I am guessing you already have a cat and are now considering adopting a second?
Yeah, been there, done that! First, congratulation on adopting a new furry friend! Your household is expanding and that is a lovely reason to celebrate!!
Now, I am also glad you are doing your research on this matter before bringing home a second cat. Introducing your resident cat to a new friend can be a challenging adventure and you want to get it right from the first day. First impressions last forever, isn’t that what they say?
If you have been a parent to a single pet all your life, you might think that you can simply walk in with a new cat and put the two together to work it out.
Wrong! Cats are the most territorial pets I can think of and that would certainly not end well.
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Bringing a new cat home
For your new cat, everything will feel like a threat. Adjusting to a new home and family can be a very tense and scary experience both for a kitten or a mature cat on the move. Your time, attention, and patience will make all the difference and help your new friend immensely at this initial stage.
Starting from the ride from the shelter, which can also be a traumatic experience, make sure to keep your cat inside his carrier, where he’ll feel safer. Also, be sure to avoid noise and excitement while on the move.
Keep your new cat’s background in mind
He may have just been separated from his mother and brothers. Or perhaps he has lived with another family for a while and was separated from other pets or humans he loved. Now, it is time to adjust, once again, to a different life (different smells, surroundings, people… and your other cat!).
Preparing your resident cat to have a friend
For your resident cat, the fact that you brought a new cat home will feel like he’s losing power over his own territory.
Luckily, when your resident cat is neutered and older than the new cat, he will take the introduction period easier and more hassle-free. Great news but not good enough for you not to worry about the reactions of your first pet.
We tend to attend more to the new cat because we think he is scared and confused. That is entirely true, but please don’t forget to give just the same amount of your time to your resident cat! Make sure he understands that he will still be loved the same and that the new cat is not taking you away in any sense.
Do’s when introducing two cats
- Get separate spaces for each cat.
To begin with, place them in different areas of your house and have separate everything available (litter boxes, blankets, toys, feeding bowls, and sleeping areas).
Create a “safe haven” for the new cat.
Meanwhile, your resident cat is still using most of the house, of course, as he was used to.
Close the “safe haven’s” door and keep it closed for a while!
- Set-up a feeding schedule.
This ritual is key, even if you were used to free-feeding.
When cats are fed, they experience a feeling of joy. And by eating together (still with that door separating them of course), they will start to relate the other cat’s smell with the positive feeling that feeding time provides.
- Swap your cats.
After a while, you can start swapping your cats between the “house” and the “safe haven”. Put each cat in the space where the previous cat was before, so that they can smell one another’s objects. This gives your new cat an opportunity to explore his new surroundings, get to interact with you in different areas of the house, and get familiarized with new sounds and scents. Meanwhile, your resident cat will start to get used to the smell of the other cat.
- Introduce visual access.
Without letting the two cats touch each other or invade each other’s space, allow them to have eye contact. At this point, this might be looking like opening the door of the “safe haven” but keeping a glass door, pet gate, or net between them.
Don’ts when introducing two cats
- Don’t rush to bringing your two cats together.
Felines will let you know when they are settled enough and ready to meet one another. Your resident cat needs to feel that the new cat you brought home is not a threat to him in any way. And your new cat needs to feel safe enough in his new environment so that he is not scared of you, your other cat, or the new space.
- Don’t forget to give the same amount of attention to both cats.
On one hand, you want your new cat to get to know and trust you. That comes with time and you’ll need to spend time together from day one. But don’t forget about your resident cat either! At this stage, he will be vulnerable and needs to know that you love him just like you did before.
Let your cats tell you when they are ready to get together without killing each other. This can take a few hours or a few weeks. But do make sure that when the time comes for the two cats to live happily together, they no longer feel they are threatened by one another.
The introduction day
That’s the big day and you had some great work done to get there. Now, keep it slow! You’re finally opening up that door, but you should still aim for the two cats not to notice each other right away.
Find games to play with both, keeping them entertained with you while sharing the same space. If that game only lasts a few seconds before they notice there’s another cat in the room and rush to meet them… well, at least you had a moment of individualized connection.
Make sure there are plenty of hiding spots and high furniture options around the house.
And remember that “safe haven” where you were keeping your new friend? That’s his go-to spot, the place he knows best around the house and his comfort zone, so be sure to keep it accessible to him.
If there’s a fight and that first attempt didn’t go well, go back to the previous steps and start over. Nothing wrong with that! Again, you do want your two cats to behave and enjoy each other’s presence!
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