Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: November 1, 2022 by Crystal Uys
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.
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.