Introducing another cat

Many cat owners find themselves thinking about taking on another cat. A smooth and planned introduction can avoid 'cat fights'

Introducing a new cat can be a disaster if it is not done carefully, which is a real shame as most 'second' cats are obtained with the intention of providing a companion for an existing cat. If done slowly and following tried and tested methods, you can dramatically increase the chances of your cats getting along

Two cats staring angrily at each other

Cat personality clashes

One of the biggest factors in the outcome of mixing two cats is whether their personalities match or not. An active, lively cat will enjoy playing with a similarly boisterous cat and they will gain much enjoyment from each other. Likewise, a quiet, peaceful cat may enjoy the company of another quiet, restful companion. Mix a boisterous cat with a quiet cat though, and you have a recipe for trouble. In most cases the quiet cat will end up lashing out at the attentions and disturbances of the more playful cat, fights will ensue, and behavioural problems will develop.

Age of reason

In many cats, character is determined by age, with older cats being more restful and settled than younger, more playful kittens. If you are looking to add another cat, it is always best to try and get a cat of a similar age as well as character. Kittens (under a year old) are usually a lot more open to the idea of a new cat of similar age, and once introduced will learn to play with each other and eventually form a good bond.

Step one - Smell

If two unfamiliar cats suddenly meet each other face to face, the result is normally a conflict and a generally negative experience. Smell and scent are powerful tools of communication with cats and we can use these tools to inform two unfamiliar cats about each other long before they actually meet. Anything to do with territories or ownership is carried out with scent markers and whilst we may be oblivious to the scents, your house is probably covered with information about your cat in the form of smell.

Mixing scents

Two cats getting along on a chair
These two cats are siblings, don't expect any two cats to get along
If possible, your new cat should be kept separate from your existing cat for as long as possible. During this time you should try and 'mix' the scents of the two cats.

  • Swap bedding between cats
  • Swap cat toys and play with each cat
  • Stroke both cats alternately
  • Take a cloth and rub the scent areas of one cat (head, face, and chin) then run the cloth at 'cat height' around the room of the other cat

  • Mixing the scents will let both cats know of each others presence, this establishes the fact that there is another cat in the same territory and reducing the surprise when they meet.

    Step two - Sight

    The next step for your cats is to connect the smell with the other cat. Initially it is best to still keep the cats separate and only allow them to see each other, either through a window or through small gaps. If there is any hissing or aggressive behaviour, simply cut off the visual connection. At all times during the meeting process you should never scold or punish any aggressive behaviour. If your cats associate each other with negative situations they are less likely to get along. After a successful visual meeting, give both your cats a treat and some fussing.

    Step three - Touch

    The final step is to remove all barriers and let your cats interact with each other. Don't do anything to force them together and let them take their own time. By now they should recognise each other and any aggressive behaviour should be subdued, if it looks serious just calmly separate them and try again later. After a meeting you should try some joint activities such as playing or feeding - feed both cats at the same time but a good distance apart. The aim is for you to be a common bond between the two cats and lead by example. Keep a close eye on your cats and again avoid punishments if any squabbles break out. The longer you take over the three steps, the more chance there is of success. If you are adding a new cat to a home with an established cat you should make sure you have a backup plan (returning the cat) if the two do not get along.

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