Cat Introductions and Avoiding Conflicts

So you’re bringing home a new cat as a companion to the cat you have now. While that sounds great for you, it may not be so great for your current cat. When introducing a second cat, be patient; the introduction must be gradual. Following the initial introduction, it can take months or even years for some cats to develop bonds with other cats. Although some cats certainly become close friends, others never do.

It’s difficult to predict whether or not any two individual cats will get along. There are no reliable guides for deciding the best matches among cats. Some cats are very social and enjoy living with other cats, while others prefer solitary lives. The individual personalities of the cats are more important than any other factor, such as sex, age or size.

Manage Introductions:

First impressions are important; a bad initial introduction could set the stage for the future relationship. For this reason, it’s best to separate your resident cat from your new cat when first bringing her home.
– At first, your two cats should be able to smell and hear – but not see or touch – each other. Your new cat should be in a comfortable acclimation room. Separate your cats in different with separate beds, bowls and litter boxes. This way they can hear and smell each other, but don’t have to interact.
– Place the cats’ food bowls on opposite sides of a closed door. This will encourage them to be close together while they’re doing something that makes them feel good. In addition to regular cat food, feed the cats extra-special treats near the door as well, like tiny pieces of tuna, salmon, cheese, chicken or liver
– Once your new cat has settled into his acclimation room, have the cats switch rooms so that they both experience some variation and get access to each other’s scents. This scent immersion is another way for them to meet through scent without having to meet face to face.
– After several days, if both of your cats appear relaxed, crack the door open one inch. If they remain calm, open the door a bit more, then a bit more. If the cats remain relaxed, they may be ready to spend time together. You may also use a baby gate to help facilitate the initial meeting.

These steps can also work if you have cats that previously got along with each other but no longer do.

Face-to-Face Interactions:

Now that your resident cat has grown accustomed to the new cat, it’s time for them to be together without a barrier. Supervise these initial face-to-face interactions carefully.

– It’s good to bring the cats together when they are likely to be calm, such as after a meal.
– Use positive reinforcement with treats, toys, and praise when the cats are in the same room and behaving.
– Start off slowly and gradually. As the cats become more familiar, allow them longer and longer periods of time together.
Never let the cats “fight it out.” Cats don’t resolve their issues through fighting, and the fighting usually just gets worse. Interrupt aggression with a loud clap of your hands, throwing a soft pillow, or spray from a water gun. If a fight does happen, do not attempt to step in.

If the Aggression Is Severe or Still Occurs:

– Separate your cats as described above but for a longer period of time, and reintroduce them at a much slower pace, like several days to a few weeks.
– Instead of simply opening the door to reintroduce the cats, provide daily reintroduction sessions that very gradually move the cats closer and closer together under supervision.
– During the sessions, you might find it easier to control your cats with harnesses and leashes, or by confining one or both of your cats in crates.
– During the sessions, keep both cats distracted with food or play. Start out with them far apart. Keep the sessions short. Make it easy for them to succeed.
– Separate your cats between reintroduction sessions to prevent a relapse.
– Only when your cats can peacefully eat and play within a couple feet of each other should they be left alone together unsupervised. Trust them only for short periods together at first and increase their times together gradually.

Final Tips:

– Don’t count on the cats to “work things out.” The more they fight, the worse the problem is likely to become. To stop a fight in progress, make a loud noise (like blowing a whistle), squirt the cats with water, or throw something soft at them.
– Ensure the cats are spayed and neutered. Intact males are particularly prone to aggressive behavior.
– Separate their resources. Reduce competition between the cats by providing multiple, identical food bowls, beds and litter boxes in different areas of your house.
– Provide additional perches. More hiding spots and perches will allow your cats to space themselves out as they prefer.
– Don’t try to calm or soothe your aggressive cat, just leave her alone and give her space. If you come close, she could turn and redirect her aggression toward you.
– Reward desired behavior. Praise or toss treats to reward your cats when you see them interacting in a friendly manner.
– Don’t punish the cats involved. Punishment could cause further aggression and fearful responses, which will only make the problem worse. You could even become a target for redirected aggression.
– Cat friendship is a feline mystery. Many factors determine how well cats will get along with one another, but even animal behavior experts don’t fully understand them.

Any sudden change in your cat’s behavior could be an indication of an underlying medical condition. If you notice any unusual physical or behavioral symptoms, or if your cat stops eating, please see your veterinarian right away.
Some cats simply cannot live together peacefully. Since chronic stress and tension isn’t healthy for people or pets, rather than force them to suffer years of stressful coexistence, it may be more humane to keep them permanently separated in the house or find another home for one of them. If you believe this to be the case, please call our shelter as soon as possible.