It's easy to fall in love with a new cat. However, if you already have a feline friend at home, they might not feel quite the same. Cats take their territory very seriously, and abruptly putting an unfamiliar kitty in front of them will likely end in hissing and tears.
If you're wondering how to introduce cats with minimal fuss, you'll need to take it slow. The best approach is a measured one, allowing cats to become acclimated over days of gradual exposure.
Just like people, cats have their own personalities. Before you pick out your new feline friend, it's important to understand your current cats' temperament. Kittens will likely do best with others their own age, but older cats may lack the patience and energy to deal with a playful young cat. Some cats are the jealous sort that hate sharing their human and might deal better with a more aloof cat that doesn't need very much attention.
Sharing scheduled meals will help your current cat bond with the new cat. Your current cat will also positively associate the new feline family member with food. Before introducing the new cat, start feeding your cat on a schedule and remove the bowl when they walk away. This will train your cat to expect meals only at specific times. It's important to follow this tactic so you can feed your current cat and the new one together. eclipse_images / Getty Images
Cats are highly territorial and feel most comfortable in their own space. Pick a spot for the new cat that isn't frequented by your current kitty, ideally a room with a door that closes, such as an extra bathroom or walk-in closet. Wherever you choose, the space must have some way to visibly separate cats from one another. The cats should gradually get used to the other's presence before letting them see each other.
In the new cat's territory, put bowls for food and water, as well as a new, clean litter box that's just for them. The cats shouldn't share these things at first; it can cause territorial issues. Place a few soft items in the space, such as a carpeted scratching post, towel, or blanket. These will absorb the new cat's scent, which will help them acclimate to your home and make it feel like their own.
Don't allow the cats to see each other immediately. Keep the new cat secure in their territory with the door closed. Your other cat will eventually pick up on the new one's scent, and may become curious enough to approach their territory to investigate. Let them sniff around and get used to their scent through the door for a few days. After that, you can let the cats explore each other's territory alone.
Most cats look forward to meals, especially if they're not allowed to graze all day. Letting your cats eat together, while still physically apart, can help them form a bond. To accomplish this with minimal stress, feed the cats in rooms separated by a door. Each cat will sense the other's presence while they eat, and begin associating the enjoyment of mealtime with their new housemate.
Finally, it's time to let the cats see each other, but you must do it carefully to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Consider feeding the cats with a pet or baby gate between them. This allows visibility while preventing any possible fights. If you don't have a gate, then crack the door a bit and open it gradually during feedings. Close the door if one cat seems upset and try again another time.
With luck, your cats will have learned to coexist peacefully at this stage. If not, it might help to keep a few “emergency” tactics on hand. A thick blanket is useful for picking up a frightened cat; it will keep them from lashing out and scratching you. Consider blocking access to tight, cramped spaces, such as beneath beds and behind shelves. This prevents the cat from getting trapped in the event of a fight.
Some cats learn to tolerate each other but show little interest in becoming companions, at least at first. You can facilitate their friendship by encouraging shared play with interesting, attention-grabbing toys. Most cats love chasing bouncy balls, strings, or almost anything that moves. Play together with your cats every day, and they'll begin to associate each other with the fun experience. Eventually, you may find them playing together all on their own.
Do not leave the cats alone together until you're sure they will get along without fighting. If they get into a tussle and you're not home to break it up, it can sour their feelings for each other for quite a while and undo any hard work you've done. Ask a trusted family member, friend, or pet sitter to watch the cats if you must leave for more than a day or two.
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