Introducing a New Cat to your Old Cat

You’re at the shelter, perusing the cat room. There are cats of all shapes, colors, and ages—big orange purry cats, little playful kittens, sleek black panther-like cats, tiger-striped tabbies… After a moment you find The One. The cat of your dreams. She snuggles into your arms, and immediately you can see the two of you spending long, lazy afternoons on the couch together, her purring while you watch Netflix.

The only thing holding you back is your first cat—who has never had another animal in the house. You think about how shy she is around guests. What if they don’t get along?

Cats are territorial animals, so this is a valid question. Right off the bat, many cats won’t get along! However, with a little bit of time, patience, and following the correct protocols, your pets are sure to be best friends in no time.

Here’s how to introduce two cats:

Step one

Find a room where you can close the new cat off for a couple of days while she adjusts to the sounds and smells of the household. It doesn’t have to be a big room—a bathroom works great. Make sure she has litter, food and water accessible. By having your cats separated by a door, they will begin to get used to each other’s smells. Don’t be surprised if your resident cat is very interested in the door—he may sniff and even hiss. That’s to be expected as he gets used to the new smells.

Step two

Take a blanket or shirt and rub it all over your new cat. Then bring it out to your resident cat. Let her sniff it. Do the same thing in reverse—letting your new cat smell something with your old cat’s scent on it. This will help to familiarize them with each other.

Step three

Feed them across the door to each other. Soon they will begin to associate each other’s scents and presences with food!

Step four

Allow them to have supervised interactions. Open up the door, and let them see each other and interact. Don’t be surprised if they hiss or act otherwise surprised—it takes cats a long time to adjust to new things. Try to lighten the mood by distracting them with fun new toys. As soon as they start playing with each other, they are likely to adjust more quickly. When playtime is over, separate them again.

Step five

Let your new cat join the rest of the house! Continue supervising them, and watch for signs that they are beginning to adjust to each other. They may hiss at each other for a few days, but after awhile they will either ignore each other, or become good friends. Signs that they’re pals are playing (lots of wrestling is normal), grooming, and snuggling.