Adopting a new cat is a significant part of any pet parent’s life, especially if this is the second cat that you adopt.
I know my partner and I talked for a few years before we ultimately made the decision to adopt our second cat.
Now, as great as having two cats can be, it can be quite difficult to introduce them.
Since cats are territorial creatures, it’s important to make sure that all introductions are done slowly and carefully.
It doesn’t matter whether the introduction is to another cat, dog or chinchilla. Cats need a warm-up period before they can fully welcome a new member to the family.
Even when you re-introduce cats, they will not necessarily get along again. When I re-introduced my cat Beau to my mom’s cat Walker, we discovered that they did not like each other anymore at all.
Although there is no way to make certain that your cats get along, especially if one of the cats is acting out aggressively, there are some tips and tricks you may want to try to reduce the chances of things turning badly.
Let’s start off by talking about why cats may be acting out aggressively as this will help us understand what steps to take moving forward.
Followed by that I will cover the steps I take to introduce cats.
NEW SMELL, I DON’T LIKE IT, I DON’T FEEL SAFE
If there’s one thing you’re going to get sick of hearing about cats, it’s about how territorial they are.
Cats will mark their territory or home with their scent. This is done by headbutting, kneading or rubbing themselves against an object.
If a cat does not recognize the scent of their home or feels like their scent is being taken over, they may become aggressive towards the other animal.
Cats may also begin acting out by peeing in inappropriate places or destroying things like cardboard.
To avoid your cat becoming destructive make sure that you separate your cats from the get-go. This will help reduce the amount of each other they smell and should help make the transition much smoother.
The main reason cats don’t get along at first is due to under socialization or lack of socialization altogether.
Socialization depends on a few different things, whether or not the cat has had positive experiences with other cats, whether or not the cat was abandoned by the queen cat early on and whether or not the cat has had many interacting with other humans.
In many cases, shelter cats will be under socialized. Now, that isn’t meant to be a dig at shelters or to say that they do a terrible job socializing their cats, however, it does mean that due to the number of cats they receive/take care of it would be impossible to properly socialize a cat, especially if the hope is to get them adopted as soon as possible.
Shelters and fosters may also never get the opportunity to introduce a cat to another cat, dependant on how smoothly things are running.
Often, the only times foster cats or shelter cats are placed with other cats is if the cats in question have siblings or the shelter has a big enough space to allow the cats to freely roam throughout the day.
It is important to remember that socialization doesn’t always have to do with being good with humans. Just because a cat likes humans, does not mean that they will like other cats.
Cats who have spent the majority of their time alone may become hesitant or aggressive around another cat. Take my sister‘s cat Avery for instance.
While Avery spent a good portion of his life as a stray, he spent an even longer portion of his life living inside being spoiled by my sister. So, when we first brought Beau inside for a test run, Avery was not having it at all.
This was a bit shocking to all of us because Avery would watch Beau from the window and they would often interact with each other. But, as soon as Beau was taking up Avery’s space, it was lights out on these cat’s friendship.
The same thing could be said when Avery met his now younger brother Bjorn who was too feisty for Avery at first.
Avery would get very upset when Bjorn was around and they would often get in fights, though months later they are thick as thieves.
Similar to our cats, who have fully bonded, Avery and Bjorn spend lots of time on their mother’s lap cuddling and sleeping. There is also much less hitting and hissing that happens between the two, so I think we’re well on the road to success.
Remember, just because you made the decision to adopt a sibling for your cat, doesn’t mean that your cat was also ready for that decision.
Cats are creatures of habit who don’t like changes in their routines and schedules. There’s nothing that will help make this part of the process go faster, although the more assurance that everything is okay, the better.
FOOD BASED AGGRESSION
Since cats are considered both predator and prey in their natural habitats, cats tend to come with a lot of food-based aggression.
Many cats don’t know how to share and even more, cats don’t understand the concept of food not being theirs.
When I first adopted Beau, Walker would help meltdowns anytime I fed Beau, even if Beau was being fed on the opposite side of a door.
Walker always wanted to know what was up and wanted Beau’s food, even if he had plenty himself.
Especially in the first few months of having a cat, ensure that they are never fed in the same room at that there is no access to the other’s food.
