Need to introduce two cats? Follow this step-by-step guide.
Except for the first step, for which you should allow 72 hours, there is no set time frame for each step. Watch the body language of each cat and wait until neither cat is reacting in a aggressive manner (hissing, growling, snarling) before moving onto the next step. The instant aggression does occur, revert to the previous successful step. The most important thing is to proceed with caution and take your time. Cats can take up to a year to accept each other.
CREATE A SAFE ROOM
- Create a private space for your new cat.
- Provide essential resources: food, water, litter box. scratching post, and bedding.
- Provide other enrichment items: toys, hiding spots, climbing areas.
- As long as your scent is strong in the room, it will help your cat become comfortable in the new environment. You can ensure your scent is strong by giving your new cat one or more article of your unwashed clothes.
- Make sure your new cat can’t see the rest of the house from its safe room.
- Place a clean sock on your hand and rub your new cat’s face to collect facial pheromones.
- Place the scented sock in your resident cat’s area.
- Place a clean sock on your hand and rub your new resident’s face to collect facial pheromones.
- Place the scented sock in your new cat’s area.
- Other exchange items: condo, bedding, litter, toys.
- Put your new cat in a carrier, carry the carrier to a closed room in another part of your house, and shut the door.
- Allow your resident cat to walk into your new cat’s safe room and then close the door behind it.
- Allow your new cat to explore the rest of the home.
- This will allow the opportunity for key cat landmarks to acquire a shared scent.
FEED ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR
- At mealtimes, set up feeding bowls on either side of a closed door.
- Place bowls far enough apart so your cats can walk up, eat, and walk away without incident, but close enough that they can sense each other. Decrease the distance each feeding as they become comfortable.
- Use only a small amount of food. Increase the amount as the cats become comfortable with one another.
- Install a baby gate or a screen door between the safe room and the rest of the house.
- Open the door wide enough for the cats to see each other.
- Return the bowls to their original positions, where the cats can see one another and eat with no disruption.
- Open the door a little more each feeding as the cats become comfortable with one another.
ADD PLAYTIME (best with two people)
- Begin by playing with your resident cat in the main living area of your house. Make sure your cat is engaged, and keep it moving with a toy.
- Have your partner carry your cat in a carrier into the main living area of your house and immediately engage your new cat with a toy.
- At the end of the play session, return your new cat to the safe room.
- Gradually increase the amount of supervised time your two cats have with each other.
Starting with the scent swap, you can increase the likelihood of success of each step by using positive reinforcement. Each time the cats do not show aggression towards the other’s scent, click to reinforce their behavior and reward with a treat.
Need help with cat behavior? I offer cat behavior consultations, training in manners and agility, and support for basic care and enrichment. Contact me at Allison Helps Cats.