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Introducing a new cat into a one-cat household?

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  • Introducing a new cat into a one-cat household?

    Anyone have any experiences to share? Have heard that it's best to get a kitten of the opposite sex to introduce. Also that the person carrying the kitten in SHOULD NOT be a family member -- best to get a neighbor to bring it in.

    Our vet also recommended Feliway (to spray on the new cat?).

    In my situation I'm specifically talking about introducing a new cat/kitten into a household with a 12-year-old (spoiled) neutered male cat. This cat is a rescue, very affectionate and people-friendly.

  • #2
    I've done it twice.

    First time I did the whole "slow" introduction thing over the course of a week. Put the new kitties in a room by themselves (one that current cat did not consider her "territory") allowed the current and new cats to sniff under the door crack. After a couple days of that, I bought a baby gate so they could see each other. Eventually, when both realized neither was going away, I just took away the baby gate and let them kind of duke it out. It took a couple days for the hierarchy to be established, but it was a pretty peaceful transition. I made sure that my current cat didn't feel neglected, but she's a bit standoff-ish anyway, so cuddling/lap sitting wasn't compromised.

    However, the second time I did it, I just threw the new cat into the mix right away (after a couple days of quarantine waiting for vet results to make sure she didn't have anything weird).

    Both sets of new cats were kittens, first set are two males, second is a female. The current cat is a female, and has always been at the bottom of the totem pole.

    Only problem I've run into the new second female brought in ended up being really aggressive with the others. She always wants to be top dog. So I'm still battling that sometimes, where my males feel challenged/anxiety from that and therefore pee in really weird places.


    • #3
      Introduce them slowly. Keep the new cat in one room for a few days. You can also put towels or something else down where the cats sleep so their scent gets on it. Switch the towels after a couple of days so the cats each get used to the scent of the other cat.

      After a few days, you can start feeding each cat near the door so they get used to having the other cat in somewhat close proximity. At some point, put the resident cat in the room, and let the new cat out to explore the rest of its new home. This way the cats can again get to know the scent of the other. The new cat should still go back to the one room after that.

      The key is to take things slowly so the resident cat does not feel threatened by the new cat, and the new cat does not become frightened by the resident cat.

      When the two cats do finally meet for the first time, it's best to have some sort of barrier between them, although that's not always easy or convenient.

      Don't expect the two cats to become best buddies, but do take your time so they are both able to tolerate each other and get along.

      When I've done it slowly, the cats have always gotten along. The one time I didn't, the new cat was aggressive toward the existing cat and it a long time to get them over that.

      If both cats have laid back personalities, it will certainly be much easier!
      Last edited by jenm; Apr. 18, 2011, 05:28 PM. Reason: added info
      Proud owner of a Slaughter-Bound TB from a feedlot, and her surprise baby...!


      • #4
        I agree with some of the things you said you'd been told, in your first paragraph, KayBee. I've had more success introducing a new female to my female than a new male.

        Both my new cats were teenagers when I introduced them (at different times) to my alpha cat. In both cases I did the slow intro: new cat in separate room, let them get familiar under the door, then letting the new kitty out of the room under my supervision.

        With the male, it never did work. We would all be in one room together, nice and happy--next thing I knew they would be locked in a ball, SCREAMING at each other. Only blood shed was mine. I was never able to leave them alone in the house together. They would occasionally be OK with each other in one room, but there was always the possibility of a fight.

        With the new teenaged female I did the same as with the male, but since she came to me as an indoor-outdoor kitty, the cats were able to get introduced through the screen door and the new one seemed like just another patio cat come to scrounge a meal. These two females never really fight. Occasionally they will slap and hiss, but just as often they will play-attack, like kittens. They are not cuddling yet, but at least we can all sleep in peace together now (after 1 year) and sometimes they both curl up in my lap at the same time. I leave them alone together in the house while I'm away at work or the barn or whatever and they seem fine. It's really funny because new girl came to us as the alpha cat of her previous pride, and she no longer is! She is still highly strung, but that is mostly from having gone from life as an alley kitten to belonging to people who knew nothing about cats and who had loud squealy out-of-control little kids.

        So while I would have said get a new kitty of the opposite sex, in this case it has worked better with two grown females. But I really think my alpha kitty would be just as happy to be an only cat!
        Founder of the People Who Prefer COTH Over FB Clique
        People Who Hate to Rush to Kill Wildlife Clique!
        "I Sing Silly Songs to My Animals!" Clique


        • #5
          Originally posted by KayBee View Post
          Anyone have any experiences to share? Have heard that it's best to get a kitten of the opposite sex to introduce. Also that the person carrying the kitten in SHOULD NOT be a family member -- best to get a neighbor to bring it in.

