Humane Society of Central Illinois

So You Want Another Cat ...

Steps to Help Introduce a New Cat to Other Cats

There are many reasons for wanting to add a second, third or fourth cat to your household. Whatever your reasons, you must plan carefully for the introduction process. There is a great deal of information (some of it conflicting) about the best way of adding another cat to your household. Is it easier to introduce a kitten? Is it best to introduce a cat of the opposite sex? The answer to those questions is a resounding maybe!

A kitten is more likely to appear slightly less threatening to your existing cat and may be less aggressive than another mature cat. However, many adult cats have lived with other cats and are very accepting and friendly with others of their own species.

Cats, like people, may like some other cats, but not all other cats. A good rule of thumb when adopting another adult cat is to find one with a similar personality to your existing cat. If your cat is active and playful, adopt a playful cat.

The sex of the animal appears to be irrelevant as long as both animals are neutered or spayed. If you are adopting a kitten make sure it is spayed or neutered before reaching sexual maturity (6 months old) to help prevent behavioral problems.

Cats who live in the same household may never become the best of friends, but usually will learn to tolerate each other. Try following the steps outlined for a gradual introduction process. The feeding step can take a couple of days or several weeks. Be patient.

Confine the new cat to one room with a litter box, food, water and bed. Feed your cat and the newcomer near either side of the door. Do not put the food so close to the closed door that either cat becomes too upset to eat. You are associating something pleasant (eating) with each other's presence. Gradually move the dishes closer to the door until the two cats can eat calmly directly on either side of the door. Next use two door stops to prop the door open just far enough so the cats can see each other, and repeat the process.

Switch sleeping blankets between the new cat and resident cat(s) so they have a chance to become accustomed to each other's scents. You can also put the sleeping blanket with the other cats scent underneath the food dishes.

Once the new cat is using its box and eating regularly while confined, let it have free time in the house while confining the other cat. This switch allows them to experience each others scent without a face to face meeting and allows the newcomer to become familiar with the house without being frightened by other animals.

Avoid any interactions between the cats that result in aggressive or fearful behavior. If these response are allowed to become a habit, they can be difficult to change. It is best to introduce the animals so gradually that neither becomes afraid or aggressive. You can expect mild forms of these behaviors including hissing, spitting, and growling. If a fight breaks out, throw a blanket over each cat, pick them up and separate them. Be careful, a normally sweet cat may bite when upset. Do not leave the cats alone unsupervised until you are sure they are getting along well.

Make sure you give both cats plenty of love and attention. Do not yell at the cats for not getting along. Never discipline by hitting a cat. When your patience starts wearing thin look at the situation from your cats point of view ... someone just came into your home uninvited, started eating your food, playing with your stuff, using your bathroom, sleeping in your bed and sitting in your favorite chair. All the other family members think the newcomer is wonderful and pay more attention to him than to you, even though you are the one who has to share all your stuff.

Make sure neither cat is ambushed by the other while trying to use the litter box or this could trigger future problems. Your voice talking low and soothing to both cats may be beneficial. Playing soft music may be helpful. A successful introduction takes time and patience. The reward will come the first time you see the cats play together, sharing the window to watch a bird, or if you are very lucky, curling up and sleeping together.

"Friends may come and go, but cats accumulate." - Bob McMahon

Courtesy of the Naperville Humane Society