As a cat owner, you may never need to introduce your cat to another one, but chances are there will be times when this knowledge might come in handy.
The most obvious circumstance would be if you are thinking about adopting a second cat. Making this transition as smooth as possible requires careful planning and diligence on your part.
Other instances that come to mind where you might need to introduce cats can be when a friend drops off their cat for a period, or when you take in an injured street cat for recovery.
Regardless of the circumstance that puts you in a situation where you need to encourage your cat to socialize with another, below you can find what I think are some things you should probably keep in mind.
How Do Cats Feel About Other Cats?
We all know that most cats are not particularly friendly with each other.
Unless they’ve grown up together, there will probably be some degree of resistance when a cat is forced to engage with another.
I have had a couple of chances to observe my cat with others. Since she was a street cat before and is very used to being outdoors, she acts pretty cool around other cats. She doesn’t engage with them unless she must and keeps a safe distance most of the time.
Most street cats behave this way because since they were born, they are forced to share their environment with other cats, amongst many other animals like dogs, birds, insects, etc.
Strictly indoor cats that have never been outside and have grown up without another cat around are a different, more difficult case in the context of socializing with other animals. Think about it – they have never had the practice!
So, if you are thinking about adopting a second cat or will have a cat visitor for a duration of time, it is an advantage if your cat is used to being outdoors and around other animals.
However, there is no need to worry if this is not the case. You can still facilitate a satisfactory and peaceful cohabitation if you pay attention to a few details.
First Steps to Introducing Cats
There are very basic steps you can take to make the introduction process easier for you and for your cats.
The most important thing during this process is your presence.
Choose a period of time where you will be home most of the day. You need to observe their behaviors and be ready to act immediately if there is a serious situation like two cats fighting aggressively.
Try not to leave them alone with each other at least for the first few days of your new cat’s arrival.
Your presence is crucial also because each cat will need to spend time with you separately. You must dedicate your time to each cat equally so that they know that they both have your attention and love.
It is very important to give your cats all the necessary time they need.
Do not try to pick them up and put them next to each other. Your most significant role is to observe them closely and interfere only if there is physical aggression between the cats.
Step One: Introduction of Smell
A smart way to prepare your cats for their first encounter is by introducing their smells to each other before they physically meet.
This is a very easy step that has proven very helpful. All you need to do is have each cat rub their face and cheeks on an otherwise clean and odorless towel.
This will capture their specific smell because cats will produce pheromones when they rub their cheeks against a surface.
Cats produce pheromones in order to mark certain spots, objects, and even people as familiar to themselves.
This allows them to recognize the things they have marked and formed a bond with them. Pheromones also work as a declaration of territory and object ownership.
When you introduce the pheromone marked towel of a cat beforehand to the other one, the cat will be familiarized with the smell without being alarmed by the physical presence of another cat.
This will allow the actual meeting to go way more smoothly because the cats will already be acquainted with each other’s scent.
Step Two: Meeting Behind a Barrier
The next step would be to let the cats smell each other through an opaque barrier, like a door.
This will allow them to smell each other directly (without a third-party aid like a towel) without having to be in physical and visual contact.
During this period, they will get a chance not only to smell but also to hear each other. You can use this period to implant positive associations to each other’s sounds and smell by making them eat or giving them treats just at the opposite sides of the door.
Once they’ve had enough time to get used to each other’s smell, you can open the door to let them see each other.
You can decide when to open the door based on their behaviors. If they are showing signs of stress and aggressiveness, give it a bit more time.
Step Three: Visual Introduction
Before allowing them a chance for physical contact, it may be wise to add in an extra step where they see each other but still have a physical barrier between them.
This barrier can be a screen door or a tall baby gate.
This way, each step of the introduction process focuses on the familiarization with a different sense: first smell, then sound, and then sight.
The fourth and final step will introduce touch and possibly taste (through licking each other).
If your cats seem relatively relaxed and calm, you can open the final barrier. It is important that you still pay very close attention and monitor them during this final process.
Be ready to separate them if they start getting tense or aggressive towards each other. After you repeat the first three steps again, try the final step once more.
Let the mingling begin!
Modifications Around the House
Before your new cat arrives home, make sure to arrange two separate places for each cat.
These can be separate rooms or two distant corners of a large room.
The important thing is that each territory has all the necessary items the cat may need, like a litter box, water, food, toys and hiding places.
Hiding places are a must because the cats may need to retreat from each other occasionally.
To reduce stress, make sure your cats have a safe space where they can rest and be away from everyone else – including you!
This hiding place can be a simple cardboard box with two holes. Make sure it has more than one hole so that if the other cat blocks the entrance, there is another way out for the cat inside.
The key is to make it easy for your cats to avoid each other if they need to.
For the cats to use their spaces comfortably and effectively, you should ideally introduce them to their territories first.
