When you finally decide to bring a new cat into your home, first-timers may at first envision the two cats’ first meeting as something like this: The two cats are prancing happily with each other, sharing their food, water, bedding and your attention without any form of conflict. Unfortunately, this will almost never be the case. Cats can be extremely territorial beings and will need a lot of time to become comfortable with new ones in the household. The only difference between humans and cats in this sort of situation (introducing a new member of the household to other like species) is that cats will not mince their hisses like humans do their words.
Before your new cat arrives, you need to make some preparations. Give your new cat its own separate enclosed living quarters equipped with its own food, water, litter box, bedding, and toys. This will be the new cat’s ‘safe zone’ – where the cat can go if it ever needs privacy or safety. Make sure that your current cat isn’t too close to you when you bring the new cat in the household, as you do not want a fight to break out. If you have more than one cat in your home, choose the leader of the pack to help welcome your new cat into the cat family. If the leader learns to accept the new cat, the other cats will likely follow suit.
Start by letting your new cat live in the new room and occasionally have limited, steadily increased interaction with the other cat(s). Cats are extremely scent-oriented and need time to adjust to each other’s smell. Take turns introducing something that smiles like each cat to the new cat and vice versa. When you feel the time is right, let the two cats have a look around each other’s room alone. Let the older cat explore the safe zone, and let the new cat take a peak around the area where the first cat likes to be.
Eventually, you’ll want them to be able to sniff each other, but out of harm’s way. A good way to do this is to put up a children’s gate in a doorway and put each cat on a separate side. That way, they’ll be able to be as close or as far as they want to be from each other. Finally, when the time feels right, supervise them interacting in an area with a lot of space and an escape route.
Do not be alarmed by hissing! This is completely normal if not expected when two (or more) cats are meeting each other. It’s their way of saying, “You’d better step back!” However, if your cats do break out into physical fighting, you need to be there to break it up. Don’t be surprised if an otherwise docile cat suddenly becomes violent while adjusting to another cat in the house. The cat is just reacting to the stress of adjusting. (My first cat was the quietest, sweetest cat ever until I needed to bring her into a home with other cats, at which point she became outspoken and violent. Within a few days, she was back to normal and completely happy with the other cats once she was comfortable with her new situation.)
Do not allow your cats to interact unsupervised unless you are absolutely sure they are completely comfortable with each other. If you need to go out, always put your new cat in the ‘safe room’ until you know the cats have learned to accept each other. The entire process of introducing cats to each other can take anywhere from a few days to several months. Just be patient with your new cats. One day, your dream of them prancing around happily together will finally come true, and that is when you’ll know all your hard work was worth it.
Shaina Indovino writes for Online Doctoral Programs where you can find information about various online colleges and find the school and program that is right for you.