Introducing New Cats to Existing Cats

Introducing a new cat to your current one is an acquired skill. Cats are very territorial creatures, so a change in his or her living area can be very stressful for them.

By Lucy Powell

Bringing home a new feline friend to your existing cat family can be one of the most daunting tasks any cat owner can face. The fear that your cat will not accept the new addition can be overwhelming.

There is no set way to introduce a new kitten into the family, many who have had experience of this will often say that no two introductions are alike. Cat’s personalities are just as complex as human ones, some cats will be relaxed and happily accept the new kitten into the family home, but others will show aggressive behaviour and they may hiss or growl menacingly. This sort of behaviour can be seen in even the most docile of cats when another cat is in their territory.

Cats will often see you as ‘theirs’ and when a kitten comes to stay they will have to share your affection and time. There will also be a major change in routine, so do not be surprised if your cat displays symptoms of stress: change in overall behaviour, hiding, sleeping more than usual, vomiting and even over grooming themselves are just some stress signs in cats.

Taking Advice From Vets

Vets normally have some very helpful suggestions, among them maybe the ‘stages’ method. Steps are taken at a slow and comfortable pace instead of just bringing home a kitten and expecting the two cats to get along. This could be a total disaster, so taking things slowly makes the transition much smoother for all parties involved.

Firstly pick a ‘safe area’ in the house, this could be a bedroom or laundry room, somewhere well ventilated and at a comfortable temperature. Provide a litter box, bedding and food along with any kitten toys and a scratching post to keep new kitty occupied. This will be kittens sanctuary and will give him or her a chance to settle down in their new home.

With their superior senses your older cat will definitely pick up on kittens scent, this can be a useful as it’s an introduction in itself. Getting used to each other’s smell is the first step, they may even begin to play and paw gently underneath the door.

“Swap places, take your kitten out of the safe room every once in a while and let your cat in – another way in which the two cats will become accustomed to each other’s scent.”

You don’t want to leave it too long before you allow kitten to explore the rest of the house. Perhaps a day after he or she has arrived is a good time to allow some venturing away from the safe room. Choose a day when you are able to stay at home with them, kittens are very excitable and as a result very accident prone, it will be worthwhile keeping an eye on him or her. Meanwhile make sure that your existing cat is safe and happy in the safe room with their litter box and food. Note that this will only be for a very short time while kitten has the chance to take everything in on his or her own.

“Once your new kitten starts to show signs of confidence, it could be time for introductions! One of the safest ways in which you can do this is to put kitten into a cat carrier and then let your cat enter the room. The cat carrier acts as a safe barrier in case of confrontation.”

The Next Steps for Two Cats…

If you feel happy that both cats are comfortable you can open the door to the cat carrier and encourage the kitten to come out when he or she is ready. Watch the interaction between the two, they will obviously be curious about each other.

How this will go is a mystery to even the most experienced of cat owners.

There could be some initial clawing and swiping at each other, one or both of the cats may even run away from the meeting place preferring not to meet.

If you feel that there is a threat to the kitten from the older cat then it is fine to interfere in the situation.

“When one or both of the cats react badly then it is fine to go back to keeping kitten in the safe room for a couple of hours. You could retry the introductions later on in the day when your older cat has calmed down. Realistically it can take up to several weeks for the new kitten to be fully accepted.”

Hopefully all will go well but look out for one or both cats looking ‘on edge’, your older cat may walk around the house cautiously, or react to you in an out of character way.

They may not want to be petted or picked up, opting instead for hiding under beds. Only temporary behaviour, you can expect your cat to return to his or her normal self within a few weeks.

Not all cats can be friends, and it is preferable that they can at least tolerate each other in the beginning. Although many cats are able to build amiable relationships with each other over time.

With the right amount of gentle handling and kindness, we are sure that all the members of your feline family will live a happy harmonious life together.

*** Strays, shelter cats and cats from unknown sources must be checked by a qualified veterinarian before introduction to ensure that they are not carrying any infectious diseases.   

About the Author

Lucy Powell
Lucy Powell

Passionate about our feline friends and the bond cats can create with their owners. Lucy is a contributing pet-care writer for various magazines and is the proud owner of three specials cats - Lordy, Gatinha and Gina!