You’ve carefully considered all the costs and responsibilities of adding another cat into your life and decided you have room in your heart, budget and home for another feline member of your family. Now it’s time to think about your other cats and their needs before you bring their new sibling home. Whether your cat is easy going or anxious and territorial, it’s best to use the same routine and follow it as long as it takes to ensure everyone is getting along.
Remember, your current cat or cats have a good thing going. They know where their food bowls are, they have their favorite places to nap and of course, they have your attention on their terms. Bringing a new cat into the mix can be a major disruption to your household so it’s important that you feel 100% confident in your decision as well as your ability to play peacemaker. Once you bring a new cat home, you don’t want to take it back so take things slow and be ready before you sign the adoption papers.
1. Scents make sense
If possible, ask the shelter or person you’re adopting from for a blanket your new kitty has slept on or a toy she’s played with. Bring this item home with you and drop off a similar item bearing the scent of your current cat(s). This optional step will delay the adoption process a day or two but if you have a jealous cat in your family, the more you do to prepare him for change the easier it will be for him to accept.
2. Prepare a guest room for the new cat
Ideally, this room will have a gap between the floor and the closed door so the new kitty and your cat can adjust to each other’s scents and recognize they are not alone. A room with a gap in the door will enable the cats to get close at their own pace while preventing things from getting physical. Make sure you equip the room with food and water bowls and a new litter box for new kitty. Depending on how the next few steps go, new kitty could be in this room for a few days or a few weeks. If you live in an apartment and don’t have a guest room, your bathroom will work just fine.
3. Use mealtime to make a connection
Instead of feeding your cat at her usual spot in your home, fill her food bowl and bring it to the door of the room where new kitty is adjusting. Place new kitty’s food bowl on the other side of the door so both cats are eating in the same place but on opposite sides of the door. Doing this will bring disinterested cats together so they can realize the new scent they’ve been smelling isn’t just temporary. It will also provide each cat with a positive association (food) with the other.
4. Trade spaces
If mealtimes are going well and the cats aren’t growling, hissing or trying to paw at each other under the door, it’s time to let them explore each other’s scent in greater detail. Put new kitty in a cat carrier and take her out of the guest room while your cat is napping or occupying herself. Once new kitty is in a safe place, bring your cat into the guest room and close the door behind her. This is new kitty’s time to explore the rest of your home and your cat’s opportunity to make her presence felt in new kitty’s room. If your cat uses new kitty’s litter box, that’s a sign things are progressing well. The same goes for new kitty as she explores your cat’s food bowls, toys and lounging areas. After a few hours, put new kitty back in her carrier. Bring your cat out of the guest room, put new kitty back in and close the door. Do this for as many days as it takes, adding more exploration time each day until neither cat is displaying any signs of anxiety or stress.
5. Put a face to the scent
Whether you’ve spent days or weeks acclimating your cats, their first face-to-face meeting should only happen when there are no signs of any aggression or anxiety in either cat. When they’re ready, place new kitty in the cat carrier and bring your cat into the guest room to meet her, or install a baby gate at the door to the guest room and allow them to introduce themselves on their own. If you go with a baby gate, make sure it’s high enough and the slats or plastic grids are tight enough to keep them apart. Don’t force the cats together. Give them as much time as they need to feel confident getting closer to each other and sniffing each between the barrier. If the situation deteriorates into growling or hissing, calmly move your cat to another part of the house, spend some time reassuring new kitty and then let her continue her stay in the guest room.
Repeat the introduction the next day and as many days after that until both cats can be in the same room without issue. If that doesn’t happen, try increasing the number of supervised introductions each day. During periods of calm, feed each cat treats to reward their good behavior and further blend their scents.
6. Let the new friends be
Once both cats are comfortable in each other’s company, take down the baby gate or put the cat carrier away and see how they do. If they start to play or give each other space, congratulations! You’re the proud parent of furry siblings. As they continue bonding, it’s a good idea to continue supervising their time together to make sure they’re behaving and not getting aggressive. Occasional growling and rough play is perfectly OK but they’ll let you know when it’s time to be separated.
At every step of the process, be sure to spend quality time petting and reassuring each cat so they both feel loved and secure. Make sure both cats have plenty of treats and toys and consider products that can make them more playful like catnip or CBD drops. Most important of all, be patient. The worst thing you can do is force cats to be friends because it may never happen. Like any family, furry siblings don’t have to love each other but they must respect each other’s space and do each other no harm. Good luck and be sure to share photos of your growing family with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!