Introducing a New Cat to Your Home

Multi animal homes can be a handful and a challenge when everyone is used to one another, let alone when trying to introduce a new member.

Cats, especially in my experience, take it to heart when you want to introduce a new brother or sister, and many families are left asking what they can do because they fur babies simply won’t get along. As the servant of three cats at home, all in different stages of life, I can attest to how difficult it can be. However, I also have some tips that may help during the transitional period of a new loved one.

First, there was Raisin, a gorgeous (and she knows it!) Calico/Tabby who for the most part, was spicy when she needed to be, but otherwise a total couch potato and love muffin. Raisin is a rescue from the SPCA, so other than knowing that she was found in a neighbourhood, we didn’t know anything else about her. After the loss of our family dog and downsizing to an apartment, my mom decided she wanted to bring home another cat. When Raisin was about 5 or 6 years old we brought home a new kitten Simba, at the time Simba was an 8-week old, orange tabby full of attitude. We have recently introduced a 7-year old diabetic grey Maine Coon cat named Charlie into our home. Simba is now a year and a half and Raisin is almost 7-years old.

Between these three totally different cats, introductions have been totally different. But a few tips I’ve learned to be very helpful are as follows:

Everything happens at the speed your animal is comfortable with.

This is true for any animal, introductions are going to happen at different paces every time. With Simba and Raisin it only took just over a week, for Charlie it’s been almost two weeks and we just started face to face no barrier interactions. It’s important to know your animal and be able to
read their body language so you know how they’re feeling.

Have a litter box for every cat, and sometimes even an extra one.

Some cats are very territorial over where they do their business. For some, one litterbox each will do the trick, but if you’re seeing accidents around the house something you may want to try first is an extra litterbox.

When first introducing cats, there are steps to make it easier.

First, feed cats on opposite sides of a closed door. Feeding is a positive experience, so the cats won’t associate negative interactions with one another and the door so they can smell but not see each other. Every meal move the dishes closer together on opposite side of the door until both dishes are touching the door. While doing this for meals you also can do site-swapping, allowing the cat in the room to come out while the other cats are in another room and smell their surroundings and get familiar with the other cats while not having to see them. Then when they return to their room let the normal house cats out and they can smell the new cat as well. After all of this you can put something like a baby gate between the cats and let them eat again moving their dishes closer so now they can see each other if this goes well you can do your first supervised face to face interaction!

Face to Face

Finally, the fur babies are ready to meet face to face, this should always be done under supervision, one person per animal, no matter what animal it is. There should be toys or something fun for each animal to do because if there’s nothing to do the other animal would be “something to do” and may cause a scuff between them. These playtimes should only be as long as all animals are happy, it may be only a couple minutes and that’s okay.

Let them be

I think probably the most important tip I’ve learned is to let them be. Don’t force anything. Don’t force a new animal to be comfortable, don’t force them to get along. Leave them to discover things on their own and don’t interfere unless it’s harmful to the pets.

All in all, these are things I’ve learned from others, and through my own experience with three happy kitties at home, but of course, there are some behaviours that aren’t because friends aren’t getting along and when in doubt always check with your veterinarian.

Written by: Chelsea Dicks, CCS