How to Introduce a New Cat to Your Cat

Learn how to introduce a new cat to your cat from board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. E'Lise Christensen, DVM in this Howcast video.


Do you have a cat at home, but are thinking about adding another one to the family? That's a great idea, but just keep in mind that you to make sure that it goes as smoothly as possible. At this point, research shows that the only thing that helps us know whether cat are going to have troubles together, is how it goes during their first meeting, so it's really important to try to keep that first meeting as calm and quiet as possible. We want to make it fun and enjoyable and we really want to decrease the likelihood of seeing any hissing, swatting, growling, and certainly full on attacks. So, first thing you want to do if you're thinking about bringing a new cat home is find out, if you can, whether your current cat even likes other cats.

Remember, sometimes an only cat is a happy cat. So if your cat has a history of inter-cat aggression, or aggression towards other cats, while it might be nice for you to have another cat, it might actually be long-term torture for your resident cat. Now, if you're not sure or if you're pretty certain that your cat likes other cats in general, when you go to adopt another cat look for one that has experience at socialization with cats in its past as well. That way you have a good chance that the cats are going to get along. While you can sometimes just dump cats together and everything will be fine, it's really important to try to go slowly at first so that we can try to set up for success. Make sure that your new cat has its own safe zone. This can be a small room like a bathroom, or even a walk-in closet.

It should have its own litter box, food and water, as well as toys and resting spots. Then, when you're ready to introduce the cats to each other, you can actually separate them as far as you possibly can and play games with them or give them treats at the same time. Doing that well generally requires two people, but you can do it with only one person if you leave one cat in a carrier or on a leash. If you go ahead and do it that way, then you'll find that your cats can get more comfortable with each other gradually. And hopefully if you introduce them at a distance, you'll find that they're not having any aggressive behaviors at all.

Now, if you decide that your cats are doing well together, I still recommend that you don't leave them out alone together for at least the first two weeks, because it takes a long time for cats to get comfortable with each other. In fact, in feral cat colonies it can take up to nine months for cats to be welcomed into the colony and during that time they're really on the periphery and they may be the subject of lots of attacks. So, it's important to remember that this type of process can take some time, but in the end they may get along if you do things gradually. And that is how you can help your cat get along with a new cat.

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