Congratulations on your new cat!
If you’re concerned that your new cat and your resident cat might not get along, you’re in good company. That’s a common concern. We all know our cats can be very territorial, but don’t lose hope! With a bit of preparation and a gentle introduction, you can give your cats the best chance for a healthy friendship.
Step 1: Good Preparation
Before you even bring your new cat home, you will need to prepare at home. You will need a safe place where your new cat can isolate from everyone. Make sure you choose an area not close to your resident cat’s favorite hang out. Spare bedrooms, laundry rooms, or even a bathroom can work; you will need to secure the cat inside the space. Make sure that this space has everything your new cat needs: a litter box, toys, food and water dishes, and blankets. Consider trying a pheromone diffuser in both of the cat’s rooms; the addition of the comforting smell will help both cats be calm.
Step 2: Keep Them Separate
When you bring your new cat home, make sure that they do not come in contact with the resident cat at all. You may have to have other family members run interference. You want to make sure that they get used to each other before they meet, which will help it go as smoothly as possible. Give your new kitty a day to get comfortable in their tiny space. Make sure to spend time with them in this space, but also make sure you spend time with your resident cat too.
While they are separated, there are some ways you can encourage them to get close to one another in a positive way. Get your resident cat to associate the smells behind the door with positive things. In this case, positive things are food. Consider feeding your cats as close to the door as they will tolerate. If they aren’t reacting to being fed in different areas, try giving them treats outside the door instead. You can also try tying two toys together and having one part in the new cat’s room and the other half outside. By playing with two parts of the same toy, they can bond this way. (If this turns into hissing or growling, stop it immediately!)
Step 3: Mixing It Up
Start slowly. Swap some of your cat’s items and put them in the other one’s space. One example of this is to put your resident cat’s blanket in the room with the new cat, take the new cat’s blanket and place it where the resident cat likes to sleep. If you don’t have a blanket to use, one expert recommended using a sock- pet your new cat with a clean sock, really petting their face, to get their scent on it, then leave it near your resident cat to let them investigate it on their own!
You can also try swapping their food dishes, again letting them associate the other cat’s smell with the sweet goodness of their food. You can even try a full-on house swap. Take the new cat out of the room and let your resident cat into their sanctuary space. While they do that, let the new cat explore the rest of the house. If all of these seem to be accepted well, move on to the next step.
Step 4: Visual Introduction
Now you can let them see each other! If you want, you can use a pet gate to provide a barrier that allows visual contact but not necessarily touches. Other barriers include screen doors, blankets, or just cracking the door. Make sure to have treats on hand to continue the association of yummy food with this stranger. Try the feeding again with the see-through barrier in place. Monitor how close your cats get to each other without them feeling uncomfortable. If there are any signs of aggression, take a break and separate them once more. Continue in this stage until they can see each other without signs of hostility.
Step 5: Open the Door
You’ve made it to the final step! Let your cats mingle at their own pace with the door open. Start doing this at feeding time, or start a play session with them both- each one should have their toy. If necessary, get a partner to help you play with both cats simultaneously. They call this parallel play. Unstructured time is more likely to devolve into aggression. If they are eating or playing, they aren’t thinking about each other.
Keep treats on hand to reward an interaction that ends well. Be alert for any negative interactions. If a fight starts to break out, return the new cat to their room and try again later. You may have to start with a couple of hours a day, then work your way up to all the time! Make sure your cats still have lots of places to go for private time.
A Gentle Reminder
Be patient! This process can be very personal for your cats; it may also take longer than you expect. They may adapt quickly to one another’s presence, or they may not. It will depend on their personalities. Do not rush this process. Hastening this process may cause permanent damage to their relationship. Keep in mind – if either cat shows aggression, stop the interaction immediately, and consider returning to the previous step. They may still avoid one another, even after all signs of enmity have ceased. Just like people, some cats do not get along with other cats. Consult with professionals if it doesn’t improve over a few weeks, or things escalate into violence.