The Water Bowl
Breed & Health Resources

How to Introduce Cats

By Lea Jaratz

two cats resting by each other

Now that you’ve picked the perfect buddy for your buddy introducing your cats comes next. Take this process slowly, probably two to three weeks at minimum, but more if your cats are less social. Dropping two cats in with one another is almost guaranteed to cause a rivalry that could last indefinitely, so it’s best to take your time.

Before we get to cat introductions, here are three facts you should know before you build a clowder of your own.

  1. Cats are not inherently social with other cats. Even in the wild, competition for hunting territory is a primal no-no and cats often prefer to fly solo or with just the company of their direct family. If you’re considering a multi-cat household, it’s best to have a spacious area or multi-floored home so that every cat can stake out their own turf. That’s not to say they won’t socialize eventually, but allowing personal space helps reduce a lot of stress and potential behavior problems.
  2. With personal space comes personal belongings, and that is especially important when it comes to food and litter boxes. Rule of thumb: If you have two cats, have three litter boxes. Three cats need four boxes, and so on. Same idea for food and water bowls. Personal property should be spread throughout the home so everyone has some privacy.
  3. It’s often thought that disagreements occur more often between same-sexed cats, especially the fellas. But that’s not always the way it goes. However, it is important to consider your resident cat’s temperament and try to find a similar match in age and personality. Adults are more likely to accept kittens, but senior cats might not be up for the task of mentoring a youngster.

Meet and Greet: Cat Edition

Step 1: In preparing to bring you new kitty friend home, get a blanket or toy home from the kennel so that your resident cat can start adjusting to the idea of a new friend. If you can’t get something, take one of your cat’s belongings to the shelter to introduce your cat’s smell too.

Step 2: Before the cat comes home, set up a quiet room behind a closed door for that to be their sanctuary while they decompress. When the new cat has arrived, let them smell each other between the door. Encourage the cats to sniff or even paw each other underneath the door while giving treats or tuna to both of them while they’re investigating to reinforce a positive vibe.

Step 3: Once they’ve had time to sniff and play under the door, let the new cat have a little more freedom for a day or two. You can either:

  • Switch the cats by letting the new cat roam free & keep the veteran in the sanctuary where they’re sure to spend a lot of time sniffing & investigating
  • Confine the veteran to a different but separate room & let the rookie roam freely

Step 4: Set up a baby gate or barrier so that the cats can see each other face to face but cannot interact yet. They may try to initiate contact but should be able to cause harm at this stage.

Step 5: When the new cat is old news and they’ve had a chance to get used to the big changes, allow the cats to have supervised face time. You may want to only do this a few minutes at a time to start. If you’ve been patient and followed the steps to this point, chances are good they’ll be at ease soon enough.

  • If they start to fight, startle the cats to break it up. Move one of them back to the sanctuary & contact your shelter for personalized advice about how to resume introductions

Most cats ultimately learn to tolerate each other, which is probably why so many people assume they can skip with formalities – but if you hope to have cats who enjoy each other’s company, and perhaps even become bonded, it’s best not to rush.

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