Take the stress out of cat-to-cat introduction

by | Cat Care |

Bringing home a new cat to join another feline in your home? Adding an unfamiliar cat to an existing cat’s home can be stressful for both animals, but there are some steps you can take to help them integrate into their new home and socialize. The key is to slowly integrate new smells, give them time alone to explore their new environment and provide them with their own space. 

Set up a separate space

Have a separate space set up for your new cat that your current cat will not have access to. Ensure it has all the necessities your cat will need: food, water, litter box, place to hide, place to perch, toys and treats. 

Make sure your cat at home is put into a separate room when you arrive home with your new feline friend. This will allow your new cat to explore their new surroundings on their own, at their pace.

Start with the space that you set up for them. Then introduce your new cat to one new space at time, allowing them time to investigate, so they can adjust to the new scents and environment. 

Using scents to your advantage 

Using a pheromone-based plug in and or spray such as Feliway™ (CEVA) can help to reduce stress-induced behaviours by sending calming signals to the cats. This is a great tool to use to help ease the transition period of bringing a new cat home.  

Other tactics include blending scents. This will allow the cats to become familiar with the other without being intimidated by the other cat’s physical presence. With both cats separated in different rooms, give each cat a blanket or bed with the other’s scent on it. Do not place the item near any resources that the cat needs to access (e.g. food, litter, bed area), as the cat may avoid those places. 

Once both the cats seem comfortable with the item, consider having the cats meet with a barrier between them (a baby gate, for example) so they can safely see and smell each other. 

Short introductions in a neutral room

When your new cat has acclimatized to the new home environment and has become comfortable with the other cat’s scent you can now consider a cat-to-cat introduction. Ideally, the cats should meet in a different room than they have been kept in to try and decrease any territorial behaviours. Make sure there are hiding spots, toys and ideally a high perch in the introduction room.

Make the meet and greet is as positive as possible. Give treats and/or attention to both cats immediately upon being moved into the new room. When introducing both cats, they should be constantly monitored for any signs of fear, anxiety or stress, including hissing, vocalizations, hiding and/or aggression.

Place the cats as far apart as you can in the neutral space and allow them to approach each other when they are comfortable. Allow them time to wander, sniff, interact with each other. Monitoring and positive reinforcement is important during this introduction phase.

The initial meet and greet should be short. After some interactions with each other, separate them again and continue the process again after some time. The first meeting may not be successful, which may mean that both the cats may need more time to acclimatize to the other cat’s scent and get comfortable in their new environment. 

Watch for signs of stress

It is important to monitor the cats for signs of emotional stress, especially during the first days or weeks. If you notice any of these signs, allow for more space and separation from each other. Body language signs to watch for include: 

  • Being highly reluctant to move about the room 
  • Flattening ears and/or body (if this occurs allow the cat to be able to get up high or to a hiding place)
  • An arched back, fur may be standing up and twisting their body to the side 
  • Urination or defecation out of the litter box
  • Yowling, excessive vocalizations, hissing
  • Swatting at the other cat
  • Pacing 

Having two cats can be an enriching experience for them, and some cats really appreciate having a buddy. Patience and slow integration is key, and it may take time before both cats become comfortable with each other.  

For more information on stress reduction techniques, multiple cat housing tips, enrichment and socialization and cat behaviour visit shelterhealthpro.ca. 


Thank you so much for all you do

Thank you so much for all you do every day to rescue animals in need. I can’t imagine the terrible situations that you see every day.  It is great that you have the heart to help. Keep up the good work.