Some people say cats are like chips -- you can’t have just one! As one of the 85 million1 cat owners out there, you may be considering adding a new feline friend to your home. Whether your current cat is lonely, her companion cat recently passed away or you simply love cats, it is important to take a few precautions to ensure that your cat-to-cat introductions go as smoothly as possible.
Where to look:
American Humane Association strongly recommends adopting a cat from a local animal shelter. Millions of wonderful cats enter animal shelters each year, but tragically, 71 percent are euthanized because there are simply not enough homes for them.2 A wide variety of cat breeds, sizes, colors and personalities can be found at any animal shelter, which gives you a lot of options to choose from. Most shelters also have information about each cat’s personality and background, which increases your chances of success.
Adult or kitten:
If you have your heart set on a kitten, wait it out until “kitten season” -- shelters are often inundated with homeless kittens in the springtime. But remember, in just a few short months that adorable kitten will look just like an adult. Additionally, keep in mind that by adopting an adult cat, you will be able to assess more about his or her fundamental personality than you will be able to for a kitten, which could improve your chances of success.
Consider your current cat:
Perhaps the most important step in adding another cat to your home is careful consideration of the resident cat’s personality. Features such as looks, size, breed, gender or any quality other than personality are not factors that should weigh heavily in the decision. Instead, focus primarily on personality matching:
By planning ahead and taking things slowly, your chances of success when introducing cats are much greater. If you rush into things and attempt to “force” a relationship, you might inadvertently sabotage a relationship that could have otherwise worked out. Here are six steps that can help you ensure a successful introduction:
Step one: Start by trading scents
Once you have selected a potential new cat, ask the shelter or breeder if you can take home a blanket the cat has slept on to give to your resident kitty. Also ask if it would be possible to bring a blanket from home that your resident kitty has slept on, to give to your new cat. In some cases, this will not be possible -- especially with kittens -- due to disease concerns. But if you can exchange the cats’ scents with one another, you will be introducing a very important identification and communication signal right off the bat.
Step two: Prepare a separate room
Some cats can be dropped into the middle of a new home and adapt just fine, with everything working out between the kitties. However, such an approach can also end in disaster, injuries or a failed adoption. Before bringing your new cat home, we recommend that you:
Step three: Feed them on opposite sides of the door
Place both cats’ dishes close to the door, on their respective sides. If one of the cats refuses to eat, you can feed her elsewhere, but still place dishes of tuna or some other tasty snack on either side of the door. By having both cats experience something positive (a meal or yummy snack) while they are nearby, they can learn to form positive associations with each other.
Step four: Exchange scents around the house
If both cats are eating well, and appear calm and relaxed on their respective sides of the door, then it’s time for the big scent exchange:
If either cat appears stressed, nervous or fearful, you might want to do the exchange described above multiple times, for example:
Step five: Let them make visual contact
If everything seems to be going well, and everyone is acting, eating and using the litter box normally, you’re doing great! The next step is to open the separating door, but keep a gate of some sort across it so they can see, smell and have contact with each other. The gate should prevent complete access. (A baby gate is perfect, but usually not high enough for cats, so you may need to stack two on top of each other.)
Step six: Allow them to meet
If everything seems fine, and everyone is acting, eating and using the litter box normally, then it’s time to take down the gates.
Leaving Cats Alone Together
It’s a good idea to separate the cats at first when you will not be around to supervise them. You want to ensure that you see all their interactions and know exactly what is going on. After you feel that the cats are getting along, you can ease up on this step.
Getting another cat will have a big impact on your resident cat, so considering your decision carefully and introducing them properly is the right thing to do. Good luck!