Cats Don?t Get Along

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger explains how to introduce a new cat to the household.

By Marilyn Krieger, CCBC | Posted: August 28, 2009 3:00 a.m. EDT

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Q: We have had our cat Half-Pint since she was about 4 weeks old. She is now 5 years old. Recently, we got a new female kitten named Lulu who Half-Pint hisses and growls at. I’m afraid she will hurt Lulu. Half-Pint has had litters but is spayed now. How do I get her to accept Lulu? 

A: Half-Pint’s behavior is perfectly understandable since she has been the queen of your household for the last 5 years. It’s natural for cats to react negatively toward a newcomer when they are introduced to each other too quickly. Proper introductions can take a month or longer and need to be done slowly, on the cat’s schedule. Even though Half-Pint has already had unpleasant meetings with Lulu, the two cats should be re-introduced gradually to each other. 

Start by separating the two of them, giving Lulu her own safe room. Half-Pint should not be allowed into the room. This room will be Lulu’s sanctuary. The goal is for the cats, especially Half-Pint, to build a positive and friendly relationship through a series of activities they will participate in, while separated from each other.

In addition to following the steps for properly introducing cats to each other, outlined in the column “How to Create a Peaceful Multicat Household” make sure the environment is set up in such a way to promote peace when the cats finally start to integrate together in the future. Be patient; it might be a month or two before the cats can be in the same room together. 

When the time finally comes when they can start to be together, there will need to be plenty of “vertical territory” – high places with different levels that are accessible to both cats. These can be tall cat trees, shelves or existing furniture such as tall book cases and armoires. Ideally the highest access point should be at least 5 to 6 feet off the ground. These high spots should be located in the rooms where you and the cats like to hang out. Cat furniture or other freestanding pieces of furniture need to be secure and sturdy so that they don’t accidentally tip over. The high territory will help the cats promote peace in the household since cats show their hierarchy to each other and the world by where they are sitting in relationship to each other. It’s not a static hierarchy. Cats take turns. You might find one cat at the top of a cat tree in the early morning and then find the other cat in the same location later in the day. Or both cats might be lounging on top shelves in different rooms.

In addition to high places to climb and perch, provide boxes, tunnels and other covered places throughout the house where the cats can hide, sleep or play. Paper bags with the handles cut off can also work as areas to play and explore. Ideally, there should also be covered areas located up high as well. Cats appreciate cat furniture with built-in covered boxes on the top.

Be aware of the energy level discrepancy between the two cats. Since Lulu is still a kitten she will want to play nonstop. Half-Pint might be willing to play to a limited extent, but being older, will probably prefer to sit by the window and enjoy the view of the neighborhood, rather then racing through the house. Make sure to have multiple play sessions every day with Lulu in order to focus some of the kitten energy away from Half-Pint.

You will also need to spend quality time with Half-Pint every day. She needs to be reassured that she is still the queen of the household.

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Reader Comments

Wendy    Kittery, ME

8/24/2010 7:41:19 AM

Some cats just don't get along with other cats,even if they are introduced as the article suggested. I wish there were articles written about this as every cat has a different personality,just like people.

KinKy    Lake City, FL

4/6/2010 6:38:55 PM

All of you who have problems with your cats getting along need to start the introduction process all over again by separating them and gradually bringing them together. Or maybe you didn't do that to begin with . . . Cats need time to adjust, give them that time. Rushing the process is upsetting, especially to the cat who 'owned' the house territory before!

ruthann    brownsville, PA

11/6/2009 7:11:42 PM

hi i have a 1 yr old cat she i recently brought home two kittens they wer raised together they wer dropped off at the laundry mat i wanted one but the lady that ownd the laundry mat begged me to take them back my cat hissed and growled but wen i tryed to give her sum food she ate but them wen the other two ran in the kitchen she started to shake real bad wat am i suppose to do

ANN    paisley, YT

9/4/2009 4:08:06 AM

i RECENTLY TRIED TO INTRODUCE ANOTHER FEMALE CAT INTO HOUSE,i ALREADY HAVE A BOY AND GIRL WHO HAVE BEEN HAPPY TOGETHER FOR 5 YEARS ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE AND MY BOY CAT ATTACKED MY GIRL CAT AND NOW THEY ARE GROWLING AT ONE ANOTHER WILL THEY BE ABLE TO SETTLE AGAIN IN EACH OTHERS COMPANY. WORRIED INCASE i HAVE TO SPLIT THEM PERMENANTLY PLEASE HELP.

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