Are you thinking of adding a second cat to your family? A second cat can be a great addition, but when you already have a cat at home, bringing a new one into the household can pose a challenge.
Cats are not a fan of change. While felines can make great companions for each other, cats are territorial by nature. The introduction process requires time and patience.
You won’t always know how your resident cat will react, but in order to make for a smooth (as possible) transition, here is a guide for assimilating a new cat into the household.
Once you bring your new cat home, place them in a closed off room with their litter box, food, water, a cat bed, scratching post and toys. This is considered the “sanctuary room”.
You never want to just throw two cats together in hopes that it will work itself out. If cats are introduced too fast, they may never learn to live together peacefully. Additionally this can cause extreme stress for both cats, as well as potential physical harm.
During the next meal, place the cat’s food bowls on each side of the door. The distance can be determined based on the comfort level of each cat. Every time you feed them thereafter, gradually move the bowls closer. The purpose is for the cats to connect the enjoyable activity of eating, while smelling the scent of the other cat.
In order to mingle the scents of the cats, periodically swap their living space. Move your resident cat into the sanctuary room, and allow your new cat access to roam the house. This also allows the new cat to explore their surroundings without the risk of the other cat frightening them.
Make sure you are home to supervise the switch. If you have to leave, place the new cat back in the sanctuary room, and the resident cat back out to the rest of the house.
I SEE YOU
Once both cats get to the point that they are eating calmly with the bowls across from each other, open the door a crack for a couple seconds so they can see each other as they eat. Keep them far enough apart so they don’t feel threatened. Do this in several short sessions. If one of the cats consistently tries to bolt through the door, use a door stop to block the door from opening fully.
The last step is to fully open the door. The timing of this depends on how the cats have reacted to each other throughout the previous steps of the introduction. It could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. You do not want to rush the process.
Supervise the first encounter closely. It’s possible that there may be a display of aggressive behavior (likely from the resident cat), such as hissing, crouching or ears back. If a fight occurs, either make a loud noise, or throw a towel over them. This will distract and hopefully separate them. Bring the new cat back over to the sanctuary room (after they have calmed a bit), and give the cats a few days to cool off. If this behavior continues or worsens, separate the cats again. You then may need to start back at step one.
Do not hold either cat in your arms during the first introduction. If one or both of them becomes aggressive, you don’t want to run the risk of being scratched or bitten.
Continue to monitor the encounters, and keep a close watch out for signs of tension or aggression.
A FEW THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
Be understanding and sensitive to this change for your resident cat. Although you may feel they are being “bratty” or unreasonable, this is a big change for them. Continue your usual routine with your cat, and be sure to still give them attention and their own time with you.
Your two cats may not become best buddies. Some cats get along well with each other and become very close, but some never bond and avoid each other. Every cat’s personality is different, and either scenario could occur.
While introducing two new cats is time-consuming and challenging, it can be very rewarding if the outcome is successful. Following these steps gives you your best shot at a peaceful coexistence.