[Ed. Note: We welcome suggestions for articles we can post in our Companion Animal Care section.]
From Los Angeles Animal Services, July 2011
The time you spend slowly orchestrating a proper introduction of your cats will eventually be rewarded with years of harmonious habitation and loving companionship.
Two (or three) cats can be better than one! With two cats in your home,
your family will be able to enjoy the true social nature of cats and their
relationship with each other. Having a playmate provides companionship and
active stimulation during your absence and keeps both cats more playful and
youthful in their later years. But how you prepare for the new cat’s arrival
and how you manage the transition is very important.
Cats, in general, are very cautious of new places and things. They don’t
like change in their lives, and it will take time – the amount will vary
with each individual cat – for your new cat to adjust to unfamiliar
surroundings. A kitten is usually easier to integrate into the household
with a full-sized adult. Cats of opposite sexes usually get along better.
Here are a few tips to help provide a friendlier transition:
- Set the new cat up in a small “safe room,” a bathroom with a tiled
floor or a confined space he can call his own for a week or so. Get new
food and water bowls, a litter box, scratching post/pad and bedding.
Visit him frequently with interactive toys, special treats and lots of
hands-on loving during the first week.
- Feed your resident cat and the newcomer on opposite sides of the
door of the “safe room” so they can smell each other and associate the
new cat smell with an enjoyable experience. Gradually move the food
dishes closer to the door until they are eating calmly directly opposite
- Switch scents by switching their beds between the new cat and the
resident cat so they have a chance to become accustomed to each other’s
scent. Another option is to rub a small towel on each cat and place the
towel from the opposite under the food dish of the other cat.
- Begin an exchange of living space once your new cat is settled in
and eating regularly in the confined room. Let the new cat have some
free time in the house while you confine the resident cat in the “safe
room.” This is another way the cats can experience each other’s scents
without meeting face-to-face. It also helps the new cat get comfortable
with her new surroundings without experiencing the other cat.
- Securely prop the door open a crack so they can safely see each
other for the first time when the cats seem to be relaxed with
everything you have done so far. Place treats on each side of the door
and connect two toys with several inches of string slipped under the
door so they can try playing with each other.
- When the cats seem to be calm in each other’s presence, it’s time to
open the “safe room” door and let her out for a few minutes. The length
of time should be increased gradually. Always allow the new cat an
escape path back to her “safe room” if needed.
This process may take a few weeks or a few months depending on the personalities and territorial needs of the cats. If from time to time your cats become hostile or fearful, return the newcomer to the “safe room,” close the door and let them calm down. Back up one stage in this process and begin again. Minor setbacks don’t ruin a growing friendship, but an aggressive encounter will be remembered a long time and should be avoided. The time you spend slowly orchestrating a proper introduction of your cats will eventually be rewarded with years of harmonious habitation and loving companionship.