They say cats are like chips or tattoos - you can’t stop with just one. Our myKotty crew agrees with this 110%, but we also know that having two or more cats is a responsibility that should be carefully thought through. Accepting a kitty duet or siblings from the start gives the best results - two tiny cats will quickly get along, possibly forming a strong, long-lasting bond. What would happen, though, if we tried to introduce a new cat roomie into a house with an already established resident cat? How to safely prepare for another cat and guarantee a feline friendship?
Do cats always need a feline companion?
Cats have a very strong territorial instinct and, contrary to appearances, are not really the type that loves living in a pack. After the kitten stage, cats easily find themselves happy as singletons and being the apple of their Carer’s eye - for some individuals it’s the dream, always staying in the centre of hooman’s attention. Most cats will obviously also get along with a kitty sibling (littermate or foster), as long as they are introduced properly to each other. Growing up together positively affects kittens’ socialisation process and their ability to form relationships with other cats (or animals). So, fabCat, if you are debating between picking up one or two cats, behaviourists definitely advise to go for a duet. But how about a situation, when the second cat is brought to a home to an already established and living in heavenly peace resident?
Opinions vary on the matter. In theory, cats don’t need other cats’ company especially if they’ve been singletons for a while. At the same time, they are able to build relationships with others of their kind. The decision here should be based on the reason that makes you want to get another cat. Are they supposed to be a fun companion for the singleton? If so, does the resident cat actually need a feline friend? Or maybe you simply want to get another cat or save one from a shelter? Whatever the reason may be, every decision to bring a new cat home should be thought through, with the character of the resident cat and their readiness to accept another purring friend into the house in mind. You should also consider your ability to go through with a proper socialisation process.
Resident cat, meet a new family member. How to safely introduce a new cat tenant into the house?
First of all, you should never hurry the process - a happy relationship between cats won’t happen after a single meeting that was completely unexpected to none of the parties. The resident cat will feel the presence of an intruder on their territory, while the new kitty - a curiosity of the surroundings, but also possible stress of being on another cat’s or group’s grounds.
Imagine yourself, fabCat, being taken away from your house, your beloved siblings and mother, put into a closed carrier for many hours of driving and then being let out in a completely new and strange environment where everything smells foreign and is protected by an adult and serious cat ruling the domestic kingdom. It’s hard to feel 100% self confident in such an atmosphere. If, on top of that, you’re a cat with a history of trauma, getting used to the new reality won’t be an easy feat.
Safe introductions process - what does it mean?
The most basic method of introducing cats to one another recommended by specialists is the “safe introductions process” We know it well, as we had to get patiently through the entire process when we brought home two young kittens (first Kitku Yoda, then Teddy) to our resident cat Figo, whom we wanted to be safe and get to know his new buddies on his own terms. The safe introductions process means that the new cat that you bring into the house will stay in one room at the beginning, having a chance to get used to the new surroundings, people and smells. What’s most important, the new cat doesn’t have any direct contact with the resident cat - they don’t even see each other. The idea is to slowly introduce the cats, first by transferring scents (by switching their cat beds, blankets etc.), then switching rooms (the new cat is let out into the house while the resident cat stays locked up in the bedroom where the new cat usually sleeps), and only after some time by slow interactions.
The last stage of safe introductions can use different methods of working with the cats. Some specialists recommend using a carrier, others prefer building a barrier in the doorway and feeding cats on both sides to slowly get them associating one another with something pleasant. For us, a simple piece of transparent plexiglass between the doors worked purrfectly. The general idea here is to build positive connotations and a slight indifference to the smell of the other cat - when they stop reacting with emotion to each other’s scents, you can push the comfort zone a little bit further, up until a complete, whisker-to-whisker interaction. The safe introductions process can go by quickly or be spread out over a few months, depending on the cats’ characters and how their situation pans out. It’s not worth speeding it up - a properly conducted socialisation can guarantee lack of behavioural problems between your cats in the future.
Kitten or an adult cat - which option has a greater chance of success?
The success of the “bringing a new cat home” process relies mostly on a proper introduction and… cats’ characters. Some singletons are so connected with their own territory that they won’t be happy to share it with a stranger. It’s completely understandable. According to behaviourists, bringing a new cat home goes easier if the resident cat is still relatively young, has a continuous contact with other cats or if the new cat is actually a kitten, not an adult cat with history and trauma. Great results can be observed also with the introduction of an older cat who is sociable with other felines. When it comes to introducing two typical, born-to-be-singleton cats, reconciling their characters can be difficult and often ends with cats tolerating one another from the distance.
Get the house ready for a new feline roomie
To finish things off we have for you, dear fabCats, a handful of practical tips on how to get your house ready for a new cat. To properly go through with the safe introductions process, you’ll need to designate one room of the house for the new kitty - that means some necessary extra shopping and a little bit of rearrangement.
New scratchers, blankets, litter box, bowls, toys - creating friendly surroundings for the newbie lets them adapt easier and build up their self confidence, while also making it easier to transfer scents between the cats. Extra accessories won’t go to waste - even after the process is finished, when cats are used to one another and can freely use the entire house, doubling up on the resources in form of scratchers, litter boxes or toys is necessary if you want to avoid your cats fighting for a chance to fulfil their basic feline needs.
Before you bring a new cat in, we recommend dividing the house into the parts that you’ll be using to separate the cats at first. If the resident has a chance to get used to a temporary lack of access to your bedroom or your home office, they won’t be irritated by the smaller territory and the new cat scent simultaneously.
As far as the preparations go, it’s good to consider the method you will use to separate the kitties and slowly introduce them to each other. Once the doors are open, a piece of plexiglass, a screen door or a tall child’s gate with a net should be enough.
How does your cat band look like, dear fabCats? Do you have multiple resident cats already, or are you still in the singleton cat club? If you have a history of bringing new cats to the house, share it with us in the comments - tell us if the process went by smoothly, or on the contrary, wasn’t without showing the claws? Or maybe you’re in the process of safe introductions right now? We keep our fingers crossed for all Carers who decided to bring a new cat into their families! A new furry roommate is a challenge, but also a lot of fun.