Bringing a new cat or kitten into a household that already has a resident cat can pose challenges. Cats, much like their wild ancestors, typically prefer solitude. While there are exceptions where cats get along or littermates coexist harmoniously, a cat accustomed to solitude might not welcome the company of another feline.
Before deciding to add another cat or kitten to your home, consider whether it’s the right choice for your existing cat (or cats). If you suspect your cat is feeling lonely, often, all they need is some playtime and affection from you.
Cohabiting Cats: Understanding Social Dynamics
Before we jump into the specific process, hints and tips, it’s important to understand the basics of feline behaviour.
While some cats can form strong social bonds, not all cats living in the same household perceive each other as part of the same social group. However, they may tolerate each other’s presence, especially when valuable resources are at stake, such as food, attention from the owner, or a sunny spot in the house.
- Resource Blocking: Some cats subtly block access to resources like food, water, or litter trays from other cats they live with. Owners often overlook this behaviour, but it can cause stress and even behavioural problems in the affected cat.
- Time Sharing: Other cats may operate on a more tolerant “time share” system, where they take turns using specific areas or resources.
- Separate Living Spaces: In some cases, cats may choose to live separately within the house. For example, one cat might reside upstairs while another prefers the downstairs area.
- External Factors: Occasionally, external events like illness in one of the cats can trigger conflicts. For instance, a cat with a health condition that increases fluid intake may urinate outside the litter tray because it’s occasionally blocked by other cats in the household, not due to any inability on the cat’s part to use the tray.
Steps for Introducing Cats and Kittens: A Comprehensive Guide
Many cats and kittens end up back in rescue centres like OAS because they don’t get along with the adopter’s existing cat. However, with careful planning and gradual introductions, you can maximize their chances of coexisting peacefully. Here are our top tips for ensuring a smooth introduction:
- a) Creating a Sanctuary Room: Designate a spare bedroom as a sanctuary for your new cat. Equip it with all the essentials, allowing your new cat to have their own space and time to acclimate to their new home.
- b) Scent Swapping: Start by swapping scents between the cats. Gently collect scent from one cat using a cloth and then introduce it to the other cat. Place the cloth in the middle of the floor, giving them the option to investigate or ignore it. This helps them become familiar with each other’s scent.
- c) Visual Interaction: Once the cats no longer react strongly to each other’s scents, progress to visual interaction. Use a glass barrier, like patio doors, allowing them to see each other without direct contact. Give the cats the choice to approach the barrier on their own terms. If this goes well, advance to a mesh barrier or a baby gate to facilitate smelling and seeing each other.
- d) Face-to-Face Meeting: After several successful mesh barrier introductions, it’s time for a face-to-face meeting. Again, let the cats decide if they want to meet, and ensure they have escape routes or elevated places. Keep these meetings brief and positive, offering treats and toys. If things don’t go well, separate them without allowing prolonged eye contact. Patience is key, and following this guide increases the chances of successful cohabitation. Best of luck!
Introducing Adult Cats: Bonus Tips
When it comes to introducing two adult cats, it’s essential to adhere to our fundamental steps above.
The key is to proceed at a pace that suits each cat individually and be ready to step back if either cat shows signs of not being ready for the next stage.
In the process of introducing adult cats, toy might want additionally consider the following:
- Evaluate Their Personalities: Take into account the unique personalities of both cats. If the two cats have drastically different personalities, there may be a higher likelihood of conflicts. For instance, if one cat is highly active and playful while the other prefers a more sedentary lifestyle, it’s important to acknowledge these differences.
- Resource Management: Ensure an ample supply of resources for each cat to prevent competition. This includes food, water, litter boxes, and cozy spots to rest. Avoid situations where they feel they must vie for these necessities.
- Exercise Patience: Rushing the introduction process is likely to lead to failure. Patience is key, and it’s crucial to give both cats the time they need to adapt to each other’s presence gradually.
- Consider Pheromones: Explore the use of artificial pheromone diffusers, which can help alleviate any stress your cats may experience during the introduction process. These diffusers can have a calming effect and facilitate a more harmonious transition for your feline companions.
Introducing a Kitten to an Adult Cat: Bonus Tips
Introducing a kitten to your adult cat can be a bit of a mixed bag in terms of their initial reactions. While a kitten may be eager to meet your adult cat, your adult feline might not share the same enthusiasm!
Interestingly, introducing a kitten to an adult cat can sometimes be easier than introducing two adult cats. This is because your adult cat may not view the kitten as a significant threat. Additionally, kittens are still in the process of developing their individual personalities, reducing the likelihood of a personality clash during the initial introduction. Cats typically go through social maturity between 18 months and four years, which can result in changes in their social dynamics during this period.
In addition to following the basic steps outlined above, here are some specific tips for introducing a kitten to an adult cat:
- Mind the Barriers: Be cautious with physical barriers during the introduction. Kittens can often slip through gaps that are too large, so make sure there are no openings that could disrupt the initial peace between them.
- Tire Out Your Kitten: Understand that your older cat may not appreciate a lively kitten constantly seeking play when they just want to nap. Engage in playtime with your kitten to tire them out, increasing the chances that they’ll leave your older cat alone when it’s rest time.
- Consistency for Your Adult Cat: Maintain a consistent and predictable routine for your adult cat. If they’re used to receiving a lot of attention, continue to provide them with plenty of fuss and affection.
- Provide Space: Create spaces within your home that your adult cat can access but the kitten cannot. This offers your adult cat a refuge if the kitten becomes too overwhelming.
- Manage Resources: Ensure there are enough resources, such as food bowls, beds, and litter trays, for each cat in your household, plus a spare for emergencies. Keep your adult cat’s food in a location the kitten can’t reach to avoid conflicts over food.
- Separate Feeding: Since your cat and kitten may have different dietary needs based on their age, consider feeding them separately. This not only ensures they get the right food but also prevents them from stealing each other’s meals.
In conclusion, introducing a new cat to your home, especially when you already have a resident cat, can be a challenging but ultimately rewarding endeavour. While not all cats will become the best of friends, it’s important to recognise their individual temperaments and preferences. Taking the time to understand their social dynamics and following a gradual introduction process can significantly increase the likelihood of successful cohabitation. Remember to create a sanctuary room, swap scents, allow for visual interactions, and facilitate face-to-face meetings at your cats’ own pace.
Additionally, when introducing adult cats or kittens, consider their unique personalities, manage resources effectively, exercise patience, and explore the use of pheromone diffusers if needed. With careful planning and patience, your cats can find companionship and harmony in their shared home.
Always consult with the sanctuary team or a veterinarian for guidance on your new cat’s temperament and specific needs. We wish you the best of luck in creating a happy and harmonious feline household!
Here’s our quick and easy reference guide below – click to download the full PDF