Introducing Cats

CatChannel and CAT FANCY cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, shares tips on introducing a new cat to a resident cat.

By Marilyn Krieger, CCBC | Posted: August 3, 2012, 12 p.m. EST

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Two Orange Tabby Kittens
The key to happy cat introductions is to go slowly. Keep the new cat in a sanctuary room, and take gradual steps to introduce the cats to each other.
Q: I adopted Marley, a 3-month-old male kitten, as a friend for my 2-year-old female cat, Foxy.

Since the new kitten came, my other cat has been aggressive, growling and hissing at my older cat. They stay in different rooms now.

I tried introducing the two cats with my new kitten inside his kennel, but my older cat hissed and went to swipe at him through the cage door. Now, anytime she smells him, she growls or hisses at us. When we walk past Foxy and look at her the wrong way she tries to attacks us.

A: Your older cat's unfriendly reaction to the new kitten is understandable because you introduced them to each other too quickly. Always introduce new cats gradually, in a stress-free fashion. Stress-free introductions can take a month or longer. Additionally, keep in mind that Foxy has been the queen of the house and has not had to share you with another cat.

Throughout the cat introduction process, keep your cats separated from each other. Don't hurry the process by crating the kitten — doing so will stress both cats and may prolong the process.  

Gradually introduce your cats to each other, one activity at a time, while keeping the new cat in a sanctuary room. Try taking these steps, in this order.

1.    Use pheromone exchanges by rubbing one cat's cheek with a cloth and putting it in the other cat's room, and vice versa. Cats have scent glands on their cheeks that produce “friendly pheromones.” Scent exchanges help cats develop non-adversarial relationships with each other. Pet Marley and Foxy's cheeks with separate socks or soft towels and then put the items in each other's rooms. Do pheromone exchanges twice a day, for a week or so, each time with a clean sock. After your cats are fine with each other's scent, add another activity.

2.   Feed your cats their meals and treats at the same time while separated by a door. For example, put Marley in his sanctuary room and Foxy on the other side of the closed door. Place food bowls a few feet away from the door and then gradually move them, one inch a day, until the cats eat right on either side of the closed door. Feed your cats all meals and treats in these locations. After your cats are comfortable with eating close to each other while separated by the door, move to the next activity.

3.    Encourage your cats to play with each other a few times a day. Slip a ribbon type toy or toy with intriguing things on both ends under the door. Most cats find it hard to resist an enticing toy.

4.    Move the feeding stations away from the door and open it. Put the new cat's food dish in the middle of the sanctuary room and your older cat's a few feet outside the door. Open the door to the sanctuary room while feeding both cats at the same time. Choose exceptionally tasty food so that both cats will focus on eating and not on each other. Stand at the door and close it right after they finish. Gradually increase the amount of time that the door is open. Be vigilant! At the first sign of aggression, close the door.

Every situation is unique — it may take a few weeks or a few months until your older cat accepts the new cat. 
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Reader Comments

Shannon    Blowing Rock, NC

12/16/2014 8:28:40 AM

I live in a very small apartment with no place for a sanctuary room and I do not want to crate the kitten I have a 16 year old Ragdoll. They are both Ragdolls. The first 24 hours it was the kitten who was hissing but today, they are getting along very well. They are also eating out of each others food bowls and sharing the litter box even though I was warned they would not. I find that very interesting.

Mike    Pittsburgh, PA

7/2/2014 12:14:20 PM

For about 3 weeks now we have been trying the suggestions above as well as some others suggested on pet sites. Lillith, the new girl, has been EXTENSIVELLY aggressive. Yep there are bath towels all over the house, we isolate lillith from the others when we are not around to supervise. Right now she has both Orion and Casenova trapped under the bed in the spare bedroom. lillith is just not going to back down, the boys are two gentle guys.

lou    boston, MA

12/24/2013 4:24:30 AM

if it was only that simple

Don    Syracuse, NY

11/11/2013 4:43:18 PM

Thanks for the information.

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