It is no secret that every cat wishes it is the only cat in the family, getting all the delicious treats, receiving undivided attention, enjoying spoiling massages and being the ultimate boss in the house. Leaving aside the cat’s indulging preferences, one must accept the fact that cats are naturally territorial and greedy creatures, with dislike to changes. They are very particular about marking their own turfs and possessions and are usually not very friendly with new arrivals. Cats live by a strict social pecking and respect hierarchy. Therefore, a rule-breaking newcomer is likely to be put in its place and swiftly informed that he is unwelcome.
According to the cat behaviorist and the host of the TV show 'My cat from hell', Jackson Galaxy, "The first thing folks do wrong is they go - I'm just gonna bring my cat into a room with this new cat and let'em work it out. How many times have I heard - Let 'em work it out. And how many times do they not - Work it out’’. Putting two cats into one environment without proper consideration of their needs, rules and positions is just asking for trouble.
You cannot force your cats to like each other.
In fact, introducing a new cat to an old, resident cat requires both time and patience. Cats are placed in positions where they are either a resident cat faced with a newcomer or they are a new cat coming into an existing cat’s territory. And believe them, it is not much fun being in either position. However, with a carefully planned introduction and if provided with the right environmental conditions, two cats can learn to cohabit and realize that life is better in two. And eventually, that there can be two bosses in the house.
The first step is choosing the right cat. The chances of domestic harmony are bigger if one of the cats is kitten or juvenile and if either both cats are desexed or one of the cats is male and the other is female. And while cat’s preferences are highly individual, some breeds such as Persians, Maine Coons, Ragdolls and Birmans tend to be more even-tempered, adaptable and easy-going and are more likely to accept a new feline friend.
The second step is understanding that it is your cats, who dictate the pace of the introduction process. The cats themselves will signal you when they are ready to go to the next step. Moving too fast jeopardizes the whole process and risks aggressive and hostile behavior.
Once you have chosen the cat and understood that you are not in charge, the real introduction can begin.
At first, the cats should be kept separately.
Confine your resident cat in a room she is comfortable with and set up a special isolation room for the new cat. The special room is supposed to have all the trappings of home – litter box, cozy bed and hiding places, food and water bowls, toys and a scratching post. Basically everything your cat needs to feel comfortable. The purpose of this room is to provide a safe place, while getting used to the surroundings. Some experts recommend switching the cat’s locations after 2-3 days, so they can get used to each other’s smells. Others suggest swapping the feeding bowls and beddings or rubbing the cats with the same towel to mix their scents. It is very efficient to rub a clean sock on the new cat’s face, to capture its facial pheromones and then leave the sock near the resident cat. If either one of the cats reacts badly to the scent, quickly associate the event with a positive experience, like a tasty treat, soothing massage or stimulating game.
When the new cat is settled in and comfortable with the new environment, the resident cat, who is already familiarized with the newcomer’s scent can be let out. Now you should slowly allow the cats to see each other, but without the possibility of physical interaction. You can accomplish this by installing a screening door or a high baby gate that neither of the cats can jump over. In order to build a positive experience, you should play with each cat near the door and feed the cats. If they do not like to eat near the door, move the bowls few inches further. If they eat comfortably then move the bowls few inches closer to the door. When playing, it is advisable to have two people, one on each side of the barrier. During this entire process, it is important to prevent upsetting your resident cat by trying not to neglect her and keeping her routine as close to what it was before the newcomer's arrival.
The final step is letting the cats be together, but not without supervision. Mealtime is the perfect time for face to face introduction. At first, the cats may ignore each other, stare at each other or even his a bit, but do not be worried, because that is normal behavior, as they work out hierarchy. However, make sure to have a blanket in case you have to stop a fight. In case of aggression, separate the cats and make a step back. If the cats are relaxed and comfortable let them eat together, but separate them after the meal. Increase the together periods gradually until the cats are completely comfortable with each other. Do not forget to pay attention to both cats equally so there is no perceived favoritism.
If you notice that one cat is harassing the other or is constantly aggressive, consult with your vet about calming medications or seek professional assistance from a trained feline behaviorist. Ultimately some personalities do not fit and if there is no other solution, you may have to consider re-homing the new cat. However you must not feel intimidated by one bad experience. If your resident cat does not like the particular new cat you brought, it does not mean it will not like other cats. Be positive and persistent. After all there is always a perfect match for each personality.
Featured Meowdels: @cheeseandolive