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If you're going to be bringing a new cat into your resident cats' life and want to set them up for a successful friendship and a happy life together, here are some things you need to know to make the introduction go smoothly!
Cats aren't always the best with change due to their extreme sensitivity when it comes to their environment, so it’s important to know that with cats, whatever you’re trying to change, do or accomplish, it’s very important to always go slowly! Here are some tips and pointers on how to introduce cats. If you have a cat and are thinking about getting another, or if for some reason a community cat from the neighborhood chooses you and you need to introduce him to your resident cat, there are some important steps to take before hand and things you can do to make the process go as well as possible!.
Before you bring your new cat home:
Cats are very territorial beings, so introducing cats correctly to one another is very important. There are a few things to do before you even consider bringing a new cat into the resident cats home. The first thing to do before bringing a new cat home, if you can, is to set aside a room for him/her that’s as out of the way of the resident cat’s favorite places as possible. One that is comfortable, has all the cat amenities he’ll need like a food station, water station, cat boxes, bed, a small cat tree and a scratcher or two. If possible, get new beds, scratchers, litterboxes and the likes that don’t have the resident cat’s smell. Make sure that the food, water and litterbox are all separate. Cats prefer to have their food and water in different locations, as well as away from where they do their business.
Also, food can be very touchy when it comes to territory, so if you do free feed, stop doing that and get the resident cat(s) on a scheduled feeding time, 2 or 3 times a day before bringing your new cat home. When done correctly, feeding time can be a shared bonding experience for your cats that is positive, which is why it’s important to get your resident cat(s) accustomed to scheduled feeding time.
Another thing we highly recommend is to get a few pheromone diffusers for the resident cat and for your new cat’s room. If it’s possible, try to place the plugins around the house and in the designated new cat room a week or two before you bring home your new fluffy bundle. If you’re not able to get it done that far ahead, do put a few diffusers in as soon as possible. You can find them on Amazon, Chewy or at your local pet store. Either way diffusers can really help by releasing synthetic cat calming facial pheromones that can make a big difference in reducing the stress with all cats involved in an introduction! The brands we’ve tried and like so far are Feliway and Comfort Zone, although there are others out there and we will be giving them a go soon so that we can let you know how they work!
Purchase a secure and comfortable cat carrier for transporting your new addition and get a few soft, cozy blankets that will fit in the carrier for the ride. If the place you get your cat from has blankets your new cat has been using and you’re able to take them, that’s even better. Sometimes you can bring in some and exchange them for those that your new cat’s been using that already have his scent on them. The blankets are to help your new cat feel a little safer being surrounded by their own scent.
Note: Food bowl swapping should only be done with healthy cats that are able to eat the same type of food. If any cats in the house are ill, then this food bowl swapping is something that needs to be discussed with your vet first, and if anyone is on a special diet, consult with your vet as well.
How long does scent swapping take? This is a question that depends on your cats. Kittens and cats that are social tend to move through this phase fairly quickly, sometimes within a day or two, but not always. There is no hard rule for length of time, as each cat is so different, but if cats are less outgoing, more reserved, or shy, the scent swapping process can take longer, anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Be sure to schedule special play time with
Be vigilant always during the Meet and Greet phase and have patience. It can sometimes take a few weeks or even a few months for cats to settle in and become comfortable with each other. Patience is the biggest and most important thing to have when introducing cats. Cat’s are territorial and can be very independent, so if things get to be a little much for you, just take a step back and try again the next day. Rushing introductions can have bad consequences, so take yours and your cat’s time to do it right and create a cat happy friendship!
Remember to always keep a close eye on both cats during Meet and Greets and watch their demeanor and body language. Always pay attention to any changes in the way the cats are looking at each other, interacting and any vocal changes, as these could be possible signs that things are about to break bad. If you can catch things before anything happens, that’s important. If, however, you’re not able to catch things before the cats get into an altercation, try clapping your hands first to distract them and then try and break things up using the small blanket or towel to toss over one of the cats and collect them in order to end the play session and separate them. Be sure not to reach into a cat quarrel with bare hands! Something like this could be a painful mistake for you that ends up with scratch and bite marks that need medical attention.
Sometimes some cats just don’t get along, and if that happens, don’t fret! It’s still manageable. If there is one cat that appears to be the victim of another cat’s bullying, make sure that the bullied cat has his/her own safe space, bed, tree and food/water stations and be sure to give the cat doing the bullying attention when he is not pestering the bullied cat. When the bully cat is bothering the bullied cat, simply remove the bully from the situation and place him in a room to collect himself and relax. When they're calm together or near one another, you can try petting both cats and talking calmly and reassuringly to both. If they’re not snuggling and palling around, but tolerate each other without much fuss, they may cozy up more as time goes on.
