How to Introduce Cats to Each Other
Whether they’re playing a rousing game of tag or using one another as a cushy pillow for an afternoon snooze, most cats enjoy spending time with familiar feline housemates. However, cats are generally territorial by nature and adding a new feline to the mix can cause stress, especially if your current princess is used to being your only cat resident or is dominant by nature. Introducing the cats slowly and creating comfort levels for both gives you the best chance of creating a harmonious multi-cat home.
Introduce them before they meet by bringing something with your cat’s scent on it to the new cat while she’s still at her current home, such as a small blanket or toy. Don’t choose something that your current kitty considers a favorite, however. Then bring something with the new cat’s scent to share with your resident cat. This gives them both a chance to get a whiff of their soon-to-be housemate and may ease tensions on move-in day.
Keep your new cat in a separate room with the door closed. This gives her time to acclimate to all the new sights, scents and sounds of her new home one step at a time. It also gives your resident princess a chance to contemplate the notion of a new feline in her kingdom behind the safety of a closed door. Make sure your new cat feels welcome by providing all the comforts of home in her sanctuary, including a litter box, toys, climbing or scratching posts and a soft bed to curl up in. Both will also need lots of daily attention from you.
Cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger, a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant, suggests “rubbing one cat’s cheek with a cloth and putting it in the other cat’s room, and vice versa. Cats have scent glands on their cheeks that produce ‘friendly pheromones’ … and help develop non-adversarial relationships with each other.” After a few days, Krieger recommends you then pet both cats twice a day on their cheeks with a sock covering your hand.
Krieger also advises you feed the cats on opposite sides of the closed door to your new cat’s room. This helps the cats get used to each other and associate one another with pleasant experiences, like eating. “Start with the bowls several feet from the door,” Krieger says, “and then gradually inch them closer to the door each day.”
Once your cats seem comfortable with eating on opposite sides of the door, Krieger suggests moving the food dishes away from the door and opening it during mealtime. Stand at the door while the cats eat and shut the door again once they’re done. Increase the amount of time the door is open until you feel comfortable leaving the door open all the time and letting your cats co-mingle.
Treat both equally and limit territorial skirmishes by providing separate litter boxes, food and water dishes and enough space to enjoy time away from one another at different times during the day. Continue to monitor your cats closely for signs that their squabbling is more than a temporary snit over a toy or favorite snoozing spot.
Expect the process to take a few weeks to a month or more. If your felines don’t seem to be warming up to the notion of sharing one abode or are getting more aggressive rather than settling in, consult your vet or an animal behaviorist for additional help.