How to Introduce a New Cat to Your Resident Cat

How to Introduce a New Cat to Your Resident Cat

by Scritch

It might be hard to believe, but in many cases it’s easier to introduce a dog to a cat than to introduce two cats to each other! Animal behaviorists explain that it’s because an additional cat can be perceived as competition for resources. However, if you take the time to prepare your home and properly introduce your new cat to an existing cat, they can live together harmoniously. Here’s how to do it.

Patience & Preparation

During this process, keep in mind that it will require patience and may end up taking longer than you were expecting to successfully integrate a new kitty into your home. Rushing the introduction can result in one or both cats feeling scared, threatened, or aggressive. It may be easier to introduce a kitten than an older cat since kitten body language is less threatening and they are not yet sexually mature. Be mindful of your current cat’s personality when choosing your next cat because an energetic, playful kitten can be overwhelming and stressful to an older, low-energy cat.

You’ll need to prepare your home with extra everything-kitty: 

  • Prevent competition over resources by providing separate bedding and sleeping areas and purchase another litter box. You’ll also need a duplicate set of food/water dishes.
  • Before the new cat comes home, set up a safe space with everything they will need. Ideally this would be a guest room or somewhere your current cat doesn’t usually go.
  • Short on space? Set up defined, separate feeding locations to avoid conflict around food. 

Start slowly

Keep your cats apart at first to give the new cat a few days to settle into their new home and get to know their human family members. During this time, allow your cats to get to know the other’s scent by exchanging bedding or by gently rubbing each cat’s face with a cloth and giving it to the other cat to sniff. You can also do this by swapping the cats and letting them explore each other’s space without actually meeting. This gives the new cat the opportunity to rub her scent onto the furniture.

Feed each cat on either side of a closed door so they associate a positive experience with being in each other’s presence. The next step is to allow the cats to see each other, either through the kitten’s crate, a tall baby gate, or a door cracked open a few inches. If any cat shows signs of stress or aggression, such as raised hair or hissing, separate them again but continue scent swapping. 

Another option is to place the more relaxed cat in a cat carrier with a bowl of canned cat food while you play with the other cat in the same room. For a new kitten, move its crate/pen to other rooms in the home as the older cat becomes comfortable so she can acclimate to the kitten’s presence throughout the house.

If both cats appear to be relaxed after several meetings through a barrier, then open up the door and allow the cats access to each other. With any signs of aggression, separate the cats and go back a step. 

Extra help

If things aren’t quite progressing the way you’d hoped, don’t lose hope. For particularly challenging situations, consider the following options.

  • Calming wraps such as a Thundershirt
  • Feliway pheromone diffuser
  • Calming nutritional supplements—use as advised by your veterinarian
  • Contact an animal behaviorist for assistance

Eventually, with plenty of patience and repeated meetings through a barrier, you’ll have a peaceful home with your new feline addition. It may take weeks to establish a comfortable relationship in which your cats can relax in the same room together without a barrier between them. Until you are 100% confident to leave them alone together, make sure they have supervision at all times or keep them separated when you need to leave the home.