Things like Microchip Feeders come in especially handy when you have multiple cats. Since Microchip Feeders will only open for the cat who the feeder is connected to, say goodbye to one cat stealing the other cat’s food.
Dependant on how things go, you may be able to feed your cats together in the same room in the future. Though, there’s no reason why this should be the goal other than your personal preference.
To this day, my sister still feeds her cats in separate rooms. We also often have to feed Beau and Kalista separately, just because they easily distract each other or try to steal the other’s food when they are done.
I’m personally not a big fan of open feeding, especially if you have multiple cats.
While open feeding is simple and requires you to do a lot less work filling, refilling and washing food bowls, it’s not as sanitary and often leads to cats who become obese.
Not only that, open feeding raises the chances of your cats fighting over food and potentially getting into quarrels because the other cat is around.
When cats have grown accustomed to each other or have never had any food-related aggression, you may open feed them, though again, I would recommend scheduled feedings.
DOES GENDER MATTER
Absolutely, though it matters more if your cats are unspayed or unneutered.
Since cats are who are not fixed have more hormones raging through their bodies, there are higher chances of them not getting along, especially if they are both males.
It is also said that two unrelated females can be fairly difficult to get along, though this will depend on the cat’s personalities.
In reality, no matter what the sex of the cat is, there are going to be some difficulties along the way, especially with little microaggressions.
Having one male and one female cat was what we decided on, especially because we knew our male cat Beau, was a bit of a submissive type.
Beau also got along with another female cat in the past, because she snuck into our apartment one night, though just because he got along with her didn’t mean he was going to get along with all girls.
If you’re interested in more information on whether gender affects cats getting along I would recommend checking out this post.
DOES AGE MATTER?
Yes, age can definitely be a big factor when it comes to cats getting long.
Pulling back into our topic of socialization, it is much easier to socialize a kitten than to socialize an adult. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
Cats who have spent the majority of their adult lives alone may be upset with the addition of a new family member.
Cats may stop eating if they are too stressed out and/or may become aggressive towards the new cat.
It is recommended that you adopt a cat that is around the age of the cat who is already in the home.
It is especially important not to adopt a kitten while a senior cat is in the home unless there is already a kitten in the home. Since kittens are going to be extra hyper and high energy, this may also stress out the senior cat too much.
As is with all things, stress highly depends on the personality of the cat.
If the senior cat has had siblings all of their life and has been properly socialized it may be possible to introduce them to another cat without stressing them out too much. But, you may want to talk to your vet or a volunteer at the rescue to discuss whether or not your cat is too old for another sibling.
HOW TO INTRODUCE TWO CATS
When you bring your new cat home, make sure to take them into a secluded area of your house or apartment where they can be locked in or kept away from the other cat.
Make sure this space has lots of places to cuddle and hide, especially for the time where you aren’t in the room.
This room should always contain a clean water bowl, a litter box and if you’re not around for multiple feedings a day, a bowl of food.
Do not place a towel or blanket below the door as your cats should be given access to be able to sniff each other and see each other under the door.
Allowing your cats to be aware of each other before physically introducing them will help slowly ease them into the process.
Your cats will begin getting used to the scent of each other and will begin understanding that the scent that they smell on you somewhat matches the scent that they are smelling through the door.
You can also help encourage your cats to associate the scent of the other cat as a good thing by feeding them at the same time from opposite sides of the door.
Dependant on how stressed out your cats are, you can choose to rotate them between the rooms to make sure that they familiarize themselves with the other’s scent.
While it can be helpful to trade rooms among your cats, trading rooms can stress out an already intimidated cat.
Unfortunately, our cat Beau was intimidated when we first brought in our kitten Kalista and he ended up getting a UTI a few months after. So, even with all the prep work you do and the time that passes, sometimes cats may still get stressed sporadically a few months later.
I usually keep my cats separated for a week minimum. Now, the length you are going to keep your cats separated is highly going to depend on whether or not they are curious about each other.
Kalista was always extremely curious about Beau when we first brought her home and would often try to escape the room we had her in. Even though it had plenty of toys and we spent the majority of our time with her, Kalista was still more curious about her new big brother, who was just as curious about her.
