Cats are territorial animals that prefer to hunt and explore in their territory. So when you try to introduce a new member to a well-established cat territory, you cannot just simply put the two cats in a room off guard. This is why the introduction process should be done gradually, taking one step at a time. One cat is different from another. Cats who are usually tolerant with other cats and don’t try to run away are more likely to get along with a new member than those who hiss and try to attack any outside cats. Some cats refuse company even though you introduce the second cat very carefully. You have to contact your vet in such instances.
We will walk you through a process that can be helpful for you to smoothly introduce a second cat to your home with less trouble. The process will take few weeks, but the time and effort spent will be worth since you will be living with these furballs happily every after.
Step 1 – Before the new mate comes home
First of all, you have to prepare a room for your new cat. This room will preferably be one of your bedrooms since that allows the new cat to familiarize herself with the smell of humans. Keep a new food bowl, a litter box, a cushioned blanket or a cat bed, and some new cat toys in that room. If your resident cat is practiced free feeding, you have to get him used to meal feeding. This is important since you can provide them meals at the same time and how that food bowls should be placed will be discussed later.
Step 2 – The first day at home
When you bring your new cat to your home, make sure not to get it to be seen by your resident cat. Just as for us, humans, the first impression is quite important for cats as well. The blocking of any visual contact is very important. The new cat should be given a few days alone in that room to get herself comfortable and to make the room its own territory. Some cats prefer there hiding spots in covered places such as old shoe boxes or inside half-opened cupboards, while others prefer to stay upright where they can have a good view of the room, like on the top of a cupboard or a table. So when you know what type of places he/her prefers, you can place some additional cardboard boxes and cushion blankets in your home.
Step 3 – Letting the resident cat know that he has company at home
This is where practicing meal feeding comes in handy. You have to keep the two food bowls on either side of the door where the new cat is staying and fill the bowl at the same time. This way, the cats will smell each other. You can start with few feet away from the door and gradually reduce that distance. In addition to main meals, try feeding some treats in between meals as well to provide extra time to introduce the smell of each other. After few days, you can let the cats play under the door. Move a cat toy from the other side of the door and encourage the cat to play with it by putting its paw under the door. After some time, the two cats may play with their paws under the door. To extend the introduction of smell, you can swap each other’s blankets. When the cat sniffs on the other cat’s blanket, encourage the action by praising and giving some treats.
The next thing you are going to do is swapping the territories. This is helpful for the cats to familiarize themselves with each other’s smell, and the new cat will make it a chance to explore the rest of the house.
Step 4 – Allow visual contact
After few days, if the cats do not show signs of aggression while feeding on either side of the door, you are ready to take the next step. Put both cats in two cat carriers and keep them one foot apart. This way, they can see and react to each other without causing any harm. Hissing and tail swaging for few minutes are common at this stage. When they come closer to each other without hissing, praise them with their names. You can also replace the door with a screen door or a pet gate where the two cats can see each other but can’t touch. As you did in the previous step, practice feeding meals on either side of the barrier and reduce the distance from the screen with time. Let the cats play near the barrier. Any friendly act should be praised with treats. After few days, if they show no signs of aggression, you can proceed to the next step.
Step 5 – Allow physical contact under your supervision
Before getting the two cats together, block the hiding places, such as under the beds, and escapes except for one which leads to a room in case one cat gets too frightened and chooses to run away. It’s good to have the help of another family member in this step to keep an eye on your resident cat while you pay attention to the new cat or vice versa. Put the two cats together and see how it goes. If they show friendly or neutral interactions, reward them with a small treat. If one of them shows the slightest sign of a conflict, distract it with a toy or pet it until it becomes calm. Aim to end the interaction sessions with a positive note. Start with short interactions and try to extend the time in the next few days. After 4-6 meetings with no conflicts or neutral interactions, the cats are ready to spend unsupervised time together. Start from providing meals together by placing the food bowls closer to each other. Keep at least one extra litter box (if you have 2 cats, you should place 3 litter boxes). It’s very important the two cats have their private hiding spots and resting places in the home, so there won’t be in competition for that. In fact, you have to keep in mind to treat both cats with the same care when you feed, pet, and play with them. This is important as competition can easily develop into conflicts.
How to choose a new friend for your resident cat?
Above age and gender, the most important factor to be considered is the temperament of the two cats. If your resident cat is quiet and timid, try to find another cat with the same energy level. This way, neither will get bullied by the other. If the resident cat shows characteristics of an alpha cat, don’t bring another alpha cat as it will lead to endless competition. When considering age, it’s better if both cats are of the same age. But if your resident cat is a senior cat, it’s better to introduce a kitten. Older cats are less likely to attack kittens. Two kittens from different litters will also get along well. Gender is not as important as the two previous factors, but it is good to have a male and a female because two cats of the same gender are more likely to fight for dominance.
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