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Cat FAQ: Welcoming A New Cat

So eventually, like the rest of the cat crazy world, you want to bring home another feline to add to your menagerie. You have an existing cat or seven, and you found this stray cat that is so cute and friendly,  you’re just dying to include in your cat clique. But how do you do this without teeth and nails and blood and hurt feelings?

Well, alright. So maybe you’ve only got one cat, and you would like to have two. That’s simple.

Before you bring New Cat home, make sure you’ve got the following:

  • Another litter box
  • A different scratching post (one vertical, one horizontal)
  • A couple of new toys
  • Padded walls

Your first step is to put New Cat in a separate room. This is pretty much mandatory. You should do this for at least a week. During that week, swap out New Cat and Existing Cat. Let them switch rooms to get used to each other’s scents and litter box habits. If you’re not feeling that brave, another thing you can try is cracking the door open just a hair so that they can sniff each other through the door. They’ve probably already done this underneath the bottom of the door, but they want you to crack the door open so they can put on a show for you. There will be hisses, and one of them will run away in a huff with their tail all puffed up and curled. First bout of drama, over. Do this a few more times until you’re ready for step two.

Once you feel things have settled down a little, open the door so that New Cat can come out if they choose. Existing Cat might be feeling like they should show New Cat who’s boss, so they might venture into New Cat’s room. There will be hissing, probably some spitting, maybe a swat or two, and one of them will run away, tail puffed and eyes as big as saucers. Trust me, this is your desired outcome! However, if there is an actual fight, you’ll want to separate them a little longer, and start again. You might have to do this a few more times until one of them gives in.

After that, they will interact with each other in a few different ways:

  • They will completely avoid each other for a number of years.
  • They will constantly hiss and spit at each other for a number of years.
  • They will battle each other for a number of years.
  • Or, one day, they’ll become besties and start grooming each other.

Okay, okay … things might settle down in a matter of days or weeks. Worst case scenario, months. Sometimes New Cat or Existing Cat might start hiding when they never did that before. That’s okay. Don’t force them out. Let them come out on their own. Never, EVER throw them together. Cats are delicate in mood and creatures of habit. If something upsets the status quo, well, you might end up with marking, diarrhea, ‘accidentally’ puking on your bed or urinating in your favorite pair of shoes. You know, accidentally.

Always make sure both (yes, you’ll need and want two of them) litter boxes are clean. One litter box is never enough, and if something isn’t satisfactory they will let you know in all the worst possible ways.

Different types of scratching posts are also important. Some cats like to scratch vertically, some horizontally, and if they are extra special, they like it both ways. Cats release scent through their claws, so every time they scratch something they are leaving their mark. If there aren’t enough places to leave their mark on this world, they will start scratching things you do not want them to scratch. Once this happens it’s hard to get them to stop, so it’s best to try to avoid it in the first place.

A variety of toys is important as well. New Cat may not necessarily like what Existing Cat likes. Plus, Existing Cat got all their cooties on it. So make sure New Cat has a toy of their own. And if you can get them to play together, even better. They’ll be swapping spit (in a good way) in no time at all.

Reward them for good behavior (getting along) by petting them together, grooming them together, and settling in on the sofa with a good book. If they can both sit on the sofa at the same time, consider yourself golden.

One more thing. If you’re thinking of getting Existing Cat (Dominant Cat) a kitten for companionship, consider adopting (not purchasing!) two kittens instead of one. Two kittens will learn to keep each other company when Existing Cat has had enough. Plus, two kittens are really fun to watch.

Chances are, everyone will learn to tolerate each other, and maybe one day you’ll find them secretly laying next to each other for warmth. Just pretend like you didn’t see it and you’ll be okay.

3 Responses to “Cat FAQ: Welcoming A New Cat”
  1. caroline says:

    Great advice! It is a good idea to make sure the old-timer is locked safe away before entering the newbies room. Our first one, Molly, snuck into the catress of solitude where we were keeping George. Holy hell did that go badly! She hiss, spit, Crapped all over and hated us for the remainder of isolation week. Now, they take naps together and perform kitty operas on the fridge while waiting for their dinner.

  2. Sarah Downs says:

    Great point, Caroline!

  3. Jen says:

    Excellent advice. I just introduced a six-month old to a two-year old and it went amazingly well! We kept the baby in the bathroom for about a week, and once we introduced them they got along famously. By the third day they were sleeping with their fur barely touching each other. Love. Now they are tearing our house to shreds with their chase games, of course.

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