Two cats sitting on a shelf

Key takeaway

Introducing a new cat into your home requires patience because you never know how your new cat or existing pets will react to each other. By taking the necessary precautions and letting animals get acquainted, you can ensure your pets live together peacefully.

Cats can be incredibly territorial, especially if they've been the only cat in the household for many years. Unfortunately, many cat owners don't know how to introduce new cats into their homes or how to introduce them to adults and children. Believe it or not, you can't put two cats together and expect them to get along. Bringing home a new cat can cause anxiety in both, leading to a negative experience and behavioral problems.

Ultimately, your cats' first impressions can impact how they feel about one another for the rest of their lives, so it's important to take the time to introduce them properly. Even if your cats don't necessarily love each other, introducing them to one another can help them live peacefully.1 This article will discuss how you can properly introduce cats to each other and humans for better interactions.

How to introduce cats

How to Introduce Cats to Other Cats

Whether you’re introducing a kitten to a cat or an adult to another cat, it’s important to learn how to do this properly. You never know how one cat will react to another cat. After all, they don't speak your language and can't tell you when they're uncomfortable. Therefore, you must be careful when introducing cats; you can't simply put them in a room together and hope they'll become friends. Moreover, some cats don't like living with other cats, so it's important to be able to introduce them carefully to ease your cat's anxiety when bringing home a new pet. Here's how to introduce cats to other cats.

1. Separate the cats at home

When you bring home a new cat, keep it separate from your current cat. Temporarily assigning the new cat its own room with a closed door can get them acquainted with their surroundings.1 Additionally, if you're weaning kittens, separating them from other cats can make the process easier.

Ensure to put your other cat away before bringing home a new cat, preferably in their own room, so you can get the new cat to a safe place without the cats seeing one another. How long you keep your cats separate will depend on each cat's behavior. Both cats should have the opportunity to become desensitized to the smells and sounds of the cat in the home.1

2. Start swapping scents

Once your cats are comfortable in their own rooms, you can start introducing their scents to one another. Of course, you should still keep your cats separated during this process as they are not ready to meet face-to-face yet.

Cats use scents to learn about one another, so you want your cats to recognize each other as part of the same household. Swapping scents allows your cat to get comfortable in the presence of another cat before seeing the cat. To swap scents, you can switch their bedding and allow them to start learning about one another.1

3. Feed cats together with a barrier

Avoiding free-feeding can prevent your cats from becoming territorial over their food. If your existing cat currently free feeds, start getting them used to a routine of meal feeding. Additionally, you should get the new cat accustomed to eating this way.

To feed cats together but separately, you can place food dishes near the doors of each room. Eating a delicious meal in sight of each other but at a distance can help them associate this as a positive experience, making it easier for them to become friendly or at least peaceful with one another when they finally meet.2

Feral cats do not eat together so it’s best to facilitate this natural behavior in the home as well. When feeding your cats together (but separate), it’s important to make sure that they are far enough apart and separated by a barrier so that they can see each other but still have the space to create positive associations with one another.

Cat exploring other cat’s space

4. Let cats explore each other’s space

If your cats have quickly adjusted to the smell of each other and aren't having difficulty eating in sight of each other even with a barrier, you can let the cats start to explore each other's spaces. You can rotate rooms daily for up to three days to allow your new cat to explore the home while your resident cat explores the new cat's room.1 Each cat will be able to smell each other's scents without seeing one another while rubbing their scents on objects in each other's space, helping them get adjusted to having another cat in the home.

5. Allow cats to see each other

Now that your cats have spent days or even weeks apart, it's time for them to see each other. However, your cats should only see each other if they're relaxed and can stay relaxed in sight of each other. If you're not sure whether your new cat is scared, learning how to spot the symptoms of a panic attack can be beneficial.

At this point, your cats are ready to see each other, but they're not ready to touch each other. You can allow them to see one another through a physical barrier, including a cracked door, mesh frame, pet gate, or cat carrier.

