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Introducing a New Cat into a Household

Introducing your cat to a new fur member of the family:

Volunteering at the shelter I often gets asked a lot how to introduce a newly adopted cat to a cat or dog already in residence at the home. Here are the tips I tell potential adopters:

Cat to Cat:
1.      If you have an older cat at home, senior age (I say 9 years plus) getting a kitten is not the best choice. Older cats aren’t as energetic as kittens. The kitten will in turn end up terrorizing your older cat without meaning to. The kitten will think it is “playing” while your older cat will be in a constant state of frustration and unhappiness. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

2.      Declawed cat vs clawed cat: You never have to feel sorry for the declawed cat. I don’t condone getting a cat declawed at all, but if you happen to fall in love with one at a shelter and already have a fully clawed kitty at home; they will be just fine.

3.      Introduction:

A: Isolation phase. Put new kitty in a spare room, office or large bathroom with their own litter, bedding and toys.

B: I recommend taking an item of clothing you have recently worn or pillowcases you sleep with that has your scent on it (or the main caregiver’s scent) and rub this all over new kitty. Take another item of clothing/pillowcase and rub it all over old kitty. Then, provide each cat with the scent soaked item that the other was rubbed with. Let them smell it for at least thirty minutes. Do this several times a day. This way they getting to smell the new scent of another cat, mixed with the familiar “safe scent” of the owner.

C: Feed each cat at the same time. Even if you have a free fed cat to start with, during meal time feed your already established cat near/outside the door where the new cat is being kept in isolation. Now, not only can they smell one another but make the association that they are commonly eating together. They are learning that so far there is food each time they meet. Food is a good thing to cats.  To them they see/smell: cat+cat+food = good.

D: Isolation swap: After the first day or two put your current resident cat up in another room (this will be just for a few minutes) let new kitty out to explore and smell the new territory. New kitty will smell current kitty and begin leaving his or her scents to mix into the territory. Meanwhile, take current kitty and place him or her in new kitty’s isolation room and close the door. This lets current kitty get a good whiff of new kitty. Now we have two cats in each other’s territory, but safely.  I recommend this exercise at least twice a day for two to three days. 

E: Time for a visual meeting! You can crack the door and either use door stoppers on each side or firmly hold it open just enough where the cats can see each other but not hurt one another. Note that hissing, growling and possible swatting may occur. That’s normal.  I recommend doing this for five to ten minutes at a time several times a day (once you reach this phase). After each encounter I like to give each kitty a treat, thus reminding them that good things happen when they encounter one another.

F: Finally, if all seems to be going well and any aggression is mild you may open the door and let them officially meet. This phase should happen after about a week to two weeks if all other steps are done correctly. Make sure any escape routes aren’t complicated and easily accessible by both cats if they want to get away from one another. Don’t be alarmed if there is swatting, hissing and growling. There might even be a small scuffle, but that is normal. Only separate if fur starts to fly and it seems there is too much aggression from one cat. If that happens go back to the beginning of the isolation phase and start over for another week.

Once everyone has been formally introduced continue all routines you had with current kitty with both cats. Feeding, play, snuggles.  

Congratulations on your new kitty!

P.S. This can also work with introducing cat/dog as well. Be mindful that dogs are more excitable than cats so please take that into account. Sometimes the process must go slower with cat/dog introductions. 


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