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March 24, 2019

Introducing the New Cat to the Resident Cat

I’m inspired to write a blog about how to properly introduce cats to each other since so many people do the introductions too fast and in a way that results in stress and aggression.

Introductions can be done with a minimum of stress. They need to be done slowly, it can take a month or longer to properly introduce cats to each other. Cats are territorial. It’s too much to ask any cat to accept a stranger into her house without proper introductions. People are the same way. We don’t react well when an uninvited stranger walks into our home. Neither do cats.

The newcomer needs her own room where she can be safe, away from any other animals. This will be her safe room, her sanctuary. It needs to be comfortable for her, with food, water, bed, cat boxes, a window to look out of and toys. The other reason she needs to be confined away from your resident cat is safety. Whenever bringing in a new cat, ALWAYS keep it completely separate from the other animals. There are diseases that can easily be transmitted to your other cats. In fact, I highly recommend keeping water hand cleaner handy. Use it after you interact with the newcomer. Too many diseases are so easily transmittable.

So… to those of you who think it’s an OK thing to put a cat in a carrier in the center of the room so that the cat “safely” meet the other cats… it is not OK, it is not safe. It also very scary for cats to be in a carrier for hours or days and it’s inhumane… I’m segueing again. Sorry…

Back to introducing cats. The goal is to encourage the cats to have positive associations through mutual activities while they are separated from each other. I’m posting some excerpts from a page that I give my clients on how to introduce cats to each other. I’m being slightly lazy because I need to post next about the 35 Bengals in need… now 45…

Judge by the cat’s responses in each phase to determine the length of each of the phases detailed below. There is no typical time frame. Every cat is different. If there is howling or hissing or any other signs of aggression, prolong the phases. Cats should remain separated from each other throughout the introduction process described below:

1. Twice a day: Use two clean socks or rags. Gently pet the new cat’s cheek with one sock, transferring pheromones onto the sock. Repeat, using the second sock on the resident cat’s cheek. Place each sock where the other cat hangs out, but not under their food, near litter boxes or in their sleeping area.

Socks must always be clean.

2. Continue pheromone exchanges. Also, 2-3 times a day, feed the cats delicious treats or regular meals simultaneously, separated by the closed door. Try feeding close to the closed door. If, at first they either won’t eat or display aggression towards each other, back the food away from the closed door to a comfortable eating distance. When comfortable with the distance, move the feeding stations closer to the door until they are eating next to each other (separated by the closed door) without displaying aggression.

3. Continue the activities in Phase 2.

Twice a day: Continue to pet cheeks with socks. Instead of putting the socks where the other cats sleep, inch socks towards feeding stations. Use clean socks or rags each time.

Twice a day: encourage non-threatening interaction between the cats. Use a toy with something cat-intriguing on both ends. Position the double-ended toy under the door so the cats can play tug of war. Before play sessions spray Feliway spray on the bottom of the door. Don’t leave this toy out if you can’t supervise the play.

4. Continue the activities in Phase 3, separated by the closed door.

Change locations for a few hours every day, putting the resident cat in the newcomer’s room, allowing the newcomer to explore another area of the house.

Twice a day: Continue to pet cheeks with socks. Instead of putting the socks where the other cats sleep, pet their cheeks with the socks that have the other cat’s cheek pheromones on it.

5. Continue the activities in Phase 4, separated by the closed door.

Introduce cats to each other without the benefit of a closed door: Open the door to the confinement room. When door is opened, feed one cat at a distance from the room at the same time the other cat is being fed in the confinement room. The cats should be able to smell and hear each other and if possible, see each other. Gradually increase time the door is open by one second at every feeding time. Supervise! At any sign of aggression, divert the cats attention and close the door.

Watch the body and eye language and the locations the cats choose to occupy. Check for fur rippling, ear positions, fixed stares, pupils dilating, pounce postures, etc. If all OK, gradually extend their times together, supervising them

Once a day: Use clean towels. Pet the resident cat’s back and sides with a towel. Pet the new cat with another towel. Then exchange towels, petting each cat with the other’s towel.