A carefully planned introduction is everything. Most cats do not readily accept a new member of the family. They need time to get used to the idea. A certain amount of hissing, posturing and chasing is to be expected. It is important to have patience and not rush things along. Preventing a problem is always easier than solving one. Several factors need to be considered and balanced when introducing a second cat. Among them are age, size, sexual maturity and personality. The introduction can take anywhere from several days (kitten/kitten or juvenile) to several months (adult stray/adult prima dona). We here at Providence Animal Center are here to help, so never hesitate to call or email us!
In an ideal world, the new cat would be younger and smaller than the existing cat in the home. The new cat also would be a spayed/neutered member of the opposite sex. Be prepared for a prolonged introduction, especially if the cats have lived alone since kittenhood and have no experience living with other cats.
Falling in love at our Adoption Center is another one of those events that can deliver a jolt to both you and your existing cat! Should you take the cat you’ve met home just because fate put him in your path? A cat from a group environment such as the Adoption Center must be physically isolated from your cat(s) for 10-14 days to make sure he is not incubating a contagious disease. Your new cat should be thoroughly examined for parasites and disease at the vet appointment you are contracted to set up within the first two weeks after adoption, and they will be tested for leukemia and vaccinated before you leave Providence Animal Center.
The Isolation Area
This should be a room with a door that can be closed so there will be absolutely no contact between the cats. If there is no spare room, the bedroom or bathroom can be used as the isolation area. The existing cat’s routine should be disrupted as little as possible at this point. The isolation area should be cat-proofed and well ventilated. In addition, a litter box, a water bowl and a cave-like hiding box lined with something comfortable should all be inside it.
How Will I Know if He’ll Fit In?
Smaller is Better than Larger The visual impression made is important. Smaller is less intimidating to the existing cat. A physically smaller new cat means that the existing cat will be less inclined to feel threatened. Size is based upon perception — both body size and hair length count.
Younger is Better than Older Cats go through the same developmental stages that people do.
A kitten 8-12 weeks old is an infant who needs lots of care and supervision. He has no life experience to help him make decisions, and thus makes tactical errors. A kitten between the ages of 12 weeks and 6 months is a juvenile. Full of energy and enthusiasm, he can be a downright annoying companion because of his constant testing of both physical and social boundaries! Or a whole lot of fun, depending on your view!
A cat between 6 months and 2 years old is an adolescent. All cats in the home should be spayed or neutered by this time, before you bring home a new cat. The stability of adulthood begins to show itself at about 2 years of age. Cats older than that have a more fixed personality and are more likely to need extensive time to acclimate to their new home. A cat more than 8 years old can begin to show signs of aging. He may be arthritic, sedentary and opinionated. Ongoing anxiety can produce a variety of physical stress disorders, some of which can be life-threatening. Check with your veterinarian if you’re planning to surprise an 8+ year old existing cat with a new cat.
Male/female combinations are the best. Female/Female combinations also work many times, but male/male combinations are not advised.
Sociability, lust for adventure, activity level and tolerance all play a part. A living lawn ornament will not appreciate a companion with the energy of a small tornado, and a temperamental prima-dona will be offended by a spirited comic.
Bringing your new cat home
Upon arrival, the new cat should be brought directly into the isolation area. Remove the cat from the carrier and let him scope out the room. Don’t linger and take the empty carrier out with you. Then proceed with your normal “just got home” routine. Be sure not to just plop the carrier down in front of your existing cat. Give him a chance to discover and explore the empty carrier on his own. Watch carefully, but don’t interfere. Your cat’s response to the scent of the new cat can be telling. Some cats will posture, hiss and even attack the carrier (rough seas ahead) while others will stalk and growl, run off and then return again and again (typical). Still others will approach the carrier curiously and sniff it with great excitement (prognosis: excellent). It is best to leave the carrier out until your cat looses interest in it. Don’t go peek in on the new cat for at least an hour. He’ll be just fine. He will need some alone time to explore. Studies have shown that cats respond to environmental challenges before they respond to social invitations so let him check out his environment first!
After an hour, go into the isolation room with a small portion of food. Sit quietly and talk softly. Do not actively solicit the cat, he’ll approach when ready. If he engages you, respond conservatively. Don’t rush forward and scoop him up. Remain for half an hour to 45 minutes. Wash your hands if you’ve been petting the new cat, and then leave without ceremony. Visit him several times a day, about one hour at a time, for approx. 10 days.
Now you smell like the intruder! Your may begin to hiss or growl at you. Continue with your normal routine. Note how much time your cat spends sniffing around and sitting outside the isolation room’s door. Do not proceed to the next step until all hostile responses to the scent, doorway and carrier have ceased.
Now that your cat seems accustomed to the new cat’s limited presence, it’s time to move forward! The next step will be to allow the two to see each other without allowing them to make full-body contact. Stack two baby gates that are at least 36 inches tall in the new cat’s doorway.
You can also jam the door to the isolation room with two hard-rubber door stops. Place them on opposite sides of the door, and leave it open about two to three inches. Make sure that neither cat can fit his head through the opening. Check that the door is secure and will not suddenly open further or slam shut if a cat slams against it. The cats should be able to touch noses and whack each other with their paws, but not make full-body contact. When you are not at home or are unable to at least peripherally supervise, the door should be closed. Do not proceed to the final step until the cats seem relatively calm in each other’s presence. Hissing, posturing and growling should be at a bare minimum. This step may take a few hours to a few weeks to complete.
Finally, you get to open the door! While your cat is occupied elsewhere, take down the gate or open the door. Don’t make a big thing out of it. Let the cats happen upon each other. Stay on the side lines and don’t interfere. Your cat may stalk and chase the new cat. This is typical territorial behavior. Be sure not to leave the two unsupervised.
If a fight breaks out, you should keep his hands out of it. We advise you clap your hands and shout or bang a pot with a spoon. Cat fights almost always sound much worse than they really are. Cats yowl and scream, but if their nails have been trimmed, damage should be minimal. When things have cooled down considerably, the owner should go over each of the cats’ bodies carefully and check for damage. Bites and punctures wounds can become infected and abscess. Call your veterinarian immediately if you see punctures.
Watch for signs of stress. Eating food quickly and then vomiting, and excessive grooming, sleeping and/or drinking are all signs that a cat is not happy. Spraying, mewling, hiding and indiscriminate urination and/or defecation also are associated with anxiety and stress. To minimize stress, do not unknowingly promote competition. Continue to feed them in separate areas. Maintain two separate litter boxes for now. Don’t be in a hurry to consolidate.Eventually, hostilities will decline. Soon you may see them grooming each other and sharing sleeping spots. At worst, they will simply coexistence peacefully. Hopefully, they will become best friends!