We are a nation divided into dog lovers and cat lovers. It turns out many cats are fighters and not lovers. Cats don’t always get on, even young kittens, and introducing a new one can be a long, loud process. All the experts say the same thing though: Don’t rush it. Expect a month or two months before things settle.
On the day you get your new cat, you should keep the animals completely separate. This is probably the hardest part, because young cats are quick and curious – playing goalkeeper as a kitten/young cat flies past every time you go into or out of a room is exhausting work.
The first stage of their integration is to introduce them by scent alone. One suggestion is to get two soft socks and gently stroke one on each cat. Then place the sock in the other cat’s room and monitor their response. If he hisses, or if he seems agitated, remove the sock. Then, in a couple of days, you can reintroduce it. This might sound like the concept for a Channel 5 dating show, but scent is extremely important to cats. They often rub their scent glands all over us, and the house, to make them feel safe. Next, you mingle the scents of both cats on one sock and rub it on the furniture at cat height so they get used to living together.
Once relaxed, the next stage is for them to see each other, but not be able to get at each other. You can do this through a mesh or glass door or childproof gate. Attach toys to either end of a string, so both can play. The idea is to get them to associate seeing each other with activities they enjoy, such as eating and playing.
Then, once they’re happy enough facing each other, the final stage is to remove the barrier. Again, keep both occupied with toys and food. If one of them hisses, just redirect them to a toy, then lead them out of the room. The ideal situation is that when they’re eating, they’re able to look up at each other and go back to their food. This last stage is done in short bursts, introducing them for a few minutes at a time, when they look relaxed, end it before they have a chance to get agitated.
It’s not a certainty your cats will become best friends, but there are a few ways to increase the chances of success. Satisfying their environmental and social needs can make them happier cats and happy cats will be more relaxed, then there’s a better chance of having a good relationship. If one of them hisses at the other or misbehaves, don’t punish them. Cats can hear a negative intonation, but don’t know what it means. Instead, reward them for being good and calm. Cats need to know that every thing they require is in abundant supply. The resident cat will have lost some of his territory and some of your time, which are both important resources. So to help, make sure you have three litter trays and food and water bowls, one each plus a spare.
Getting two siblings at the same time can be easier than introducing strangers. If you’re adopting, ask to see which ones are playing with each other, a bonded pair. Gender can also matter. Sometimes a male and a female will get on better. Generally, the opposite sex won’t be seen as a threat, but obviously all cats compete for territory. In the end, it depends on temperament. The extremes would be one confident cat and one fearful. In this situation, one can end up being bullied.
Increase mental activity too. An interesting, jumbled house can keep your pets stimulated. Minimalist houses are awful for cats. The more you give them to do, the more places to go and hide, the better. There is also a chance the cats will not become friends, but will just learn to reluctantly coexist.