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How to Introduce Your New Cat to Your Resident Cats

October 8, 2012

You know the day is near.

You’ve brought your new cat home, and after a few days you think it’s about time for your new cat to meet the other cats in your home.

Before we get into details, let me say that some cats adjust very well in a short amount of time. Others may take several days or even weeks to feel comfortable with their new companion, if they ever warm up to her.

You can increase your chance for success by taking things slow – and not just slow, but watching your cats’ body language to see how they perceive things to be going. Here are some tips.

First off, cats are quite territorial, so introductions to any new animal need to happen slowly. Moving too quickly through the introduction process or forcing it could result in your cats developing fear or aggression issues.

Hopefully, you began this transition by proving your new cat with a secluded “home base.” During this time, your cats may have met informally by sniffing each other through the door or even slipping a paw under the door.

If either cat behaves aggressively or fearful when they approach the door, you can try several things to change those negative feelings to positive ones.

Some suggestions include feeding your cat near the door that separates them. If your new cat is nervous, move her food station closer to the door so she has more opportunity to smell your resident cat, and if your resident cat is nervous, place his food near your new cat’s home base. That way, both will associate the positive act of eating (or receiving treats) along with the other animal’s smell.

You can also help them become familiar with one another by exchanging linens between them. Swap a towel your new cat has slept on with a blanket your resident cat has slept on. This will help your cats get used to one another.

Photo courtesy Tim Morgan

Similarly, you can also play with your resident and new cat near the door to help lessen anxiety. Many cats forget their fears when they’re playing.

After that, you can up the ante, so to speak, by allowing each cat to explore the other’s territory. Let your new cat explore your home while your resident cat(s) explore the home base. Don’t let your cats meet just yet.

Once it’s clear that your cats are comfortable with smelling one another, you can take the next step by allowing them to see one another. Before you do this, you may want to clip their nails, depending on how you feel about that.

We originally had a baby gate put up in the doorway of Ellie’s home base when she came to live with us, so she and CG could see and smell one another, while both being protected from the other. (Note, this only works if your cat won’t jump over it – or as we found with Ellie, try to climb it!)

If that’s not an option, try opening the door just a crack to see how the cat’s react. All of their first interactions should be supervised, until you’re totally OK with them being alone together.

While all of this is going on, check each cat’s body language. According to Petfinder.com, you should look for:

Good signs: Upright ears, tail is relaxed and mobile, face is relaxed

Bad signs: Ears are down/back, tail is tucked down or stiff, face is stiff or hissing

To be fair, your cats may likely hiss, howl and swat at one another at first. If they do start to fight, hold a towel between them to cut off their sight of the other cat. Do not pick them up. Instead, use the blanket to corral one of the cats off to another room. If or once that happens, don’t worry. Simply close the door, continue to work on positive associations, and try again later.

Once the can be in the same room together, continue to build positive associations by giving them all treats, playing together, etc. But again, if you see that either cat is uncomfortable, take a step back. There’s no shame in being patient with your cats!

One thing to keep in mind is that your other cat may be freaked out by your CH cat’s wobbles and spills. They may misinterpret your cat’s actions. Be patient, and soon your resident cat will see there is nothing to fear.

You may want to limit their time together at first, but slowly you can build up how much time they spend together, and eventually, leaving them together alone.

Again, some cats are more social than others and may embrace a companion, while others may dread it. No matter what your situation, your patience should pay off. Good luck!

How have you introduced cats? Can you offer any more recommendations? Please share in the comments!

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