How to introduce cats

How to introduce cats

So if you’re thinking about getting another cat, we really need to think about what the current resident cat really would
think about that. Many people fall into the trap of thinking that their
cat might need a friend – particularly if a feline companion has recently passed away. Certainly as people, that’s how we might
feel and we need to be careful not to transfer these feelings onto animals. It’s
easy to think that if you just put cats together they will just figure it out
for themselves. The unfortunate reality is that many cats that are returned to Cats Protection are due to poor integration with the existing resident cat. The process to introduce cats to other cats takes many stages and so what we
really need to do is set these cats up for success. A change of
environment can be really overwhelming for a new cat. This is why we would
recommend setting up a sanctuary room – so this can be a spare bedroom,
which is ideal – and particularly something that’s not the resident cat’s favourite room. You need to put in all the cat’s resources that they need, so a food bowl, water bowl, litter tray, all spaced out
within that bedroom. Every cat’s going to be different, but as a very rough guide
the new cat should be in the sanctuary room away from the resident cat for at least
a week. This will allow the new cat time to gradually adapt to their new surroundings before meeting the resident cat. So the most important stage in introducing cats
to other cats is scent swapping. It’s really important that this stage isn’t
rushed at all. It’s quite common for people to either rush through it or
actually skip it altogether. And this is where you collect scent from
one cat – so on the cheeks and on the forehead – with a clean cloth and then you swap it and give it to the other cat, ideally in the middle of the floor, so the cat has the choice to either approach it or avoid it.
This is really important as cats, that are so governed by scent, can really start
getting very gradually used to the scent of another cat. The scents will need to be topped up ideally at least once a day because the scents will disappear over time. Many people struggle to know when to move on to the next stage and
the important thing to think about is that it’s when both cats are ready and
this is when both cats are not reacting to the scent of the other cat and have
not reacted for a few days. Some people may be tempted to go straight to a
face-to-face but I would avoid that because the more steps people put in,
the more likely it is the cats will get on. So in this respect, we would want to put
in a glass barrier – so whether somebody’s got patio doors or French
glass doors within the house – and then the cats can see each other through the
glass, but because it’s a solid barrier they can’t get to one another. The other thing to
consider is that we always need to give the cats choice, so I wouldn’t put one
cat right next to the glass, what I want to do is open the door the other side of
the room and allow the cat to come in and choose whether to approach that glass
barrier or not. When the introductions have finished, just
gently usher the new cat back to their sanctuary room. So after the glass barrier,
if we can break it down into further steps: brilliant. What we can do
would be to introduce a mesh barrier. Some people, if they rabbits for example,
can use a run lid and put that through the door frames temporarily. Equally
what people can do is go to a DIY store and buy some mesh that they could
temporarily tack to a door frame or it could even be a baby gate. This will
allow the cats to not only each other, but also start to smell each other too,
while still having a bit of a barrier so they can’t get to another, and this would be
certainly advisable before a face-to-face introduction. After
multiple sessions of seeing each other through the mesh barrier, we’re finally
going to get to the face-to-face. This should be quite far down through the
process. When we do this, again, we don’t want to put one cat in front of
the other cat, we want to give both cats the choice by opening the door and
allowing them to choose about whether to come through or not. Again, both
cats need to be aware of where the exit points are and where they can get up
high and keeping these introductions short and sweet and making sure we’re forming
positive associations with each other by using treats or interactive play.
Hopefully the cats won’t show any signs of conflict, but we need to have a plan
of what to do if that happens. So owners need to think about carefully
monitoring the cats’ behaviours and if it is becoming a bit tense, we really need to
block off the eye contact between the two cats if they are starting to stare at
each other. You can do this with something quite solid like a blanket or a thick pillow; anything that, like I said, blocks two cats that
might be staring at each other off. By making sure that cats can break this eye
contact, it allows them to retreat from one another and then we need to very
carefully encourage the resident cat away from the new cat and the new cat back
to the sanctuary room. Introductions should be really quite short, so up to five
minutes at a time. How frequent they are really much depends on your two cats and how
it’s going. Owners, during this process, need to very carefully observe their cats
to see whether there’s any signs of possible conflict. Again, it’s going to be
quite subtle – ears moving around to the sides, pupils becoming large or dilated, quite a tense
body posture – they might go into a crouched position and they may well
avoid eye contact with the other cat. However by taking these steps we can
dramatically improve the quality of life of both of the cats and improve their
chances of cohabiting together successfully. If owners have any
particular problems when introducing their cats, it’s better to seek help
sooner rather than later. At Cats Protection we would recommend that owners first of all
seek the help of their vet to rule out any medical problems and then get a
referral to a qualified behaviourist such as a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors.

