For cats, their territory (your home and the surrounding environs) is everything and the arrival of a new feline will be viewed with the utmost suspicion. While humans may think their solo feline will enjoy the company of playmate, your cat is likely to have other ideas. To them, this new arrival is simply an unwelcome intruder from whom all resources – food, toys, top sleeping spots etc – must be fiercely guarded. So, is it really possible for two cats to become BFFFs (Best Feline Friends Forever)?
Does your cat really need a feline friend?
Before you consider taking on another cat, think long and hard about your resident cat’s personality and whether they really would benefit from a companion. Animal welfare charity Blue Cross advises: “Cats have very different social needs compared to dogs and people. Although they are capable of forming friendships with their own kind, they are unlikely to feel the need for a companion and are often happy being the only cat in the home. This is not to say that they can’t get along with other cats – as long as there is no competition for important resources such as food, litter trays or sleeping areas, then many cats can learn to accept each other peacefully and some will even form close bonds.”
Feline welfare charity International Cat Care comments: “Some cats simply do not want to live with other cats, and it is important that you are able to recognise and act on this in order to ensure the cats in your care have the best wellbeing possible.”
Prep for success
If you decide to go for it, make sure you’re well prepared. Give the introduction process a lot of thought to ensure that it goes as smoothly as possible. This is absolutely essential as introducing too quickly with little preparation will often lead to cats feeling threatened and scared, which will increase the chance of aggressive behaviour. And, if two cats start off on the wrong paw and decide that they are sworn enemies from the off, it can be extremely challenging to change their minds.
While a kitten might be less of a threat to a resident cat than an adult because it’s still sexually immature, a playful youngster can be stressful for an older cat who prefers the quiet life, so an adult might be a better choice. Consider your own cat’s personality and age when deciding on what sort of cat to introduce. Cats who have lived alone for many years or those who have lived with cats unsuccessfully in the past will find it harder to adapt to living with another feline.
Get your house new cat ready
- Set up an area for your new cat or kitten away from your existing pet – a spare room or somewhere your existing cat does not use very much is ideal.
- Place everything your new cat needs here: a bed, food, water, scratching post and litter tray.
- Your new cat may also like a place to hide – such as a cardboard box with a hole cut in it with a comfy blanket inside – and safe access to some high places, such as a securely-fixed bookshelf. Cats naturally like to rest and hide in high areas, especially if they feel worried.
Smells like home?
- To help things along, it’s a good idea to install some feline pheromone diffusers in your home a day or two before your new cat arrives. Feliway products emit pheromones that cats leave when they feel secure, so their use may help smooth the introduction process for both cats.
- In fact, scent is the most important of the cat’s senses for communication. A great way to integrate the new cat into your home is to make sure that they smell ‘familiar’ before being introduced to your resident feline. You can do this before you bring your new pet home by exchanging bedding between the two cats.
- Once in your home, you can carry out the important process of ‘scent swapping’. To do this, stroke each cat separately without washing your hands to mix scents and continue to swap bedding regularly. Also gather scent from the new cat’s head and cheeks by gently stroking with a soft cloth and dabbing this around your home and furniture to mix with your existing cat’s scent.
Let me introduce…
- Delay the cats from meeting for several days or even a week. During this time, keep them in separate areas, but allow each cat to investigate the other’s room and bed without actually meeting.
- Use a stairgate for initial introductions. This will allow the cats to see and smell each other with a safe barrier between them. Let them observe and approach at their own pace – avoid picking up either cat to bring them closer.
- Create a positive association by providing both cats with some temptingly tasty food – but make sure there is plenty of distance between them.
- Keep early introductions short and sweet so they end on a positive note. Hopefully, both cats, now familiar with each other’s signature scent, will eventually dare to gently sniff each other through the bars of the stairgate.
- There may be some hissing or growling, but this is not unusual behaviour between two feline strangers. It just means that things need to be taken slowly, at the cats’ own pace. If either cat appears frightened or displays aggression, take a few steps back and continue to keep them separate. Continue scent swapping regularly and try again the next day. Slowly, you should see a gradual reduction in fearful behaviour and the cats should start to become more familiar with each other’s presence.
- If things progress in the right direction (this could take a few days or weeks or even months) you can open up the rest of the house to your new cat companion. For a happy feline household, always ensure that each cat has their own resources (feeding area, places to drink, litter tray, scratching post, hiding and sleeping spots) and individual areas around your home that they can access easily at all times.
Blue Cross advises: “All cats are individuals and you’ll have to work at the pace that they are comfortable with. It’s important not to rush things – take things slowly and carefully, and this will hopefully result in your cats living together peacefully.”
Need more help?
International Cat Care has these helpful guides:
How to introduce a new adult cat to your cat
How to introduce a new kitten to your resident cat
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Sources: bluecross.org.uk, icc.org,uk