How to introduce cats

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Adding a new furry friend to your family is a good idea, but you should get the introduction right. That’s why learning how to introduce cats properly is essential to avoid problems during the process.

Whether you’ve adopted an adult cat or have brought home a kitten, there are a few things you’ll need to do to ensure a smooth introduction between your new cat and your established cat.

Cats are animals of habit and they respond well to clear-cut routines, so a move to a new place can be disruptive for them.

In this article, we will cover the steps you can follow to ensure your cats get along well in your home.

We understand that not every cat will follow a progressive timeline, so hang along to find out how to tweak the process, if, and when to give up.

How to Prepare a Cat Introduction

1. Get a separate room

Prepare a well-lit room where your new cat can call home. This could be a bedroom, bathroom, or any other spaciously partitioned section of your house.

The room should be quiet, well-ventilated, and easily accessible by all your family members. Make sure the room’s door is lockable and it should preferably have some space above the floor.

Make sure you have all the basic essentials for your cat in the room. Things such as bedding, food, water, litter box, and toys should be well stacked.

By providing your cat with everything they need, you’ll help them feel comfortable in their new home.

2. At the adoption center

Before adopting your cat, you would want to find out which one will blend in with your resident’s cat personality.

Ask the animal shelter staff to furnish you with the character of the cat you’re adopting. We recommend that you get a kitty that can easily match the one you already have.

3. Visit the vet

You should visit your vet immediately after adopting your new cat. The vet will diagnose your newly found feline for any health problems or communicable cat diseases and prescribe treatment if need be.

How To Introduce Two Cats To Each Other

Introducing two cats can be a delicate process because you’re dealing with two independent and sometimes unpredictable animals.

How to introduce cats

But don’t worry, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help make the introduction process as smooth as possible.

1. Keep the cats separated

As soon as you reach home with the new cat, take them straight to their room. Your resident cat should also have a separate room that should not be close to the other cat’s space.

Your new cat should stay in there for 2 days or more before you begin the introduction process. Allow them to cool down and start getting used to their new home.

2. Exchange scents

This is the first step you would want to take before the cats meet eye to eye. Swapping scents is a good way of informing the cats that there is another furry member in this house.

To do this, you can take a clean cloth and rub it gently on your new cat’s fur to attach the scent. Take the cloth to your existing cat’s room and let them sniff and investigate the new scent.

Do this with the new feline also, give them a glimpse of the resident’s scent, and drop a few treats right there to help them associate the new exposure with good things.

You should carefully observe how both cats react to the cloth bearing the scents. Do they hiss, growl, meow, or just stay calm? If either cat is becoming aggressive toward the scent, you should repeat this process until they get used to the new smell.

3. Let the new cat explore the entire house

About 5 days on, you are going to open up your new cat’s room and let them freely move around the house while keeping the resident cat in their room.

Allow the new cat to get familiar with everything and everyone in the house until they find some peace of mind moving freely.

It is common to see new cats being hesitant to move around. Some will just move quickly and hide under the sofa for hours. Do not despair, just let them be. They might be afraid of the existing cat’s presence.

You should repeat this process until your new cat gets the confidence to walk around the house freely.

4. The first visual meeting

The first meeting ought to be under controlled conditions. This meeting should only take place when both cats are familiar with each other’s presence, through scents and sounds.

I recommend that you take your resident cat to the new cat’s door and allow them to sniff each other at the open space below the door, and not the other way round. Your existing cat might see it as an invasion of territory when you take the new cat to their room.

If the door has no open space under it, you can let them see each other across the window. You can also take them to a place separated by a glass door or pet gate.

This meeting should be brief and precise. If you see any negative reactions from any cat, it is best to retreat and give them a break to their spaces.

But if the meeting is flowing smoothly, then you can take things further.

5. Feed the cats near each other

Depending on how the first meeting went, you can then feed your cats at close range. This could be on opposite sides of a glass door or pet gate.

By doing this, you are making the furry family create a positive association with each other. Make sure to use your cat’s favorite foods, something they cannot get enough of.

If any of the cats fail to take the meals out of frustration, then you can take them to their rooms to continue eating from there. Don’t deny them food because of a negative outcome, this could just make things worse.

If the cats eat the food without minding each other’s presence, then things are going on smoothly and they are now taking each other as family.

6. Unrestricted meeting

If everything seems to be going down smoothly, then it’s time to remove the barriers and let your furry friends meet freely.

This step should however be taken with caution, I recommend that you do this with other members of the family.

This will make your new cat more comfortable, and you will be able to shut down any scuffle that may break up.

The family room is a good place to let your cats meet freely. Keep observing how each one reacts to the other and be ready to mediate in any situation that might cause trouble.

