How to safely introduce your new cat to your resident cat

A tuxedo cat hugging an orange tabby cat

To achieve a stress-free and non-aggressive transfer, introducing a new cat to your resident cat requires careful planning and patience. For a step-by-step guide on how to safely introduce your new cat to your existing cat, keep reading.

Why cats do not form bonds immediately?

Tabby cat sitting between branches

Due to their independent personalities, territorial attitudes, and the stress brought on by environmental changes, cats frequently do not bond right away.

As they are very territorial creatures, when a new cat moves into a resident cat's territory, the new cat may react aggressively or defensively because it feels threatened. Cats use smell glands on their faces, paws, and tails to mark their territory. Stress results from upsetting this established smell marking when a new cat is introduced. Since cats are creatures of habit, they could get nervous about unfamiliar sounds, smells, or routines and they may first be frightened of one another due to the fear of the unfamiliar. It's their natural survival impulse to be cautious.

It might be challenging for cats to interact with new cats if they are not properly socialized with other cats during their crucial developing stage. Also, cats frequently have to create social hierarchies and as they figure out their responsibilities and boundaries, there may be some early friction during this process.

Cats are individuals with distinct personalities, hence it is challenging for them to bond right away due to the result of disparate temperaments. Their acceptance of a new cat may take longer due to these distinctions. Cats who have had bad experiences with other cats in the past could be more reluctant to adjust, those who have had good experiences might adjust faster.

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Orange kitten

To ensure an easy and seamless introduction of a new cat to your resident cat, proper preparation is required.

Give the new cat a secure, independent room that is safe and quiet to settle into so it does not have to interact with the resident cat right away. Make duplicates of supplies like litter boxes—at least one for each cat, plus an additional one. Every cat should have a cosy bed and hiding spots; arrange for the new cat space with toys, bedding, a scratching post, a food and drink bowl, and a litter box. To avoid resource guarding, keep these things apart at first.

It is beneficial to have a cracked door, baby gates, or screens to allow sight contact without actual contact. Install shelves, cat trees, and other vertical spaces to provide a secure environment for cats to watch over one another.

Remember, before touching either cat at the early beginning, wash your hands completely to prevent early scent transmission. After speaking with your veterinarian, think about utilizing soothing medications or treats. Feliway Diffusers produce a relaxing and stress-relieving atmosphere by releasing synthetic feline pheromones.

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Scent introduction

Brown tabby cat lying down on gray bed sheet

When a new cat is being introduced to a resident cat, scent introduction is an important step. In a non-threatening manner, it helps the cats get acquainted with each other's scent, which lessens tension and possible aggressiveness.

To gather scent, use soft, clean towels or cloths. The cloth should be gently rubbed over the resident cat's cheeks, neck, and body. Repeat with the next cat using another cloth. This will cause the fabrics to absorb the face pheromones of the cats. Put the scent-infused cloth from the resident cat in the new cat's room and the other way around. Observe the reactions of each cat to the scent cloth. Positive markers include interest, inquiry, and composed conduct if one or both cats exhibit aggressive, fearful, or stressed behaviours, back off and move more slowly.

For a few days, keep switching the fragrance cloth so that the cats can get used to each other's aroma. To facilitate the fragrance exchange process, think about switching up additional items between the two cats, including toys or beds.

To guarantee a successful introduction process and create the conditions for a happy connection between your resident cat and the new cat, patience and close observation are crucial.

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Visual introduction and controlled meetings

Close-up of a black and white cat standing in a cage

In order to enable your new cat and resident cat to get to know one another in a controlled, non-threatening way, the visual introduction is essential. Utilizing obstacles such as barriers to guarantee safety, begin with short meeting sessions and progressively extend them in length.

To help cats form a favourable relationship with one another's presence, use positive reinforcement. Be tolerant and vigilant about their behaviour, responding appropriately when necessary. It's proven that a more peaceful connection between the cats can be achieved with patience and cautious handling over time, as they will eventually grow accustomed to one another.

