You just know that your adorable new kitten and your current older cat are going to be the best of friends. You're already envisioning the two of them cuddling up on the couch and eating dinner side-by-side. They've got so much in common (a love for catnip and climbing on counters) and they're both so cute it should be illegal. How could it not be a match made in heaven?
Every cat owner, when introducing a new cat to the feline family, hopes that the resident cat and new addition will get along swimmingly. Sometimes there's an instant connection. Other times, despite all attempts at establishing peace, the two engage in constant combat and exchange bitter hisses at every meeting. Most cats take 8-12 months to fully develop a friendship with another cat, reports the ASPCA. Patience is key! That said, you do have some control over the connection your cats establish. By following these simple steps, you can create a positive foundation for their relationship.
1. Trade Scents. Before your new cat even arrives, you can "introduce" her to your current cat by bringing back her scent. Ask the shelter or breeder if you can bring back a blanket your new kitty has slept on and allow your resident cat to sniff and investigate the new feline's scent.
2. Confine Your New Cat to a Room. Once you're ready to bring home the new kitty, keep her in a quiet room in the house where she'll be removed from your other cat. Make sure it is a room where the resident cat has been, that it can be easily accessed by all human family members for social interactions and playtime, and that it is set up with food, water, litter, toys and soft beds, recommends the American Humane Association. The cats should initially be able to smell and hear-- but not see or touch-- each other.
3. Switch Locations. After a few days, bring your new cat out and let her investigate an area where your resident cat frequently plays. Simultaneously place your original cat in the room where the new one has been living. This allows both cats to become more familiar with each other without having met.
4. Feed Cats Next to Each Other. Bring your new kitty back to her separate room, and try feeding both cats on opposite sides of the door. Ideally the door will have an inch or so of space under it so that the cats can hear and smell one another, and experience a positive stimulus (food!) and associate it with each other.
5. First Impression. Assuming there's no major hissing, growling or aggressive behavior going on between your two fluffy friends, you can move forward by allowing them to see each other. The ASPCA recommends you replace a door with a temporary screen door, and allow the cats to see but not touch each other from across the barrier. If that's not possible, you can position two baby gates in the door jam, one on top of the other. With the help of a family member or friend, set down both cats on opposite sides of the gates and observe their interactions. When the cats notice each other, say their names and throw them treats. Continue to encourage playing and feeding near the screen/gates over a period of a few days.
6. Removing the Barrier. If all is going well, it's time to introduce the cats formally! Make sure to supervise these initial encounters. The best time to do this is when your cats are both calm-- after a meal or play session, for example. Even potential best buddies tend to swat or hiss at this stage, so don't be alarmed if there's a bit of tension between them at first. If the cats are tolerating, ignoring or positively interacting with each other, you're on the right track! Once you feel comfortable, you can allow the cats to roam the house freely and alone together without supervision.