If you are a cat lover, chances are you plan on adding one (or two) more to your ‘family,’ or you may want your cat to make new friends in your neighbourhood. However, these introductions take time and patience, especially if your cat is not accustomed to meeting other felines. Cats are often used to being the centre of attention at home and can be territorial.
A forced introduction or one that is rushed may result in the cat’s feeling threatened or scared, both of which can result in a display of aggression. And, once this happens, hope for reconciliation is almost out of the window. A thoughtful, patient approach can make all the difference.
Here are four key steps to helping your cat become used to new feline friends.
- Isolate them at first (when bringing a new cat to the family).
When you first bring a new cat home, do not allow it to get familiar with the entire house. This needs to be done step by step. A new room or isolated space within your house allows it to become familiar with the new surroundings. Also, to make sure the cat feels at home, ensure you provide food and water, cat scratching post, a few toys and a litter box. These will help the new cat make itself comfortable. However, do not prolong the isolation. Allow the two cats to get a sense of each other’s presence by feeding them on both sides of the door that separates them. When you feed them this way they learn to associate the sounds and smells of each other with positive experiences instead of being territorial. To expedite the process, you can even feed them occasional treats.
- Scent plays a major role.
Cats’ communication depends heavily on their sense of smell. When introducing two cats, use this to your advantage by “scent swapping”. It’s pretty simple, really. All you’ve got to do is stroke one cat, and without washing your hands, stroke the other. The cats shouldn’t be together at this point. Another interesting aspect of “scent swapping” is to stroke the cat with a soft piece of cloth and dab it around the house where your other cat has been. This builds a sense of familiarity. For this process to work, you must ensure both cats are kept separated for a few days. But, you can allow the cats to explore each others’ spaces (with the absence of the other). Also, you may swap their locations after a couple of days.
- “I see you.”
Transform the separation from door to a gate. Continue to feed them on both sides of the gate. You can also start playing with them. The fun aspect helps lower their guard against each other as they don’t relate to each other as a threat. The positive association helps them build familiarity with each other and the common factor in the equation, you.
Through a gate, they can also sniff each other, but they are kept apart if things go south. If one is a kitten, you can keep it in its cage and let the older cat approach. In case there is bullying or aggression, stop the process immediately and go back to square one and repeat the process. Patience is of paramount importance.
- A face-to-face meeting is important.
It is now time to let the cats meet. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t leave them unsupervised during these first moments. Keep watching the cats, but stay calm. Even if you are simply introducing your cat to that of a friend’s you can place them on the floor or hold on to them and allow them to interact. Both owners should be vigilant. Sometimes, the cats may ignore each other or let out a small hiss and walk away. Don’t worry if this happens. Just give them some time. As long as they don’t get aggressive, there is nothing to worry. In case one of the cats keeps getting aggressive, you may have to seek the help of an animal behaviourist.
Give both cats plenty of space to move away if that’s what they prefer. Don’t force or coerce them into meeting. There should be no feeling of force or threat in the air. Leave them be and observe. In case they are not comfortable with each other, it’s back to square one.
All cats have their unique personalities and preferences. Therefore, give them plenty of time to make friends and don’t rush the process. Unlike dogs, cats need a lot of time to accept another into their circle. Give the above tips a try and let us know how they work out for you.
Kristy Robertson is an animal lover and owns 2 feline fur-babies who absolutely love their cat scratching post. She currently writes for purekitties.com and enjoys giving tips to fellow cat owners and sharing her own amazing and fun cat pictures. In her spare time, she loves to curl up and read a book.