          Our vet also recommended Feliway (to spray on the new cat?).

          In my situation I'm specifically talking about introducing a new cat/kitten into a household with a 12-year-old (spoiled) neutered male cat. This cat is a rescue, very affectionate and people-friendly.
          Oh, my, I bet your old man is going to be MAD; mine certainly was! But a year on, he is very happy with his harem of two females. (Yes, we call them his Goddesses.)

          My advice is NO sharing of beds, mats, and bowls. He will probably be, and to some extent remain, territorial about his favorite things. All three still have their own bowls and fave spots on the couch.

          I have not used Feliway, but I have rubbed the kittens with catnip and dirty laundry, since the old man likes the scent of both.

          And, if all three cats are in the room, ignore the kittens and make a fuss over HIM. He needs to feel that he remains Top Cat.

          Expect some insane howling and hissing on His part at first. Kitten will need an escape route and a place to hide. Separating them with a baby gate they can get acquainted through is recommended.
          "Go on, Bill — this is no place for a pony."


          • #6
            I had a mature spayed female (~3 years old) first and I've since added two male kittens at different times. She is a very dominant, alpha cat, and I actually found it was worse when I brought the first one home, kept him separated in a bedroom, and she could smell him but not see him. The first night she was crazy, running around and growling at everything. He was scared in the bedroom. I figured it couldn't really get any worse, so I put them together the next morning...and she was fine. They sniffed and that was it. The second male kitten I just brought home and let out of the carrier. All was cool that time too. So I think it really depends on the cats. Some may prefer the gradual method, but mine definitely do not, so just play it by ear and go with your gut, IME.

            *OMGiH I Loff my Mare* and *My Saddlebred Can Do Anything Your Horse Can Do*


            • #7
              I have had great success with the slow method. And by slow I mean 2 weeks in a separate room with NO peeking! By the time the new cat comes out it's a total non event.

              Beware: if the first time they see each other is hissing drama it sets the tone for the relationship. Your cars will hopefully have many years together: make them "peeing on the couch-free" years and take the introduction SLOW.
              PSSM / EPSM and Shivers Forum


              • #8
                We use a baby gate and focus on making sure everybody has their "space" and feels safe. We don't fuss with anything beyond space and making sure everybody feels like they are safe and there's nothing to get excited about.

                There is always some hissing and spitting and the occasional paw-smack when we remove the gate. It's rarely anything more serious so we let them sort it out. We just keep an eye on it to make sure its just squabbling.

                I don't care what anyone says- kitties get jealous. Our foster right now was given up because she began refusing to share a litter box as her family added more pets. Long story short she shares a litter box just fine. She is NOT fine not getting human attention. She really wants to interact with humans. Just sitting around getting patted from time to time is not good enough.

                But our other two also love their attention, so we're just careful to try to love everyone equally.

                I'm sure it will be fine- just make sure to keep things as normal as possible for your old man (don't make him think the kitten is any sort of competition) and keep an eye out for him telling you he's feeling shortchanged.
                "The nice thing about memories is the good ones are stronger and linger longer than the bad and we sure have some incredibly good memories." - EverythingButWings


                • #9
                  You've gotten some good advice here, but as an addition I recommend the book How to Think Like a Cat Sorta silly title, but is helpful in understand how and why they act the way they do and how to introduce new members to the family etc, etc.
                  View my photographs at www.horsephotoguy.zenfolio.com


                  • Original Poster

                    I'm of two minds about doing this... I've always been a cat, not a kitten, person. Kittens are sort of like babies -- adorable, but so nice that they're someone else's ;-)

                    But... I think it would be good for my cat to have company -- provided he liked it.


