When you sit down next to a total stranger on a visit to the vet, the chances are that you’ll raise a smile at the very least. The evolution of greeting one another has come a long way in humans.
Cats, however, are still stuck on territorial protection issues. That can make introducing a new feline playmate into your home tricky. It’s a situation that needs handling with care.
Find out how to give your cats time to size each other up for the best chance of a peaceful future as we look at the etiquette around cat introductions.
Make a Plan for Your New Arrival
You might hear some cat owners say something along the lines of, “Oh, just throw them in together. They’ll figure out how to get along.” It’s possible but highly risky and it’s likely to cause one or both cats considerable and unnecessary stress.
A better alternative is to take things slowly with a step-by-step approach. Before you bring your new cat home, do some prep:
- Decide on one room for your new cat that’s quiet and peaceful
- Create a comfortable sleeping area and hiding area such as a carrier box
- Provide a litter box, water and food bowls
Talk to your vet about the option of a plug-in diffuser that reproduces cat facial pheromones that are pacifying to cats. You could keep a diffuser in your new cat’s room as well as somewhere that your resident cat spends time.
You should also put an end to free-feeding. Make a point of giving your cats set meals at set times. This can really help to provide opportunities for positive association by getting to know one another at a pleasurable time.
The Day You Bring Your New Cat Home
Cats feel safest surrounded by their own scent. Put a towel or bedding that they’ve been sleeping on in their carrier box for the trip to your home. When you get home, take the carrier box straight to your new cat’s room, avoiding any contact with your resident cat.
With the door closed, open the carrier door. Let your new cat come out in their own time. That may mean leaving the room for a while to allow them time to settle in at their own pace.
Cats communicate visually but they also recognize different scents. You can now start introducing the cats by swapping their scents. Here are the steps to follow:
- Put your new cat’s towel close to your resident cat’s favorite place
- Encourage your resident cat to approach the towel
- If your cat hisses or avoids the towel, move it further away
- Over the next few days, move the towel closer and closer to their favorite spot
- Complete the same process with your new cat and your resident cat’s towel
- Swap the food bowls between the two cats to encourage positive association
If one of the cats is ill or on a special diet you should check with your vet before embarking on the final bowl swapping step.
Once your cats are tolerant of each other’s scents it’s time for them to make visual contact. Always make sure you set aside plenty of one-to-one playtime between yourself and each cat during the build-up to the meeting.
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The First Controlled Cat Meetings
Initially and if possible, create a physical separation between the cats but one that allows them to see each other. Baby or pet gates are ideal. They allow you to make the visual introduction by gradually removing a curtain draped over the gate.
If this isn’t practical, open your new cat’s door so the cats can look at one another but not fit through.
Have plenty of treats on hand so that the cats spend time near each other. You could use a feather to play with one and then the other but do not use catnip. You need to stay relaxed and place the emphasis on play as a means of a little distraction.
Treats, play and a little soothing stroking are often the keys to success.
Give Them Time to Get To Know Each Other
Once the cats appear relaxed, let them approach each other physically. They’re likely to sniff noses and rub against the door. If this happens, you can gradually open the gate or door completely and allow them to have a full introduction.
If there are still signs of aggression, you may need to start the “door ajar” process again for a few days. You can also try moving their food bowls to each side of the door.
It’s important not to force the cats to interact by picking them up and moving them closer to one another. Let them size each other up in their own time. Give each cat their own bowls and litter box and beds. If they choose to share, however, let them.
Managing Your Expectations
Some introductions may take longer than you might think. To an extent, they can be dependent on the nature, age and background of the cats involved. The length of time it can take cats to “get along” can vary from a few hours to several months.
Some cats will play with and groom each other. Others may simply sit and watch one another. It’s important not to impose human values by trying to force them to be best friends.
Punishment will never work if either cat shows signs of aggression. In fact, it may even encourage further aggressive behavior. If the cats really display signs that they’re not getting long, go back to the beginning again and scent swap for a few days. Introduce visual contact gradually again.
When to Contact the Vet
With some cat pairings, you may need to consult your vet. This could happen in these circumstances:
- Prolonged or constant fighting along with injuries
- One cat either stops eating and/or refuses to use their litter box
- One of the cats starts spraying or hides continually
It’s always wise to have a blanket on hand to throw over one of your cats in case a fight breaks out. Wrapping them and removing them is the best way to de-escalate the tension.
Contact Us Today
If you’re planning to increase the number of pets in your household, it’s always wise to talk through all the implications with your vet.
Cooper Pet Care’s mission is to protect our furry friends by providing simple, flexible and transparent healthcare solutions for the pet parents of today. A video consultation with one of Cooper Pet Care’s qualified veterinarians is only a few clicks away. Fast, simple, and secure – get the answers you need.