For many cat moms, the only thing better than having one furry friend at home is to have two! Unfortunately, your cat may disagree with you. You will likely see cat depression after a new kitten is brought home due to the added stress your feline will feel, and it may take some time for your older cat to adjust to the new arrival.
When introducing cats to one another, there can also be a lot of tension between them, triggering aggressive behaviors such as hissing. Territorial behaviors, like a cat peeing on clothes to mark their territory, may also increase. These can be challenging behaviors to deal with, especially if your kitty is usually laidback.
So, what should you do in these situations? How much hissing is normal when introducing cats? Is there a way to stop it? Or will your kitties never be able to live together in peace? In this article, I answer these questions and share some of my best tips to make the transition to a multi-cat home as smooth as possible. Read on for all you need to know!
Why Do Cats Hiss When There is a New Kitten?
When bringing a new kitten into your home, every cat mom hopes that your other cats will instantly form a bond with them. Unfortunately, this is a rare occurrence. Cats often dislike a new cat entering their household. They feel like the newcomer is invading their territory and worry they’ll receive less attention from you!
This reaction is so ingrained that you may see your cat hissing at another cat after vet appointments, even if they’ve lived together for a long time. This is because your kitty will have picked up unusual smells at the vet, leading your other cat to think they’re an imposter.
Therefore, hissing is your cat’s way of doing two main things:
- Defending Their Territory: When your feline hisses at your new kitten, it is their way of showing territorial aggression. In your cat’s eyes, your home is their territory, so it is their job to keep out unwanted guests. Such territorial behaviors defend the home and warn other cats to stay away!
- Establishing Social Hierarchy: Hissing can also establish a hierarchy within your house, with your kitty being the most dominant. Hierarchies are fundamental to cats, and your feline friend will want to earn the respect of your new kitten as soon as possible. If the new arrival is there for the long term, your cat needs to prove it’s in charge!
Thankfully, this usually isn’t the case if your kitty has their own litter. You may notice that your cat keeps walking away from her kittens, but this is normal – she’s likely just going to the bathroom or having a bite to eat. It’s only in rare cases that a cat completely rejects her kittens.
But why do cats choose to hiss at unwanted intruders? To most animals, snakes are terrifying creatures. Their hissing sound is a clear sign to any nearby prey that they need to quickly back off, or they may soon be in grave danger.
Cats mimic the hissing noise associated with snakes to the same effect; it means that the threatening new kitten (at least in your feline’s eyes) is scared off without your cat needing to risk injury. In some cases, your feline friend will hiss to indicate that they are about to attack your new cat, but in most cases, it is merely a warning for the newcomer to stay away.
How Much Hissing is Normal When Introducing Cats?
When introducing a new kitten to your current furry friend, some hissing is considered normal. It’s like when you’re a child, and your mother suddenly brings home a new sibling; you don’t necessarily dislike the baby, but you’re a bit unsure and wary about them and how they may change your relationship with your mom.
Your kitty will go through a similar range of emotions when you first introduce them to a new cat. They won’t know who the stranger is, why they are there, or whether they should be seen as a threat. Hissing is your feline’s way of taking charge of the situation and protecting themselves in case of attack, so don’t be alarmed if you find your cat so aggressive all of a sudden.
To begin with, your furry friend’s hissing will likely be quite intense and may be accompanied by some growling. As long as your cat doesn’t resort to real aggression (e.g., cat fights), there is no reason to worry about their sudden hissing. In many cases, your feline will use hissing merely as a warning to stay away; you’ll see these aggressive behaviors and later find your cat hiding under the bed.
As your feline gets used to the new addition, these behaviors should subside, and your cat should return to their usual loving self. However, separating your cats and slowly introducing them to each other is usually the best practice when bringing a new pet home. The more gradual you can make this transition, the less fear, anxiety, and aggression you will see in your cats.
