Introducing a New Cat

introducing-new-cat

While there is never a guarantee that two cats will get along, proper introductions are the key to creating a harmonious relationship between your resident cats and the newcomer. Cats are territorial creatures, and more often than not, bringing a new cat into a home creates at least temporary stress for everyone. Doing your homework before bringing a new family member home greatly reduces the likelihood of problems down the road.

Choosing a new cat

I frequently get questions from readers who are looking to add a new cat to their family. How do I find a cat that will be a good match for my cat? Should I get a cat who’s the same age as my resident cat, or should I get a kitten? Male or female? Will the resident cat accept the newcomer? I wish I could give definitive answers to all of these questions, but the reality is that while you can do some homework, ultimately, each cat’s unique history and personality will determine the outcome.

Generally, cats who have previously lived with another cat may be more likely to get along with another cat, but that doesn’t mean your resident cat agrees. Age, gender, temperament and even size can make a difference. For more information, please read Choosing a Companion for Your Cat.

Slow and gradual introductions set the stage for success

Feline behavior experts advise introducing a new kitten to your home and your resident cat slowly, and in stages. For a step-by-step how to guide from feline behaviorist and host of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell, Jackson Galaxy, read Cat to Cat Introductions. While it may be tempting to just “let the cats work it out,” that’s usually never a good idea.

Breaking my own rules

I have to confess, when I brought Ruby home after Allegra had been an only cat for about a year, I broke all of these rules. I did this not in defiance of what every feline behaviorist and every feline rescue group recommends, but rather, based on my gut instinct, which told me that with these two cats and their respective personalities, it was going to work. Had I seen any signs along the way that things were going south, I would have reverted to traditional protocol. It worked out just fine.

I want to be clear that I don’t recommend this method for everyone. It certainly flies in the face of conventional wisdom. But sometimes, rules are there to be broken. For most cats, traditional introductions will work best. For others, it may be more stressful for both the resident and the new cat to keep the two separated. It becomes an individual decision that needs to take into account how well you know the cats involved, and how comfortable you are with new cat introductions.

How have you handled introducing a new feline family member? Share your experience in a comment.

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26 Comments on Introducing a New Cat

  1. Carolyn
    July 28, 2018 at 2:02 am (3 weeks ago)

    Hi, I’m new here & I like some advice.
    I have a fixed female (3yrs old) tabby that I had since a little kitten (she has dementia) from Landlord kicking her head in when I wasn’t there (he used his key) then last Dec 15 2017 there was a stray tuxedo male cat that was at my apt building looking for a home so I took him in 3yrs old (his personality is a buddy system & very vocal).
    On July2018 I took in this abused very terrified fixed female (she’s in the bedroom). She is 1.4yrs old
    Tonight I brought her out to the front room where my male is (I held her in my arms) I let him sniff her patting the both of them so there wouldn’t be any jealousy, he watched for awhile then he bit her on the head (not bad cause I moved fast), I put her back into the bedroom & I went into the front room put him in his wired dog crate for 20 mins.
    Question is:
    Why did he do this?
    He gets ALOT of attention from me.
    Do I have to let the female go to another home?
    What do I do now? Just keep her in the bedroom??

    Reply
      • Carolyn
        July 28, 2018 at 1:06 pm (3 weeks ago)

        Thank You Ingrid for your advice. 🙂

        Reply
  2. Colleen
    May 29, 2018 at 5:30 pm (3 months ago)

    Hi everyone! I’m brand new here and I’m soaking up as much information as I can in regards to adding a new cat to our home. My current cat, Willow is 5 years old. I got her from our local SPCA and she’s had issues from the start. First being she had a “rough intubation” when she was spade, so she has no voice box. Her meows come out as a whisper. 2nd, she started with a cataract 3 years ago and is almost blind in one eye and the other just started clouding up recently and seems to be moving at a fast pace. So, my question is….still follow this advice for cat introductions, or is there something else I can do? The last think I want to happen is to make Willow unhappy. Any thoughts would be so appreciated! Thank you, Colleen

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      May 30, 2018 at 5:45 am (3 months ago)

      Given that Willow is visually challenged, you’re going to want to go very slow with the introduction process. Scent will play an even more important role for Willow during the introduction than it might for other cats. You may want to see if you can find someone who has introduced a new cat to a visually impaired cat, or consult with a feline behaviorist.

