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Introducing new cats to your cats at home

Health & Wellness

How to introduce a new cat to your cats at home

It’s the start of feline friendships

Want to add another cat or kitten into your family? It can be a complex and gradual process, but veterinarian and pet health advocate Dr. Aliya McCullough explains how to safely create feline friendships. 

Before bringing your new cat home

Before bringing a new cat home, make sure they’d be a great fit for your current cat. Adopting a cat with similar activity levels and traits is best. Older cats probably prefer low-energy, chill lifestyles and may hiss or swat at younger cats to tell them to back off. 

Take your new cat to the vet before bringing them home to avoid spreading any contagious diseases. If your current cat works with a veterinary behaviorist, devise a game plan to have a successful meet and greet with your new cat. 

Try to give each cat their own safe space at home that includes these items: 

  • Litter boxes, scratching posts, food and water bowls, toys and comfortable and cozy beds
  • Cozy hiding places 
  • Minimal furniture (so you can always easily reach your hiding cat)

First steps to introducing new cats

To avoid conflict and aggression, introduce your cats slowly, and respect the pace at which they choose to interact.

Positive reinforcement

Before introducing your cats, feed them tasty canned food on opposite sides of a door two-to-three times per day as positive reinforcement. If you’d prefer to stick to their regular food, consider adding single ingredient, meat-based baby food, tuna water, oyster juice, deli meats, plain nonfat yogurt or cat treats to add value to the treat. 

If food doesn’t motivate your cat, show positive reinforcement by playing with interactive toys or giving lots of pets.

Scent exchange

Swap each cat’s bedding, scratching posts and beds every few days to get them used to each others’ scents. Letting each cat roam around the other one’s safe space solo can help, too. Or try wiping each cat’s head, jowls or face with a washcloth and leaving it in the other’s safe space.

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Calm your cats

If your cat is more anxious than usual, it’s probably because of the new cat. Talk to your vet about anti-anxiety supplements. Alternatively (or additionally with your vet’s OK try using pheromones (aka chemical scents) to help relax your pets. 

Introduce your cats from afar

After your cats have gotten used to the other’s scent, introduce them through a gate or while holding them. By keeping them separated, you prevent any injuries or aggressive outbursts. Remember to take it slow and continue to feed them on opposite sides of the door, even if the first introduction is positive.  

It’s time for your cats to meet

Once your cats are finally ready to interact, follow these steps to ensure it’s a positive experience: 

  • Don’t force your cats to like each other and let them interact at their own pace.
  • Keep the hangouts short and try to end them on a positive note.
  • Gradually increase the amount of time your cats spend together.
  • Keep your cats separated when you can’t supervise them, and never leave them alone together until they’re comfortable with each other.

It’s OK if your cats don’t click initially, some of the best relationships get better with time. However, these tips will help you safely navigate the newly forming feline friendships.

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Photo by Omar Ram on Unsplash

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