If your cats are intrigued about each other early on and there is minimal hissing, slowly open the door and allow them to see each other from afar.
Take note of the way that your cats behave around each other. Signs of fear include a puffed out tail, a tail between a cat’s legs, hissing, growling, or running away.
If you live in a multi-parent household, it is encouraged that you allow each pet parent to pet or play with an individual cat. Allowing each cat to see a pet parent hold the other will allow the cats to see that the other is not a threat.
It is important that you do not spend too much time with one cat over the other. Because we didn’t want either of the cats to get stressed, my partner and I would take turns sleeping on the couch when Kalista first moved in with us.
Sleeping with your cats is not a requirement, however, it comes in handy if you have an overenergetic kitten.
If play sessions, petting sessions or eating sessions where the door is open succeed, you can begin allowing your cats to mingle around each other as long as they are supervised.
If sessions do not succeed, continue to keep the door closed between the cats until more time has passed.
It is also recommended that you shorten times where the door is open between the cats so that they can associate the little time they have with one another as positive, versus having long sessions with mostly positive and some negative.
Remember, cats can be known to hold some grudges and while I’m sure your cats are going to be friends down the line, I can’t guarantee that it’s going to be easy.
In all situations where cats fight you should never console either of the cats nor should you physically scold either of the cats. Instead, always give the cats some space, but make sure that they are kept separate from each other.
If you are to use an audio deterrent to separate your cats make sure that it is not your voice, but instead something like a blowhorn, clapping, or a pot and a stick.
Most pet parents will agree that throwing a blanket on the cats is the best way to stop them from fighting immediately, especially if either of them is aggressive.
Note: It is always a good idea to have plenty of hiding spots for cats so your cats can have some alone time if they need it.
The more levels you have for your cats, the more they feel safe and away.
HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AGGRESSION & PLAYING
Sometimes we take playfulness as aggression, especially when our cats get into play fights.
Note that just because your cats are hitting each other doesn’t necessarily mean that they are hurting each other. Similar to wrestling, cats can enjoy some physical exercise between each other, though it should be monitored.
Cats, whether wild or housecat will enjoy stalking their siblings, pouncing on them and may even take it as far as attacking their siblings in a scratch-off.
In cases where this is coming from a place of play, cats will commonly wag their tails and will keep their claws retracted.
If ever you take note of your cat attacking another cat with claws, notice that the cat who is being attacked is not having fun or hear your cats making an excessive amount of noise it is best to throw a blanket on top of them to break up whatever is happening.
As soon as the cats are separated make sure to double-check that neither of the cats is injured or needs medical attention.
MY CATS WERE FINE AND NOW ONE IS FIGHTING IS SOMETHING WRONG?
If your cats were getting along one day and then seem to be aggressive the next it is best that you keep a very close eye on them.
Oftentimes, when a cat becomes aggressive out of nowhere, it’s because they are ill. Illnesses can range in seriousness, though in all cases it is recommended that you consult a vet.
Cats are very good at hiding when they are not feeling well, however, they do deflect their rage and pain on other animals in the house.
A change in behaviour should never be taken lightly as it always signifies something has changed. Whether it is simply from stress or from an organ failing, it’s always best to be talking to a vet.
At the end of the day, you’re going to have to be patient with your cats, especially if they are aggressive.
No cats just “fight it out” and then they are just fine. Cats will progressively become more aggressive, especially amongst each other, which is why you want to introduce them slowly.
If cats are introduced slowly, there is a higher chance they won’t feel threatened in their space and thus will get along.
It is always important to remember not to be physical with your cat and not to yell at your cat as this can get them to stop liking you or become traumatized. Instead, throw a blanket over your cats or use a third-party item like a pot and spoon.
In all cases where cats get into fights, it is important to separate them, especially if fights are becoming more frequent.
There is, unfortunately, no formula to make cats like each other and sometimes you can never get a pair to completely settle on each other. In cases where cats do not get along, it’s a good idea to provide them with lots of hiding spots and places to sleep so they can spend all of their time away from each other.
Remember, cats don’t always need to be social to be happy. You will, however, need to make sure that you’re providing a good portion of that social aspect.
So pet parents, have you ever had aggressive cats? What did you do to get them to get along? Let me know in the comments below!