It is normal for the cats to hiss, growl, or raise their backs during this meeting. They are just being territorial and that is natural to them.

If the cats seem to enjoy each other’s presence, no meowing, no hiding, no scuffles, then congratulations, you’ve just made new friends!

7. But not too soon

This first impression should not mean that you now keep the cats in one room and expect nothing to fall back easily. Remember that the cats need to build friendships while allowing them to have their own time.

Continue keeping the cats in their separate rooms, and maintain their different accessories, until you can be sure they are now best of friends. Allow the cats to enter into each other’s territories at their own pace.

If you have a dog, learn how to introduce a cat to a dog with our easy-to-follow guide.

How To Introduce Two Cats When One Is Aggressive

If one of the cats is aggressive, you may want to take a slightly different approach to make things better. Here are a few tips on how to get this done:

1. Take more time in the scent-swapping stage

You would want your aggressive cat to be familiarized with the other cat. You can use a smooth brush to swap the scents instead of a piece of cloth.

Let the aggressive cat stay with the scented brush alone in their room. This will allow them to vent their aggression until they calm down.

2. Consider swapping spaces

Instead of just exchanging the scents, you could also swap spaces to let the cats feel each other’s presence deeply.  

3. Use a leash during the first meetings

Whether it’s the short barrier meetings or the open access meetings, you would want to have your aggressive cat leashed at all times.

4. Use a pheromone diffuser

You can make use of a Feliway diffuser to calm your aggressive cat in their separate room.

Check out our guide on how to deal with an aggressive cat.

How To Introduce a Kitten to a Cat

It’s always exciting to bring a new kitten home, but it can be challenging if you have an existing cat.

Make sure the kitten is properly vaccinated. This will help to protect both the kitten and the cat from common feline diseases.

The best way to do this is to keep the kitten in a separate room for a few days and let them have plenty of toys to keep them active.

You should also spend more time with your kitten by playing and interacting with them in different places of the house.

Don’t let your new kitten feel intimidated by the resident cat. This will make the introduction process more difficult.

Once the kitten seems settled, you can start slowly introducing them to your other cat. Begin by allowing them to meet from a distance, and then slowly move them closer over the next few days.

Let them sniff and explore each other as you supervise closely, and be sure to provide plenty of treats to create a positive association.

How To Introduce Cats in a Small Apartment

Here, you already know that space is at a premium. When you introduce multiple cats into the mix, it can be challenging, to say the least.

Cats relaxing in a condo

Here are a few tips for how to make the introduction as smooth as possible for your feline friends.

1. If your apartment building is short on horizontal space, then you can explore the vertical space instead. Set up a cat tree or shelves where your tabby can climb and explore.

2. Create some hideaways around the apartment so they can have a place to retreat when they need some alone time.

Provide them with a couple of small beds or cardboard boxes that they can take shelter in when they need some time alone.

3. Partition one room to give your cat some extra sleeping area. Your cat doesn’t have to get a whole room for themselves.

How To Get Cats to Like Each Other

Cats will often prefer their own company to that of other cats. However, it is possible to get cats to like each other, and there are a few things you can do to encourage positive relationships between your feline friends.

First, make sure each cat has a food bowl, water fountain, as well as a litter box. This will help to reduce competition and territorial behavior. You should also give them lots of hiding perches, so each cat can have its own space.

Get plenty of cat toys to keep your furbabies active. Having some fun diversionary tactics on hand can help diffuse tension. It also gives your kitties something to focus their energy on besides hating each other.

You should also give each cat lots of love and attention and try not to discriminate either.

How Long Does It Take for Cats to Get Along

That depends on their age, gender, and how well they’re introduced. If they’re given a chance to slowly get used to each other’s presence, they may become best friends within the first 8 months or less.

However, If the cats are simply placed in the same room, they’ll likely hold a grudge against each other and could take more than a year to get along. Your cats may get along within a shorter or longer time.

Male cats take longer to accept new friends than female, and they have a higher tendency to get physical.

Younger cats will likely take a few weeks to become friends while elderly ones will take much longer.

Warning Signs To Look Out For

It’s important to know the possible warning signs when introducing your cats that could hint at a negative reaction.

By knowing these, you can help ensure a smooth transition for both your new cat and your resident cat.

The most vital signs to look out for are hissing and growling. If you hear either of these noises, it means your cats are feeling threatened and you should separate them immediately.

Another sign to look out for is in their body language. If you see a cat with flattened ears against the head or with raised hackles, these are signs that they are feeling defensive and may become aggressive.

If you see any of these warning signs, separate your cats and try to reintroduce them at a later time.