The time of the visual introduction sessions should be gradually increased as the cats get used to each other's company. Schedule brief sessions throughout the day to aid in the cats' quicker adjustment but keep an eye out for their responses. Curiosity, easy postures, and composed conduct are examples of positive indicators. Hissing, growling, puffed-up fur, and attempts to breach the barrier are examples of negative indicators. During the visual sessions, give both cats praise and goodies to foster favourable associations. To divert their attention and ease stress, get the two cats involved in interactive play with toys.

When either of the cats is in a closed space, let each cat explore the other's area. This facilitates their acclimation to each other's aroma in various rooms of the house.

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Full integration

Three cats on wooden flooring

When the cats appear at ease with one another via the barrier, let them interact in person in a safe setting. Make sure the gathering place has lots of vertical and hiding places so the cats can retreat in case they feel overstimulated. Observe the behaviour exchange and remain nearby, prepared to step in if needed.

You can then start letting the cats spend brief time alone together once they behave properly during supervised interactions on a regular basis. As they get to know one another better, increase the amount of time they spend alone.

Gradually enable the cats to share more of the house once they are at ease with one another during supervised sessions. Keep things regular and make sure each cat has its own bedding, food bowls, and litter boxes to avoid competition and lessen stress.

Each cat is unique. While some people might assimilate rapidly, others can need weeks or even months. Take your time and move at a speed that both cats can tolerate. To offer stability and lessen stress, keep your feeding, playing, and love routines regular.

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Signs of successful introduction

Cats in gray scale photo

It may require some time and care to integrate a new cat with an existing one successfully.

A good sign of an introduction is when both cats are comfortable with one another, such as when they are lying down and extending their bodies or when they are loafing. Eyes that are partially closed, soft, or flicker slowly convey trust and ease. Instead of tense or abrupt movements, adopt calm, deliberate ones.

Positive interactions, such as grooming one another, are a powerful indication of acceptance and bonding. Cats greet each other with gentle touches of the nose and play without displaying aggression or fear. Both cats get along well when they share common areas and items, like perches, windowsills, and sleeping sites. They choose to rest close to one another and be in close proximity without causing conflict or aggressiveness.

Positive vocalizations like chirping, trilling, or purring when in close proximity to one another are examples of healthy communication. When approaching one another, show kindness by bringing up your tail. Sensible use of resources, utilizing the litter boxes devoid of any territorial or guarding actions. Consuming food and beverages without hostility or resource defence.

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When to seek help

Cats on fighting stance

It's critical to get veterinary assistance if their aggression is getting worse rather than better over time and if your cats are fighting more frequently or severely, causing injuries.

Health problems related to stress, a noticeable shift in appetite, such as refusing to eat or overindulging, in either cat may be an indication of stress or a medical problem. If one or both cats start urinating or defecating outside of the litter box, this may indicate a medical issue that requires care or stress.

Severe stress may be indicated if one or both cats hide a lot and are reluctant to come out, even when the other cat is not there. Distress may be indicated by noticeable changes in energy levels, such as becoming particularly hyperactive or lethargic. A veterinarian should be consulted for any unexplained weight fluctuations. Under- or over-grooming, which leaves bald patches on the coat, might be an indication of underlying health problems or stress.

Keep a journal of your cats' habits before visiting the veterinarian, including the frequency, length, and circumstances of any aggressive or worrying interactions. Try to pinpoint the precise times of day, activities, or locations in the house that serve as triggers for the troublesome behaviours. Put into practice the previously mentioned safe space creation, positive reinforcement, and progressive introduction tactics. It's time to see a professional if these tactics are failing to assist.

In addition to offering professional guidance, veterinarians may suggest behavioural therapies or make a referral to a licensed animal behaviourist. A vet also can recommend and oversee the use of medicine in certain situations to assist in alleviating stress or anxiety.

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