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Cats are territorial by nature, so throwing two cats together without any planning is asking for trouble. By following these simple steps you can introduce your new cat to another cat in the home so that they accept one another and learn to live harmoniously together. Make no mistake though; this process takes time and patience.
First impressions and exchanging scents
Firstly, you need to give both cats time to get used to the sound and smell of each other from a safe distance. Your new cat should be kept in a separate room initially (refer to our article on introducing a new cat into the house). You can then start to feed the cats on either side of the door – this will help them associate each other with a positive experience – being fed at meal times.
As they begin to get used to each other, you can switch scents. One way to do this is to swap their bedding. Animal behaviourists also recommend that you rub the cats with the same towel to share their scents. At this point you can let your newcomer explore the rest of the house, spread their scent around the home and familiarise themselves with the scent of your resident cat (put him in separate room first). You should also allow your resident cat in the newcomer’s sanctuary so that it can get used to their scent – but, don’t force them to do this if they don’t want to.
Playing games with each other
Before introducing your two cats face-to-face, get them to play games with each other with the closed door separating them. Start by playing with a toy, something that fits in the gap under the door is ideal. Not surprisingly, this often leads to ‘playing paws’. If you can, have someone on either side of the door to make sure both cats are enjoying the experience and not getting agitated. Again, you are creating a pleasurable experience – playing games – with both cats.
The next step is to slowly introduce the cats face-to-face. Start by allowing them to see each other through a screen door, or open the door to your new cat’s sanctuary a fraction and wedge it with a door stop – they should be able to see each other, but not fit through the gap in the door. There is a chance that they may want to play with each other instantly especially if they are kittens or playful by nature. Or, they may want nothing to do with each other.
Try getting your cats to eat either side of the screen door or dividing space. They should be close enough to see each other, but far enough apart not to feel threatened. Over the next few days push the bowls closer together, so they get used to eating side by side. If one cat refuses to eat while being so close, pull the bowl back to a spot that he is comfortable with and try moving the bowls closer again at a later date.
Continue to encourage them to eat their meals and play near the screen together. Use treats to reward good behaviour. The aim is to gradually move them closer and closer to each other until you can let them meet each other face-to-face without a screen. The first time you do this supervision is recommended – and have a water squirt bottle handy, just in case you need to break up a fight.
Hissing and spitting
When cats don’t like each other or they feel threatened, they tend to hiss and spit. You need to nip this in the bud straight away. The best way is to distract them – clapping your hands is usually effective.
If the hissing and spitting continues, separate the two cats for a day and try again the next. They may just need more time to get used to each other, so try not to rush this.
When one cat is more aggressive, the other cat may retreat and become withdrawn. This is especially common if you have a new kitten arrive in a home where there is an older cat. It can take a few months for both cats to accept each other so time and patience is key.
Remember, it is possible for cats to become friends. Give them time to get used to each other and don’t forget to pay attention to both cats equally. Cats are just like toddlers when it comes to sharing! If, after a few months, your cats haven’t learnt to live with each other amicably, it may be time to consult an animal behavioural specialist.