Introducing New Cats

Cats tend not to like changes to their environment very much. Introducing new cats into another’s territory can be a stressful experience for both of them, but with a little time most cats will appreciate a companion, playmate and help in guarding their territory.

It can take up to a year for cats to trust each other and become friends, although they can learn to tolerate each other quite quickly if the introduction is well managed. Be patient and follow these instructions, to make the process as easy as possible for everyone.

  1. Begin by setting up two separate territory areas for the both of them – try shutting off a spare room for your new cat. The newcomer will appreciate having a safe place and the resident cat will only have a small section of their territory invaded. Make sure that both areas have their own litter box, bed and scratching posts, and that the newcomer has lots of places to hide, both up high and on the ground.
  2. The cats will be able to hear and smell each other, without being able to touch or see each other – they can begin to get used to having each other around. By feeding them on either side of the closed door, you can start to help them associate each other with positive, happy feelings. They will learn that being around the other cat means that good things happen, rather than scary and aggressive things.
  3. Take a clean sock, put it over your hand, and gently stroke your new cat around the face and chest with it. You will be covering the sock with their smell and happy pheromones – scent molecules that cats use to communicate their feelings to other cats. You can then place the sock into the territory of your resident cat, and allow him to sniff, smell and generally investigate it. Use another clean sock to do the process in reverse, allowing your new cat to investigate your resident cat. This allows them to thoroughly satisfy their curiosity, without risking a fight. Repeat the process as often as you can, until both cats are ignoring the socks in their environment.
  4. You can now move on to allowing your new cat to investigate the rest of the house, with your resident cat shut safely in a different room. Give the new cat plenty of time and space to explore at their own pace, before putting them back into their safe room and letting your resident cat out, to get used to the new smells around his territory. Repeat this process over the next few days.
  5. By now, your cats should be relatively used to the idea of having a shared territory and you can begin to introduce them. Using either a baby gate or a doorstop to open the crack a little, continue your feeding routine as usual, but with the cats being able to see each other. You may have to move the bowls further away from each other, at a distance both cats are comfortable with, and then gradually move them closer. It may take a few days of feeding like this before they are comfortable in each others presence.
  6. Now it’s time for the big introduction. After feeding, you can open the door and allow them to slowly get used to each other. Try to distract them both with toys and treats, and make sure there is plenty of space for them to retreat to and keep out of each other’s way if they want to. If a fight breaks out, separate them again with no eye contact for at least 2 days and then take a few steps back in your program – it takes this long for cats to calm down and eliminate all the aggressive hormones from their system. Introducing them too quickly after a fight, will just escalate the violence.