Separating your felines from the very start will also prevent them from being able to physically harm one another. This is a horrible thing for any cat mom to witness and can even lead to you becoming injured while trying to intervene.
How to Introduce Two Cats to Each Other Correctly?
Many problems when introducing two cats to each other result from a rushed first meeting. Because of this, initially separating your cats and gradually introducing them is crucial in ensuring your kitties get along, or at the least tolerate each other.
Follow the steps below to introduce your cats correctly, helping to minimize hissing and unwanted aggression between your two furry friends:
1. Provide Designated “Safe Zones”
When deciding where to introduce your cats, choose an area of the house that is neutral territory to both of them, and allow them to each have a designated “safe zone” to which they can retreat. This will enable them to approach each other in their own time while ensuring they still feel secure.
2. Never Force Interaction
Avoid purposely bringing the cats closer together, as this could cause them added anxiety. You must let them approach each other at their own pace.
Instead, provide them both with some food. This will distract them from the unfamiliar feline on the other side of the barrier and may help create a positive association with the presence of your other kitty. Besides, cats cannot hiss at each other when they’re busy eating!
3. Use Barriers to Prevent Physical Interaction
Tall stair gates are one of the best barrier options for keeping cats apart as they allow your felines to get used to seeing and smelling each other without interacting physically. However, this isn’t always the best solution when bringing home a kitten, as they can easily slip through the bars.
There are stair gates that use mesh to create a barrier rather than metal bars. This would be a good alternative when bringing home a tiny kitten, providing you can still see through the barrier. Keeping your kitten in a large crate is also a viable option; just make sure to cover one side with a blanket so that your kitty still has somewhere to hide if they feel threatened when your adult cat approaches.
4. Allow Supervised Interaction
As time goes on, the hope is that your cats will start interacting. This will start small (such as sniffing each other through the barricade) but should slowly build up until it gets to the point where separation is no longer needed.
During this time, it’s a good idea to let your cats explore one another’s areas while the other one isn’t in the room. This will help them get used to each other’s scent and should make them feel more comfortable when the time comes that they do interact face-to-face.
5. Separate Your Cats When Necessary
Make sure not to overwhelm either of your felines at any stage of this process. If either of them starts being aggressive or appears scared, go back a few steps to ensure both cats feel comfortable. Slowly, your kitties will adjust, and you can fully open up the rest of your house.
The time it takes to get to this point will vary depending on your cats. Each feline is completely different, and what one may feel comfortable within a few weeks, another may need a few months to adjust to.
Other Tips in Introducing Two Cats
Are you wondering if there are other ways to make a cat stop hissing at new kittens? When introducing a new cat into your home, you can take several other precautions to try and make the transition as smooth as possible for all your pets. Below are six top tips that should help you out!
- Choose the Right Cat: If your current cat is older and has already lived alone for several years, they are much more likely to struggle with a newcomer. Kittens pose less of a threat to adult cats but introducing a playful kitten to a laidback feline can make things even harder! Make sure to carefully consider your cat’s age and personality when choosing a second kitty.
- Prepare Your Home: Confining a cat to a room at night or for any extended period can be highly distressing for them. Providing your kitties with food and water, a bed, a litter tray, and some toys can go a long way in reducing this anxiety! Before bringing home the newest addition, set up each feline’s area with everything they need to feel safe and comfortable.
- Use Scent Ahead of Time: The unfamiliar odor of one feline can make another hostile, so allowing your cats to get used to the other’s scent before introducing them can reduce aggressive behaviors! You can do this by exchanging their beds, petting your cats one after the other, and dabbing each feline’s scent around the house.
- Maintain the Peace: Even if your cats are the best of mates, it’s unlikely that they will be happy about sharing their bed, food, and litter box. Forcing your kitties to share these resources once they are no longer separated can create tension! Try to maintain peace by providing your cats with their own places to eat, drink, sleep, and go to the toilet.
