18 Must-Know Tips Before Adding Another Cat to Your Feline Family

Are you thinking about adding another feline friend to your household? Introducing new pets to existing cats can be rewarding, but it takes careful planning, consideration, and preparation to ensure the happiness of both the newcomer and your resident cats. Here are 18 essential tips to help you smooth the transition, from choosing the right type of cat to timing the introduction well.

Consider Your Current Cat’s Personality

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Cats are typically happy alone, but the temperament and age of your existing cat can determine whether they will ultimately accept a new friend. Is your pet cat outgoing and playful, or a grumpy loner who prefers solitude? Don’t introduce a playful kitten to a senior cat, as this can make the latter stressed. Try to find a new cat that will complement your existing cat’s lifestyle instead.

Prepare a Separate Space

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Create a “starter room” for your new cat, equipped with everything they need, and ensure that they can be completely separated from your existing cat. The Humane Society asserts that this is essential for both cats to feel secure and ensures they can start to get used to each other’s presence and smells before being properly introduced. Don’t be tempted to rush things!

Schedule Vet Checkups

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Before being introduced, both cats need a thorough medical check and must be up-to-date with their vaccinations. This is important to ensure they don’t transfer disease or parasites to one another and to confirm they’re both healthy enough to cope with the transition. A cat with an underlying medical treatment may become unwell or excessively anxious when a new pet arrives. 

Introduce Scent

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Don’t make the mistake of assuming cats get to know each other as people do—they rely heavily on smell to communicate, and exchanging scents is a great way to help them get used to each other before they meet face-to-face. Gently rub a towel on the new cat’s face and bedding before placing it in your resident cat’s environment. Then, repeat the process in reverse.

Supervise Their Interactions

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Never allow cats to meet one another when you’re not present. Keep the new cat confined to their starter room initially, but allow your resident cat to sniff around the door. You could later use a baby gate as a barrier. Always supervise these interactions and slowly increase their longevity. If there are signs of aggression (hissing, swatting, or growling), separate them and try again later.

Use Positive Reinforcement

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Reward calm and curious behavior from both cats during any introductions by giving them treats, toys, and praise. You want to show them that accepting each other will be beneficial for them and foster an association between the two cats and a reward. Don’t punish aggressive or scared behavior, as this will only make things worse. Instead, separate the cats and allow them to de-stress.

Provide Sufficient Resources

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According to PetMD, it’s crucial to have enough litter boxes, food and water bowls, toys, and scratching posts for all the cats in a household and to space them out sufficiently. This is especially important when increasing your feline family, as resident cats will become territorial and anxious if they feel like their resources are under threat from competition.

Make Time for Play

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Schedule playtime sessions for both cats and allow them to watch one another play through a baby gate or other transparent barrier. This can help them see each other as non-threatening and even fun! Use toys to engage their hunting instincts and channel their energy in a positive way. Such supervised play can help build curiosity and acceptance for each other.

Be Patient

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Imagine how you’d feel if a stranger came to live in your house! Getting to know each other takes time and positive interaction, and that’s true for cats, too. Don’t be tempted to rush things or force the cats to interact before they’re ready, and never ignore signs of fear or anxiety. It can be frustrating and time-consuming, but patience will ultimately benefit both pets.

Manage Your Expectations

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Online cat videos may have you fantasizing about your feline friends becoming best buddies and curling up together in an inseparably cute way. While it’s true that some cats fall in love with each other, most don’t, and some may never like each other beyond a tolerant co-existence. You are aiming for two happy cats in your household—not a wonderland of furry codependence!

Cat-Proof Your Home

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It’s vital for your new cat’s safety that they cannot escape your home or access dangerous spaces, especially if they’re a curious kitten. Block off any potential hiding spots they could get trapped in, and ensure you wait at least three weeks before letting your new pet outside if they’re going to be an outdoor cat as well. Also, ensure they can’t fall from high places, like balconies.

Provide Vertical Territory

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Cats feel secure when they can survey their environment from a high perch, and your resident cat may appreciate this in particular when getting used to the new arrival. Provide plenty of vertical space, like cat trees, shelves, or climbing posts, so both cats can observe each other from a safe vantage point and escape from one another without stress, if necessary.

Don’t Neglect Your Resident Cat

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It can be tempting to shower your new arrival with attention, especially if they’re a cute kitten. However, neglecting your resident cat can make them feel forgotten and create a negative association with the newcomer. Animal Behaviorist recommends making time to play, cuddle, and treat your original pet so they don’t feel slighted. During initial introductions, focus on your resident cat to avoid jealousy.

Maintain Your Routine

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While introducing a new cat will inevitably disrupt your daily routine slightly, try to maintain a consistent schedule for feeding, playtime, and cleaning the litter box. Your new arrival won’t notice this, but your old cat will. Maintaining a sense of normalcy will reduce stress and insecurity during this time of change and help your existing cat feel less disturbed.

Address Litter Box Issues Promptly

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Multiple cat households are more prone to litter box problems, so you’ll need to pay close attention to how your cats are using their ‘bathrooms.’ If either cat starts urinating or defecating in inappropriate places, it may be a sign of stress or insufficient toilet facilities. Ensure you use the same litter your resident cat is used to and place boxes in a quiet place they feel safe in.

Try Feliway

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Feliway is a pheromone-based product that uses the same chemicals found in lactating queens (cat mothers) to calm and reassure their kittens. You can buy it in a variety of forms, including a spray and room diffusers for constant use. While some cats appear immune to its effects, Feliway can make your home feel less threatening and help both cats relax more readily. 

Keep Mealtimes Separate

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Initially, you should always feed the two cats separately to prevent disrupting your existing cat’s routine and to prevent competition or territorial possessiveness. Once they’re comfortable with each other, you can gradually transition to feeding them in the same room, but maintain a safe distance between their bowls, and don’t allow one to ‘steal’ food from the other. 

Provide Hiding Spots

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Hiding is a natural behavior for cats, especially when they feel insecure or threatened. Both cats will require safe, secure places to hide when they need personal space or feel overwhelmed. Ensure there are enough hiding spots throughout the house for both felines—like cardboard boxes, covered cat beds, or designated spaces behind furniture, which can all serve as sanctuaries.

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