well, than one that has lived alone its whole life. So it is important to try to learn about that personality of the new cat as well as your own when picking a friend for him/her.

As mentioned before, time and patience are key when introducing cats, it could take as little as one or two weeks, to many months for your felines to make friends, so don’t give up too quickly. It’s vital not to try and rush things, as the first impression the new cat makes with the resident cat can be critical.

If the cats instantly display aggression at the first meeting this can set the tone for the rest of the relationship. This is why it’s important to keep the cats separate initially and give them time to get used to the other’s presence before allowing them to meet face to face, which can trigger territorial instincts. It is better to introduce animals to each other gradually so that neither cat becomes afraid or aggressive.

To begin with your new cat will need its own bed, bowls and litter tray. Your new cat will need to be set up in its own room and kept separate while they settle in. For the first day allow the cat to settle into its new surroundings. 

The next step will be to allow the new cat to explore the rest of the house without the resident cat around. Put the resident cat in the new cats room and allow them to each become familiar with the other’s scent before they actually meet. For the initial introduction period the cats should be able to smell and hear each other but not see them.

Once the cats get used to each others presence begin putting their food bowls closer and closer to the door that separates them, so that they can learn that coming together, even if they cant see each other results in a pleasant experience (i.e. eating).

Keep the cats in separate but adjoining areas of the house, continuing to swap bedding and scents every day. After about a week, assuming you have seen no signs of aggression at the door (i.e. hissing, growling etc.) you can open the door a crack when you feed them and wedge it so they can be used to eating together.

The next stage happens when you are confident that the cats seem comfortable in each others presence. You can open the door and allow the cats to meet properly for the first time.

Always supervise these introductions carefully. It is useful to bring the cats together at a time when they are relatively calm, such as after a meal or a strenuous play session.

To boost the confidence of the resident cat be sure to praise and show affection more than normal. This is because, of the two, the resident cat is more likely to feel affronted by the new intruder. You also want to make friends with your new cat, but in the beginning this is best done when the resident cat cant see you.

During the first meetings some hissing, spitting and growling are to be expected, but as long as this doesn’t escalate it’s relatively harmless. If you anticipate a fight throw a towel or blanket over each cat, wrapping the blanket around the cat before picking it up. Separate the cats until they have calmed down and try again or go back a step in the introduction process.

Begin with short meeting periods, and as the cats become more familiar with each other longer periods are allowed. Until you are confident that the cats will not fight it is best to keep them separate whilst you are out of the house.

Pay attention to the layout of your home. Make sure there are plenty of hiding spots for your cats. Some like to sit up high, and some more nervous cats tend to hide under or behind things, so make sure that you provide spots on floor level as well. Place bowls and litter boxes out in the open so cats do not feel trapped accessing these resources.

Remember…. All successful introductions require time and patience. Providing plenty of both means everyone will live happily ever after.