01 Sep Tips to Introduce a Second Cat Into Your Family
If you already own cats, you know that they can be temperamental. As territorial animals, by nature, they may have their guard up from the very start. So, of course, bringing home a new pet can be trying. Nothing can guarantee a 100% smooth transition, but here are some tips to introduce a new cat into the family.
Choose a Newbie with Similar Activity Levels
As much as you would like your older cat to enjoy a new kitten, a cat with a similar activity level might be best. Kittens like to roughhouse and play, and that’s just the kind of thing that can earn a nasty swat from an older animal.
Introduce New Cats Slowly
Cat-to-cat introductions often don’t go well when they’re suddenly forced together. In fact, putting them together immediately might not be a good idea at all. Sometimes just letting them discover each other works best.
Expect Cats to Express Territoriality
Cats protect their territory. By nature, they protect it by fighting with invaders. They mark their space by urinating in areas they consider important. Expect skirmishes. Expect cleaning up some messes. Anticipating it ahead of time can make it less gruesome when it happens.
Prepare for Resistance
If you know your cat, you know how habitual it can be. A new cat in its home will likely interrupt some of those behaviors. And, for cats, change comes with difficulty. Expect your old cat to resist change.
Each cat has its own personality. Especially in the case of a new adoption, you might find an inexperienced kitten may be more social than an aged cat that has no experience with other cats. A cat’s innate behavior, together with a collection of lifetime experiences can make for a complex individual.
So, if your next-door neighbor had a smooth, seamless introduction, don’t just assume that yours will go the same. Every cat introduction has its own style.
Take Your Time
In most cases, your old cat and new cat won’t be snuggling by the end of the day. Give them some time. Anticipate a transition lasting anywhere from a few days to weeks. Sometimes it takes months.
Start by Isolating the New Cat
Your new cat has a lot to deal with on its first day. Simplify its experience by isolating it in a small room. Of course, make sure that the room has food, a litter box, and some cat comfort items like a toy or cardboard for stretching.
Don’t worry that the cats won’t get exposed fast enough this way. Remember, they have very sensitive noses and ears and live in a world of odors and sounds. They will be well aware of the presence of the other.
Swap Their Belongings
As you think about their worlds of smell, see what belongings you can swap between the cats. If they each have a blanket or cushion, the exchange can familiarize them with their new friends’ odor.
Let Them Share Pleasant Experiences Separately
At feeding time, place your old cat’s food outside the new cat’s door. They like eating, and they’ll know that the other cat’s just behind the door. So, they’ll begin to experience eating with the new companion. That’s known as positive association.
Give them some space at first, but, with each feeding, place their food dishes a little closer to the door. Eventually they’ll feel comfortable right next to it.
Similarly, you can put toys nearby. They may even play with each other under the door.
Spend Time with Both Cats
Make sure to spend time with the new cat in its new room. But, don’t ignore the old cat. He or she will be wanting attention as you spend more time with the new companion.
Watch Food and Litter
Both food and litter use can tell you how comfortable your new cat feels. If you see that it regularly uses the litter box and eats a healthy portion of its food, it may be ready for a change.
That’s when you can swap spaces between your new and old cats. Let the new cat roam the house, while the old cat stays in the room where the newcomer was confined.
Start slowly, giving the new cat access to a little bit of the house at a time. Both cats will spend time sniffing their new territories, learning about their future roommate.
Swap them a few times a day, and only when you’re going to be home. As their provider and company, they depend upon you to feel secure while exploring.
Let Them Mingle
Once your cats seem comfortable with the changes they’ve experienced over the last few days or weeks, let them mingle. Don’t just throw them together, though. Open the door and let them find each other.
Expect Some Tension
Expect lots of sniffing as well as some hisses and maybe even some spats. But watch for them flattening their ears, growling, spitting, or crouching. When this happens, make a loud noise or even toss a pillow nearby, as a distraction.
If they actually fight, stay out of the way and try to get them into separate rooms. Repeated fighting might call for some expert help, and your veterinarian or pet trainer can provide suggestions.
Enjoy Your New Family Member
Once things have settled down, you’ll begin to enjoy your cats as normal family members again. If you have followed these tips to introduce a new cat into the family, you’ll likely see that your cats enjoy one another.