Cats are inquisitive and intelligent animals so you might think they would enjoy a feline friend for company. Before you jump straight into finding a new kitty companion, consider your current cat’s needs and personality. Unlike dogs, cats are territorial, so introducing a new cat into your home should be done with plenty of patience.
Choosing The Right Cat
Much like we humans like to play matchmaker for our friends, you should do the same for your cat if you are considering adding another cat to your home. Cats have individual personalities so it is important that the new cat is a good fit.
If your cat is playful and active, they should get on well with a confident kitten, but they may struggle to accept a nervous cat. Likewise, if your cat is quiet and laid back, they will not tolerate a rambunctious new roommate who wants to play all day.
Before bringing your new cat home, you should prepare your current cat and your home so everyone is ready for the new arrival. A sudden or unplanned introduction will likely cause both cats to become defensive and hostile towards one another. This is not a good start to a new relationship and it is difficult to recover from this. Here are some top tips to ensuring the introduction goes smoothly:
- Start by preparing a safe space for the newcomer which is separate from the current cat. This could be a spare bedroom, the conservatory, or the laundry room. This will provide the new cat a quiet area to settle into before they meet the resident cat. If cats do not feel safe, they will be in a constant state of anxiety and any introduction will be ruined.
- Introduce the cats to each other’s scents before they meet. Before you bring your new cat home, you should introduce their scent to your resident cat and vice versa. This can be done very easily using a cotton pad or something each cat has come into contacts with, such as a blanket or a cuddly toy.
- Allow each cat to find these items naturally and gradually move them around the house so that your current cat gets used to the new cat’s scent. Ask the owner of your new cat to do the same in the days before you bring them home.
- On the day you bring your new cat home, do not allow either cat to see the other, but do allow them to sniff one another through a solid barrier such as a door or a doorway divider. Each cat can sniff the other through the gap under the door and they should be familiar with the other cat’s scent if the previous step was done successfully.
- For the first few days, you should place food and water bowls away from the divider. You can then slowly move the bowls closer to the door until both cats are comfortably eating together on either side of the partition.
- When your cats appear settled with one another, you can then introduce them by sight. Fit transparent door divider or baby gate so the cats can see each other but they cannot touch. If the gaps between the bars of your baby gate are too wide, you can cover the gate with cling film or clear sheeting.
- It is important that they cannot touch each other yet in case they are not friendly during this first meeting. The two cats should be left to greet one another without any interference. Do not push the cats together or try to encourage them close together. They should greet one another on their own terms to avoid any hostility.
- After 2 or 3 days of visual greetings, your cats should now be comfortable with each other. Once you get to a point where both cats are actively seeking out the other and lying together on either side of the divider, you can introduce them to the same room. Again, it is vital that you do not force the introduction.
- Open the divider and allow the cats to find each other themselves. keep the meeting short, even if it is a positive one. Don’t worry if they seem nervous at first or if one cat hides. This is normal while they get used to each other and establish themselves. growling and hissing are ok provided one or both cats back off. If neither do and they are physically aggressive, separate them immediately and repeat the meetings with the door divider for a while longer.
- Successful meetings can be gradually extended until both cats are comfortable. Ensure both cats have separate places they can go when they want some privacy. If your current cat likes to snuggle on the sofa, only allow your new cat to join in if the resident cat is comfortable with this. Remember, your older cat is used to having you and the house to themselves. They are learning to share which can take time.
Once your cats are accepting of one another’s company, you can help to strengthen their relationship through play. Cat toys such as balls with rattles or teaser wands are a great way to get your cats engaged.
Your resident cat may be territorial of their toys, so try to have some new toys that are neutral to both cats. keep the play sessions short and end them on a positive note. This will help the cats to associate each other with fun and excitement.
If your cats are not particularly playful, you can try using interactive games like puzzle mats instead. You can also use an old cardboard box with holes cut out and place some treats inside. Your cats then have to use their paws to retrieve the treats.
The key to any successful introduction is time and patience. An introduction should take at least 2 weeks before the cats meet without a barrier.
Watch both cats closely and look for signs of contentment. This includes lying close to one another, giving casual glances to the other cat, purring, and rubbing their bodies against the barrier.
Never force 2 cats together if they are showing signs of anxiety such as pinned ears, raised hackles, and hissing.