      Reply
  3. Tom Randall
    April 21, 2018 at 7:17 pm (4 months ago)

    Great advice as always Ingrid. We’re a multicat household too ranging as high as five to our low of three since we lost our two old girls Jackie and Midnight last year. We’ve been happy with our three the two boys Saul and Stan and Maia our girl. We’ve decided to adopt a a kitten from our friend’s daughter. We’re keeping him in a separate room for now like we usually do, fortunately he’s been to the vet and has a clean bill. She up and opened up the carrier when she brought him over today so he was loose in the house for a bit, there was some hissing and growling but no scuffles before he went back into his carrier and we put him in his room. He’s supposed to be a maine coon although he doesn’t feel like one, he’s between 6 and 8 months old. I’ll keep you all posted.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 22, 2018 at 5:39 am (4 months ago)

      Congratulations on your new family member, Tom!

      Reply
      • Tom Randall
        April 22, 2018 at 5:40 pm (4 months ago)

        Thanks Ingrid, he’s still a very angry young man. Well probably more scared than angry really but either way he’s not a happy camper. Like I said in the previous post he has his own small room with his carrier open in there, food and water and a box and toys. He will usually retreat into his carrier if we go in there and growl and hiss at us. We’re mostly trying to give him plenty of space to calm down but we are going in to check on him pretty often, we figure he has to get used to us eventually. This isn’t a typical rescue for us where either the kitten is younger so gets used to us quicker or if an older kitty it was out in the yard first or something so it got to know us He will sometimes come out if we go in there and sit still for a while, we are not trying to touch him too much as yet, he will swat if we get too close but he is really good about not taking the claws out. He does not try to bite. Any other suggestions on how we can help the little fellow are of course appreciated.

        Reply
      • Tom Randall
        April 23, 2018 at 10:15 am (4 months ago)

        I’ve just been re-reading your article on the Feliway products.Do you think one of these might serve to help calm the little guy down? I know there’s no magic way to have him get used to us and it’s just going to take time but anything that will help will be good. We’ve observed him playing with toys a little more and moving round more. He will still growl and hiss if we come close at all.

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          April 23, 2018 at 10:52 am (4 months ago)

          I would definitely try the plugin, Tom. It sounds like it’s going to take patience. You can also use treats to get him to trust you more, but be careful that you don’t inadvertently reward the hissing/growling – you have to time the treats so that he gets them when he’s calm.

          Reply
          • Tom Randall
            April 24, 2018 at 1:16 pm (4 months ago)

            Well good news, we’ve had a major breakthrough with Shiva kitty. We decided to give him access to a little bigger area so we let him explore our room some over the last day or so. He mostly hung out under the bed or in the bathtub. Well I was in our room last night getting ready to crash for the evening and out of the blue he came up and sniffed my hand a bit, then jumped up on me and started rubbing and purring. We’re still taking it slow but this is major progress.

  4. modernpictureframers@eccsystems.co.za
    April 3, 2017 at 12:43 pm (1 year ago)

    We have a maine coon kitten of 5 months old and got him a little female friend as we heard cats like companions and he
    loves playing. The little kitten of 6 weeks has been with us
    for 3 days and the maine coon attacks and grabs the kitten and grabs her by the neck, will they eventually bond? We are keeping them apart at the moment and let them together when we are around, can you please let us know or have any suggestions.

    Reply
      • fenna
        April 3, 2017 at 1:08 pm (1 year ago)

        thank you so much, will do so, he is off course the only cat and now finds the little one an intrudor.

        Reply
  5. Laurie
    December 21, 2016 at 10:38 pm (2 years ago)

    When we brought Cocoabean into our home, our older cat Casper had already been living with us for a few years. We were not sure how he’d take to a friend, even though he was extremely friend to humans. Cocoa, for her part, was very shy and timid at the beginning. We felt her more retiring nature would not upset the cart too much, since Casper was the epitome of an alpha. We kept Cocoa in her own room for nearly a month. We followed all recommended suggestions to the letter. We had to, because she literally hid herself nearly the entire time under the bedroom furniture, hissing at us when we came near. Fear, not anger. Eventually, she came out of hiding and began to trust us and the day I walked in and she was there to greet meet (with some trepidation, but she put on her brave face) was the day we opened the door for her to explore. Casper by that point, had smelled her under the door, and they had played footsies so he didn’t react too much when she came down the stairs. Some very mild hissing which was expected, but nothing too serious warranting our intervention. It took them a few more months to get entirely comfortable with each other, but by all accounts it went much better than we expected. Slow and steady, keeping calm, having patience and not worrying too much about making them like each other really worked for us.

