How To Introduce Your Cats To Each Other

It doesn’t have a be a nightmare 🙀

two cats with nametags

Are you looking to bring another cat into your home and you’re 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.

"The first impression a new cat makes when he or she meets a resident cat is critical," Adi Hovav, senior feline behavior counselor at the ASPCA Adoption Center, told The Dodo. "If two cats display aggression during their first meeting, this may set the mood for their future relationship."

In order 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."

Keep cats separated at first

According to Hovav, it’s always a good idea to keep cats in separate rooms during their early days. Even if you live in a small apartment, keeping one cat in the bathroom to start can help prevent any unnecessary fights — and will allow them to learn each other's scent before actually meeting face-to-face.

"During this period, the cats often smell each other underneath the door and this starts a slow acclimation process," Proietto said.

Watch out for signs of stress

After letting your cats sniff each other from underneath the door for a few hours, you can try some supervised — and limited — interactions as long as you haven’t noticed any signs of stress.

"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 said.

Other signs of stress include:

  • Reduced appetite
  • Inappropriate urination or defecation
  • Excessive hiding

According to Hovav, as long as neither cat is exhibiting any of these behaviors, they can be introduced through a slightly cracked door.

If meeting through the door goes well, they may be ready to meet without a barrier.

Give cats space

If one cat becomes aggressive, don’t try to calm or soothe them — just let them feel whatever emotion they have safely.

"Give them some space and keep them separated from the other cat," Hovav said.

Be patient

While it varies how long any two cats will take to get used to each other, it’s typically a safe bet that once they’ve spent one supervised continuous day around each other, you can begin leaving them alone together.

"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. Do not punish a cat for reacting negatively to another cat."

Keep in mind that some cats do prefer living alone. You can always consult your veterinarian or a cat behaviorist if you need advice on whether or not your cat would do well in a multi-cat household.