Pleased to meet you – how to introduce cats

19th May, 2020

Written by Charmaine Morgan, Cat Behaviourist, Reiki Practitioner and Animal Communicator

Adding a new feline family member to your home is so exciting. You can’t wait to share your life with another cat and envision them having great fun playing with your existing cats. But cats are pretty territorial animals, so how do you go about ensuring that they’ll be friends?

Here are five great tips to help you bring your new cat home without causing chaos with your existing kitties.

1. Plan ahead

Before you bring your new addition home, have a room ready where they can settle in for a few days. Ensure they have food, water, litter box, toys and a bed (cats like to have hide-outs, so consider a box or an igloo-type bed). Make their room into a safe, calm space, and keep them separate from other animals.

While they’re settling in, start to introduce their scent to your existing cat. Let your cat smell your hands and clothes.

2. Scent swopping

So much cat communication is based on scent, so once they’ve settled in, it’s time to do some scent swopping. This is where each cat gets to explore one another’s territory. Bring the newcomer out of his room in a litter box and allow your cat to explore the newcomer’s room. Let the newcomer explore the rest of the house at his pace. Don’t let them meet yet – this phase is purely to get used to each other’s smell.

3. Feeding friendly

Once the newbie is comfortable with the rest of the house you can start the “other side of the door feeding ritual”. This is all about creating a positive association between the cats.

With the new cat inside the room and your existing cat outside (with the door closed between them), place their food bowls on either side. The bowls should be far enough apart so that the cats will walk up and eat and walk away without incident but close enough that they sense each other's presence.

Gradually move the bowls closer over the coming days. This eventually leads to visual access. Now that both cats are aware of each other’s scent, it’s time to let them see each other.  

4. Meet up

You can either crack open the door or choose a buffer barrier such as a screen door or a pet gate – they should be able to see and sniff each other but nothing more. Observe them closely and make sure they can’t attack. If either cat shows signs of stress or aggression, separate them again (but don’t give up – try again another day).

Take this next step slowly! Once the cats have acclimated to being allowed to sniff each other, bring them into a large room on opposite sides. Let them mingle under your supervision. Ignore hissing and growling – only separate them if a physical battle takes place. If they seem to tolerate each other, praise them both and give each of them a treat. Making their first activity together enjoyable means they’ll learn to associate pleasure with each other.

If things go badly, separate them again and start where you left off. Don’t shout at or punish them. If one cat is constantly the aggressor, give him/her some “time out”, and try again a bit later.  

Once they’ve accepted this, bring the cats together again without offering them special incentives to behave well, and observe how they behave. Continue to monitor. Hissing and growling at each other occasionally is normal.

5. Keep the peace

Cats naturally find it difficult to share important resources. To make your home as harmonious as possible, provide several places to hide and sleep, and ensure each cat has his own litter box and food bowls. Ideally, there should be one litter box per cat, no matter how many cats are in your household.