Allow your cats to meet several times a day this way, but start slowly because you never know how either cat will react. If you begin to notice any signs of distress, such as hard stares, hissing, and vocalization, separate them to prevent traumatized cats from associating each other with negative feelings. You might have to repeat this process for several days or weeks.1 However, once your cats can remain calm, you can move on to the final step.

6. Allow cats to meet face-to-face

If you don't see any signs of aggression from your cats after meeting through a barrier, you can start introducing them to each other. One way to allow cats to meet face-to-face safely is by letting the new cat roam the house freely for a few minutes every day and gradually increase the time they can spend in the rest of the home.1 When your new cat is roaming, keep an eye on them to ensure they're not getting into any trouble and make sure to have an adult present to make it easier to separate them if needed.

If your cat decides to roam and ignores your other cat, don't force them together. While your cats may not be spending any time together, they are demonstrating that they can live peacefully with one another.

If you notice your cats are fixated on each other and see signs of aggression from either the new cat or your existing cat, it's time to separate them again. You can continue to introduce them to each other daily, but it could take anywhere from a few days to a few months to make your cats comfortable in each other's presence.1

How to Introduce Cats to Dogs

Many people believe the myth that cats and dogs don't get along. However, many cats and dogs live peacefully together and even like each other. Introducing cats to dogs follows the same process as introducing cats to each other. However, it's essential to have a well-trained dog prior to introductions. If your dog has never seen a cat before, it could scare them or they may become aggressive. Remember, dogs don't exactly know what cats are, so they could react in any way.

Having a well-trained dog will make introductions easier, and you can reward your pet for behaving correctly. For example, before introducing your new cat to your dog, you can ask your dog to sit and give them a treat. Giving both your dog and cat treats when they physically meet will also help them associate this as a positive experience.

Again, you should never force animals to interact with one another as it can cause anxiety and stress, resulting in aggressive behavior.

How to Introduce Cats to Children and Adults

Never force your cat to spend time with you or others, as they should be able to develop a bond with you on their own time. Your cat should have a safe space where they won't be bothered by humans or other pets. Additionally, children and adults can learn how to properly handle, touch, and pet cats to reduce the risk of being scratched or bitten.3

Humans should always be gentle with their new cats. If your cat isn't ready to be picked up, don't pick them up or force interactions. Instead, let your cat come to you so they can feel safe. When your cat does come to you, give them a treat and praise so they can start associating you with something positive.

When introducing cats to children, it's important to practice patience. It's best to teach children where to pet a cat to ensure the cat feels safe and won't act aggressively towards the child. Additionally, children should learn when to leave pets alone and care for them properly. Always supervise interactions between pets and children to ensure both are safe.

Additionally, pet parents should ensure they socialize their kittens early on, specifically up to 6-8 weeks. Daily handling at this critical stage can help make cats more social with people later on.

Tips for Introducing a Cat Into Your Home

When you bring a kitten or cat home, they have to deal with a new environment, other pets, and new people, which can be scary. Introducing a new cat into your home will take time, and it's important to do it correctly, so your cat doesn't develop anxiety or behavioral problems. That said, here are a few tips that can help:

Tips for introducing a cat into your home

Know how to read your cat’s body language

Even though your cat doesn't speak your language, they can still communicate with you through their body language. If you pay close attention to your cat, you can learn when they're happy or stressed. For example, signs of aggression or fear in cats include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Erect tail or tucked tail
  • Arched back
  • Flattened ears
  • Downward whiskers4

If you notice any signs of fear in your pet, it's best to remove them from the situation. For example, if your cat becomes fearful when someone approaches them, remove your cat from the room when you have company over.

Take it slow

Learning how to introduce cats takes time; you can't force your cat to interact with humans or other animals because it can cause unnecessary stress and behavioral problems, including aggression.

Make the experience positive

Desensitizing your cat is a great way to introduce them into your home. You can make every interaction a positive experience by giving your cat praise and treats.

