Thinking of getting another cat? Here’s a practical guide explaining how to introduce your cat to other cats.
Generally, cats are solitary animals and prefer being the only pet in the household. If you are considering adding another feline friend to your household, it’s really important to be prepared and know what to expect. We’ve put together a handy guide on introducing cats.
Introducing a new cat or kitten to your home if you already have a cat can be tricky. Take a look at our video for some top tips on introducing cats:
Should I get another cat or kitten?
Like their wild ancestors, cats prefer to live alone. Occasionally two cats may get along well, or littermates may be happy to stay together, but a cat used to being on their own may not appreciate another cat in the house.
You’ll need to think about whether the decision to get another cat or kitten is best for your existing cat (or cats). If you think they are lonely, it’s likely that all they want is a bit of playtime and fuss from you.
You can find out more on what to think about when making the decision to get another cat or kitten in our free guide:
Many cats and new kittens are returned to Cats Protection because they haven’t got on with the adopter's other cat. But with some planning and taking it in stages, you can give them the best chance. Here are our top tips for creating the best possible start to introducing cats or kittens.
Setting up a sanctuary room – a spare bedroom would work well for this. Set it up with everything a cat needs to ensure your new cat has their own space and time to adapt to their new home.
Next, scent swapping – collect scent from one cat using a cloth by wiping it gently around their cheeks or forehead and then give the other cat the cloth. Placing it in the middle of the floor gives them the option to investigate or ignore. This helps them to get used to each other's smell.
Visual interaction – once the cats are no longer reacting to each other’s scent, the next step is using a glass barrier such as patio doors. This allows them to see each other without being able to get to one another. Let the cats have the choice of approaching the glass rather than forcing them. If this goes well, use a mesh barrier or baby gate to allow them to see and smell each other.
Face to face – after plenty of mesh barrier introductions, it’s finally time for the face-to-face meeting. Again, it’s important to allow the cats and kittens the option of meeting and not force them to meet. Both cats need to know where they can exit the situation or where they can get up high. Keep these meetings short and make them a good experience with treats and toys. If things don’t go well, it’s important to ensure you can break any eye contact between the cats, allowing them to retreat from each other. It is important not to rush the stages, but following this guide gives your cats the very best chance of being able to live together. Good luck!
These steps will apply to any cats meeting for the first time, whether that’s two adult cats or an adult cat and a kitten. You can find extra tips below on particular topics.
Sometimes, introducing kittens can be easier than introducing adult cats or introducing an adult cat to a kitten. You should still follow all the steps above, however you may find the time between each step is much shorter.
Generally, there are a few extra tips to follow when introducing new kittens to each other:
rather than introducing two unknown kittens, aim for a sibling pair where possible
consider their age – kittens of the same age are more likely to get along. They might also find it easier to get along when they are still fairly young
your attention – make sure you play with both kittens so they don’t feel like they’re missing out on your attention
resources – providing enough resources can help reduce any competition
Introducing a kitten to an adult cat
While a kitten might be happy to meet your adult cat, your adult cat might not feel the same way!
Sometimes introducing a kitten to an adult cat can be easier than introducing two adult cats. This is because your cat may not see them as much of a threat. Also, while kittens are young, their individual personalities are still developing, which means it is less likely that there will be a personality clash at the point of introduction. Cats go through social maturity between 18 months and four years, so can grow apart during this time.
Along with following our basic steps above, when you introduce a kitten to an adult cat you should:
be careful with your barriers – kittens may be able to slip through gaps that are too large, so ensure this is not possible to maintain initial peace
tire your kitten out – your older cat may not appreciate a kitten constantly wanting to play when all they want to do is nap. Make sure you play with your kitten to tire them out so they are more likely to leave your older cat alone
consistency for your adult cat – make sure you still give them lots of fuss and attention if they are used to it to keep a consistent, predictable routine
give them space – providing places your adult cat can reach but your kitten can’t, will give them a great place to escape to if the kitten gets a bit much for them
be mindful of resources (food bowls, beds, litter trays etc) – you should have one of everything per cat in your household, plus a spare. Make sure your adult cat’s food is somewhere the kitten can’t get to
feed them apart – your cat and kitten are likely to be on different types of food to suit their age. It may be better to try and feed them apart as this will also stop them stealing from each other’s bowls
Introducing adult cats
You should follow our basic steps to introduce two adult cats. It’s really important to take it as slow as each cat needs and go back a step if you move on but they show signs that they weren’t ready. You should read our guide on cat body language so you know how to tell if your cat is unhappy with something.
When introducing adult cats, you should also:
think about their personalities – if the two cats are polar opposites, chances are they will clash more (for example, if one likes to play all the time but the other is a bit of a couch potato at home)
In any household with more than one cat, there is the potential for bullying. It's important to spot the signs and take action so neither cat becomes stressed.
Signs of cat bullying include:
claiming resting places or access to owners by physically pushing another cat away
pouncing on the other cat while they are asleep
blocking hallways and doors, sitting directly in front of the cat flap to deny entry/exit
blocking access to an indoor litter tray
emotionally blocking resources so one cat feels that they can’t use them despite the other cat not standing next to it (this is much more subtle than physical blocking and harder to spot!)
How to combat bullying if you have more than one cat:
provide all ‘cat resources’ – feeding areas, water bowls, litter trays, beds, toys, scratching posts, high perches and private places – in the formula ‘one per cat plus one extra, positioned in different locations’ to limit competition
provide dry food for ‘grazing’ throughout the day or divide wet food into frequent smaller meals to avoid competition at set mealtimes. Position the bowls away from each other in different rooms ideally so the cats don’t feel in competition
provide indoor litter trays, even if the cats have access outside
provide two separate entry and exit points to your house in different locations, for example cat flaps, doors or windows, to avoid the risk of guarding or blocking and to make sure even the most timid cat can get indoors and outdoors without trouble
How long will it take for my cat to get used to a new cat or kitten?
There’s no way of knowing how long your existing cat will take to get used to a new cat or kitten in the house.
While some cats adapt much faster to a new kitten rather than another adult cat, others may decide they don’t want another cat in the house at all. The whole process could take weeks, but it’s important to go at your cat’s pace as rushing introductions could mean they never get along.
Make sure you can read your cat’s body language as this will help you to recognise if they are comfortable with your new cat or kitten and vice versa.