Introducing other cats

Learn how to introduce cats to each other with our video

Take control of the introduction

Cats don't always like sharing their homes and resources with other cats. You can help cats get along by controlling the introduction process and making sure that both cats have everything they need to feel safe and content.

How to introduce two cats

Introduce new cats very slowly. This improves the chances of the cats perceiving each other as being in the same social group, or at least peacefully cohabiting. Forcing cats together too quickly can lead to lifelong conflict and stress that is difficult to resolve. First impressions are very important.

You can help cats get along by providing plentiful resources in a variety of places to reduce conflict and competition.

Feline pheromone diffusers, such as Feliway, may help to make the cats feel more relaxed. You can also swap scents using the process outlined below.

Start the introduction process

The first thing to do is to make sure that your existing resident cat can keep their usual food, water and litter tray locations, as well as their usual routines, as much as possible.

Give the new cat their own room, if possible.

Make sure each cat has:

  • food, water and litter tray. Keep the water away from their food, and away from their litter tray
  • somewhere to hide. Cats love to hide, especially when they're settling in
  • a viewing platform - this helps cats feel safe and see what's going on. They might use a high wadrobe, a shelf or a window sill. Ensure easy access by providing a step or a stool
  • somewhere to sleep, such as a cat bed, blankets or a cardboard box
  • toys - although a new cat may not feel like playing while they're settling in
  • a scratching post, ideally placed near where the cats sleep as many cats like to scratch and stretch after waking

Swapping scents to introduce new cats

Before introducing the cats physically, introduce them to each other's scent. Swap scents by:

  • stroking each cat with a separate clean, soft cloth and dabbing it around your home and furniture or leaving the cloth in the cat's environment for them to sniff and investigate
  • repeat the process until the cats show no reaction to the smell
  • if the cats avoid the smell, the scent swapping stage is going to take longer

First introductions

The next step is to allow the cats to see each other, but not touch. You could try using a glass or mesh door between the cats so they can approach or hide as they choose.

When the cats seem ready for a full introduction, remember that:

  • both cats will need an escape route and higher spots such as shelves
  • start in a fairly large room so the cats can keep their distance
  • supervise the cats when they are together
  • cats can't be rushed, so take your time and be prepared to go back a step if necessary
  • introducing cats for short periods during feeding times can reinforce positive associations
  • gradually start to fuss or play with the cats for a short time so their attention is on you, before putting food down
  • if the cats tolerate this, gradually increase the time they spend together

Long-lasting cat relationships

It can take from a day to many weeks for cats to tolerate each other. Taking things slowly and step-by-step is important. Unfortunately some cats will never get on - as they are solitary creatures, some will never happily live with other cats.

The cats are unlikely to fight, but have a blanket ready just in case you need to separate them. Be careful to avoid being scratched or bitten as the cats may be quite excited. Don't chase or shout at them as this will only lead them to associate each other with bad things.

As the cats become more comfortable in each other's company, try giving them food to encourage them to come closer. Choose somewhere where they can easily escape. Placing an object, such as a chair, between their feeding bowls may help them feel less threatened. Over time you can move their bowls closer together but do not place them side by side.

Reintroducing cats after a break

If your cats are apart for any reason, they may not be recognised as part of the same social group when they return. So if your cat has to stay over at the vets, or visit a cattery, you may need to reintroduce your cat, or give them time to pick up the smells of home when they return.

This effect is greater when the cat is away from home for longer, and the reintroduction process may take longer.

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