                    • #11
                      Advice from Denver Dumb Friends League

                      Introducing Your New Cat To Your Other Pets
                      Copyright 2000. Denver Dumb Friends League. All rights reserved.
                      It’s important to have realistic expectations when introducing a new pet to a resident pet. Some cats are more social than
                      other cats. For example, an eight-year-old cat that has never been around other animals may never learn to share her
                      territory (and her people) with other pets in the household. However, an eight-week-old kitten separated from her mom and
                      littermates for the first time, might prefer to have a cat or dog companion. Cats are territorial and need to be introduced to
                      other animals very slowly in order to give them time to get used to each other before there is a face-to-face confrontation.
                      Slow introductions help prevent fearful and aggressive problems from developing. PLEASE NOTE: When you introduce pets to
                      each other, one of them may send “play” signals which can be misinterpreted by the other pet. If those signals are
                      interpreted as aggression by one animal, then you should handle the situation as “aggressive.”
                      Confine your new cat to one medium-sized room with her litter box, food, water and a bed. Feed your resident pets and the
                      newcomer on each side of the door to this room. This will help all of them to associate something enjoyable (eating!) with
                      each other's smells. Don't put the food so close to the door that the animals are too upset by each other’s presence to eat.
                      Gradually move the dishes closer to the door until your pets can eat calmly, directly on either side of the door. Next, use
                      two doorstops to prop open the door just enough to allow the animals to see each other, and repeat the whole process.
                      Swap Scents
                      Switch sleeping blankets or beds between your new cat and your resident animals so they have a chance to become
                      accustomed to each other's scent. Rub a towel on one animal and put it underneath the food dish of another animal. You
                      should do this with each animal in the house.
                      Switch Living Areas
                      Once your new cat is using her litter box and eating regularly while confined, let her have free time in the house while
                      confining your other animals to the new cat’s room. This switch provides another way for the animals to experience each
                      other's scents without a face-to-face meeting. It also allows the newcomer to become familiar with her new surroundings
                      without being frightened by the other animals.
                      Avoid Fearful And Aggressive Meetings
                      Avoid any interactions between your pets that result in either fearful or aggressive behavior. If these responses are allowed
                      to become a habit, they can be difficult to change. It's better to introduce your pets to each other so gradually that neither
                      animal becomes afraid or aggressive. You can expect mild forms of these behaviors, but don't give them the opportunity to
                      intensify. If either animal becomes fearful or aggressive, separate them, and start over with the introduction process in a
                      series of very small, gradual steps, as outlined above.
                      If one of your pets has a medical problem or is injured, this could stall the introduction process. Check with your veterinarian
                      to be sure that all of your pets are healthy. You'll also want to have at least one litter box per cat, and you’ll probably need
                      to clean all of the litter boxes more frequently. Make sure that none of the cats are being "ambushed" by another while
                      trying to use the litter box. Try to keep your resident pets’ schedule as close as possible to what it was before the
                      newcomer’s appearance. Cats can make lots of noise, pull each other's hair, and roll around quite dramatically without
                      either cat being injured. If small spats do occur between your cats, you shouldn’t attempt to intervene directly to separate
                      the cats. Instead, make a loud noise, throw a pillow, or use a squirt bottle with water and vinegar to separate the cats.
                      Give them a chance to calm down before re-introducing them to each other. Be sure each cat has a safe hiding place.
                      Cat To Dog Introductions
                      Dogs can kill a cat very easily, even if they’re only playing. All it takes is one shake and the cat’s neck can break. Some dogs
                      have such a high prey drive they should never be left alone with a cat. Dogs usually want to chase and play with cats, and
                      cats usually become afraid and defensive. Use the techniques described above to begin introducing your new cat to your
                      resident dog. In addition:
                      Practice Obedience
                      If your dog doesn’t already know the commands "sit," “down," "come" and "stay," you should begin working on them. Small
                      pieces of food will increase your dog’s motivation to perform, which will be necessary in the presence of such a strong
                      distraction as a new cat. Even if your dog already knows these commands, work with obeying commands in return for a
                      Controlled Meeting
                      After your new cat and resident dog have become comfortable eating on opposite sides of the door, and have been
                      exposed to each other's scents as described above, you can attempt a face-to-face introduction in a controlled manner.
                      Put your dog's leash on, and using treats, have him either sit or lie down and stay. Have another family member or friend enter
                      the room and quietly sit down next to your new cat, but don’t have them physically restrain her. Have this person offer your
                      cat some special pieces of food or catnip. At first, the cat and the dog should be on opposite sides of the room. Lots of short
                      visits are better than a few long visits. Don’t drag out the visit so long that the dog becomes uncontrollable. Repeat this
                      step several times until both the cat and dog are tolerating each other’s presence without fear, aggression or other
                      undesirable behavior.
                      Let Your Cat Go
                      Next, allow your cat freedom to explore your dog at her own pace, with the dog still on-leash and in a “down-stay.”
                      Meanwhile, keep giving your dog treats and praise for his calm behavior. If your dog gets up from his "stay" position, he
                      should be repositioned with a treat lure, and praised and rewarded for obeying the "stay" command. If your cat runs away
                      or becomes aggressive, you’re progressing too fast. Go back to the previous introduction steps.
                      Positive Reinforcement
                      Although your dog must be taught that chasing or being rough with your cat is unacceptable behavior, he must also be
                      taught how to behave appropriately, and be rewarded for doing so, such as sitting, coming when called, or lying down in
                      return for a treat. If your dog is always punished when your cat is around, and never has "good things" happen in the cat's
                      presence, your dog may redirect aggression toward the cat.
                      Directly Supervise All Interactions Between Your Dog And Cat
                      You may want to keep your dog on-leash and with you whenever your cat is free in the house during the introduction
                      process. Be sure that your cat has an escape route and a place to hide. Keep your dog and cat separated when you aren't
                      home until you’re certain your cat will be safe.
                      Dogs like to eat cat food. You should keep the cat food out of your dog's reach (in a closet or on a high shelf). Eating cat
                      feces is also a relatively common behavior in dogs. Although there are no health hazards to your dog, it’s probably distasteful
                      to you. It’s also upsetting to your cat to have such an important object “invaded.” Unfortunately, attempts to keep your
                      dog out of the litter box by "booby trapping" it will also keep your cat away as well. Punishment after the fact will not
                      change your dog's behavior. The best solution is to place the litter box where your dog can’t access it, for example: behind
                      a baby gate; in a closet with the door anchored open from both sides and just wide enough for your cat; or inside a tall,
                      topless cardboard box with easy access for your cat.
                      A Word About Kittens And Puppies
                      Because they’re so much smaller, kittens are in more danger of being injured, of being killed by a young energetic dog, or by a
                      predatory dog. A kitten will need to be kept separate from an especially energetic dog until she is fully-grown, and even
                      then she should never be left alone with the dog. Usually, a well-socialized cat will be able to keep a puppy in its place, but
                      some cats don’t have enough confidence to do this. If you have an especially shy cat, you might need to keep her
                      separated from your puppy until he matures enough to have more self-control.
                      When To Get Help
                      If introductions don’t go smoothly, seek professional help immediately. Animals can be severely injured in fights, and the longer the problem continues, the harder it can be to resolve. Conflicts
                      between pets in the same family can often be resolved with professional help. Punishment won’t work, though, and could
                      make things worse.


