Cats are territorial creatures on the whole… we get used to doing things in a certain way and some of us can get quite upset if there are any changes to our routine! A new cat or kitten being introduced into our territory is a very big change indeed from a feline point of view, so if you want to minimise the risk of problems, here’s some hints and tips on the things you can do to smooth things over as best as you can…
1. Are some introductions easier than others?
It must be noted that cats are not “pack animals” in the same way that dogs are, and in rare cases you might get two cats who really don’t get on with each other at all (the same as for some humans in fact!) and the only real alternative to re-homing one of them is to give each of them their own separate spaces.
In most cases, it’s easier to introduce a kitten to an existing cat than an older cat, though that doesn’t make it necessarily easy to introduce a kitten, nor does it mean you shouldn’t take on an older cat if you would like to do so. It’s also usually easier to introduce cats of the opposite sex to each other, as long as they are both neutered (unless kittens). But there are a few things you should do before you get to the introductions stage!
2. Prepare a kitty room
If your home allows it, prepare a room in advance just for your new arrival – put a litter tray, water bowl, food bowls, bedding and plenty of toys in there! This room will be the new kitty’s new home for at least a few days, so make sure it’s comfortable and also make sure there’s nothing breakable within kitty’s reach – particularly if your new fur baby is a Bengal! If you’re using a spare bedroom, you may want to take the bedding off the bed and replace with a mattress-protector sheet. Bengal kittens in particular might find it a nice place to go to the toilet on otherwise.
3. Welcoming the new arrival
When you first bring your new arrival home, take them to their kitty room straight away. They might be quite overwhelmed by all the sights and smells around them, so it’s good to keep these to a minimum as much as you can Stay in the room with them while they settle in and find their paws. Make sure they have fresh food and water and they can find the litter box easily. As I said in another guide, you should feed the same food that the previous owner/breeder did and also use the same kitty litter, this will minimise the risk of tummy upsets and also the risks of little toileting accidents. You can always change these at a later date if you wish to do so (though this should be done gradually).
Stay with your new arrival for as long as you feel is appropriate, but don’t smother them too much and certainly don’t let your other cat into the room with them at this stage.
But do make sure you leave plenty of time to give your existing cat plenty of love and attention! They will know something is different and they mustn’t feel like they’re playing second fiddle as a result.
4. Preparations for the introductions
Once your new kitten/cat has settled in – and this might be as little as a few hours or as much as a few days, it depends on the individual – you can start the preparations for introductions. Cats are very sensitive to smells, so a good way of “introducing” them to each other without them actually meeting face to face is to get them used to each others’ scent.
If you don’t wash your hands in between petting your cats, you will have the smell of them on your hands which the other one can smell. You can also swap bedding and toys between the cats so there is a more constant presence than on your hands. Another option is to take a clean soft cloth and gently rub it over the whisker pads and head area of one cat and leave it in the areas the other cat uses and vice-versa.
So after a day or two of this (more if you think either cat needs it), you can then start to think about face to face introductions!
5. Pleased to meet you?
By now, it won’t be a shock to each cat that there is another one in the same house… but you still need to be very careful when they meet for the first few times face to face. You could consider using a large cage for this – this isn’t cruel if the cat is in there for short periods, and it gives the cats a chance to meet each other in a controlled way. Put the new kitty in the cage and let the existing one approach in their own time.
Or you could just let them meet and see how it goes!
However you do it, never force anything onto either cat and supervise the first few meetings very closely. At first, there will no doubt be a lot of hissing and growling which is entirely to be expected but if there’s too much animosity, remove your new fur baby back to their room, and allow a time out.
Start off with short meetings, just one or two in a day, then gradually build up the length and frequency.
Important things to remember
The way you introduce your cats to each other can have a long-term effect on how well they get on, so take it gradually and do it properly to increase the chances of life-long friendliness (or at the very least, tolerance of each other).
It might take only a day or two, or it might take several weeks, but in the majority of cases, most cats will learn to get on with each other if they don’t feel threatened and they don’t have to compete with each other for basic things such as food, water and cuddles – so make sure there are plenty of these to go around for all!
Never force any cat into any situation they don’t want to be in; always allow a “time out” when needed.
Bribery works well! Reward your fur babies with treats during and after the introductory meetings to make them feel like this is a good thing to do!
Never shout at either cat if they misbehave or don’t do as you would like them to; it will only stress them out even more and they’ll associate bad things with the new cat they’re being introduced to – remain calm and reassuring at all times, even if you don’t necessarily feel it!