It is a good idea to introduce them to their hiding boxes and litter boxes before you bring the two cats together. This way, they’ll feel safe in their space and know where to retreat if they desire.
After the Introduction Period is Over
You do not need to keep this arrangement forever!
Once the cats grow accustomed to each other and to the house, you can change this initial arrangement.
This period can vary in length based on the characters of your cats, but you will know when a peaceful cohabitation has been achieved.
As the cats get used to your house, they will appoint their own secret hiding places, favorite sleeping corners and so on. Believe me, they will know every nook and corner of your house better than you do!
Sometimes I search for my cat for hours around every corner of the house and just as I’ve decided that she must be outside, she comes out of a mystery spot that I have somehow missed.
So, once your cats get used to the house, they might not need their hiding boxes as often as they do in the beginning. However, in my opinion, you should hang on to their hiding boxes for a little while more, in case there is an unexpected quarrel or simply as fun playhouses for them to enjoy.
The Issue of the Litter Box
Two cats can use the same litter box – but this might take some time for them to get used to.
In the beginning, your cats will be using separate litter boxes located in their separate territories.
You can continue to keep their litter boxes separate after they have gotten used to each other. However, you might prefer having them use the same one for a couple of reasons.
For instance, if you do not have a lot of space in your house, or if cleaning two litter boxes separately is more work for you then cleaning one litter box more often.
Whatever your reason is, it is possible and not necessarily uncomfortable for your cats to use the same litter box. However, it might take a while for your cats to get used to this arrangement as well.
Also keep in mind, downsizing to one litter box does not mean that:
- You will purchase less cat litter,
- You will continue cleaning it at the same intervals as when only one cat was using it.
You will need to clean the litter box twice as frequently from before and therefore use the same amount of litter as when you had two litter boxes.
Therefore, having only one litter box will only be useful in freeing up space around your house and get rid of the task of cleaning litter boxes separately (if you find it harder).
The Issue of Food and Water Dishes
As is the case with the litter box, you need to start out with separate food and water dishes for each cat in their own territory.
Over time, you may have them use the same dishes; however, I would not recommend this. This is because it will be hard for you to monitor how much each cat is eating. One cat may be eating way more than the other and you may not be able to notice this.
Even when you have separate food dishes, it is possible for one cat to eat both its own food and the food from the other cat’s dish.
This is quite a serious problem and happens very often. You do not want to have one obese and one very skinny cat!
In order to avoid this problem, be very careful to set the boundaries in this initial introduction period. Each cat should get accustomed to eating from its own dish.
If you catch your overweight cat eating from your other cat’s dish, it may help to relocate this dish to a place that is difficult for your overweight cat to reach. This place may be on top of a shelf or on the other side of a narrow passage.
Make sure you show disapproval (without being physical of course) whenever you catch your overweight cat in this situation.
What to Do if Another Cat is Visiting for a Short Duration?
There may be times when you have to host another cat at your house for a couple of days.
There is no need to worry – you should just pay attention and monitor the situation, and everything should be fine.
Before the visiting cat arrives, you should arrange your house as I’ve explained above.
There should be a safe area for the visiting cat, equipped with a litter box, food, water, and a hiding box. It will be ideal if this safe area is a separate room that your own cat can’t enter.
Again, as I’ve explained above, you should go through the three steps of the introduction.
First, introduce the smell indirectly with the towel, then directly through a barrier, and finally, let them see each other safely.
Once you’ve done these things, there should be very little if no problem for the cats to cohabitate for a short period of time.
The opposite of this situation is also possible.
You may have to take your cat to a friend’s house where there is a cat. The same rules apply in this situation too.
Make sure you talk to your friend beforehand and arrange everything carefully. Your friend should also be there with you when the two cats meet. Having you and your friend there will help both cats feel calmer and at ease.
I’ve found myself in both situations in the past.
My cat was acting curious and trying to approach the newcomer, while the newcomer became increasingly tense and started hissing loudly. In the end, my friend had to leave with her cat as quickly as possible.
A while later, I was forced to go to another friend’s house with my cat – and this friend had three young cats! This time, my cat was incredibly scared and defensive, while the other three cats tried to approach and smell her with curiosity.
There was no aggression, but my cat was very intimidated and desperately trying to find places to hide – hence the importance of safe spaces. We ended up staying only for a couple of hours.
Both these anecdotes demonstrate the importance of preparation. Safe spaces are extremely important.
Also, it is usually the newcomer that struggles more than a time resident. The newcomer is more intimidated and stressed because it is not yet used to the house, let alone the cat.
Therefore, make sure that the newcomer visits the space and gets their bearings before meeting the other cat.
Female Vs. Male Cats
There are some variables to consider when introducing two cats, which may make the process easier or harder.
The first and most obvious one is the sex of your cats.
With this being said, the sex of your cats is actually of little importance in their ability to live together. The determining issue here is whether or not the cats are neutered.
