Introducing a new cat to your squad at home can take patience. Most cats are less than thrilled to share attention and resources with a newbie. If the introduction is not done properly, the fur may fly!
The following six steps will insure the introductions go smoothly and your home remains a peaceful one.
Pro Tip: Before beginning, be sure the new cat has all of their shots and has been tested for infectious diseases like FIV and FeLV. The new kitty should also have a chance to settle in and feel comfortable before introductions occur.
STEP ONE: Introduce the cats by scent.
Cats have an extremely good sense of smell and communicate through scent marking, so getting everyone used to each other’s scent will help to reduce stress and anxiety before the actual meeting. It is a good idea to:
♦ Exchange bedding.
♦ Use a cloth to wipe each cats’ scent glands and place it in a location the other cat likes to hang out.
♦ Let the cats sniff each other under the door, like Pumpkin and Eggs from @mreggsthecat.
STEP TWO: Introduce the Cats by Sight.
Start with just a quick peak as you go in and out of the new cat’s room.
STEP THREE: Sustained Visual Contact
Move from quick glimpses to ongoing visual contact through a barrier. You can use a door gap, baby gate, screen door or even a thick blanket to modulate their view.
♦ Hissing at this stage is common and is their way of setting boundaries and determining dominance.
♦ Feeding the cats on either side of the barrier is a good way for them to build their confidence and become more comfortable with each other.
♦ Look for positive signs like relaxed body language and blinking like you see here in the video of Tsuki meeting Fergie through a door gap:
STEP FOUR: Brief meetings with no barrier
The next step is to orchestrate a series of brief meetings among the cats (no more than 5 minutes) with no barrier. Brief interactions are more likely to end well and build a positive connection.
♦ Remain calm, confident and in control of the meeting.
♦ Have treats and toys ready to distract the cats if things get tense. Speak in a low, soothing voice.
♦ Reward both cats after every meeting (only after they have been calmed, if needed). You want them to associate positive outcomes with each other.
♦ If either cat shows aggression and can’t be calmed or distracted, end the encounter immediately and go back to Step Three until they are comfortable with each other through a barrier again.
STEP FIVE: Up the length of the face-to-face meetings
Continue with the brief meetings, upping the length of the meetings by a few minutes each time.
♦ Continue to be ready with distractions and intervene if things get too tense between the cats.
♦ You will be tempted to stop watching the cats so carefully after a few positive interactions, but it is imperative that you continue to monitor them closely or you may end up back at Step One.
♦ Look for positive signs like nose kisses or bum sniffs. An obvious submission like Potato in the video below, shows that the hierarchy has been established – which is usually a good sign.
STEP SIX: Leaving the Cats Alone Together
Once the two cats are able to spend at least an hour together under your watchful eye, start leaving them by themselves for just a few minutes at a time. If that goes well, slowly lengthen the time you are out of their sight.
♦ If there is any remaining tension at this point, continue to reward each of them when they are around each other.
♦ It’s important to place escape options in the common space. Shelves, boxes, cat trees, carriers, and cat beds/pods give a cat who is feeling afraid or uncertain the option to retreat and regroup.
♦ Do not leave them alone together until you feel confident that there is no tension or that any tension that might come up ends with one cat walking away or ignoring the other cat.
#1. For aggressive or fearful cats, use a feliaway diffuser in a small bedroom, bathroom or laundry room at night. A calming collar may also help.
#2. Give the home team plenty of attention and add an extra play session to work off any stress or anxiety the new cat may cause.
#3. Build the new cat’s confidence through one on one play, grooming, and cuddle time.
#4. Never rush the introductions. Better slow, small positive steps than moving through the steps too fast and having to start over.
#5. In case of an actual fight, remove the cats to different areas of the home and go back a step starting the next day, giving them plenty of time to cool off.
You can modify these steps to introduce your cats to any new companion animal!
Soon the new cat will be best buds with the entire fur squad!
*Please note that an introduction could take 2-3 weeks, depending on the cats. Some people are lucky and the cats immediately bond. My experience it takes at least two weeks of repetitive positive interactions to build trust among cats.