Introducing cats to each other

The adage about how difficult it is to herd cats is steeped in truth. Felines have complex social systems that are often a mystery to humans. Even if you have the best intentions, bringing a new cat into a home where another cat resides can be a disaster if the newcomer isn’t introduced in a way that helps your resident cat accept or even welcome her. The most important element for a smooth introduction is patience. Sherry Woodard, Best Friends animal behavior consultant, says, “Some cats accept each other right away, but others take weeks or even months to become friends. If we try to force a fast friendship, we can cause them to have less of a chance of becoming buddies.”

How to successfully introduce two cats to one another

A proper introduction can set the stage for a harmonious relationship and a happier household for everyone. Rushing an introduction, on the other hand, can increase the likelihood of a cat fight, with potential injuries to both people and cats. And cats who have already had a fight will have a harder time getting to know and trust each other.  

Sherry’s tips on how to introduce cats successfully to each otherHere are Sherry’s tips on how to introduce cats successfully to each other:

  1. Before your new cat arrives, prepare a separate space (e.g., a spare bedroom) for her, complete with a new litter box, bed, cat crate, bowls and toys. Keeping the cats separated at first will make the transition easier for both of them. If you don’t have a dedicated room for the new cat, a large dog crate is a good substitute.
  2. You’ll want to do the actual introduction slowly, keeping a barrier between the cats. For example, start by letting them smell each other with a closed door between them. You also can feed them treats and wet food on the opposite sides of the door. Use this routine a few times each day. “If your cat has lived with other cats and starts rolling on the floor soliciting interaction, you may have one cat ready for a new friend,” says Sherry.
  3. As the cats relax more with the solid barrier between them, you can begin to allow the cats to see each other (while still separated) by placing stackable baby gates in the doorway, to serve as a makeshift screen door.
  4. If the cats seem intrigued by one another, and aren’t displaying any signs of distress or agitation, they may be ready to meet. “Letting the two cats meet briefly and then separating them again will leave them curious for more,” says Sherry. “If possible, do multiple short introductions. If the introductions go well, allow both cats more freedom to interact.”
  5. Continue to watch them to make sure they’re getting along. Observe both cats’ body language, as well as their ways of interacting. In a normal, friendly greeting, both cats will look at each other and then look away. Try to be aware of what the cats are communicating. If they are comfortable with each other, they should stay relaxed and not take any defensive postures. If the cats are not accepting one another, it will be necessary to separate them and slowly start the process again.

To help the cats adjust, plan on giving each cat plenty of individual attention and playtime with you. While there’s no magic formula to creating feline friends for life, taking the time to introduce new cats correctly will go a long way toward maintaining a household of happy cats.

Learn more about how to introduce cats to each other.

Photos by Sarah Ause-Kichas