HOW TO INTRODUCE A NEW
KITTY TO YOUR HOUSEHOLD
by Eric Smith, Founder & President of Four On The Floor
Revised 11-25-08; New
Info Added At Bottom Of Document
(After you finish
reading this document, you should also check out
But we encourage you to read this article first before going on to anything else.
Also of interest may be this
article, which is an interview performed by
Dr. Karen Becker with Jackson Galaxy, the
cat trainer from the hit TV show
My Cat From Hell. If you prefer to
watch the interview, you can see the video
There are some definite dos
and doníts when it comes to successfully integrating a cat into a new home ó
whether or not there is already a cat living in the home. Weíve been through
this so many times, we know
what works and what to stay away from. Iíll write these guidelines assuming
you already have a kitty and are bringing home a playmate, but if your new kitty
is going to be the only one in your home, you should still follow many of these
guidelines. Throughout this document, Iíll refer to your existing cat as Cat
#1 and your new cat as Cat #2.
With rare exceptions, cats are by nature skeptical of other cats, so bear this
in mind. Donít expect to bring your new kitty home, open the pet carrier door,
and watch the two cats begin grooming each other. If this happens, you have my
permission to faint.
Itís more likely that there
will be some growling and hissing, so be prepared and donít get discouraged if
(when) this happens. This is normal behavior and doesnít mean the two will
never get along. Hang in there.
It is a good idea to
first put away the dishes of food & water so Cat #1 doesnít get jealous if
Cat #2 makes a beeline for the food and starts chowing down. After youíve done
this, take the pet carrier containing Cat #2 to the area of your existing litter
box, take him out of the carrier, set him in the litter box and, using his paw,
dig around in the box a bit. This lets the kitty know right away that you expect
him to use the litter box when he needs to go potty and just exactly where the
litter box is. Stand nearby quietly and let him do his business if he feels so
inclined. If he does, in a soothing, complimentary way tell him what a good boy
he is. Avoid speaking excitedly. The next half hour is extremely important! You
want to do everything in your power to create a relaxed atmosphere, as
cats pick up on your "vibe" and the introduction will go much more
smoothly if they perceive that youíre relaxed and confident.
After heís finished getting to
know the litter box, kitty will step out and begin exploring. Slowly walk around
with him, not urging him to go one way or the other. If there are areas of your
home that are tempting, dangerous or would make it tough to pick up the kitty
(i.e. if he could hide behind or under something and you wouldnít be able to
get to him), close off those areas, confining his exploring to the main parts of
Cat #1 will probably be curious
about the newcomer and hanging out nearby. If so, thatís good! Curiosity at
this stage of the game is a sign that your existing cat is more likely to accept
the new cat. If, on the other hand, your existing cat runs away to another part
of the house, donít go after him and bring him back to the area where the new
kitty is. Cat #1 will come out to observe the newcomer when heís good and
ready. Continue to let Cat #2 explore. If he goes to the area where Cat #1 ran,
let him, and begin telling Cat #1 in as soothing and relaxed a tone as you can
muster what a good boy heís being. Tell Cat #1 that Cat #2 isnít going to
steal your affection.......that Cat #1 will always be #1 in your book.
If the two cats get nose-to-nose,
youíre ahead of schedule. If they sniff each other, then hiss or growl, donít
scold either one or separate Ďem. They will work out at their own pace
between themselves whoís dominant and whoís submissive. If one of the cats
backs off or rolls over on his side, heís probably the one whoís going to
end up being the submissive one.
It is important that Cat #1 not
feel slighted or pushed aside by Cat #2, so donít pet or pick up Cat #2. Pay
all your attention to Cat #1 so he associates the new kitty with getting more
attention, not less. Continue to speak in soothing tones and tell both of
them what a good job theyíre doing (even if theyíre not).
Use your good judgment about how
the introduction is going. If it seems to be going quite well, roll with it for
a little while. If you get the feeling that Cat #1 is NOT a happy camper at all,
separate the two kitties and put Cat #2 away in a spare room, bathroom, etc.
with his own litter box, food and water so that they can take a break from each
other. Itís a good idea not to stay in the room with Cat #2 for too long so
Cat #1 doesnít feel slighted. Give Cat #2 a sheepskin, towel or pet bed to lie
Leave the room and go spend some
quality time with Cat #1, telling him all the while what a good boy he is and
how proud you are of him. If he has a special "treat" food (like
canned food if he normally eats dry), now would be a good time to give him a
little so he feels rewarded for his good behavior. If heís not a big eater,
but loves to be brushed, nowíd be a good time to brush him. If he likes to sit
in your lap and be petted, do that. The key is to do something to make
him feel special and rewarded.
