Whether your current cat seems lonely, or you simply want to grow your feline family and add another cat to the household, you should take a few precautions to ensure introductions go smoothly. You do not want kitty conflict to disrupt your household. Our team at Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital shares several helpful tips to help make this process as stress-free as possible.
#1: Choose a new cat who suits your household
Your main consideration should be choosing a cat who will make an appropriate companion for your resident cat. The cats will be more likely to get along if they have similar personalities.
If your cat is playful and energetic, you will want a new cat with a similar disposition. If your cat is docile or elderly, you should avoid kittens or active cats.
#2: Create a safe space for your new cat
Before bringing your new cat home, prepare a room where they can be confined for the first few days. Ideally, choose a room that your resident cat does not use frequently, and that you do not access constantly. You should outfit the room using brand new items, including:
- Cat bed
- Hiding places, such as a cardboard box
- Litter box
- Cat toys
- Scratching post
- Synthetic feline pheromones
Spend at least an hour a day with your new cat, but do not neglect your resident cat. Ensure all family members are introduced to the new cat, who should be allowed to become accustomed to the household routines. Once your new cat is acclimated to their new home, you can begin the preliminary introduction process.
#3: Exchange your cats’ bedding
By exchanging bedding, you are introducing each cat’s scent to the other, which allows them to become comfortable with the other cat’s smell before physically meeting. Cats use scent to recognize other cats in the same social group. When their smells commingle while they sleep on each other’s bedding, the resulting communal scent will hopefully signal that the cats are in the same social group.
#4: Allow your cats to communicate through a closed door
Place your cats’ food dishes close to the door on their respective sides. The goal is that they form positive associations about being near each other. High value treats, such as tuna, can also be used. If either cat begins growling or hissing, this indicates that they should not be put together soon. Continue feeding them in this manner until they display no hostility. If the problem persists, your cats may not be destined to be housemates.
#5: Exchange your cats’ environments
Once your cats are eating well and seem calm and relaxed, confine your resident cat to the safe room, and allow your new cat to roam the house. You may need to close off some rooms so your new cat is not overwhelmed, and you can gradually open doors each day. Continue to feed the cats close to the door on their respective sides, and have each cat use the other’s food and water dishes, cleaned litter box, bed, toys, and scratching post, to help ensure scent exchange and desensitization. If either cat seems stressed or fearful, you can make the exchange multiple times before moving to the next step.
#6: Allow your cats to make visual contact
Once your cats are eating, using the litter box, and acting normally, they are ready to see each other. You can assemble stacked baby gates in the doorway to allow interaction without the cats being able to hurt each other. Avoid using a crate or cat carrier for this step, because these small devices can make the cats feel trapped, with no escape.
#7: Give your cats supervised time together
After a few days, as long as your cats are eating, using the litter box, and acting normally, you can remove the gate, but remain close, so you can intervene if the situation becomes violent. Some initial hissing or swatting is not uncommon, and cats can usually work out minor differences. However, if they fight, and one cat is injured or traumatized, the match will likely not work.
#8: Leave your cats alone
Initially, you should separate your cats when you cannot supervise them. After several days, if your cats are getting along and not displaying any aggressive signs, you can leave them alone. Start with short, unsupervised periods, and gradually increase their time together until they have no conflicts.
#9: Ensure your cats do not have to share
You will need to ensure you have enough food and water bowls, litter boxes, scratching posts, toys, and cat towers for every cat. You should have at least one litter box for every cat, plus one additional box. You should supply scratching posts with different textures and orientations. Also, cats appreciate surveying their environment from a high vantage point, so you will need an elevated space for each cat.
Bringing an additional cat home is a big decision, but following these tips can help the process go smoothly. Once your new cat is settled, contact our Fear Free team at Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital, so we can meet your new addition and perform a wellness exam.