    Reply
  6. Annette Prieve
    December 21, 2016 at 6:30 pm (2 years ago)

    I just received my Balanced Blends starter pack. Looks great!
    Minikin our cat especially liked the box it came in! She is used to raw so
    I’m sure she will love the food too!
    Thank you for all the good stuff you tell us about.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 22, 2016 at 6:11 am (2 years ago)

      Well, that’s a good start that Minikin liked the box 🙂 Let me know how she likes the food, Annette.

      Reply
  7. Ashley Ryan
    December 21, 2016 at 4:43 pm (2 years ago)

    I have to comment: I have Oliver, a big, Maine Coon and one day found a starving little kitten. I took it right to my vet to get it checked out and kept them separated til I got a clean bill of health. Finally I brought the baby out to introduce them. Oliver sniffed him, licked his face a little and then picked the kitten up by the scruff of his neck and dragged him off! From that moment on the kitten became Oliver’s baby! The kitten slept on Oliver’s back or between Oliver’s paws. He carried that kitten till his little legs started dragging on the floor! After 4 years they are still inseparable. I never saw anything like this before and I feel blessed.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 21, 2016 at 5:43 pm (2 years ago)

      What a wonderful non-introduction introduction, Ashley! 🙂 It’s wonderful when it works out like that.

      Reply
  8. Lola The Rescued Cat
    December 21, 2016 at 3:57 pm (2 years ago)

    The introduction period woth Lola and Lexy had its rough spots. Patience was the key. These are great tips.

    Reply
  9. Liam
    December 21, 2016 at 9:56 am (2 years ago)

    When introducing two cats and expect them to get along well on the get go, is usually wrong, but I admit I also thought it is just a matter of time before my younger cat gets used to the new (but older) cat I adopted. Thanks for sharing the link to Cat to Cat Introductions. When I see Jackson’s program is currently on Animal Planet, I usually stop a bit and watch his latest cat problem. He’s really a patient person in my opinion.

    Reply
  10. Sue Brandes
    December 21, 2016 at 9:47 am (2 years ago)

    Thanks for the post. Very helpful.

    Reply
  11. Janine
    December 21, 2016 at 9:21 am (2 years ago)

    Thanks for this advice. I always have always had trouble when I brought a new cat into my house.

    Reply
  12. Shechosethecat
    December 21, 2016 at 6:44 am (2 years ago)

    Kittens young children usually don’t mix well as kittens can be fragile and youngsters kind of rough.

    Reply
  13. Patricia
    December 21, 2016 at 4:39 am (2 years ago)

    I have usually had a multi cat household. I’ve only had one little problem introducing a new cat. I got slashed immediately when I introduced my calico to my resident lady cat. My very interesting new calico slashed me. when she met the other female cat. I do believe calicos have a deeper slash. After that ,introducing new cats to my home has always been good and they all get along immediately, because they have all been use to being around other cats. I have a wonderful multi cat home life, with 3 pet cats and 4 ferals. I really rather have loving pet cats for my own loving relationship and closeness. My most recent feral , a 4 month old kitten got loose over night a week and a half ago. The other 2 other someone paid me to take them in and I receive monthly payment. The other feral came from a feral colony, when we had to close the feral colony. The other cat girl took the others.All my current cats welcome and are friendly to a new cat.

    Reply
  14. Summer
    December 21, 2016 at 3:33 am (2 years ago)

    My human has introduced cats all different ways, but most of the cats she has had in her life have been pretty easy going. Recently, when we stayed at a friend’s house in Vancouver, we agreed that it was not a good idea for me to meet any of their four cats. They knew I was around, though, and they ignored my human on purpose! The two dogs loved her though, and I got to meet the little one that was just my size. We were both on leashes and it worked out nicely.

    Reply

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