Finally received that feline for your birthday after years of blowing candles and secretly wishing for one, or another one? Excited and anxious as you are to bring him home, it pays to stop and think twice before rushing him into your already crowded household—with other cats—without an introduction.
This article will take you through the reason why introducing cats to each other is important, how a cat introduction timeline can help, and the warning signs when introducing cats.
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Why Introducing Cats to Each Other Is Important
Cats, as a species, lead a solitary existence. They don’t often seek out companions or socialize with other cats. In addition, they are notoriously territorial. Consequently, a new member underscores a more imminent threat to your current cat than you may think possible.
As such, it’s important to gradually introduce your cats to each other before you can expect some peaceful time on the sofa. The process will require some time and patience on your part.
To get started, map out a cat introduction timeline.
Cat Introduction Timeline
Wait, there’s such a thing as a cat introduction timeline?
Yes, there sure is.
Ever heard someone burp on the first date and thought, Woah, this is going way too fast? If you want to take things slow, there’s no reason to assume your feline friends don’t function the same way, especially if they are natural-born lone wolves.
A cat introduction timeline is a scientific way for you to slowly introduce your new family member into the household without muddying the waters too much, too fast. Having a timeline will ensure the introduction happens slowly, so you can have some control over how it unfolds. If you get this step right, when your cats finally get to see and touch each other, the relationship will likely be an amicable one.
Before putting pen to paper and sketching out a timeline, you need to design and create a separate, safe space for your new family member. This space should be in close enough proximity to your existing cat for them to be aware of each other’s presence, but not too exposed that they should see each other. The rationale behind this practice is to help your cats get used to each other’s scents.
Scents play an important part in cats’ territory-marking rituals, explained by the regular rubbing of feet, cheeks and faces, as well as the occasional urination that frustrates you so much. Without a proper introduction, you can expect these behaviors to intensify.
A cat introduction timeline is contingent on your cats and their temperaments, but generally, it should have the following key steps:
- Start with letting the cats hear and smell, without being forced to see each other or interact right away. Ensure they are separated but have their presence sensed and known by one another—one scent at a time.
- After a week or so, let your cats see each other for the first time, though separation is still key at this stage. No interaction should be forced as yet, but what you can do is to encourage them to play together through a type of physical barrier.
- Have a reward system in place—canned food or cat treats—to help connect the new feline’s presence with something positive. Gradually, your cats will start to associate each other’s company with something they like.
- Assuming everything is going well at this point, you can allow your cats to spend time and interact with each other. The first few interactions may need to be monitored and shortened, especially if they start fighting. Gradually, you can prolong the time they hang out together.
Is Your Cat Introduction Not Going Well?
Got your timeline all mapped out and a graceful introduction captured in your head, but so far, things have not panned out? Before identifying the underlying issue, it’s important to objectively determine how the introduction is really going.
Are your cats fighting every time they see each other? This means you may have rushed the introduction and forced interactions where there should be none. But all is not lost. It’s completely fine to start again. Give your feline friends more time this time around and you may see a difference. You also can check this article to find out how to stop them bully each other.
On the other hand, are you cats simply not playing or being close to one another? That doesn’t indicate an unsuccessful introduction per se; it just means that your cats are being cats. No matter how hard you try, some cats just never become close friends. They simply co-exist. So long as they’re not aggressive or fearful of one another, count yourself lucky and consider your job done.
It’s important, nonetheless, to pay close attention within the first week after the official introduction. Write down everything you notice happening between your fur babies to see if you can spot a pattern. Keep an eye on trivial behaviors that may signify fear or stress such as flattened ears, loud howling or hissing.
While introducing cats’ hissing is deemed worrying by most cat owners—for it clearly constitutes aggression—it is quite normal and often only indicates the cat’s wish to remain distanced. It is completely common for cats to hiss at their new neighbors, but it also explains why it’s so imperative to get your cat introduction timeline down pat.
How to Know if All Your Fur Babies Are Starting to Get Along?
With all the hard work you’ve been putting in to keep the peace in the house, it’s important to know when it has paid off. These are four signs your cats are starting to get along.
- They are sharing the same bed. No sign is more obvious than this. In a cat’s world, two’s a crowd. For your cats to put aside territorial disputes and snuggle in the same bed, you must have done something right.
- Along the same line of sharing the same bed, if they do not mind sharing the litter tray—territorial as they are—chances are you have smashed your first cat introduction and should be proud of yourself.
- They get physically close—grooming one another or touching noses. Their interactions are more personal. They keep each other clean and express affection through physical touch.
- This may be one of the most obvious signs, but which can go unnoticed if you are too focused on peacekeeping: they stop fighting. As much as we all wish for the greatest friendship ever seen between our cats, sometimes no more fighting is all we can ask for. And that is perfectly fine.
It’s worth keeping in mind that no matter how close your felines are to one another, they will still need time alone once in a while. To give them the quality of life they deserve, ensure they have their own food bowls, scratch posts, litter trays and lots of spaces to retreat into should they wish.
Hope you like this article on warning signs when introducing cats. Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for reading!
I am Amy Sawy, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) graduate from the University of Kansas. y husband, Dr. Plummer, and I own a veterinary clinic in Phillipsburg, Kansas. In addition to my professional background, I am a devoted pet owner myself, with a household that includes dogs, rodents, and most notably, cats – a total of five felines in my home.
In 2020, I joined an organization as a professional writer, leveraging my experience and collaborating with my team to deliver the most valuable information for your cat’s care.