First impressions between pets are just as important as they are between people. By providing a slow and steady introduction, the result can be rewarding for both your feline companions. Here are a few tips and precautionary steps to help make cat-cat introductions pleasant for everyone involved.
Keep the cats separate at first. House the new cat in a separate room for at least seven days with food, water, comfortable bedding, a litter box(es), and all of the necessities to keep him happy and healthy. This allows the cats to get used to each other’s scent without needing to confront the other. We recommend using Comfort Zone® with Feliway® diffusers or spray during this separation, as well as the initial stages of the introduction. The Feliway® pheromone helps to reduce anxiety during times of change.
Encourage positive associations between the cats while they are separated. Do this by feeding treats or canned food to them near the door that separates them. You can also swap bedding every couple of days so they can further explore each other’s scent. Some hissing is normal during this stage. Don’t punish the cats for hissing or growling as that can form a negative association about the other cat, as well as you.
Allow the cats to see each other once there has been no hissing for a couple of days.
If there is no hissing within seven days of your new cat being home, just open the door and permit the cats to explore. Do not force either cat to see the other. Have some treats handy so they can have a pleasant experience together right away. As long as they appear to be relaxed, allow them both out. Again, some hissing when they see each other is normal so don’t be alarmed. Some light swatting is also common. Separate them if the hissing doesn’t die down after 1 or 2 minutes or if there is any sign of threat (swatting with force, chasing, screaming, ears flattened, etc.). Try again when the cats seem to be calm.
If it takes more than seven days for the hissing to stop, things need to go more gradually. Allow the cats to see each other while maintaining a physical barrier, such as stacking baby gates in the doorway, opening the door an inch or two and using a door stop to keep the door open, or putting in a screen door. Continue to feed treats to the cats on opposite sides of the door. If one of the cats won’t eat, move the food far enough from the door for the cat to feel secure enough to eat. Praise them for being calm when they see each other. Continue this until the cats have shown no tension around each other for a couple of days, then open the door and proceed as above.
Note: The initial introduction should take place during a time when the cats are calm - perhaps shortly after a meal or play time. You need to be calm, as well. Cats can sense tension; your nervousness could translate to anxiety for them, causing a rocky meeting.
Gradually increase the amount of time the cats spend around each other while you are home and supervising. Once they are routinely spending 4 or 5 hours together without incident, you should be able to give both cats free run of the home overnight and then when you are away. The average time frame is a few weeks but it could take months for the cats to learn to tolerate each other.
Maintain a separate litter box and feeding area for the new cat in his room for a few weeks. It is highly recommended to have multiple resources for multiple cats. As long as the cats are getting along after a few weeks of being together you can try to forgo the extra food and water bowls if you must but watch for any signs of animosity or stress and return the bowls. The general rule regarding litter boxes is one box per cat, plus one, so it is advisable that you keep the new cat’s box, but you may be able to move it if you prefer a different location.
The majority of introductions are successful and the cats become friends or, at least, have an agreement to co-exist. However, some cats don’t cope well. Contact our Behavior Helpline to talk with a Behavior Specialist if either of the cats is continually hiding, not eating, eliminating out of the litter box, appearing depressed/lethargic, or behaving aggressively.