Introducing a new cat to the household

Introducing a new cat into the home where other cats already live, can cause upset and disruption if done without proper planning. The introduction process can take anywhere from a couple of days, to a few weeks, depending on the personalities of the cats involved. Following a specific protocol will make the introduction as trouble-free as possible.

Pheromone sprays

Two weeks before the introduction, use an F3 pheromone product such as Feliway® in both the new and the resident cat’s areas. You can buy this as a diffuser or spray to apply directly to bedding or other areas in the cat’s environment. An F4 product such as Felifriend® is best during the time of introduction. Spray this in the environment or on to the hands of the person performing the introduction. Neither product should be applied directly to the cats.

Tips for trouble-free introductions:

1. Keep the new cat in a separate room with their own food, toys, litter box, scratching post, hiding and rest areas, and a perch off the floor. Allow the cat time to adapt to it’s new environment

2. Allow the cats to interact through a closed door for a limited time, getting to know each other’s scents and sounds

3. Exchange bedding and other objects between cats to intermingle their scents

4. Rub a facecloth on the face and body (especially the cheeks and base of tail) of the resident and new cat. This will mingle their scents. Rub this against doors, furniture corners, or anywhere your cat would naturally rub, to spread the cats’ group scent in the territory

5. Allow the new cat to explore the whole house in safety, becoming familiar with hiding and escape areas, while the resident cat is kept away

6. Start an initial short visual introduction with one cat in a cage, pen or across a glass door to see how they do. This can be done several times a day. Reward them with treats for friendly or calm behaviour. If you notice continued aggressive responses, it’s best to stop the visual introductions and seek professional help

7.  Once the cats appear to tolerate each other’s presence without signs of aggression, you can allow them short periods of supervised physical contact by letting them interact freely in the same room

8. Be on alert, and prepared to intervene if there is any aggression, chasing or fighting by using distraction methods (noise, water from a bottle) or a heavy blanket to restrain one cat. DO NOT try to handle the aggressive cat as it may redirect it’s aggression towards you

9. It’s important not to allow cat’s access to each other without supervision until they have been calm in each other’s presence a number of times

10. Continue to provide each cat with their own feeding bowls. Initially, it might be best to feed the cats in separate rooms before being introduced to being fed in the same room

11. It’s important not to place feeding bowls close together as this can cause chronic stress for cats

12. If your new cat is not integrating well into the household and there are signs of aggression, it’s always best to seek professional advice.

Multi-cat households

Many of us like to have more than one cat at home. Cats that are related, or have been together since kittenhood, are more likely to get on than cats that have been introduced as adults.

The most important thing that you can do to ensure harmony for all in your household, is to ensure that there is enough space and resources for all. Each cat should have access to his or her own feeding station, litter box, sleeping area, perch, scratching post and hiding place. They should be spread out around the house to prevent one cat from blocking the other cat from accessing any of the resources, causing fights between the cats.

Quick tips

  • Pheromone sprays can help to relieve tension
  • When introducing a new cat into your home, follow a recommended protocol
  • Catnip may heighten aggression. Avoid its use if it’s causing one cat to become aggressive towards the others
  • The more assertive cats in the household can be fitted with a quick-release collar with a bell, to alert other cats of their presence
  • Each resting place should be big enough for just one, or two cats if they are related
  • There should be easy access to and from each resource