If you’ve just brought your new kitten home, but don’t know how to introduce a new kitten to an older cat, read our guide first… It’s easy to get this wrong, and if you do, the consequences can be dire!
How do you introduce a new kitten to the household? Always consider first whether you need/really want a new cat. If you’re sure, set up a safe space for each cat in your home where it can eat, sleep and go to the toilet away from the other cat. This helps both cats feel secure in your home. Pick a neutral zone like the living room, and introduce the smell of each cat to the other before introducing them ‘in person’. Remain calm throughout the introduction process even if the pair fight. Consider using Feliway if the pair refuse to get along. Never force either cat to do anything it doesn’t want to.
The guide below is a simple one: it goes step by step through the introduction process and details absolutely everything you need to know, from start to finish.
Step 1: Consider Whether You Should Get Another Cat…
Your first step should be to have a serious think, or a discussion with your family, about whether you should get another cat or not.
Far be it from us to say you shouldn’t get one—we love cats. But there are often good reasons not to get a new cat. For example:
- Do you only want a new cat because the other one isn’t ‘cute’ any more? That’s definitely not a good reason, and it perpetuates a cycle of getting new pets whenever you feel like. This might be good for you, but it often isn’t for the pets in question.
- Do you have enough time, money and space to have two cats? Remember that two cats mean two food bills, and most importantly, two vet bills. Compromising on these costs means poor quality of life for your pets.
- Are you going to be moving house soon? If so, this would be stressful for the new cat, adjusting to one new house, then having to adjust to another.
- Are you adopting a cat from a shelter? If so, it may have extra trouble adjusting to a new place especially one with another cat.
Only if you’re certain that it’s a good idea should you get another cat. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re bringing a new cat home on a whim, it’s probably a bad idea. You should also make sure that you only buy a kitten once it’s fully weaned, otherwise it could have behavioral problems when it grows up.
Step 2: Set Up a Safe Space for Each Cat
If you take anything from this guide, let it be this: each of your new cats needs its own space.
Housecats all come from the same species, despite different breeds looking different to one another. This species is largely solitary. Wild cats of this species will interact when it’s time to reproduce, and in rare circumstances can band together to hunt big prey. But as a rule, they live alone, and each has its territory.
While housecats are largely domesticated, they still retain this instinct. The cat you already have will almost certainly feel uncomfortable at having another cat in what it feels is its territory. The new cat will feel uncomfortable too, and will try to turn your home into its own territory. Cats do this by marking the house with scents, either from scent glands on their cheeks or elsewhere, or with their pee.
There are three ways in which this becomes obvious. One is that each cat needs its own place to sleep and relax. Each cat needs to feel that it has somewhere to go to get away from the other cat if it has to. This can be a room that one cat is allowed in but not the other, for example. Each cat also needs its own place to eat, so that neither cat tries to bully the other out of its food. Finally, each cat needs its own place to go to the toilet, because cats have trouble going if they don’t feel safe.
This becomes less of an issue once the cats are friends. If that happens, they won’t mind sharing a space. But for the time being, each needs their own sleeping and eating space. When you bring the new cat home for the first time, set it up in its safe space so that it can feel secure.
Over time, the new cat’s room or corner will start to smell like it. It will then feel at home there and should feel more secure in your household.
Step 3: Set Up a ‘Neutral Zone’
With each cat having its own safe space, you should set up a neutral zone somewhere between them. This neutral zone is where the two cats can meet. It’s important not to have them meet in one of the cat’s safe areas, because this will make the respective cat feel insecure.
A good place for this neutral zone is the living room, but you can pick anywhere in the house. Ideally, you want to pick somewhere that is quiet, calm and safe so that the introduction process goes well. If the cats feel like they have to assess other threats as well as the potential threat of the other cat, it will make them far more skittish.
This neutral zone should have more than one exit/entrance. If your new cat is scared of your old one, that’s only made worse if it feels it has no avenue of escape. A room with a door on either side, and perhaps a window the cats can get through in a pinch, is a good choice.
Step 4: Introduce the Smell of Each Cat to The Other
Cats use their senses of hearing and smell more than we do. Both of these senses are stronger in the cat than in people.
This means that you can introduce the two cats to each other without them having to be in each others’ presence. This cuts down on the risk of the pair fighting, although each will probably still have a bad reaction.
Take something belonging to one cat that it’s played with or slept on and show it to the other cat. The other cat will sniff it and immediately understand: This belongs to another cat. There must be another cat nearby. Expect to see a bad reaction, like the cat’s hackles going up, hissing, or even running away. This is an unavoidable consequence of introducing two cats, and it’s best that the cat has this initial reaction without the other cat around, otherwise they will fight.
Step 5: Introducing a New Kitten to an Older Cat
This is the step where the cats finally meet for real, and it’s an important one. The meeting will take place in the neutral zone. Here’s how to have them meet for the first time.
First, prepare the neutral zone. Turn off the TV and get rid of any other distractions or things that will make each cat uncomfortable. The more distractions, the more each cat has to focus on, and the more defensive each will feel.
Allow the new cat into the neutral zone when the old cat is already there. Let the pair see each other for the first time from across the room, which gives each cat time to react to the other, whether to run away or seek contact. Don’t block off either cat’s exit route so that each feels it can get away if it has to. Alternatively, allow the cats to see each other through a crack in the door.
Watch for each cat’s reaction: it’s likely that both will be curious, especially the kitten. The older cat will be curious but more obviously wary. If they sniff at each other without lashing out, that’s a good sign. If one is defensive, don’t interrupt unless a real fight begins; if a fight starts, separate the pair with a broom and get them back to their safe spaces.
It’s important that you remain calm throughout the entire introduction process whether the pair are fighting or not. Try and avoid interfering, instead allowing each cat to get used to the other one on their own terms. Never force either cat to do something it doesn’t want to do, unless you need to stop your new cat fighting with your old one.
Step 6: Make The Cats Happy & Comfortable Together
You want the cats to learn to like each other. In large part, they will do this on their own just by spending time together. But once they’re past that initial awkward stage, there are things you can do to make them befriend each other quicker.
One thing you can do is to feed them treats in the neutral zone. It’s important that when you first do this, you give each cat a small treat comparable to its size, and feed them separately. Otherwise they might squabble over the food. But once they learn that they’re both getting some, there shouldn’t be a problem. You could also consider playing with both of them, although this can backfire if they get too playful and start play fighting, then fighting for real (which can happen).
You could also consider using Feliway Multicat. Normal Feliway mimics cat pheromones to make indoor cats more comfortable, but it doesn’t work on several cats at once. Feliway have made other products, though, that work on multiple cats at once. Apparently, rather than mimicking the cat facial pheromone that normal Feliway does, it mimics the pheromone that mother cats release when they lactate. This has a calming effect on all cats in the household and dampens down their fighting instincts.
Step 7: If Your Cats Still Won’t Get Along…
If your cats aren’t getting along straight away, don’t worry. That happens all the time. Give them a few weeks to get used to each other, and they should at least start tolerating each other.
In some cases, two cats just refuse to get along. If you’ve done all you can, then it may be the best choice to rehome one of the cats. This seems like a drastic step, but think from the cat’s perspective: if it’s unhappy in your home, then you’re doing it a favor, in a sense, in finding it somewhere better to live. This is something for you to talk about with your family and perhaps with your vet. This is also another reason why it’s so important to closely consider whether buying a new cat is a new idea.