                      • #12
                        I've introduced so many new cats/kittens to my herd that they all just kind of shrug now. I've never done the slow thing. Just open the crate or carry them in. There will sometimes be a little hissing or growling but really, it's always been a non-event for the most part.
                        "Dogs are man's best friend. Cats are man's adorable little serial killer." -- theoatmeal.com


                        • #13
                          I took both the new kitties in (in separate years) because they were family cats who needed a good home. And I thought my alpha kitty needed company; I felt guilty leaving her alone all day in the house while I went off to work, to the barn, to visit friends, etc. ... and her world was the house. Didn't seem fair.

                          But I think I would not do it again. She may get lonely; since we can't discuss it I don't really know. I do know that she is not entirely relaxed with beta kitty around. I have started feeding her when and where I eat so she knows beta cat isn't going to steal her food. When beta kitty comes to bed (sometime during the night after alpha kitty and I have gone to bed), sometimes she creeps up between alpha kitty and me, and then alpha kitty leaves and goes away to sleep alone.

                          Beta kitty is not a cuddler, but when she does get in my lap I cuddle her for as long as she wants (usually less than a minute). And sometimes the 3 of us are all in one chair. But I don't think alpha kitty is as happy with this kitty buddy as she was as a single cat. So I don't think I would add another kitty to the household unless it really really really needed a home. The family cats I have taken in have been problem kitties, having come from humans who knew little about cats and had no idea how to treat them. So they could not be given away to just anyone, because of their personality problems. Beta kitty is like a different cat now that she has lived with us for over a year, but if she were a horse I could certainly not recommend her to anyone else as "bombproof." She will have a home with me as long as she needs one, but I won't go looking for another kitty just to keep alpha kitty company. After all, they are not pack animals.
                          Founder of the People Who Prefer COTH Over FB Clique
                          People Who Hate to Rush to Kill Wildlife Clique!
                          "I Sing Silly Songs to My Animals!" Clique


                          • #14
                            Slower is better. I almost a year ago introduced a kitten into my 2 cat household which is probably harder than just 1. I left the new kitten in the bathroom for a few days and let them smell. When I was home I would put the kitten in a dog crate so they could smell/see each other. My other cats were pretty evil at first. Hissing and batting the door, but they soon got over it. She was a female and I had a male and female. I have to say the kitten and male made the better connection right away. It took awhile for my female cat to accept her, but it more had to do when I was around. My original female cat is very possessive of people especially me. She is still a jealous little thing. She still gets mad at the new one if I try and call her over. The older female will get to me first if possible then hiss at the younger one. I call my older cat a "Remi(the younger one's name) block".
                            I love cats, I love every single cat....
                            So anyway I am a cat lover
                            And I love to run.


