This issue is very common – in fact, problems arising from the stress of introducing a new cat to existing cats are some of the most common reasons for cats being returned to Cats Protection adoption centres after homing.
Introducing a new cat into a household is often stressful for both the existing cat and new cat, so the process has to be carried out slowly and carefully. Cats can be social with other cats but only as part of an established ‘social group’. They are most likely to form close relationships with other cats when they ‘grow up’ together, or where a relationship is developed over a long time – cats that are unfamiliar are usually seen as a threat.
Resident cats can be very stressed by the sudden introduction of an unfamiliar cat and might react with aggression, hiding away or avoiding the new cat. Other signs of stress might include urine spraying or over-grooming.
When introducing your new cat to your existing cat, keep the process slow and gradual. Firstly, set up a room for your new cat that is not one of the ‘core’ areas for the existing cat. This room can be set up with a litter tray, food, water bowl, comfy bed, toys and a scratching post and establishes a safe place for your new cat to get used to, as well as a ‘core’ part of his territory. It is important for your new cat to relax into his surroundings and get to know you, before facing the challenge of meeting your other cat.
Cats rely on scent for communication and identification. The introduction process should start with the ‘swapping’ of scent between the cats, by exchanging food bowls, toys and bedding. Through this process, the presence of the other cat should be associated with something positive, such as attention, play or a food treat. Only when the cats tolerate the scent of the other cat should you be able to introduce them to each other.
Be prepared, integration can take anything from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the age, character and previous experiences of your cats. Taking your time will make it worthwhile in the end.