Adding another cat into your household is exciting! There will be many new personality quirks to learn, extra snuggles, and possibly new habits for everyone. As exciting as this time may be, it is important to remember that this is also a very dramatic change to your resident cat’s life and routine. Allowing each cat appropriate time to adjust to their new cohabitation will assist them in forming a peaceful life together.
Selecting a Cat
Although some situations do not allow choosing your new feline addition to the family, selecting compatible factors will increase the chance of future friendship with your resident cat.
Age is the most important factor. Adult cats adjust easier to kittens and middle-aged to senior cats will have the hardest time adjusting to any new cat. Cats that are both <1 year of age generally adjust easily as well.
If both cats are adults, try to select compatible personalities. Two strong, outgoing cats may have problems settling together whereas a cat that is more relaxed would likely accept a stronger personality as a partner. A timid, fearful cat should be matched carefully to avoid bullying from any other cats.
Preparation for a new feline addition to your home can include many things, but don’t forget about their health. Ideally, your new cat should have a veterinary physical exam within the first 1-2 weeks at home and certainly before any contact with any resident cats. Routine dewormer and parasite prevention can be discussed and your veterinarian will establish a wellness schedule for them. A negative FeLV/FIV test should be confirmed for any cats in the home before any physical contact or sharing of articles occurs.
For cats, first impressions are extremely important. Slower introductions are better than forcing cats together too quickly. Cat introductions can take several weeks to months for full adjustment. Cats are fully adjusted when they can leave together peacefully, not necessarily snuggling or playing together.
Create a separate room for the new cat for at least the first week, possibly longer. Allow no visual contact between cats until the new cat shows they are comfortable in their new space.
After a comfortable room is established, begin by trading soft fabrics, cat trees, & litterboxes between the new cat and resident cat to allow exposure to each other’s scent. This will enable some familiarity to begin forming before they make visual contact which can be very confrontational for cats. A few days later, mealtime exposure can start.
Feed the cats on opposite sides of the door beginning with some distance between the bowls and gradually decreasing the distance until the bowls are resting against the door on each side. Still no visual contact yet at this stage.
Simultaneously during this time, the new cat can also begin to explore the house. Confine any resident cats to a separate room, or switch them into the room where the new cat has been living. Allow the new cat to explore the home gradually while separated from any resident cats to provide more familiarity with the home itself. Further exposure to each cat’s scent in more concentrated areas will ease the transition. Adding a pheromone diffuser such as Feliway can help reduce the stress associated with household changes.
The first visual access for the cats should remain in a controlled manner. Meal feedings will continue on opposite sides of a door, but limited social and visual contact will be allowed. Using a screen door or baby gate to physically separate the cats, place a blanket over this barrier that reaches almost to the ground with only a small opening at the bottom. Place the bowls at a far distance again during the first few days of this stage as this new visual contact can create stress. Gradually raise the criteria by either bringing the bowls closer together or by raising the blanket barrier. Do not increase both criteria at the same time as this may be too stressful. Remember that slower is better and each elevation of criteria should be determined by the comfort level of the cats.
Once the cats are comfortable eating close together with full visual access, initial interactions can begin. Limit the first interaction to a short event and monitor body language carefully. The cats may initially show some fearful or aggressive behavior, but this should not be allowed to escalate. If any fearful or aggressive behavior intensifies (fixed gaze, hissing, ears back, crouching, hair erection), carefully use a blanket or large cardboard piece to break visual contact and escort the new cat safely into their room. Immediately remove the cats if any chasing or fighting begins, but a slow introduction to both scents and the home should reduce these chances.
Improve the chances of success by giving the cats something to do during their first interactions. Play with each cat on opposite sides of the room, scatter treats on the floor, or any other positive activities. It is best to avoid holding the cats during their first few meetings to reduce stimulation and any possible resource guarding.
After a brief time, remove both cats to their separate areas again. Over the next few weeks, increase the duration of these supervised meetings while always trying to make them mutually positive. Ensure there are safe areas or escape routes for each cat so they can choose some way to get away from a situation. Once the cats are spending more time together than in their separate areas, add another litterbox to the home in a different location than the others to provide sufficient spots for each cat.
Slow, gradual introductions are recommended to ease this major transition for your cat. Although adding a new cat to your home may mean relatively few changes for your family’s routine, this is a large change to your cat’s routine and comfort in their home. If bullying, frightening, fighting, or no improvement is seen after 4-6 weeks, consider rehoming to find a more suitable home for one of the cats. Not all cats are social or playful with others, and many will never snuggle or enjoy close interactions. Set realistic goals for the interaction and coexistence process that will enable all the cats to enjoy a happy life. The ultimate goal for multi-cat households is peaceful coexistence. With time and patience, a new happy feline household should be formed!
Article written by: Brittany
1 Image taken from Pixabay.com under Pixabay License. No changes made.
2 Image taken from Pixabay.com under Pixabay License. No changes made.
3 Image taken from Pixabay.com under Pixabay License. No changes made.