Introducing two cats to each other requires a gradual step-wise approach. It also requires patience. Being able to read a cat’s body language is important as well.
Territory for me
Your new cat has no way of knowing whether or not he is going to have to fight for territory. In order to make the cat feel secure, you should set up a room for him, which contains all of his necessities, including a tall, heavy, scratching post. It’s best for you to keep any other pets out of this room for a few days before bringing your new cat home, so that the room will not smell like someone else’s territory. If your new cat is hiding or hissing, he will have to stay in his room until he settles down. As the room acquires his scent, and days pass without incident, he will become more secure and more sociable.
Person on my side
Your new cat has no way of knowing if you have his best interests in mind. If you go into the room you have set up for him and he hides, let him have a few hours to himself. Do not try to pull him out from his hiding place. Do not stare at him. Spending time in his room daily reading, watching TV, or chatting on the phone is a good way to break the ice. Let him make the first move. If this step is not going smoothly consider booking an appointment with me.
New cat meets resident cat
Learn the layout of the house
Once a new cat has had at least a full week to establish one room as his territory, is relaxed there, and trusts at least one of the people in the house, it is time to see the rest of the house. Put the resident cat in a room set up for her. Next, open the new cat’s door, so he might explore the house for a bit if he chooses. He needs to know the lay of the land, and his way back to his safe room, before meeting the resident cat. This also lets the cats smell each other’s scent in the house. Repeat this over the next several days if no one was stressed. Gradually increase the time he is out in the house.
See each other through toddler gates
If the cats are relaxed about taking turns in the house, set up stacked toddler gates. Have a bath towel handy should you need to block the cats’ view of each other. Be sure that the cats are far apart when they might first see each other. Keep their first view of each other brief – just a few seconds — and at a distance. If the cats stare or look aggressive or afraid, calmly close the door or block their view with the towel. Make the next viewing shorter. If the cats do not choose to look at each other, end the exercise and secure one of them in their room when you are done. Try it again tomorrow.
Look away from the other cat
If the cats seem calm about viewing each other, ask them to look away from the gate for treats or toys. If they will look away from the other cat to play or eat, you have verified that they are pretty calm. And it reinforces calm behavior. Now, allow them to spend an increasing number of minutes in sight of each other over the next few weeks. Allow them to approach each other if they are relaxed, but DO NOT use food to lure them closer. Rather, use food to have them look away after seeing the other cat, which lets you know they are handling things well.
Beyond the gate
When they are consistently relaxed in each other’s presence for long visits, willingly turning away when asked, partially remove the gate when they are at a distance. Then ask each cat to turn away for a treat or toy. If they won’t turn, end the session. Keep a bath towel handy in case you need to block their view of each other to end a stare. Or, to block a cat if he rushes towards the other one. In this case, end the session. If there is no staring or tail lashing, and both cats turned when cued, still end the session in minute or so. Gradually increase the time they are allowed to interact. And gradually have the gate removed completely. If there is any stress then go back to using the toddler gate. Do not leave your new cat alone with the resident cat unless you are sure it is safe. Keep in mind that some cats will never get along, and some will never be friends or share litter boxes, even after years together.
Consider professional help
You must be able to read cats’ body language well to safely introduce a new cat. Since it is a long, slow process to un-do incorrect introductions, consider setting up an appointment with me to ensure that you move through these steps correctly. Rushed introductions are an all-to-common mistake.
Your mood during introductions can have a profound effect on the cats. It’s important to be calm. To learn more read my blog Your Bad Mood Affects Your Cat.
You may also enjoy my blog on harness training cats.
Patience Fisher owns Patience for Cats LLC, a cat behavior business based in Pittsburgh, PA. She is Associate Certified by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She holds a Bachelor’s in Biology, a Diploma of Feline Behavior Science Technology, and is a certified veterinary assistant. Check out her humorous YouTube video at her Patience for Cats channel. Visit her on Facebook at Patience for Cats.