Reassure the resident cat

While most of this article covered the well-being of your new cat, you shouldn't forget about the needs of your resident cat. Always give your existing cat plenty of attention to reassure them that you still love them and there's no reason to be jealous.1

What Not To Do When Introducing Cats

While introducing cats sounds fairly straightforward, many pet parents make mistakes. By learning what not to do when introducing cats, you can avoid mistakes and ensure your cats can live together peacefully.

What not to do when introducing cats

Don’t introduce cats quickly

Introducing cats takes time. There's no reason to rush the process. Instead, start slowly and reward both cats for good behavior.

Don’t force cats to interact

Forcing cats to interact causes unnecessary stress for both of them. If one cat becomes overwhelmed and starts displaying signs of aggression, the other cat can also develop anxiety and fear. Instead, let your cats do what they want to do. If they don't want to spend time together, they don't have to.

Don’t punish your cat for being scared

Punishing or scolding your cat when they're scared can cause anxiety, causing them to associate this experience with something negative.1 Of course, you should never scold your cat for unwanted behavior because it can cause unnecessary stress, and your cat won't understand why you're upset with them.

How to Introduce Cats: Frequently Asked Questions

Can I introduce a cat quickly?

Never introduce your cat quickly, as it can cause anxiety and fear in an otherwise calm cat. Instead, start slow and only introduce your cat when they can be relaxed in the presence of another cat, dog, or human.

Is it normal for cats to hiss when being introduced?

Hissing is a sign of aggression and an indication that something’s wrong, therefore, you should not let cats interact when one is displaying aggressive behavior. If your cat hisses at your other cat, separate them and repeat the process of introducing them slowly until both cats are calm and can peacefully coexist in the same home.

How do I know if my cats are ready to meet?

You'll know your cats are ready to meet face-to-face once they're calm in each other's presence. If your cats have successfully seen each other through a barrier and aren't showing signs of aggression, you can let them meet each other. However, if either cat begins showing signs of aggression, be prepared to separate them again.

Final Notes

The best way to introduce cats is to take it slowly. Introducing cats is easy, but it takes time and patience. Conversely, quickly introducing cats can cause both to experience fear and anxiety, preventing them from being happy in each other's presence. Therefore, it's best to keep them separated at first and let them get familiar with each other's scents before they meet. Then, you can allow them to see each other through a barrier before letting them meet face-to-face.

When introducing your cat to other pets, ensure the other pets are well-trained so they don't overwhelm the new cat. You should also be careful when introducing your cat to people and allow your cat to get comfortable instead of forcing interactions.

Unfortunately, some cats may exhibit aggressive behavior when being introduced to other cats, pets, or humans. This aggression is typically a result of extreme anxiety or fear. If you notice any signs of anxiety or aggression, your cat may need behavioral training.

Dutch's affiliated veterinarians can help anxious cats live calmer, more peaceful lives to enhance their relationships with others and make sure they feel safe in their homes. Many pets experience anxiety for various reasons, which is why it's important to work with a vet behaviorist who can help you learn effective ways to care for your anxious cat.

References

  1. Gardiner, John. “Introducing Your New Cat to Your Other Household Cats.” Animal Health Topics / School of Veterinary Medicine, 6 Dec. 2020, https://healthtopics.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/health-topics/feline/introducing-your-new-cat-your-other-household-cats.

  2. “Introducing Cats to Cats.” American Humane, 21 June 2018, https://www.americanhumane.org/fact-sheet/introducing-cats-to-cats/.

  3. “Introducing a New Cat into Your Household: Paws Chicago.” PAWS Chicago | Chicago's Largest No Kill Humane and Adoption Organization, https://www.pawschicago.org/news-resources/all-about-cats/getting-started-a-guide-for-bringing-home-a-new-cat/introducing-a-new-cat-into-your-household.

  4. “Feline Behavior Problems: Aggression.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 24 July 2018, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-behavior-problems-aggression.