If you continue to have quarrels, just return to the previous Visual Contact phase and continue that for a while until both cats are able to relax.
Expectations and Progress
Introducing cats can be a challenge so remember to practice patience and enlist the help of a partner if you're able to! Even when the process is done perfectly, it can still take time, anywhere from a few weeks to sometimes several months or more! Some cats take longer to build a relationship. Some cats may get along famously, playing and grooming one another like best friends, some will just sit and watch, while others will simply ignore and tolerate each other. The important thing is always going to be patience and not trying to force cats to get along the way you think they should. Try to encourage positive behavior by always trying to stay calm, talk softly and not yell at your cats or punish them for what you think is bad behavior. They are just doing what they naturally do and it’s up to us to try and understand cat! Remember to let cats be cats.
Never punish cats that have an altercation or show aggression. This has to potential to make things worse because they will associate the unpleasant action of being punished with the other cat, not with what they were doing, because what they were doing was only what they would naturally do. They don’t see it as wrong. They are just catting. So any punishment would then be associated with the other cat, causing future uprisings to occur.
Another suggestion on creating a feeling of community between your new cat and the resident cat(s) is to brush them using the same brush. Brush each cat for a few minutes around the neck, shoulders and head area using a smooth, soft brush and move from cat to cat. They do not have to be in the same room. The purpose of this is to create a community cat scent between all your cats. When cats are friends, they will sometimes rub up against each other, depositing a positive pheromone scent on one another from the scent glands located on their face, head and neck area. Sometimes there are cats that will do this with many other cats that live together or nearby. These cats are social facilitators that will create and maintain a community scent between cats that let's them know through smell that a cat is friend not foe. By brushing your cats with the same you are acting as the social facilitator, therefore creating that community cat scent. This can help with cats that are having trouble getting along.
By brushing another cat with that brush, you are doing the same thing they would be doing if they rubbed against each other.
Once all cats seem to be getting along individually and together, you can start leaving them out together for longer periods of time. Before you know it, you’ll have one big happy cat family!
Make sure that there is a litter box for each cat, plus at least one extra box.
Make sure that there are enough water stations throughout the house for each cat, and if your cats are free fed, make sure there are enough food bowls throughout the house for each cat, as well.
Cats should have their own beds and hiding places without having to compete with each other, unless they choose to share.
With some time and patience, hopefully your resident cat(s) will see the newbie as part of the gang and will be getting along well! Something to keep in mind and watch for after successful introductions are bullying. Things like not allowing another cat to drink at a water station or eat at a food station by standing near or in front of it is are signs of bullying, as are refusing to move or blocking hallways to the litter boxes and/or doorways. The bully may also hit or swat at another cat/cats and cause problems to occur. Keep an eye out to be sure no one cat is avoiding areas or appears to be intimidated by another cat.
We hope these tips and suggestions will help you introduce your new cat to your resident cat(s)! If you do have problems or concerns, don't be afraid to contact your veterinarian to rule out any possible medical problems, and lastly, we've included the list below of some things that might raise a red flag. None of the reasons below are good signs and could be health related so contacting your veterinarian would be the first place to start. If all health issues are cleared, you might then want to get in touch with a cat behaviorist about resolving the problem(s).
If the fighting continues and/or becomes worse or causes injury
If any one or more of your cats stops eating
If one or more of your cat stops using the litter box or starts spraying
If one of your cats starts hiding all the time and refuses to come out
The Kurious Kat wishes you and your resident cat(s) success and happiness in welcoming your new cat into your home for a forever happy life together!
Bringing your new cat home:
Before leaving, set your resident cat(s) up in a room so that when you bring the new cat in, none of the residents will see your new addition. After you pick up your new cat, make sure he/she is secured in the cat carrier with his blankets and start your journey home!
Upon arrival, bring your new cat directly to his safe room that you’ve set up and make sure you don’t come into contact with the resident cat(s). Keep your new arrival in his carrier until you reach the room and close the door behind you two. Once there, and with the door securely closed, you can place the carrier down and open the door for him to come out. It can sometimes take a while for shy cats, as they may be stressed and scared by the new environment. Just let him take his time without
forcing him out. If you think he might feel more comfortable without you there, you can always leave the room for a bit and see if he comes out on his own. Just make sure that the main door to his room is closed tight. Added tip on the door, if your door doesn’t come all the way to floor, consider getting a door draft blocker to slide on to the bottom so that cat paws can’t get under the door. You can find them on Amazon or home improvement stores like Home Depot.
This is a very important step and involves placing things that have the new cats ‘smell’ on it in an area where the resident cat(s) can investigate and vice versa. Cats communicate visually, but they are very big on scent communication, so it’s always recommended to start introduction using the scent swapping method. After your new cat seems comfortable with you and his new environment you can begin this process. You do want to make sure he is a little bit settled, though, before bringing the smell of what to him, is a strange cat. Move slowly so as not to cause unnecessary added stress.
