Three’s Company: A Guideline to Introducing Cats

There’s an old saying which states ‘the more, the merrier,’ which is what I thought when I added a new kitten to my home over the summer. As time went on, I began to feel that old adage “the more, the merrier” kick in again and thought to myself, wouldn’t my kitten love a playmate? I work long hours and have a fairly active social life, she must get lonely sometimes. And so, I marched myself to the local animal shelter and adopted a handsome one-year-old male cat, thinking he was the perfect playmate for my female six-month-old kitten.

She, however, does not subscribe to the ‘more the merrier’ mentality. In fact, she is more “two is a company, and three is a crowd, and when are you leaving?!” So, how do you introduce two (or more) cats to one another? The answer isn’t simple, but it definitely is achievable.

The first thing we must do is be patient and go slow. Cats are territorial and don’t like change and a new friend is a huge adjustment!

Try starting with your new cat in a separate room like a bedroom, office, or den and make sure he’s comfortable by adding toys, beds, food, their own litter box, scratching posts, and a safe space to hide away while he adjusts to his new home. Remember that this is an adjustment for your new cat too and he may need a few days in his own personal space for him to feel comfortable.

Secondly, we want to get them interacting. Now, when I say interacting, I don’t mean throwing them into that small room together, crossing your fingers in a sink or swim situation. We want controlled interactions; again the key is going slowly.

Start by feeding your cats on opposite sides of the door, keeping the food far enough apart that they aren’t distracted by one another. Gradually, you can start moving the food closer to the door, until they are eating their food with the bowls pressed up against the doors. The goal is that they assimilate something pleasant, like eating, with the new cat’s smell.

If you live in a smaller apartment, it can be a good idea to keep one cat in a bedroom during the day while you’re away at work and let the other roam the rest of the house, switching them in the evening. This allows the cats to become used to the other’s scent in a non-threatening way, thereby hopefully making the transition easier.

If there aren’t any issues with feeding them on opposite sides of the door, we can start to open the door between the new cats, giving them a chance to sniff at each other. A baby gate works well during this phase because it gives them a chance to get up close with a ‘security blanket’ of sorts. If you notice signs of aggression or significant stress in one or both of your cats, it’s best to close the door and try another day. If it appears that things might be going well, you can try opening the door gradually as to allow some supervised interaction between the new housemates. One of the things I tried and found to be successful was purchasing a laser light toy. Both cats were then so distracted by the toy that they forgot to be angry that there was a new friend there. I noticed that my female was much friendlier towards her new brother when there was something fun to do.

When you have finally decided to make the bold step from separate living quarters to one (hopefully) happy living space, make sure that you have given both cats lots of places to hide out. Cardboard boxes with holes cut into them are the perfect space for hiding (and napping). Keep in mind that cats enjoy hiding in high up places, so make sure that you are moving those delicate picture frames or sparkly trinkets that could become collateral damage.

When it comes to cats, less is more and we don’t want to rush them. If you are finding that the transition from being a single-cat household to a multi-cat household is abnormally difficult, please don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian for further tricks and tips. We definitely do not want a Hunger Games situation between your new pets, so I’ve included some helpful links for videos to help you decipher some of your cat’s body language. Enjoy your new roommate and may the odds be ever in your favour.

If you’re interested in learning more about transitioning your new cat into your home check out this video.

Written by: Caitlin Delorme, Client Care Representative