- Avoid Punishment: Like humans, cats can make associations between things in their environment. If you punish your kitty for hissing, they may start to associate that negative experience with the presence of your other feline friend! To prevent this, separate your cats at any sign of aggression rather than punishing the behavior.
What To Do When Cats Hiss at Each Other?
When integrating a new cat into your home, hissing is a sure sign to keep your cats separated for a bit longer. As we’ve already covered, your cat will hiss when they feel their territory is being threatened, so keeping your felines apart until they are entirely comfortable around each other is the best way of preventing any catfights.
No matter the trigger of your kitty’s hissing, make sure to separate them from your other cat if the hissing continues for more than a minute. At this point, the chances of a physical fight are more likely, and you don’t want either of your cats (or yourself!) to be injured.
I often find my cat attacking me all of a sudden when I try to move him at an unwanted time, so interrupting the negative behavior with a loud noise or by spraying water is probably best if you want to avoid injury. If you are physically removing one of the cats, I’d recommend going for the one that isn’t hissing at that point.
As your cats slowly get used to each other, their hissing should reduce until it is no longer a behavior you will have to deal with. Should this aggression start up again, the best protocol would be to separate them once more and go back through the steps you took to introduce them to each other.
In severe cases, harnesses and leashes can keep your kitties away from each other. It would also be a good idea to talk to your vet if your cats can’t get along no matter what you do. They may recommend you speak to a behavioral specialist or prescribe some calming medication to try and reduce your felines’ aggression.
Unfortunately, some cats can’t live together without feeling stressed. In these cases, as the last straw, it might be worth considering permanently separating your cats. This can be done by keeping them in separate areas of the house or finding a new home for one of them. This is a decision that no cat mom wants to make, but it can end up being the most humane option.
Other Tips for Calming an Aggressive Cat
Some cats are much more aggressive than others. If this sounds like your cat, you’ll have a more challenging time introducing a new kitty into your home. But don’t give up all hope yet! You can do several things to help calm an aggressive cat so that the transition period goes much smoother:
- Give Your Cat Space: Don’t try to calm your kitty down if they are already showing aggressive behavior. I did this once and found my cat hissing at me all of a sudden. It’s always best to give your feline their own space to calm down, so they don’t redirect their aggression onto you instead.
- Positive Reinforcement: Reward your feline if you see them interacting with your other cat positively. This should help them form a positive association with being around your other kitty. As we’ve already covered, giving each cat their own bowls should also reduce tension between your felines, making positive interactions more likely.
- Provide Privacy: Providing your furry friend with plenty of perches and hiding spots so that your furry friend can keep out of the way of both you and the newcomer can also help as it means they don’t have to interact if they don’t want to. This also gives them another option on top of aggression if they feel threatened.
- Use Pheromone Products: You can also utilize pheromones while your felines are still getting used to each other. Look out for pheromone diffusers or calming collars that mimic a cat’s natural odor. These have been shown to reduce tension and may help your kitties get along quicker.
- Neutering: Consider getting your cats neutered, especially if they are male. Cats that haven’t been neutered are much more likely to hiss when meeting other felines, as the hormones that unneutered cats produce are known to trigger aggressive behaviors. If both your kitties are neutered before meeting, the chances of a smooth transition are much higher!
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
So, how much hissing is normal when introducing cats? And should you be worried about this aggressive behavior? Most of the time, hissing when introducing two cats to each other is normal and is no cause for concern. It’s your feline’s way of protecting their territory and warning the potentially threatening kitten to stay away.
If you make your kitties’ introduction gradual and use some of my top tips for introducing cats and calming their aggressive behavior, the hissing should stop once your cats are used to each other. However, keep an eye on the hissing, as you don’t want your feline friends to start a catfight!
In extreme cases, you may have to contact your vet or consider permanently separating your cats. This is the last resort though, and usually, your kitties will be at least tolerating each other within a few months – just be patient and facilitate the transition as best you can.