Comments (22)

  1. Thank you for this video, I knew there was more to introductions than what my cat shelter lady said: just put them together and they will fight it out themselves πŸ˜•

  2. Very informative – not just introducing new cats and/or kittens to each other but also if one cat spends some time away for treatment and is then returned to the household. Introducing kittens is much easier than adult cats.

  3. I'm getting a 10 year old female cat tomorrow that's never lived with other cats and has spent quite a lot of time left in a flat on her own. Her owner visits her maybe 3 times a week to feed her. I already have a 3 year old Male who's quite boy-stress so getting quite nervous about the hole ordeal. I have been watching lots of videos on how to introduce cats I just hope it all works out. So thanks cat protection for this video it's come in the nick of time.

  4. Thanks cat protection, this is day 5 and it sounds like they want to attack each other, lots of high pitched screams from both cats through the class divide. Would really appreciate any advice as to how long can I keep both cats separated for. Thank you.

  5. my cats were first introduced almost 2 years ago. Unfortunately, every time they do meet it ends in furious cat fight….so their dominance must be altered between them. While one has access to whole place other is locked in her safe room. And vice versa.

  6. I wonder who grows up thinking "I want to be a cat behaviourist!".

    I envy that person.

  7. proposal for between steps 2 and 3: show them photographs of each other. Also you should sing them to sleep both with the same song before bringing the new cat to the house at all, to avoid rushing things.

  8. My resident cat hates our new kitten, we have tried everything but the kitten is very playful and our older cat is very quiet and just wants to sleep and eat.

  9. Well mine got along after 5 days. I had my one year old for a week, the next week I brought in a 6 month old. The older cat was hissing and growling but after 5 days she quit that. My kitten was in a big play pep and I let her out when I get home and put her back when I leave.

    I'm assuming they got along fairly quickly because they were both together in a cage at the local shelter, so they probably remembered each other lol.

  10. I have 4 Cats 🐈🐈🐈🐈

  11. My cats are literally like a brother relationship on a show.
    We have the eldest brother, responsible and taking care of his little brothers.
    Then we have the emo middle child. (He even looks like one because of his black fur.) He hates everybody especially his new little brother.
    Then we have the 3yr old kitten. Playful and whiny.

  12. This is a fantastic/useful and informative Video, thank you for this. Cheers Peter

  13. The cats are soooooooo cute πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜˜πŸ˜˜πŸ˜˜πŸ˜˜πŸ˜˜πŸ˜—πŸ˜—πŸ˜—πŸ˜—πŸ˜™πŸ˜™πŸ˜šπŸ˜šπŸ˜™πŸ˜š

  14. In developing countries, there are not those specialists

  15. I am getting a kitten tomorrow is is going to be called willow I will try this I hope my cat nala is not going to have a bad reaction. I hope it works and we do not have a glass door or any see through glass it's chiselled so you can't se through it fingers crossed it will work.πŸ˜“πŸ€πŸ˜…πŸ˜°πŸ˜πŸ€žπŸ»πŸ€žπŸ»πŸ‘

  16. I have a 7 month old resident cat and i just got a 1 year old cat. My resident cat is male and new cat is female. She seems to ignore him and all he does is hiss and growl at her. Even her scent makes him go off. How can i get him to stop. He's even hissed at me because my hand smelled like her.

    Edit: i also have a dog, he hissed at her when he first got here, now he's fine. The new cat was introduced fairly quickly to the dog. She allowed my dog to smell her and they sat together for a while.

  17. Do these tips work for introducing a kitten to an old grandma cat? My current cat is 18 and next week we are picking up our new kitten. Is there a few things we should do instead since it is a kitten?


  19. A useful video, well presented but sadly, like so many on YT, ruined by that unnecessary and annoying background music.

  20. Very helpful thank you xx

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