How To Introduce A Second Cat - Without Too Much Drama

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Adopting second cat

What’s cuter than one cat? Two cats! Nothing is sweeter than a purrfect pair that spends the days cuddling, playing with, and grooming one other. A new addition can keep your cat company and help them get the exercise, mental stimulation, and comfort they crave when you’re not home.
June marks Adopt-A-Cat Month at the peak of kitten season. It’s the perfect time to introduce a second cat to your “only child.” Here’s how you can give your feline family members the best chance of becoming best buddies.

Preparing for Your Second Cat’s Arrival

Cats are instinctively territorial and may lash out at their new roommate if they’re forced to share resources. Over time, some cats learn to love sharing, but for now, pick up some spare supplies so your current cat will be less likely to get defensive over their stuff.

  • Another litterbox. Experts suggest one for each cat, plus one extra. For two cats, you’ll need at least three litterboxes.
  • Food and water bowls. Resource guarding around food is common, and the less confident cat could get dehydrated if they’re afraid to access a communal water bowl.
  • Extra toys. Exercise and mental stimulation will help relieve stress, but not if your cats are fighting over the same cat toys.
  • Extra scratching posts. Cats may feel compelled to scratch to mark their territory when they get a new sibling. Scratching is also a great stress-reliever and an essential way for your cat to keep their claws in good shape.
  • Physical barriers. You’ll need to physically separate the cats while they get accustomed to one another’s scent. Some people use a bathroom, a room closed off with a pet gate. The gate should be tall with narrow, vertical slats to deter jumping, climbing, and squeezing through.
  • A cat cage. If you don’t have a spare bathroom or a cat-proof barrier, a large cat cage will do. Look for one with three tiers so it can fit a litterbox, a food and water setup, and a bed.

 

Even with extra gear, your cats may still struggle with getting used to one another. You can expect even the most laid-back cat to experience some anxiety related to learning to share their space, and for the newcomer, adjusting to their new home.

Your Second Cat’s First Day Home

Separating your cats minimizes the chances that their first interaction will leave them with a bad impression. You can expect your resident cat to be territorial at first. They might hiss, swat, and growl at the new cat. These confrontations aren’t uncommon, but they can range from simply communicative to downright dangerous, and they can escalate quickly.
To foster a good first impression, separate your cats with a physical barrier from the first moment. If you’re bringing your new cat inside a carrier, you can set it down so your resident kitty can sniff them. Or, immediately place them in their private bathroom, cage, or furnished area with their own litterbox, toys, and food and water bowls.
Then, feed each cat on their respective side of the barrier. This allows them to take in one another’s scents without a confrontation, and the meal will help them start to build a position association with their new sibling. If possible, feed all meals like this for up to two weeks while you continue to keep the cats physically separated.

 

Building Up A Group-Scent

A group scent is exactly what it sounds like. Cats that live together will recognize one another by a blended scent as they rub up against one another, groom each other, and mark the same parts of your home by rubbing their cheek scent glands against surfaces.
At first, your new cat will smell strange and unfamiliar. By helping your cats build up their group scent, you can help your resident cat recognize their new sibling as a family member.
You may have heard that you can do this by taking turns brushing each cat with the same hairbrush. This could work, but it may be overwhelming for the cats to be bombarded with one another’s scent. Instead, you can have them sleep on blankets and switch them each night so they have the freedom to choose if they’d like to immerse themselves in it.
A Feliway diffuser is invaluable in new multi-cat homes. It creates a calming environment in your home by simulating feline calming pheromones, sending a message to both cats that they’re safe and secure.

Helping Your Cats Get Along

The speed at which you begin to introduce your cats will depend on their individual temperaments. By keeping a close eye on their body language, you can stop negative interactions before they blow up. Remember, it’s better to move slowly than to push your cats’ limits.
After two weeks of separation, try letting the cats out for ten-minute sessions at a time. It can be helpful to create a diversion so they don’t feel pressured to confront one another. Giving them treats or playing with toys at the same time, making sure to keep them at a comfortable distance, can be a great way to build up more positive experiences.
From there, you can let the cats be your guide. Some pairs need short, supervised visits for a few more months, but most cats will become best friends before you know it.