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Introducing A New Cat To A Household With A Resident Cat

One of the more stressful parts of cat parenting is bringing a new cat into a home with a resident cat. But if you’re a cat lover, one kitty may never be enough, especially when so many felines in shelters go without loving homes.

Despite your worst fears, the two cats will most likely become friends and learn to co-exist. However, there are some steps you can take to help make the transition a peaceful one.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when introducing a new furry family member to the resident feline.

Prepare For Some Disagreements

Before you bring your new kitty home, prepare yourself for hissing, growling, fighting, and territory issues, as your resident cat will most likely not enjoy having their turf invaded by a newcomer at first. This is normal.

It isn’t unusual for the resident cat to act out and urinate outside the litter box, have a decreased appetite, or over-groom themselves. Sometimes these behaviors can become concerning, so consult your veterinarian if they show these signs.

Make sure to reinforce positive behavior and successful interactions with treats, and show each cat plenty of affection.

Take It Slow

cat on owners shoulder
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What follows is a possible week-by-week outline to make the peaceful transition from a one-cat household to a two-cat household. Just be patient, and remember it is a gradual process that may take more weeks — or even months.

Don’t simply put the cats together and “let them work it out.” That’s probably a plan for failure and disaster.

Week 1:

Welcome home:

  • Confine the new cat to a room with their own food, water, and litter box (let’s call this their “safe room”).
  • Be prepared to restrict the new cat to this space for seven days or more. Visit the new cat frequently and show them plenty of affection.
  • Make sure all members of the household — except the resident cat — introduce themselves and spend time with the new cat, as well.
  • Equally important: show your resident cat regular affection too, as it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of a new pet in the home.

Common scents:

  • Rub a damp towel on the new cat, then rub it on the resident cat, and let each cat sniff it, or exchange their pet beds or blankets with each other. The objective is to get each cat used to the other’s scent.
  • Don’t be surprised if either or both cats hiss when they smell the other’s scent.
  • You can also use a brush to collect each cat’s fur so they can smell it.

Week 2:

Trading spaces:

  • Have the two cats switch spaces for an hour each day: confine the resident cat to the new cat’s quarters, and let the new cat explore the rest of the residence.
  • Have someone stay with the resident cat during this time and show them affection.
  • When the new cat is confined to their quarters, place the resident cat’s food bowl outside the closed door of the new cat’s room — just be prepared for some hissing and growling.

Week 3:

Building fences:

  • Take a piece of chicken wire or similar material at least 5 feet high and place it across the doorway of a room with no other exit.
  • Place the new cat on one side of the barrier and resident cat on the other side.
  • Put some catnip or treats near the barrier on both sides.
  • Make sure there are no structures near the fence that either cat can use to jump the barrier.
  • Don’t worry about any hissing or growling — the objective is to let the cats see, smell, and hear, but not touch each other.
  • Try and have a couple of these sessions each day, but limit them to 15 minutes.
  • You can also give the two cats a limited introduction through a cracked door.

Week 4:

Restrained meeting:

  • Have one person hold the new cat and another person hold the resident cat.
  • Stand at least approximately eight feet away from each other.
  • Do not let the cats go or confront each other directly without restraint.
  • If the “holding” session goes well, set each cat’s food at least eight feet from the other and let them eat, but do not let the cats approach one another.

Week 5:

Meeting time:

  • If hissing and growling have gone to a minimum, and you think the time is right, try an unrestrained face-to-face meeting.
  • Before you let the cats meet, make sure there are plenty of “escape routes” for the both cats. Also have a towel on hand.
  • Place each cat at opposite corners of a room, or ends of a hallway, and let them go.
  • If the felines start fighting, throw the towel on them to break it up. You could get injured if you try to separate them yourself.
  • If one cat chases or corners the other, immediately return the new cat to their safe room and give both felines a treat and comfort.
  • Even if all goes well, try and limit the encounter to ten minutes.
  • If all face-to-face meetings are a complete disaster, return to Week 1, and start the process again.

Week 6:

Toys and togetherness:

  • If both cats tolerate each other during their face-to-face encounters with minimal hissing and growling, use various toys and treats to help bring them together.
  • Once the two cats are comfortable with each other, you can put their litter boxes side by side along with their food and water.
  • Some recommend gradually moving the new cat’s litter box next to the resident cat’s box a little each day so the transition isn’t so jarring.

Hopefully this schedule can help you make a peaceful introduction between your new cat and your long-time furry family member. Keep in mind that you can adjust this schedule as needed, or add steps that work best for your situation.

Have you ever introduced a new cat to a resident cat? How did it go? How did you help them get along? Let us know in the comments below!


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