Also, be sure to keep your voice low and avoid making direct eye contact, as your tabby could interpret this as a challenge.

If you become too swift or make very loud sounds, the cats may feel vulnerable and may become aggressive.

Remember, it takes time for cats to get used to each other and new environments, so don’t freak out when they appear hesitant at first.

How Much Hissing Is Normal When Introducing Cats?

Hissing is normal when introducing cats. But how much hissing is too much? Normal hissing should fade out after 2 minutes or less.

If your cat can’t seem to get quiet after 5 minutes of hissing, then you should retreat and let them cool off.

Some cats hiss when they see each other, and then they’re fine. Others hiss and growl and take a few swipes before they figure out that they don’t hate each other.

And then there are the rare cats who hiss and growl and take a few swipes, and then hiss and growl some more.

But eventually, even the most feuding felines will find a way to put aside their differences and get along.

The best way is to look deeply into the continual hissing and find other cues. If your cat is hissing while baring their teeth and arching their back, it’s certainly because they feel intimidated.

On the other hand, if the cat is hissing and hiding behind furniture, they’re likely scared by the other cat.

Signs Cats Are Starting to Get Along

Cats are very finicky, so it’s not always easy to tell when they’re getting along. Nonetheless, there are a few things that show your felines are starting to make friends.

Cats grooming each other
  • They’ll start spending more time near each other instead of just stalking.
  • They may groom each other and start playing together more often.
  • They slightly head-butt and sniff each other as a way of saying ‘hello’.
  • They eat/drink together from the same bowl.
  • You’ll likely see them sleeping together in the same general area e.g., on the couch or sharing a bed.

If you see these clues, it’s a good sign that your kitties are forming a bond.

What Not to Do When Introducing Cats

When you bring a new cat home, it’s important to take things slow and give them time to adjust to their new surroundings. Here are some things to stay away from when introducing your new feline at home:

  • Don’t force them to meet without a barrier if either cat seems hesitant or scared. Just let them approach each other at their own tempo.
  • Do not just throw them in a locked room and expect that things will work out automatically.
  • Don’t hold either cat during their first meeting. This can make them feel trapped and scared of the other cat.
  • Avoid using loud voices or making sudden movements.

By shunning these common mistakes, you’ll help your new cat feel comfortable in their new home in no time.

How To Fix an Unsuccessful Cat Introduction

If you’ve recently tried to introduce a new cat to your home and it hasn’t gone well, don’t lose heart. There are a few things you can do to fix the situation.

Take a step back and think about where you might have gone wrong. If they’re constantly being in each other’s faces, it’s only going to make things worse. Let them sniff each other from a pet gate as you monitor their progress.

Having scarce resources is one of the main reasons cats’ introductions may fail, so eliminate that as a potential trigger.

Try using calming aids like Feliway diffusers to help reduce stress and calm the cat down.  

When To Give Up on Cats Getting Along

At what point should you call it quits?

Your response will depend on many factors. If the cats are constantly hissing and growling at each other, or if there have been any incidents of violence, then it’s probably time to step back and pause.

If one or both of them start spraying urine around the house out of stress, or if they start getting aggressive over everything, then it’s probably time to give up and keep them separated.

However, if they occasionally have playful tussles or simply ignore each other most of the time, then there’s a good chance they’ll eventually learn to live together.

Cats confronting each other

It’s not worth risking serious injury just so your cats can be in the same room together.

Ultimately, you should be able to decide when to give up on your cats getting along. But as long as they’re not making each other’s lives miserable, it’s worth giving them a little time to figure things out.

My Cats Used to Get Along Now They Fight, What Should I Do?

It can be confusing and frustrating when two cats who used to get along suddenly start fighting.

Cats don’t fight for no reason so you should try to find out what changed. It could be something as simple as a change in the furniture layout or a new item in the house. The moment you have ascertained the source of the scuffle, you can take action to fix it.

Are they fighting over food or territory? If so, you might need to start feeding them in separate areas again.

If the cats are fighting over territory, you can create more space for them by adding another cat tree or ensuring each cat gets enough toys.

If the problem is a lack of attention, then make sure to spend more time petting and playing with both cats without discrimination.

Wrapping Up

Adding a new cat to your home can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it’s important to do it carefully so that everyone stays safe and happy.

By following this guide on how to introduce cats, you’ll give your felines the best stab at becoming close pals.

Remember to go slowly, be patient, watch out for the warning signs, and make sure every cat has a safe place to retreat if they feel threatened.

Feel free to share your experience with our community. I’d love to know how yours is going on.

Written By

Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a also a pet writer and expert with more than 20 years of experience of working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.

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