Let your new cat settle in to his room and relax and get comfortable with his surrounding and with you before you start any scent swapping. You should be able to recognize when your new cat feels comfortable enough to try some scent swapping, but if not, give him at least an hour to settle in. If you're still not sure, you can always start with something small, like a toy your resident cat plays with. If your new cat hisses, puffs up or otherwise gets agitated, remove the toy from the room and wait a while longer. When you feel your new cat is ready, try bringing in one of your resident cat’s blankets and place it your new cat’s room away from his things where he can investigate the smell in his own time. Do the same thing for your resident cat(s) by taking one of your new cat’s items and placing it in an area that your resident cat(s) frequent so that they will notice it.
If there is any hissing, spitting or growling when either parties encounter the new items, again move the item from the area and try again later that day or another day until the negative reactions cease. Remember, slow is the key when introducing cats! A bad introduction could cause one party to be afraid of the other, and overcoming a bad introduction can take quite a long time, so it’s best to go as slow as needed in the beginning! Once all party's seem comfortable with the new smells of the blankets, or whatever items you've been swapping, do the same thing with both the resident cat(s) and the new cat’s bedding. Start by placing one of the resident cat’s beds into the new cat’s room and put it away from the new cat’s things in his room, leaving his own bedding in place. Once the new cat seems comfortable, then bring out one of his beds to let the resident cat(s) investigate.
Once everyone seems comfortable with the bed scent exchange, let’s move to positive food associations. A great way to start is by feeding both the resident cat(s) and the new cat near the door to the newcomer’s room, but with the door shut. Start by feeding at a distance from both sides and then moving the bowls on each side closer to the door until they are at the door on both sides. See how this goes and when everyone seems comfortable, you can try an actual bowl swap. This is where you feed the resident cat(s) with the new cat’s bowl and vice versa. The reason for this feeding step is to help both the new addition and the resident cat(s) begin associating the positive act of eating with the smell of the other cat.
all cats involved in the introduction. This helps alleviate stress and anxiety with the cats and can help you bond with them individually. One on one play time can also help if things are taking a little longer if anyone seems to not be moving through the scent swapping process well. Just be patient and if you ever have questions or concerns don’t hesitate to contact your vet or a cat behaviorist.
This is something that can be done once everyone seems comfortable with the scent swapping. Best way to do this is to have the resident cat(s) secured in a room near the newcomer’s room. Then take the new cat from his space and place him in a bathroom, shutting the door. Then let the resident cat(s) out of the secure location so they can wander into the new cat’s room. Once the resident cat(s) are in the new cats room, close the door and allow them to explore. If the resident cat(s) become upset for any reason, let them out and secure them in a room they are comfortable in. Once there, let the new cat out to explore the home. Give the new cat some time to check things out. If he/she returns to the safe room, that’s fine, but if he/she seems to feel comfortable, then let the exploration continue.
Hopefully the resident cat(s) were comfortable in the newcomer’s room so that they can take in the smells while the new cat explores the house outside his safe room. If the resident(s) weren’t comfortable you can try again the next day. Just remember not to rush anyone! Do this again for a few days or until all parties seem to be getting used to things and are relaxing. Once the new cat seems comfortable outside the safe room and the resident cat(s) are comfortable and relaxed, too, it’s time to move on to the visual contact phase!
Note: Best done with a partner. Be sure all the cats seems to be accepting and comfortable with scents through the blanket, bed and food bowl swapping before moving to the visual contact step. It’s very important that there isn’t any hissing, spitting or growling going on with scent swapping before proceeding to the visual contact. Visual contact is done through a barrier. Keep in mind that visual contact does Not mean physical contact, and this step is best accomplished with two people involved so that there is one person on each side of the barrier to offer treats, play and encouragement. Visual contact is done with your supervision through a see-through door, screen or baby gates stacked on top of one another so that cats cannot jump over. Any type of barrier that prevents physical up-close contact can be used, and make sure that you are there to oversee how things go and shut things down if there is too much hissing, spitting, growling, etc. A tip to encourage positivity during the visual contact phase is to give treats during this time to all cats involved when they are near the barrier. Do not use cat nip, though.
You should be able to get a feel for how things are going and when they begin to relax and get comfortable with each other through nose sniffing, friendly play through the barrier or rubbing up against the barrier, you know you're making progress in the right direction! Once that starts, you can get ready for the next step: physical introduction! But make sure that the visual contact is friendly before proceeding. No hissing, spitting, growling or negative posturing can be going on. If it is, just give the cats more time to get comfortable through the visual contact process. If there is still aggression, or it seems really tense, try more play time with all cats involved, along with more feeding and/or treats near the door area with the barrier up. If you need to, you can always step back to the closed door and continue with play time, feeding and treats near the closed door on both sides.