When one or both cats are unneutered, this may cause some issues.
If you have a male unneutered cat, he will have tendencies to mate regardless of the sex of the other cat. This may be unwelcomed by the other cat and if she is female and unneutered, you may end up with a number of kittens that you might not be able to take care of.
So, having both cats neutered is the best option if you want them to live together peacefully.
Kittens Vs. Adult Cats
Another obvious issue when two cats are being introduced is their age.
Unlike the issue of the sex of the cats, this one does matter considerably.
If your cat is an older adult, welcoming a kitten might be harder for your cat.
Of course, this also depends on your cat’s personality. Usually, older cats are calmer and less playful, so kittens may force them out of their comfort zone. Kittens are better matched with other kittens or playful younger adults.
If your newcomer is also an older adult cat, this might be easier for both. However, in the end, it all comes down to the personalities of both cats.
Some cats can be more aggressive, others are more curious and friendly. Some may be laid back and calm while others are more easily scared and timid.
Therefore, if you have a choice in determining the newcomer, it’s best to make sure that the personalities of the two cats compliment each other. Check out this website for a more detailed account of the compatibilities of different personalities of cats.
This is your cat getting a flatmate for life, so it is very important that this flatmate is easy to get along with. If you don’t have a choice in determining the newcomer, don’t worry. If you are prepared and do everything you can to make the introduction process successful, you most likely will not have any serious problems.
Your cats may never become best friends, but they will learn to tolerate each other and live in peace.
How to Introduce Cats to Dogs
If you are thinking about adopting a dog while you have a cat or vice versa, there is no need to worry. It is very common for cats and dogs to live in the same house – and they can be very happy too!
The basic steps of introducing cats to dogs are the same as introducing cats to other cats. Let’s review:
- Make sure each animal has a safe space for retreat,
- Get them acquainted with each other’s smell,
- Have them eat on opposite sides of a closed-door for a positive association,
- Cautiously remove the barrier and monitor them closely at all times.
In addition to these steps, there is one more measure you can take with your dog. Teaching your dog basic commands like “sit” and “stay” beforehand will allow you to have more control over the introduction process.
If your dog starts to get excited and intimidate your cat, it can help restrain your dog’s over activeness and reduce your cat’s stress. Finally, continue keeping a close eye on them even if you think they are starting to get along well at first.
It is always a good idea to be around them as much as you can, especially in the initial days of living together.
Products That Will Help the Process of Introducing Cats
There are a couple of products you can purchase that might help with the introduction process for cats. Here are a few that I’ve picked out:
This product is known to calm cats down and aid in behavioral problems such as aggression and anxiety. I have mentioned natural cat pheromones above, as tools for cats to mark places and objects as familiar.
Synthetic pheromones mimic these natural ones and have calming effects on cats because they have an effect of making cats think they have already marked a place as familiar. This product comes in many different forms, like sprays, collars, diffusers, and wipes. I prefer the spray form because it is easier to use, and you can monitor your cat’s consumption easily.
Other Natural Calming Extracts
These include catnip, lavender and honeysuckle extract.
These products will cause you no concern when you use them because they are natural. They are proven to have a calming effect on cats – which will make the introduction of two cats a lot easier.
You can find many products to use as hiding boxes. As long as it has multiple holes and is big enough for more than one cat to fit in, you are on the right track.
Come to think of it, this can actually be quite an easy DIY project. All you need to do is cut two holes in a cardboard box – and it’s done!
This product is needed in the visual introduction stage that I’ve mentioned above.
Baby gates are the perfect product for this because they are quite tall, firm and see-through with holes like a fence. You can open and close their gates when you desire and assemble and disassemble the entire thing very easily.
Final words… and good luck!
I say, “good luck” but luck has very little to do with this if you know what you are doing. Since you’ve read this article, you now do!
I’ve said this a couple of times now, but it bears repeating: the most important things are preparation and dedication.
Keep in mind that you can introduce two cats only once, and if it goes terribly, they will take a very long time in getting over their negativity towards each other. However, if you are prepared and follow the steps mentioned above, there is almost no chance that it will go terribly.
One final thing: don’t be anxious because cats can sense your mood and mimic your temperament. Be confident in yourself and in your cats.
You can do it!
Karen B says
I’ve slowly started trying to introduce my six month old kitten (female) to my nine-year-old (male) resident cat. It’s been almost a month and up until the last couple days I’ve done the scent swapping and the visual feeding through a baby gate etc. and the last couple days I’ve allowed them to interact face-to-face in small bouts throughout the day and 60% of the time if she gets too close he hisses and she walks away. It’s super stressful for me as I felt that enough time had passed for them to start interacting face to face. Does this mean that I need to go back and keep them separated and only let them see each other through a baby gate? Or is a little bit of hissing normal? There is never any other overt aggressive behaviour like swatting or growling it’s just hissing.