Introducing a new cat into your pet family can be a tricky, complicated process. Cats are territorial creatures, protective of their surroundings and hesitant to change. Altering your pet’s tried-and-true routine can make her a grumpy puss who will growl and hiss at intruders. Let your resident cat adjust to a new addition slowly and gradually. While some cats may never learn to live peacefully with others, by following a few simple steps, you can help ease the transitional growing pains for yourself and your cats.
- Find a cat to balance your current cat’s personality. Cats tend to get along better with cats who have similar temperaments. If you’ve got a couch potato who loves to nap, she might resist the playful antics of a young kitten. If your cat is active and likes to hunt, she’s more likely to accept another active, outgoing feline.
- Before bringing the new cat home, prepare a safe room for him. Equip the safe room with a litter box, food and water. Scratching posts, toys and a bed will also help him feel comfortable.
Use a safe room
- Keep the new cat in a carrier and walk him directly into the safe room before letting him out. If your new cat hides most of the day, he needs a few days to adjust to his new environment. Wait until he’s comfortable before beginning any introductions.
- As much as possible, keep the resident cat’s routine the same. Too many deviations from her schedule will cause unnecessary discomfort and stress.
Introduce scents and smells
- Teach the animals to associate each other’s smell with positive, pleasurable experiences. Feed or give treats to both cats near the door of the safe room. If either cat seems uncomfortable, move their food bowls farther away. For the first few days, try to gradually move their bowls closer.
- Continue to expose the cats to each other’s smells. Brush both with the same brush, or rub them with a blanket or towel to coat it with both scents. You can also try placing a towel with the new cat’s smell on your resident cat’s bed or favorite napping spot.
- Switch their locations. Confine your resident cat to the safe room and let the new cat explore your house. Besides allowing them to learn each other’s scents without meeting, this step also helps the new cat become familiar with your home.
Meet face to face
- Once the cats are no longer hissing and growling at the door, let them see each other for the first time. This works best when the cats are calm, so give calming treats or add Bach Rescue Remedy to their water. Place a tall gate or screen as a barrier between the dividing door. Make sure the screen or gate is tall enough to prevent the cats from jumping over it. Use two baby gates or screens if necessary. If you don’t have access to this kind of barrier, prop the door open with doorstops just wide enough for them to see each other. When there’s a person on either side of the door to assist, place the cats a few feet away from the barrier and toss treats at them.
- When you think they’re ready, let the cats spend time together under your supervision. If either behaves aggressively, distract them by loudly clapping your hands, tossing a pillow nearby or squirting them with water. If you need to separate them, pick up one of the cats with a towel or blanket and place the new cat back in his safe room. If the fighting continues, you may need to go back to earlier steps.
- If they’re getting along, let the cats play with a feather toy together, but be careful to keep their attention focused on the toy.
- Continue to allow the cats more supervised time together until you’re confident they can be left at home alone.