During the barrier phase, pay close attention to all cats. Watch for bullying behavior and pay attention to body language in the cats. A puffy or twitching tail, arched back and ears flat can all be signs of agitation, so if any of the cats involved are displaying these visual signs and appear to be agitated, try to distract them with some friendly play, petting, food and/or love. Once you’re able to get both sides of the introduction comfortable and relaxed with the see through barrier visual contact phase, then it’s time to slowly and carefully introduce the cats physically. If you have more than one resident cat, it’s best to do the meet and greet with the new addition with only one resident cat at a time. Let’s take a look at ways to accomplish this!
Controlled, Supervised Meet and Greet
Things to have on hand: Smaller blanket or towel. A distraction like a wand toy or favorite toy, spray bottle (use this ONLY as a Last resort but good to have on hand, just in case all else fails) Note: Make sure that you’re able to carry the blanket or towel around your shoulders so that your hands are free and have the wand or favorite toy either in use, or in a pocket for easy access. Again to be sure your hands are free. And please only use the squirt bottle as a last resort to avoid cats being injured, as using it can cause set backs in your introduction process.
Tips on Controlled, Supervised Meet and Greets:
Be sure to read both scenarios below for "if things go well" and "if trouble occurs" prior to beginning the meet and greet. This way you know what to do either way!
When introducing cats, Never force them together. Let them do this on their own time and in their own way.
Keep the small blanket or towel and the distraction toys on you when introducing cats (in a pocket or around your shoulders) so that your hands are free for pets and love, and in case you need to pick one of the cats up before something happens.
If cats are engaged in a fight, Always use the towel to try and separate them and pick them up so that you don’t get mistakenly clawed, scratched or bitten. If the towel doesn't work and fear of injury to a cat is possible, only then use the spray bottle. Also it's very important to keep in mind that if the spray bottle does become necesssary, it's most likely the cats were not ready and you'll want to go back a step or two before attempting the Meet and Greet again.
Scenario, Things go well:
The Meet and Greet is the part that is done without a barrier between two cats. If you have more than one resident cat, start by cracking open the door between only one resident cat and the new cat. Slowly open the door a smidge and see what happens. If both cats seem to be curious but comfortable and relaxed, let them explore and interact. Be sure to stay close so you’re there in case things get a little sketchy. Talk to both cats and be there for play distractions. If things continue to go well, and you have more than one resident cat, give the two that are getting along a good 30-45 minutes to interact, if possible. After they've had some time to get acquainted, return the first resident cat the secure location with the other(s) and give the new cat 20 or 30 minutes to explore the house on his own further. After the new cat has had a short break in the house on his own, have the next resident cat out to meet and greet. Continue the same process with all resident cats until all get along well with the new cat.
If the resident cat or one of the resident cats don’t get along with the newbie, go back a step and repeat a little more of the visual contact phase with the cat that's not comfortable. Be sure to show both cats love, attention and positive reinforcement during the Meet and Greets. Never use an angry tone or get mad. Things take time and patience is KEY! Always try to keep your voice low, soft and calm and move in a calm manner so as not to startle any of the cats or cause them to become stressed.
Once all cats get along individually with the new cat, try leaving the doors open so that one cat at a time can wander and explore with the newbie. If you have multiple resident cats, do this with each resident and the newbie for a while before letting all cats out together. Keep close to the new cat during this phase in case something happens, and keep the small blanket/towel with you, along with the distraction toy and treats. Once the new cat and the resident cat(s) are comfortable with one another and seem to be getting along well, continue giving the cats supervised play time together for 15-30 minute sessions several times each day and gradually extend play time if things continue to go smoothly. Do keep them separated, though, for the first week or so if you leave and always supervise their playtime together, especially when you’re not there to oversee things. If after 10-14 days things seem to be going well, you can start letting them out together, either while you’re there, or if you have to step out for a short period of time. If you want, you can always get a pet camera, or if you have a device already, you can set that up to monitor your cats while you’re out. Extend the time they have out with each other until you feel comfortable that they get along and will be fine!
Scenario, If there’s trouble:
If trouble does occur between any cats during the individual introductions, here are some things you can do. If there is growling, hissing or any swatting, use your small blanket or towel to gently and calmly pick up the troubled cat, or if both cats are upset, try to pick up the resident cat and bring him back to a secured and separate location. Wait 20 minutes and try again. If the hissing or angry behavior continues, take a break and step back to the visual contact phase. Repeat this phase until the tension drops and then give the Meet and Greet another go.