How to introduce your cat to a new cat

Bringing a new cat into your home can be a stressful time, for them, for you and for and existing cats you have. Here are some points to consider before you take on a new cat, and a guide on how to integrate them into your family.

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What type of cat should I rehome?

Before choosing a new cat, your main concern should be how your existing cat will feel about a new arrival. Some important points to consider are:

  • What is your current cat’s temperament like? Decide what sort of personality you feel your cat would accept – and whether they would benefit from a new companion
  • If you have a kitten, it’s often easier to introduce another kitten because they have not yet reached social maturity and will often bond through play
  • Elderly cats can find it hard to cope with young, energetic cats and kittens.

Cats can live happily on their own or in groups

While cats can live in harmony with their feline friends, many are perfectly content living on their own. Cats in their natural environment are solitary hunters but we know that feral cat colonies, usually made up of related females, can live happily in close social contact.

If you do decide to bring a new cat into your home, the most important thing to remember is that a slow introduction will pose less threat to your existing cat. Rushing the process can cause issues that are hard to rectify.

How to start the introduction

Start by confining your new cat in a quiet separate room, such as a spare bedroom, along with a litter tray, food and water bowls, a bed, a scratching post and toys. Allow your other cat to access the rest of the house as usual.

You should leave your new cat alone initially to allow them to explore and establish themselves in the new environment, so they feel comfortable and in control. Then, spend equal time with your new cat and your existing cat until both feel content. They will already be aware of each other’s presence through scent.

The importance of swapping scents

Once both cats are settled, you can start to swap scents. This is probably the most important part of any cat introduction, as cats rely heavily on taking information in through scent.

Scent swapping involves swapping items of bedding and toys and placing them in the other cat’s space in the home. Allow your existing cat to rub their cheeks on a blanket or rag and place it in the spare room for the new cat to sniff and vice versa.  Never rub one cat with an item of bedding and then rub it directly on the other cat, as this may overwhelm them.

Once both cats seem to be quite relaxed with the others scent, you can start giving them tasty treats and letting them play with toys either side of the spare room door. This will help them both start to build a good association with what lies on the other side of the door. 

Preparation before they meet

Before they meet, you should ensure your existing cat and new cat have their own resources spread around the home. Cats are territorial animals, their territory includes their food source, sleeping place, water bowl and litter tray.

Provide them with separate feeding stations, as far away from each other as possible, and a variety of water bowls. Make sure your cats have at least one litter tray each, in a different room to each other and in a secluded place (but with easy access). Give each cat their own toys and scratching posts.

Ensure there are plenty of hiding places and high-up resting places for the cats around the house. This will allow the cats to live in close proximity, but without having direct contact unless they decide to. You can keep the spare room as your new cat’s base for a while, with food, water and litter tray in there, so they alway have a familiar place to come back to.

Your cats’ first meeting

When both cats seem settled on either side of the door that’s separating them, start by opening the spare room door slightly. Don’t force introductions, just let your cats meet in their own time. When they’re in the same room, try to distract each of them with toys and food at opposite ends of the room. Your two cats will assess each other through scent, body language, posture and sound.

You should expect some hissing and growling at this stage. If the introduction results in fighting, place a pillow or sheet between the two cats and put your new cat back in the spare room when it’s safe to pick them up. Never break up a fight by picking one cat up, as you’re likely to get injured in the process.

Try again when both cats have completely calmed down

It may take a little while for both cats to get used to each other, but they will usually settle if they have enough space and resources. If they seem to be getting on well together, or at least tolerating each other, you can let them both have free access to the house. Unless you’re concerned they may fight if left alone together, there’s no need to separate them when you are out, or overnight.

Will they live happily ever after?

It’s not uncommon to see a cat of any age re-homed with existing cats and settling well, as long as they were introduced correctly. In time, most cats will come to accept the new arrival. Some may merely learn to tolerate each other, but some may even become the best of