Give the cats an hour or more to
regroup and think about each other.
Does Cat #1 have a pet
bed, sheepskin or towel he likes to lie on? If so, after an hour or so of
separation, take Cat #1ís bed, sheepskin or towel and give it to Cat #2 to lie
on. Give Cat #2ís bed, sheepskin or towel to Cat #1 to sniff. If heís
curious about it, pet him or brush him while heís sniffing it so he associates
it and Cat #2ís scent with positive reinforcement. If Cat #1 chooses to lie
down on the item that smells like Cat #2, youíre doing great. If he doesnít
take to the item right away, donít sweat it. Itís early! If he doesnít lie
on the item, but instead goes and hangs around the door of the room where
youíve secluded Cat #2, thatís just as good and means heís curious about
his new friend. If they start playfully batting paws under the door, you again
have my permission to faint. If so, congratulations are in order; your new
family is going to do just fine. If they havenít taken to each other that much
yet, no problem. This is normal behavior.
After the cats have had a
chance to be apart for at least an hour, if Cat #1 isnít off sulking somewhere
and in obvious emotional distress, you can let Cat #2 out of seclusion for
another walk around the house. If Cat #1 is sulking, give the separation more
If you have a large house with
many rooms, donít close Ďem all off, but itís not a bad idea to close off
some so Cat #2 doesnít get confused about where the litter box is.
Continue speaking positively in
soothing tones and telling both cats what a good job theyíre doing. Do not
talk loudly! This would show the cats that youíre insecure about their
relationship.......just what we donít want them to think. They are
going to get along. Speak in tones that show you accept this as a fact.
This first evening of
having the cats together isnít a good time to go out to dinner and a movie.
You should plan to stay around the house and engage in a quiet activity like
reading, working a crossword puzzle, crocheting, etc. Cooking isnít encouraged
because many cats get aggressive & defensive when there is food being
prepared. Donít play your drums or watch Terminator 2 tonight. Spend
the evening letting the cats explore and get to know each other, separating them
periodically if you feel they could use some "time out."
If you have a spouse or a mate,
tonight would be a good time for you two to sleep apart, one with each cat so
they both feel loved and special. Donít try to force both cats to get on the
bed with you at the same time (unless they want to, which is unlikely), because
this generally leads to Cat #1 growling & hissing due to feeling as if his
territory (both the bed and you) has been invaded. If you do have a
significant other whoís going to sleep with one of the cats while you sleep
with the other, during the night itíd be a good idea to switch places so
youíve each slept half of the night with each cat. This gives the cats a
chance to smell each otherís scent and not feel slighted by not getting their
"share" of their two parents.
If the new kitty wants to sleep
on the floor away from you, thatís ok and you shouldnít force him to get in
bed with you. Many times, weíll sleep on the floor with the new cat to show
weíre supportive of his feelings during this critical time. If you do this,
still speak in positive tones to the kitty and donít speak in tones
that indicate to him that heís a "victim." You donít want to
encourage him to puff out his chest like a bully, but you donít want to do
anything that would hurt his ego either.
If you normally feed Cat
#1 in the morning, go ahead, but also put a separate dish of food down a few
feet away for Cat #2 so he falls in line with your routine but doesnít
threaten Cat #1 by eating out of his dish.
If you have any other morning
ritual with Cat #1, go through with it and let Cat #2 explore (but keep one eye
on him so he doesnít get into mischief or lost). If Cat #2 tries to horn in,
pay attention to how Cat #1 responds. If Cat #1 responds favorably, go with it.
If Cat #1 gets spooked or aggressive, perhaps you could sit on the floor and pay
attention to both cats. Sitting on the floor more at the catsí level shows
solidarity with them and lets them know "weíre all in this
together". If Cat #1 runs away with hurt feelings, put Cat #2 away and go
pay some attention to Cat #1. Again, though, donít speak in such a way as to
make Cat #1 perceive that heís a "victim."
There are no
hard-and-fast rules about how long the pattern of sleeping apart, secluding Cat
#2, etc. has to go on. You just have to pay attention to the catsí behavior
and pick up on how theyíre feeling about the situation. Sometimes weíve seen
it take 3 weeks of this routine for the cats to finally settle in with each
otherís presence; other times weíve seen cats take to each other within the
first two hours.....or even less a few times. If your situation seems to be more
like the three week scenario than the two hour scenario, donít give up or let
the cats know that youíre losing your patience with them. Youíve made a
commitment to both cats to give them all the effort they deserve. Hang in
What If Things Just Arenít
There are some cats who
really seem to be meant to go through life without any siblings, but most cats
donít fall into this category. While itís true that some of the time cats
simply want to be alone, just as people, itís also true that they have
emotional needs that can only be fulfilled by companionship. Some cats derive
this companionship from the people in their lives; others derive some of it from
If, after giving the relationship
sufficient time and assuring yourself that youíve complied with these
guidelines to the letter, you feel as if the relationship between your cats just
isnít progressing, perhaps itís time to speak with an animal behaviorist.
