Many one-cat parents get the urge to add a new feline friend to the family. Since cats are notoriously territorial, this can be tricky—but it doesn’t have to be. It’s easy to create one big, happy cat family with patience and the right introductions, here’s how to introduce cats successfully:
Bring your kitty for a checkup. Before you bring in a second (or third) feline friend, take the one you have to the vet to ensure his health so he doesn’t pass along any sicknesses—one under-the-weather cat is better than two sick kitties. Bring your cat in for a check-up visit even if your cat seems to be well. As Lana Fraley Rich, a cat behavior expert known as the Catsultant, explains, “Cats are great fakers. Your cat may have issues you can’t see.” But, says Rich, if your cat’s not feeling well, he will show in his behavior. “Think about it—you wouldn’t be as welcoming to your in-laws if you had three abscessed teeth.” The same is true in the cat world—health-based behavioral issues will have a negative impact on kitty introductions.
Rich recommends asking for a full blood panel and a thorough dental check, including X-rays, and a cleaning if they haven’t had one in the last 2 to 3 years. “Dental-related issues are very common; nearly 70% of cats and dogs suffer from them. It can affect behavior, and if left untreated, it can affect their lungs, kidneys and heart.” Give your cat a few weeks to settle back into his routine after a vet visit, particularly if he received vaccinations.
Take it slow and keep them separated. “You never want to just throw them into the same room together. It’s all about a slow introduction,” says Erin Boyle, a cat behavior expert who runs Compassionate Pet Care.
First, prepare a separate room in which to isolate your new friend, complete with food, water and a new litter box (we like Nature’s Miracle Hooded Corner Cat Litter Box). Ideally, it should be a bedroom or office; however, a bathroom will do if you’re short on space. This is where your new pet will live for up to a month while you’re easing both cats into a relationship.
Using Feliway Multicat Diffuser before your new cat ever comes onto the scene is an excellent way to calm your existing buddy. It contains a synthetic copy of the pheromone from a mother cat’s mammary glands, which has a calming effect that helps promote bonding. Be sure not to use other strong scents in the house, cautions Rich, including perfumes, strong-smelling cleaners and scented litter, as they will overwhelm the delicate pheromone.
Reassure your number one. Make no mistake—a new cat will rock your existing pet’s world, says Rich. “Just imagine if someone you never met, who you don’t get to choose, comes to live with you.” Reinforce your existing pet’s safety by reassuring him of your loyalty.
If possible, have a friend or someone you don’t live with bring in your new pet. Have her place the new cat in its carrier up on a table and let your number one take in the new one’s scent, but never open the carrier. After she leaves, bring the newbie to his appointed room and let him out to explore in safety. Don’t make a big deal of the new cat. Instead, lavish attention on your first one.
How to introduce cats sense by sense. Cats are highly sensory and can be overstimulated quickly, Rich warns. They also have an extraordinary sense of smell. Both experts recommend letting each cat sniff the other underneath the door that separates them. Give your new one a healthy treat, such as Vital Essentials Rabbit Mini Nibs at the door to create positive associations. Once both cats seem calm when they’re near the door, do a scent transfer by rubbing each cat with a small towel and letting the other sniff it. For your first kitty, Rich advises just dropping the towel with the new kitty’s scent on the floor. That way, she won’t associate the new cat with you.
Next, let the cats see each other, but still keep them separate. Boyle recommends blocking the open door to the new cat’s room with a tall pet or baby gate, such as the Carlson Pet Products Extra Tall Walk-Through Pet Gate. You can even stack two smaller gates on top of one another, or fit the doorway with an inexpensive screen door.
Once your cats seem calm with each other, let them into the same room. They may hiss at each other. This is normal, our experts say. Be sure to have a can of compressed air ready to spray into the air (not at the cats) to distract them if they seem ready to fight.
If you want to know how to introduce cats properly follow this guide and your longtime pal will still feel loved, and your new addition to the household will feel safe and right at home. Who knows—they may even become nap buddies.