Cats in the wild are solitary and generally choose not to live in social groups like dogs. The cats you are homing didn’t arrive at Cats Protection together so need some time to get used to each other. If cats are forced together too quickly it may lead to lifelong conflict and stress which is difficult to resolve; first impressions are all important. Although a cat might have lived with another cat in the past, this does not mean that it will tolerate a new cat immediately – each relationship is specific to the individuals and ensuring a gradual introductory period is critical.
The tips below will help you ensure that initial introductions start off long and happy relationships.
- Give each cat a room with food and water, somewhere to hide (an upturned box or under the bed) and a litter tray where they can get used to their new home in peace. Install a Feliway diffuser to make the atmosphere more relaxing.
- Smell is important when distinguishing friend or foe. Whilst the cats are separate, introduce their scents to each other by stroking each cat in turn and swapping their beds and food bowls. Try to ensure the scent of the other cat is a positive thing, praise and treat both cats. Do this for several days until neither cat reacts fearfully or aggressively to the scent. When the cats meet they will smell familiar and so less likely to react aggressively to each other.
- When both cats have settled in (which can take some cats weeks) make introductions at feeding time; cats form social bonds best around this time. Position the cats as far away as possible from each other. Choose somewhere where either cat can escape to another room, get behind furniture or jump up high if it wants to. After feeding they should be separated again.
- Continue to feed the cats together and gradually start increasing the time during which they have visual contact but fussing with or playing with them for a short time so that their attention is on you, before the food is put down. If this is tolerated, move the bowls closer together very slowly as they become more comfortable with one another
- Once both cats are relaxed whilst feeding, start including short periods of time where the cats are not distracted by playing or fussing. Supervised time spent together can be extended. The aim is for the cats to associate each other with pleasant happenings, not shouting or chasing.
- Be prepared to be patient. Should there be any violent reaction, separate them immediately and go back a step. Don’t give up if there is some hissing and spitting initially. Bear in mind it is often a slow process which will take weeks rather than days but the time taken will be worth it if you are repaid with happy cats.
If you have problems please seek help sooner rather than later as they can usually be resolved.
- Cats may choose to live in different parts of the house. If this is an acceptable relationship to them, and neither cat seems to be suffering, then it should be acceptable to you.
- From a cat’s point of view, another cat poses a threat to their food and other resources. To reduce this feeling of competition, make sure there are plenty of places to sleep, eat, drink and go to the toilet that can be reached without having to pass another cat
- Hidey holes mean cats can retreat if ambushed – cardboard boxes with holes are ideal. It can be a good idea to put retreats on the routes to food or litter trays, and many cats like to sit up high
- Despite careful introductions, some cats never learn to be friends. Personality differences play a great part in all social interactions, and cats are certainly no exception to this rule.