While many of us have years of experience with all facets of cat behavior, an
animal behaviorist is someone who actually has professional training in dealing
with petsí emotional well-being.
We at Four On The Floor are happy
to offer any suggestions we can with regard to animal behavior, but remember
that we arenít degreed animal behaviorists and there is a limit to the advice
we are able to give. We want to be as helpful as we can be, however, in keeping
with one of our mottos: "Helping Pets & People Get
Together...And Stay Together." If you'd like to send us an e-mail
to see if we might be able to offer you
some insight, you can e-mail us
Donít forget, too, should it
ever come to this, that many shelters and rescue groups will take back a
companion animal who was adopted from them. They agree to do this because they
donít want their pets ending up in shelters, pounds, animal experimentation
laboratories or dumped at the side of the road.
The Final Word
There is no guarantee,
regardless where you adopted your animal, that introducing it into a new
environment is going to go smoothly, quickly and to the delight of all involved.
Animals have personalities and temperaments just as do people and can take some
gentle guidance to "get with the program." Boy, are the rewards
great for all involved, though, once the new animal is successfully implemented!
hang in there and give your new companion the benefit of everything you have at
your disposal to encourage a successful adoption that will last a lifetime. He
deserves it ó and so do you!
Added Information: 11-25-08
suffering a horrible bite and scratches by a pseudo-feral female kitty
hanging around our yard and working to coax her into our garage over the
course of a couple weeks, we finally got her inside. She immediately
melted, proving that our hunch about her not being a true feral was
accurate. We got her all checked out at the vet, then began sleeping
with her in our guest room. Slowly we began letting our two rescued
housecats, Gracie (the alpha) and Wendy (the submissive one) used to the
new kitty's scent by swapping blankets, pet beds, etc. Things were
going well; Gracie and Wendy didn't object to the scent of the new kitty,
whom we'd named Tipper 'cause she had been eartipped as a feral by someone
else (and already spayed, which was great for us). We began letting
the housecats peek in to Tipper's room, then began to let Tipper walk
around the house while we put the other two girls in a bedroom by
themselves. Things were going well, until...
We let Gracie and Wendy finally meet
Tipper face to face. Wendy showed up first, and while Tipper didn't
back down or hiss or get aggressive toward Wendy, Wendy growled and hissed
quite a bit. This died down, though, after 5 minutes or so, and they
seemed to be settling in. Then, Gracie showed up.
Gracie immediately lashed out at
Wendy, then charged Tipper. As we approached to calm them, Gracie
ran toward Wendy and beat the living crap out of her. We separated
them, but Gracie kept going after Wendy. This lasted for a half
hour, with our constant intervention and calming. We ultimately had
to separate them for a couple hours (one with each of us, for additional
calming). Then, we got out a can of wet food for them to share, each
with her own small plate. This seemed to "reset" the relationship
and all seemed forgiven. Gracie slept with me, her favorite human,
and wanted to push against me all night, as if it grounded her.
By morning, Wendy and Gracie seemed
back to normal.
Here's what we learned: When
you have an aggressive, alpha-type cat and a submissive one, don't
introduce them face to face with the new cat at the same time. Do it
individually so there can be no displaced aggression, such as Gracie
exhibited to Wendy. Get each of the cats individually to accept the
new kitty, then work at introducing them together.
Using the calming treats (see below)
can help the situation go more smoothly.
While we've used Paxil, the human antidepressant, with success with a
couple of our pets, recently have had extraordinary success at helping cats get along by
giving them calming treats made by
Pet Naturals Of Vermont. Cats that formerly tried to tear each
other apart, and who were having a peeing contest that wouldn't end, are
now lying near each other and eating out of the same dish at the same
time. Check with your vet to make sure your kitty is okay to eat
these calming treats, and use them judiciously, as they're more a natural
medicine than a food. You can buy them at major pet supply retailers,
some groceries (Kroger, Meijer, etc.)
and online at
Swanson Vitamins (our favorite
place) or Lucky
Vitamin. They also
make Calming Treats for dogs. We often will break a treat in half,
instead of giving the whole treat, as giving the whole treat can overly
sedate some cats. Not that they stumble around; they just sleep