How to Introduce a New Cat to Your Existing Cat: A Cat Parent’s Experience

By Christopher Gema October 20, 2018

You just got your cat a new feline friend, but there is just one problem: They are not getting along with each other! Instead of a warm greeting, the new cat is met with hisses and growls and treated like an unwanted intruder. No matter how hard you try, the two just don’t seem to get along. Now you are considering giving the new cat away - evicting the cute furball just after a short stay.

About 8 years ago, I was in exactly the same situation with my whiskered friend Mimi, a Maine Coon. At that time, I was extremely busy with school and work. I decided to get Mimi a new companion so she wouldn’t be bored during my absence. I figured she would love having another cat around the house to play with. Boy, was I wrong. The moment I brought home Simba (another Maine Coon), she was in defense mode, hissing and growling every chance she got. She even tried to attack him on several occasions.

This went on for about a week. Finally, my family and I decided it was best to take Simba back to his original owners. Fortunately, a coworker with 6 cats heard about my dilemma and gave me advice that solved my problem. The idea was to slowly introduce them to each other and familiarize their scents.

After a week of applying the techniques, Mimi and Simba became the best of friends.  A year later, I introduced two more Maine Coons into our household and all four cats got along purrfectly.

Understanding (C)attitude is Everything

Before we get into the techniques of how to get your cats to get along, you need to understand why your cat is behaving this way. Cats are territorial animals.  What is theirs is theirs, and they don’t like to share. Let’s face it, in your cats eyes, your house is not your house. It is THEIR house. Your cat is not your pet. You are THEIR pet or in this case their human. That is exactly how they see it.   

Everything inside your house is theirs. Unlike their canine counterparts, cats will walk around your house as if they own it like royalty. Nothing is off limits to them, and for most cats, they simply don’t like to share with any other animal that is not part of their territory. This is your cat’s attitude (or cattitude), and it means everything to them. It is almost like their ego. Bringing another cat into their territory is like a slap in the face to them.

Cats also have a heightened sense of smell that gives them a warning when a new cat is in their territory, even if they have not physically seen the other cat yet. Everything is covered in your cat’s scent, so when you bring in a new cat, especially without your cat’s permission, they know. The new cat will be bringing in a scent, and it will start to permeate into your cat’s territory. This alone is enough to make your cat go into defense mode to protect their territory and what is theirs.

Your cat might even feel betrayed. Some of you probably have already experienced this with your feline friend. Mimi would hiss at me before running away if she sniffed Simba’s scent on my hand. She would then have a grumpy cattitude towards me for the rest of the day unless I got Simba’s scent off of me.

Put yourself in your cat’s position: Imagine if your best friend just randomly brought home a stranger and told you that this person is now living here. Now you have a complete stranger not just living in your place, but eating your food, using your belongings, and making themselves at home. What was once your sacred place has now been violated by an intruder.

This is exactly what your cat is going through when you bring in a new cat. Not only is your cat going to get mad and defensive, but also stressed and anxious. You are going to need to make this transition for your cat as easy as possible.

How to Get Your Cats to Like Each Other

Introductions should be a slow process. The best thing to do for the first couple of days or a week is to keep the two cats in separate rooms. Give them each their own safe place where they can have their solitude and not worry about each other. A good time frame that has always worked for me is usually seven days. If you need to keep them separated longer, then please do so. This is a process that should not be rushed.

Not only should you give them their own separate room, but you also need to provide separate food bowls and cat toys. If your cat senses a random cat has been eating out of their food bowl, they might reject their food. This is something you don’t want to happen. The cat toys will be used for them to exchange scents later.

Once you have your cats separated with their own belongings, follow the steps below to introduce the cats to each other and have them get along within a week or two!

5 Steps to Get Your Cat to Like Each Other

Step 1:  Bathe Both Cats Separately With the Same Shampoo

One of the first things I do when bringing home a new member of the cat family is give the new cat a bath.   I do this by using the same cat shampoo that I use for my other cats. After receiving my coworker’s advice, I gave Simba a bath using Mimi’s cat shampoo, giving him the same scent as Mimi. If you never given your cat a bath before, now would be a good time to start with the both of them. A bathe soaks the scent of the existing cat to the new cat with the existing cat's scent, leaving them smelling almost the same. This will now be the family scent of the house.

Step 2: Use a Cat Carrier to Introduce Them to Each Other

One of the best ways to slowly introduce your cats to each other is through their own cat carriers. If you don’t have a cat carrier, then I highly recommend you get one! Your cats will be able to meet each other eye to eye and are perfectly safe from harming each other.

The best way to do this is by putting both of your cats in their respective carriers facing each other. For the first time, keep the carriers at least 8 to 10 feet apart. Your cats are going to be hissing and growling at each other, which is completely normal. They will even try to claw at each other. Keep them at this distance for the first couple of days or until the hissing and growling starts to diminish.

Next move the carriers closer (by two feet) and repeat the above process. The goal is to get the two felines face to face until they are completely comfortable with each other. Of course, this won’t happen during the first couple of days (unless you are very lucky). But generally after a week or two, they will be comfortable being in each other’s presence.

Step 3: Swap Their Cat Toys to Exchange Scents

A method that I generally like to use is infusing each of the cat’s scent with their favorite toy and then swapping them. For Mimi, I used her favorite toy Rupert, a stuffed animal of a red bear that she took everywhere she went. I gave that toy to Simba for a day, allowing him to play with it and leave his scent all over it. I did the same with Mimi by giving her Simba’s toy and letting her play with it all day. The next day I gave them back their original toys. Mimi of course wasn’t happy, and Simba didn’t care that Mimi’s scent was all over his toy. Repeat this process for the week until both cats become accustomed to each other’s scent.  Moreover, I would leave Simba’s toy next to Mimi’s food bowl as she ate (and vice versa with Simba). This will also help them get familiar with each other’s scent.

Step 4: Test to See If Both Cats Are Ready to Meet

The best way to judge if your feline friends are ready to meet without barriers is by testing them. If you are able to have both their cat carriers face to face without them showing hostility toward each other, then that is a clear sign that they might be ready to meet. You might even notice them pawing (not clawing) at each other, signifying that they want to play, and that their rivalry might be over.

At this point, I would take one of them out of their carrier and see how they react. When I first did this, I took Simba out first, closely observing his reaction. He stepped out of his carrier, looked around, and simply left the room. He didn’t pay Mimi any attention. So I grabbed him and put him back in his carrier.

The next step is to see if the second cat shows hostility toward the other one. After Simba was back in his carrier, I let Mimi out. She ran straight to Simba’s carrier the moment she was released, which had me worried. Thankfully though, she wasn’t looking for a fight. She just wanted to play and was pawing at him through his carrier.  Unfortunately for her, Simba wasn’t in a playing mood. He was lazy and relaxed, so he just watched her.

Step 5: Let Both of Your Cats Meet

After determining that no hostility exists between the two cats, let them both out while keeping a close eye on them. Have another person in the room with you to aid you in the event that anything goes wrong. If both cats get along, then catastic!  You have successfully introduced your cats, and peace is restored in your household. If there is still animosity between the two felines, then repeat the above steps until the two starts to get along. If you made it this far in the process, then success is just around the corner. Don’t give up!

I have used this method on Mimi and Simba as well as two new additional cats with great success. Not only have I used this method, but I also taught it to other coworkers, friends, and family members. They too experienced the same success. I am grateful for the advice of my coworker. It has worked wonders for me and everyone else that I had the pleasure to share it with. I hope you find the same success as well.

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