Introducing Two Cats

Planning to bring a new cat into your home and wondering how your current cat is going to take it? Chances are that given time the two cats will get along peachy, but the process can be long and painful if not done correctly. And bear in mind that some cats really enjoy being the only cat in the house and may never accept another cat into their home. In such a situation the cats may get to a point where they can at least tolerate each other, if not you may need to work out a way where the two are constantly separated. The key to introducing two cats and having the best possible change of success is time and patience. Although you may want to just let the two loose together and watch them be best friends, you and your cats will be much happier in the end if you take is slow and easy.

The best case scenario is to introduce two cats who are of opposite sex and both either spayed or neutered. Two male cats (especially unneutered males) in the same home can mean trouble with a capital T! If you have found a homeless or feral cat you may have no choice in the matter, but if you are purchasing a cat as a playmate try to purchase a cat who is younger and of the opposite sex from your current cat. Also if your first cat is overly aggressive or territorial you may want to think long and hard before purchasing a second cat, especially if you are getting a second cat to ‘play with’ your first cat. In such a case a second cat may only stress and anger your first cat. Lastly make sure that both cats have their own things (litterbox, food/water bowl, toys, bed etc.) this will keep territorial fighting to a minimum.

When you first bring the second cat home keep him/her locked in a separate room (with his/her own food, water, litter and toys) for a few days. This can be especially important if you have brought in a stray animal. You never know what illnesses and diseases a new cat may have, so it is always best to take the new cat to a vet for a full check up and keep the new cat separated from your current pets until the new cat has been given a clean bill of health. The last thing you want to do is to introduce a disease or illness to your first cat, so make sure the second cat is healthy. Also by keeping the two cats separated you will allow your first cat to smell the second cat and get used to his/her scent. And you will allow the second cat time to adjust to the new home before having to also adjust to a new cat.

After a few days let the two cats meet. Depending on the demeanor of your first cat you may want to host the introduction in a few different ways. If your first cat is fairly calm and not aggressive you may just want to let the two have a supervised visit in one room. Hissing and growling are normal part of getting to know each other but watch for signs of aggression or fighting. If the two start to fight or either cat seems stressed (spraying, peeing, marking, scratching etc.) separate the two and save the meeting for another day. If your first cat is aggressive you may want to have a bit more of ‘safe’ visit. You can try the following:

  • Keep each cat on opposite sides of a screen door so they can see each other but not touch each other (you can even put food and water bowls on opposite sides of the screen so each cat has to get near the other at some time point)
  • Keep the second cat in a room with the door open enough that both cats can poke their heads in the door and see each other but the first cat can’t get in the room (again you can even put food and water bowls on opposite sides of the door)
  • Put the second cat in a cat carrier in the center of a room so the first cat can see and smell the other cat but they can’t have direct contact

However you construct the visits you should start off short (perhaps 30 minutes) and lengthen the visit each day. Once each cat gets used to the other they should be able to get along and live together relatively comfortably. Your cats will most likely need to establish a hierarchy now that there is more than one cat in the house. This is normal and part of the cat way of life so go with the flow and with the hierarchy they set up. Bear in mind that the introduction process timeline will depend on your cats. Some introductions are successful after only a week, while some take months before the two cats finally accept each other. So be patient and know what you are getting into before you undertake the adoption of a second animal.

If either cat is overly aggressive you may run into some territorial problems or some dominance issues, these usually can be worked through but if you are having a difficult time getting your two cats to get along you may want to call your vet or a behaviorist. Also be willing to accept the possibility that the two cats may never get along and that you may need to keep them permanently separated.