Introducing cats to cats – Pet tip 107
When introducing new cats to one another there are some important things to be aware of from the get go. First off every resident cat (the cat that currently lives at the house before the introduction of a new cat) is different and some take more time to adjust to the presence of a new cat than others. Depending on the cat, it can take from 2 days to a couple of months for new cats to become completely comfortable with one another. Although the cat owner may be thinking that they are doing the resident cat a favour by getting them a companion, the cat may not feel this way at all. Unlike dogs, pack animals by nature, cats are normally perfectly content to spend their lives alone (with or without humans). That said, some cats do form strong bonds with new cats that enter their space, and almost all cats learn to at least tolerate each other eventually.
There are several keys to the successful introduction and integration of a new cat into a resident cat’s household. The first key would be patience and realizing that it’s normal for this to take time. Although many people just bring the new cat home and let the two cats work it out, this is generally the WORST way to introduce two cats and it is highly unfair to the resident cat. This type of introduction leads to aggressive or fearful encounters between the two cats far more frequently than a gradual introduction. The next key would be calmness. Both the resident cat and the new cat are less likely to have a negative reaction if the cat owner is calm. Even during hissing episodes which are likely, remain calm.
In terms of the actual introduction, if at all possible allow the resident cat to get an indirect smell of the new cat BEFORE the new cats comes home. This can easily be done by rubbing a sock, washcloth or towel on the new cat’s back and face (the sides of cat’s cheeks are rich in scent glands) and letting the resident cat smell it by leaving it near its basket or cat tree etc. During the actual introduction, enclose the new cat in a room a for one to two days. Keep its litter box and food at opposite sides of the room. During this time exchange the scents of the two cats by rubbing socks, washcloths or towels as mentioned above. Make sure to give the resident cat lots of attention during this period of transition, you can be sure the cat knows something is up. Pet your resident cat frequently and then go pet the new cat without washing your hands. Then go back and pet the resident cat. This again will help to swap scents.
After a few days of this allow the cats to see each other while the new cat is protected by way of a child’s gate, or some type of barrier between the new cat’s room and the rest of the house. If this is not possible allow the cats to see each other while the new cat is in a cat carrier with a wired door which is an essential item. Elevate the carrier if possible so the cats don’t have direct eye contact. Again, do these steps gradually and calmly. It’s normal for there to be some reactions from both cats but as long as they aren’t overly aggressive/fearful it’s probably okay. If the reactions are overly aggressive/fearful calmly enclose the new cat in its room and try again the next day. Visit both cats frequently and give them affection. A good idea at this point might be to let the new cat explore the house while the resident cat is enclosed in another room (or even the new cat’s room) for about an hour.
At some point when you feel comfortable casually allow the 2 cats to meet by opening the door of the new cat’s room. Allow the resident cat and new cat to meet face to face without the barrier. If either cat runs away it’s fine and as long as the reaction isn’t overly aggressive (expect some hissing swatting etc.) just calmly watch. If the reaction is overly aggressive have a towel ready and cover the new cat and pick it up and bring it into its room closing the door. Try again the next day.
Remember these introductions take different amounts of time, ask your veterinarian for additional advice if you feel you are having too much difficulty with the introduction.