If you’re a cat parent who wants to expand their fur family, it’s crucial to know how to introduce cats the right way. Cats can be territorial creatures, especially if they haven't been socialized to other cats during their critical socialization period between 2-7 weeks of age. However, with a little knowledge about cat body language and behavior, as well as a lot of patience, you can make this process go smoothly.
When introducing cats, remember these essential tips:
Prioritize the safety of both cats at all times.
Take things very slowly, and don't rush the process.
Ensure that both cats are entirely calm before moving on to the next step.
Understand that many cats can learn to coexist peacefully over time.
Remember, your cats may not become best friends immediately, but with patience and positive reinforcement, they could develop a strong bond. With a little guidance and a lot of love, your cats can happily coexist and bring even more joy to your life.
To ensure that your cat introductions go as smoothly as possible, it's essential to have the necessary supplies on hand. Here are some items you should have before beginning the introductions:
Pet gate - this allows you to separate the cats while still allowing them to see and smell each other
Towels or blankets - useful for covering carriers or creating a safe space for a nervous cat
Cat treats and/or catnip - can be used as positive reinforcement for good behavior
Two teaser or wand toys - great for distracting and entertaining your cats
A pet camera (optional) - can help you keep an eye on your cats' behavior when you're not in the room
In addition to these items, you'll also need to make sure that each cat has their own basic supplies, including food, water, litter box, scratch pad, and toys. It's important to have duplicates of these items for each cat's designated space since they may not be able to share these resources until they are fully comfortable with each other.
By having these items on hand, you'll be better equipped to manage your cats' introductions and help them establish a positive relationship with each other.
Introducing cats to each other can be a slow process, and it's essential to manage your expectations. Some cats may take weeks or even months to feel comfortable around each other, while others may never be able to coexist peacefully. To give your cats the best chance of success, move through these steps at a pace that works for them and avoid rushing either pet.
Keep an eye out for the following signs of stress in either cat:
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If you notice any of these cues, take a break and revert to the previous step. Rushing through these steps can backfire, causing additional stress and potentially forcing you to start the process all over again.
Remember that introducing cats requires patience and attentiveness. By taking the time to move through these steps slowly and observing your cats' body language cues, you can help them develop a positive relationship over time.
1 : Begin by completely separating your cats. Give your new cat their own room with access to food, water, a litter box, scratch pad, and toys. Keep the door closed so your other cat can’t enter, and be careful when opening the door to prevent unexpected encounters. It's a good idea to set up a pet gate in the doorway between their rooms to prevent accidental encounters when you move from one room to the other. This stage is all about letting both cats establish a base level of comfort before moving on to more direct interactions. Give your cats at least two days to get used to their new space before moving on to the next step.
2 : Start a scent exchange. Allow the cats to sniff your hands and clothing when you interact with them so they get used to each other’s smells. You can also rub a towel or blanket all over one cat, then place it on the floor for the other to explore. Sprinkle favorite treats or catnip (if your cats like catnip) all over each towel and allow them to approach and sniff. These will help your cats form a positive association with each other’s scent. Repeat this towel game daily.
3 : Swap the cats’ spaces. Next, let the cats explore each other’s spaces, while keeping them physically separated through a closed door. Watch each cat closely as they move around the other cat’s territory. You can let the cats explore for a few hours or even an entire day. Again, allow the two cats to sniff each other under the door, and monitor for signs that either cat is uncomfortable. If you see or hear either cat show signs of stress, go back to the previous step.
4 : Encourage play near the door. If you don’t witness signs of upset for at least 24 hours, it’s time to initiate contact, but don’t open the door just yet. Use a string toy to encourage one cat to bat at it near the door. Use another string toy under the door to lure the other cat over. Allow the cats to bat at their respective strings, gradually bringing them closer together at the base of the door. Encourage the cats to play “patty cake” with each other’s paws beneath the door if space allows. Look out for hissing, growling, yowling, or hitting with force, all signs that one or both cats are agitated. If those signs occur, go back to the previous step.
5 : Let the cats see each other. If the string toy experiment is a success, it’s time to let the cats see each other. Open the door an inch and allow the cats to peer through. You may hear a little hissing or growling when they first lay eyes on each other. Distract them from staring at each other by diverting their attention to a toy. If hissing or growling occurs despite your distractions, go back to the previous step. If the cats do not display signs of agitation, offer them treats, praises, and petting. Try to get them both to bat at a string toy. As long as they remain calm, allow the cats to sniff and see each other for short sessions, about 5-10 minutes 3-5 times throughout the day.
6 : Let the cats interact through the gate. When the cats are able to remain calm when they see each other through the door, it's time to introduce them in a controlled way. Place a pet gate in the doorway so the cats can see and smell each other without any physical contact. Start with short periods of interaction, gradually lengthening the time of each session. Look for positive body language such as relaxed ears, slow blinks, and elevated tails. These are all signs that they are feeling friendly. If both cats display these signs, you can try dangling a wand toy for each cat on either side of the gate. Continue to watch for relaxed body language. There should be no hissing, growling, or any other overt signs of fear or aggression. If you see these signs, distract them with a toy or treat, and then end the interaction. Let the cats interact through the gate for at least a few days. If they remain calm, it's time to move on to the next step.
7 : Let the cats meet face to face. Remove the pet gate, and supervise closely. Keep a spray bottle or a can of compressed air nearby in case you need to interrupt any negative interactions. Let the cats interact in person for brief sessions, multiple times a day. Start with 5-10 minutes and gradually increase the time as long as both cats remain calm. If one of the cats appears overwhelmed or fearful, end the interaction immediately. If aggression occurs, separate the cats and revert to the previous step. Even if all goes well during these brief sessions, keep the cats living in separate areas for at least a week and supervise all interactions. Gradually extend the length of each session in 15 minute increments. If both are behaving well, you can periodically leave the room, remembering to listen for aggressive signals.
8 : Try letting the cats spend time together without you. After a week without signs of fear or aggression, you can start leaving them alone together for short periods of time. Monitor their behavior with a pet camera or by checking in periodically. If either cat shows signs of stress or aggression, separate them again and start the process over. If they appear to be getting along, gradually lengthen the amount of time the cats spend together unsupervised. Remember to provide plenty of resources for each cat, such as separate food and water dishes, litter boxes, and hiding places.
By following these steps, you can help your cats become comfortable with each other and form a harmonious bond.