For cat lovers, if one cat is nice, two would be amazing. While it makes sense for you to feel that way, your cat may have reservations about you adding to the family. While adding a cat to your household can be challenging, there are advantages as well.
If you are away from home a good deal, providing your cat with a companion can help ease loneliness. If your cat is high energy, adding a playmate can minimize potentially destructive activities. Maybe you just want to add a cat because you know of one that needs a home.
Regardless of the reason, the prep work you do before introducing your cats is the key to a successful relationship. If you bring a new cat into your existing household with no preparation the odds of successful bonding are greatly decreased. In addition, the abrupt addition of a new cat to the household creates unnecessary stress on both cats.
Spending a little time before adding a new cat to your life to prepare makes sense. Ideally, your new cat will be part of your life for many years. Taking a little time in the beginning to ensure a safe and relaxing transition is time well spent.
Make a Smart Choice
You want a cat that will fit into your existing household. If you have an older cat who is accustomed to spending the majority of the day napping, adding a high energy youngster will likely cause drama. If you have a young adult and are looking to provide companionship and a playmate, an older cat who is used to living alone will probably not create the relationship you are hoping for.
Of course, you can’t always choose the cat you are taking on. If you are providing a home for a specific cat in need, then you just do your best to make the relationship work. However, if you are selecting a cat to add to your family, it makes sense to consider your existing cat’s personality and energy level before making the final decision.
If your household has previously been a multiple cat family, your cat is much more likely to accept a new addition easily. If she has been the only cat in the household for her entire life, the transition may not be as smooth. Likewise, if the cat you adding to your family comes from a multiple cat situation, she will probably adjust to the companionship more quickly than if she has previously led a solitary life.
Gradual Introductions are Best
Even if your cat is very sociable, and you are confident that the introductions will go fine, it makes sense to take your time and introduce your cats to each other over the course of several days. Rushing the introductions creates unnecessary stress and increases the likelihood that the cats will fuss.
Prepare for Success
Take the time to set up a special area for your new cat before bringing it home. It should be a room with a door so you can keep both cats separated. Make sure the room has everything your new cat will need to feel safe and comfortable, including a litter box, food and water dishes, a scratch post, and several comfortable sleeping options.
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Don’t allow your existing cat into this area. You want your new cat to feel safe and secure here. Not only will your new cat have to acclimate to the other cat in the home, but also to a new home entirely. Depending on the cat’s disposition, this can be very stressful.
Many cats like to hide in boxes or on high perches, so be sure to provide some of these options in the room. In addition, a room with natural light, or even better, a window your cat can look out, will have a calming effect.
When you bring your new cat home place her directly in her room. Depending on her disposition you may want to allow her to explore the space on her own for a while before attempting to interact with her. You do want to devote time to her each day, playing, cuddling and just sitting quietly with her.
These interactions help you bond with her and will make her more comfortable in the home. For a young cat with a lot of energy, playtime is very important. Without enough play, she will quickly find other ways to burn off energy, many of them destructive.
While you are playing and interacting with your new addition, spend time watching for signs of stress. Overly aggressive behavior, hiding, loss of appetite or excessive vocalization are all signs your new cat is feeling stress. If the signs do not diminish in a few days, or your cat stops eating entirely, you should make a trip to your veterinarian.
It is normal for your cat to show some minor signs of stress. Moving to a new home, with new people and another cat is a stress-inducing situation.
Signs of stress should diminish over the first few days in the new home. You should hold off on introducing your cats to each other until your new addition seems relaxed and is eating well in her new home.
Once your new cat has settled in, it is time to do some low key introductions. By now both cats know the other exists, but they still haven’t met. The next step in making introductions is to switch the cats’ spots.
Your new cat can have some time to explore the house while your existing cat can spend time in the room your new cat has been in. Have a helper when you make this switch because you don’t want there to be any overlap in the transition. You want to allow both cats to smell and explore the area the other was in, but no physical contact.
Of course, your new cat will have more than the existing cat to smell. She will also want to explore her new surroundings. Give her time to explore, sniff, nap and play.
Switch the cats back to their original spots after a while. Repeat this process for a few days so your new cat becomes familiar with not only the scent of the existing cat but also her new home. Your existing cat will have plenty of time to familiarize herself with the scent of her new family member at the same time.
Try the Sock Method
Cats are very scent oriented. One of the ways you can help your felines become accustomed to each other is called the sock method. Your cat has scent glands on her face that release pheromones.
Rub a sock gently across your new cat’s face and place it in an area your existing cat will find it. Do the same with your existing cat. This allows them both to become accustomed to the smell of the other in a safe environment and on their own schedule.
Feed Them Together
Anyone with a cat knows they love their mealtime. It is often the highlight of their day. The first few days, when you are just helping your new addition get settled in, place her dishes away from the door in a spot she will feel comfortable and safe.
Once she has settled in, move her food dish over to the door. Feed your existing cat on the other side of the door. This allows them to develop a pleasant association with each other through mealtime.
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Making the Introductions
After several days you will probably be anxious to introduce your cats to each other. If both are eating well and seem nonchalant about exploring the other’s space, you can probably make the face to face introductions. Before turning them loose together, start by opening the door to your new cat’s room just an inch or so.
The door should be open enough for them to see each other, but not enough to allow fighting. You will probably have to stand there with your hand on the doorknob, but that is okay. You want to observe their behavior.
If they generally seem calm and interested, you can probably go ahead and open the door entirely. If there is a great deal of spitting, arching, hissing or other signs of agitation, close the door gently and try again in a day or so.
Aggressive behavior is often the result of anxiety, not true aggression. With this in mind, slow things down if either cat seems unhappy. If you don’t have better luck the next time or two you try to introduce your cats, you may need to enlist a helper.
You and your helper can each handle one cat in the same room. Interact with your own cat, feeding treats, playing or doing whatever that cat enjoys. You and your helper can, over the course of several play sessions, move from opposite sides of the room to side by side.
Keep these play sessions short and enjoyable. This is the time to dole out special treats saved just for this type of occasion.
Warning Signs of Aggression and Stress
It is too much to hope that your cats will become best buddies immediately. While some fussing is normal, fighting is a problem. It is also a problem if one of your cats bullies the other, leading to stress for the bullied cat.
It is important to recognize the signs of aggression and stress. If you feel that your cats are showing more than low levels of stress or aggression during the transition period, your vet may be able to offer medication to help smooth them through the introductory phase.
Signs that your cat may be experiencing stress include excessive grooming, scratching or vocalization, loss of appetite, using the bathroom outside the litterbox, and increased sleeping. Signs your cat is being overly aggressive include biting, striking with the front paws, growling and fighting.
It is important to realize that while some cats are aggressive because they are trying to dominate the situation, others react aggressively out of fear. Just because one of your cats is behaving in a visibly aggressive manner does not mean that she is the aggressor. She may be reacting to more subtle aggressive behavior from the other cat.
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Cats are complicated creatures, and it can be hard to always tell exactly what is going on. Some conflict is normal. Your cats may hiss or swat at each other occasionally as they become acquainted with each other.
If there are more fights than peaceful times, one cat is always the aggressor, or either cat shows signs of anxiety, speak with your vet. He can recommend steps you can take to ease the transition to a two-cat household. He can also ensure that the behavior is not linked to any health issues.
Product data was last updated on 2019-09-15.