                            • #15
                              My experiences: sorry for the novel!

                              I've done this twice now, with good but different results. The key is to introduce them slowly. How slowly depends on the personality of the cat. Allow each of them their own spaces at first (especially important if you are 'rescuing' a cat).

                              First Time: My sister was planning on going to Korea for over a year, so I took care of her cat Alice. Now, when my sister adopted this cat from the humane society it was made clear that she would prefer to be in a one kitty household. However, due to circumstances and the fact that I ended up taking care of Alice for longer than a year, I later moved into a new apartment with a friend who also had a cat.

                              We kept them separated for well over 3 months. Not optimal, but considering Alice's personality, it was not surprising. Alice was not easy going around other cats. At first, when she so much as smelled the other cat's scent she would growl and hiss. What we did was have a home base for each cat: our respective bedrooms. The cats were only allowed out into the main apartment when the other kitty was safely in "her" bedroom with the door shut. It was actually pretty easy to do. My roommates cat was 14 at the time, so mostly slept and ate. Alice really liked to have "her" space and didn't like to venture out.

                              So for nearly two months, the cats never saw one another. This timeframe is a lot longer and a lot more drastic than you probably will ever deal with, but it's how introducing two alpha female cats (one of whom doesn't like other cats) to one another goes. The basic idea is to separate the cats, each with their own "home base". Then start bringing in blankets with the other cat's scent on them. Then let them smell each other under the door. If they're still growling/hissing at each other on opposite sides of a closed door, they're not ready for a face to face. Cat's have a good memory, so you want to be careful to create positive experiences for them.

                              Once Alice settled down (first she stopped hissing at the smell of the other cat, then she stopped hissing through the door) and in general was more calm, we started opening my bedroom door so Alice could look out into the apartment. We started with small intervals, like 5 minutes. This allowed the cat's to see each other (occasionally - as the other cat walked through the hallway) - but were never allowed to get close enough to cause each other harm. At no point in time was the other kitty allowed to come into my room - it was Alice's room only.

                              Soon Alice was calm enough we kept the door open all the time. Alice still preferred to stay in my room, but would venture out on occasion. The cats were never friends, never would sleep close to one another (or even with 10-15 ft of one another), but they were not aggressive, not territorial, and would not bother one another. (As a side note, we always kept separate litter boxes.) After about 5 months at the new apartment I had to put Alice to sleep so I don't know how the cats would have reacted with even more time. I think that it would be the same: cool and disinterested, a kind of "If you don't bother me I won't bother you."

                              Second Time: Much faster, with much better results. A few months after I had to put Alice to sleep I adopted Delia, an 11 month domestic long hair. Delia is really, really calm for a young cat. I kept her in my room to start, following the same routine. She had been at the shelter since she was a kitten, so everything was new to her. After a week and a half, we opened my door. Delia was curious and started venturing out but always had her safe space to run back to when she was scared. At first we locked up the other kitty when Delia came out, but pretty soon we allowed both of the out simultaneously. Now about 10 months have passed since we introduced them to each other, and they'll sleep on the same bed, or even the same lap. They don't curl up with one another (the older cat likes her bubble) but if Delia had her way they would. They share the same litter box, even the same food without problems.

                              So it is really dependent on the personality of the cats. If you're adopting a cat, it would be extremely rare for you to get a cat who doesn't like other cats. If you have a cat at home, most shelters won't allow you to adopt a cat that doesn't get along with other cats. Most people won't or don't want to take 6 months to introduce cats to one another, and I don't blame them. My situation was a bit of a freak occurance. But at least it can be done, with time and a lot of patience.

                              It is generally recommended to get a male if you have a female cat at home. Males are usually less alpha than the females. But while that's a recommendation, if both of the cats like other cats, there's no reason why you can't have 2 males or 2 females. I've never heard that about someone non-family carrying the cat in, honestly I don't think it matters as long as your very careful to give them equal time and attention.

                              Also, if you get a kitten, and not just a young cat, I've found that cats are usually much more tolerant of the antics of a kitten then they would be of the same behavior coming from an adult cat. But as long as you take the time to slowly acclimate them to one another, you should be fine no matter the age of the cats.