How To Introduce Your Cats To Each Other Without Starting A Fight
It doesn’t have a be a nightmare 🙀
If you’re looking to bring another cat into your home, you may be worried about how your current cat’s going to handle it.
Don’t worry — you’re not alone.
Learning how to introduce cats can take time, but it’s not impossible. And living in semi-harmony — which is sometimes the best you can hope for with cats — can happen as long as you take the right steps.
To start your cats off on the right paw, The Dodo spoke with a few experts to get some tips.
Check in with your vet
Before even beginning the introduction process, make sure all cats involved are healthy.
"Many cats come home with upper respiratory infections when adopted and should be separated in a bathroom for a few days [so] as to not get other cats in the household sick as well," Dr. Robert Proietto, a veterinarian at Proietto Veterinary Services in New York City, told The Dodo. "It is also important to get a vet to examine the cats and to know that your new cat is FELV [feline leukemia virus] and FIV [feline immunodeficiency virus] negative before introduction."
And keep in mind that some cats prefer living alone. You can consult your veterinarian or a cat behaviorist for advice on whether or not your cat would do well in a multi-cat household.
Keep both cats separated
According to Adi Hovav, senior feline behavior counselor at the ASPCA Adoption Center, it’s always a good idea to keep the new cat in a separate room during the early days. This allows your cats to get to know each other slowly and prevents your new cat from feeling overwhelmed by his new environment. Even if you live in a small apartment, keeping him in the bathroom to start can help prevent any unnecessary fights.
If possible, you should also keep the new cat in a room where your current cat doesn’t spend much time. This way, the resident cat won’t feel like his territory’s being completely taken over.
Get them used to each other’s scents
While they’re separated in different rooms, cats will usually sniff each other through the door to get to know each other.
"During this period, the cats often smell each other underneath the door, and this starts a slow acclimation process," Proietto said.
You can also let the cats smell each other’s toys or your clothing (after you cuddle with the other cat) so they can become familiar with one another.
Another way to let your cats get used to each other’s scents is by switching their beds.
Create positive associations
Give both cats treats while smelling the scent of the other cat. This lets your cat know that he can expect good things when he smells, and eventually sees, the other cat.
Watch out for signs of stress
Watch your cats’ body language when they smell the other cat. If either one shows any signs of stress or aggression, keep them separated until both show no reaction to the scent of the other cat.
"Two cats are ready to be introduced as long as neither is showing any signs of stress or exhibiting any aggressive behavior, like hissing, growling or swatting," Hovav told The Dodo.
Signs of stress or aggression in cats to look out for include:
Once both cats are calm while smelling one another, you can replace the door with a baby or pet gate so they can finally see each other without any physical interaction.
Keep giving your cats treats during these introductions so they continue to create positive associations when meeting.
And if you see any signs of stress or aggression while they’re interacting through the gate, stop the introduction and try again another time.
"Give them some space and keep them separated from the other cat," Hovav said.
If your cats have successfully met through the gate multiple times, they can have a supervised introduction out in the open (and really meet face to face). Start with a short intro, then work your way up to longer meetings.
Eventually, when they’ve met multiple times with positive interactions and no signs of stress or aggression, you’ll be able to let your cats hang out alone.
How long two cats will take to get used to each other varies. Some cats warm up to each other quickly, while others can take months.
"Cats may need more or less time before they can be left alone together — much depends on the individual cats and the environment," Hovav said.
But one thing you always want to make sure of is that you don’t force them to be together if either of them shows signs of stress.
"Never force two cats to interact," Hovav said. "Introducing two cats takes patience.”
How to introduce a kitten to an older cat
Adopting a new kitten can present its own challenges, since kittens are typically playful and energetic, while adult and senior cats tend to be set in their routines. Senior cats, especially, like to spend time alone and are more low-key (particularly if they have issues like arthritis that can restrict their movement), so getting them to accept a younger kitten sibling can be difficult.
When introducing a kitten to an older cat, you should follow the same steps outlined above, but just keep in mind that your older cat may be more reluctant to let a new friend into his home.
Here are some additional tips to make introducing your kitten and older cat go smoothly:
- When keeping the kitten in a different room, make sure your senior cat can roam the house like he usually does so his routine doesn’t get too disrupted.
- Try to keep your older cat’s schedule as normal as possible. For example, continue feeding him at the same times as you usually do.
- When you let your cats start spending time together, make sure your older cat still has his own space away from the kitten, like his bed and a cat tree.
- Provide separate litter boxes and toys for your cats.
- Give your current cat attention so he doesn’t feel like the kitten’s taking over.
- Keep your cats’ food bowls in separate areas so they don’t feel like they’re competing for food.
What to do if your cats don’t like each other
Even if you follow all the right steps to introduce your cats, they just might not get along.
If that’s the case, here are some tips for how to handle it.
Don’t punish your cats
Since it’s instinctual for cats to protect their territory, you shouldn’t yell at your cats for getting into a fight. You don’t want to punish your cat for doing something that comes naturally to him, even if it’s frustrating for you.
“Do not punish a cat for reacting negatively to another cat," Hovav said.
Try calming products
Cat calming products can help ease your cats’ anxiety when meeting and learning to share their space.
Work with a cat behaviorist
If your cats seem intent on being enemies, you may have to consult a cat behaviorist. They can work with you and your cats to try to find the best solution.
It might take some time for your new cat and your resident cat to warm up to each other. But if you’re patient and follow these steps, your cats will learn to live comfortably (or neutrally) with each other — and maybe even become friends.
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