I thought I should write a blog on how to introduce a new cat. Over the last few months, I have been researching this in great detail preparing for our new arrival.
How to Introduce a New Cat
I’ve never had to introduce a new cat before. However, I have been aware that it can be an issue and to be approached with care. Some cats love the company of other cats. Whereas, some cats prefer to be solitary.
As we were getting a new cat, I did a lot of reading and researching about this topic. It is a bit of an unpredictable situation as to what will be best or work out.
When I lived with my parents, we usually had about 3 cats. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Stray cats would appear and we would feed them and sometimes they would stay. More often than not, the stray cat would fit in; once they had been neutered, they were friendly. I don’t remember any of the cats fighting. I do remember a few hisses and growling.
Since starting pet sitting professionally, I have looked after cats which have had to be kept separate from other cats in the household. They see each other, but prefer not to be near each other. This can make for a stressful situation if the owner is always having to keep an eye out.
When we had Ginger, if she was sat on my knee and could smell other cats, she would bite me. She was an older lady, happy with humans and content with her own company. I didn't ever want to upset her by introducing more cats into our household.
Why we are Introducing a New Cat
In May we got Fermi from a rescue. She was, and still is extremely timid and frightened of humans. The rescue said that she preferred the company of other cats rather than humans. After having her a few weeks, I thought if we got another cat for her, she would be happier and more settled.
In a previous article, I mentioned that we had found a cat on the internet. He arrived just over week ago. Bean was a young kitten looking for an indoor house as he had 40% vision. This was due to an untreated eye infection before he lived at the cat rescue. (Bean is the ginger and white cat in the photo to the right.)
We were looking for a younger cat as generally, older cats are more accepting of younger ones. Also, Fermi has had kittens in the past and I hoped she would want to mother the new cat.
I also read on the internet that neutered cats are more accepting of new cat family members. I am really hoping all this is correct and it works out to be a great friendship for Fermi and Bean.
How to Introduce a New Cat – The General Guidelines
I read that it was best to take time with the introductions. To ensure success, consider this a slow, long term strategy. Once a cat takes a dislike, it can be difficult to change the cats feelings. It is important for the owners to be relaxed and calm as the pets will pick up on this.
- Let the new cat settle in. For more information on this, please read my previous blog.
- First impressions matter so don’t rush the first meeting. Even with Ginger, a rabbit guest stamped her foot at her and then Ginger wouldn’t go near the rabbit again.
- Get them used to each others smell first. This can be done by swapping bedding and toys. Read more here.
- Let them get used to each others noises. Not seeing each other but in rooms next to each other.
- Let them have a brief view of each other. Read more here.
- Supervised visits in a ‘neutral’ area. This means a cat won’t want to exert dominance which it would if it felt that its home/safe place is threatened. Don’t let the cats chase each other. This may start an uncontrollable situation. At this point, see how they respond to each other. If it isn’t a friendly reception. STOP and go back a step.
- If all goes well, gradually extend the visits. Read more here.
- Hopefully they will get on now. It is important for the cats to have their own space to roam, eat, toilet and sleep. They may well get on like a house on fire, but as with children, space is always good to prevent arguments. Read more here.
This is great advice but will depend on the space and situation you have. Work out what may work best for you.
Cats hissing, fluffing up, yeowling is not a happy cat. If this happens, stop the situation straight away so the cats don’t associate unhappy behaviour with the other cat.
If you are introducing a new cat to a multi cat household, you will need to do the above steps with each cat individually.
How to Introduce a New Cat – Reality
As Fermi is very nervous, we have had a Feliway plug in. ‘Happy hormones’ to help her adjust to her new situation. Hopefully, this will have helped with the introduction of Bean as well. She started sleeping in one particular bed, so we moved the Feliway to be near her.
Settling in Bean, the New Cat
We set up a large dog pen in our bedroom for Bean to move into temporarily. He won’t be in this all of the time but will help him settle in and Fermi get used to the new smell. The bedroom is a calm, quiet place and he should have been able to have a break after his long journey.
Now when Bean has had enough, he takes himself off to his pen. I leave the door open so he can go in and out as he pleases. I shut the room door so he is safe. As we all have been at home, we keep an eye on where both of them are and if they are likely to move. Sometimes, I shut one of them in the room with me so I don't have to be on cat guard.
Scent swapping is very important. This means that they can get used to each others smell without the threat of them. I gave my husband a cat carry case with a Fermi smelling blanked to collect and transport Bean home in.
In the pen for Bean, I put one of Fermi’s cat beds. I took the one from the kitchen and replaced it with a clean one. These will be swapped between the two cats. I think this is the reason why Fermi changed her night time bed. She didn't want to use the bed with Bean's scent.
When Bean is in the living room, I leave his pen and the room it is in open so that Fermi can investigate.
Bean is happy to help himself to Fermi's litter tray. I don't think this is a good thing just yet as encroaching on her space and territory. However, having a new kitten that always uses a litter tray is fantastic.
Getting Used to Each Others Noises
At first, Fermi was very wary of the new noise. Definitely interested though! Bean was interested in everything! As he is blind, he does rely on sounds. It is funny to see him listen for a toy when I throw it.
They have been given treats at the door to the room where they can hear each other. Hopefully they will associate yummy food with the sound of the other cat.
I have been using chicken to hand feed Fermi so she can get used to humans. I’ve been making all humans interaction with her as positive as possible. She is scared very easily still but I am respecting her personal boundaries.
Seeing Each Other
A few days ago they accidentally saw each other. Whoops! Bean ran out of the living room and into the kitchen, then back to the living room, then up the stairs. While all this was happening, Fermi was in the back room doorway just watching. She lowered her body to the ground as she wasn't sure of all the noise. For a little kitten he does thunder around.
Meeting Each Other
Then I tried feeding them chicken in the same room. Fermi hissed as she didn't like my hand near her. This made Bean's tail go all fluffy. I stopped this straight away. The next time Bean saw Fermi, his tail and back fluffed up so I separated them. This worked well and the next time Bean thundered around he wasn't bothered by her and didn't get defensive. I was really happy with this!
I have continued with the chicken feeding as both cats love this. (I don't eat meat so this is the most I've ever handled it.) I am also spending time doing this with Fermi on her own to try and build up the human bond. This morning I had major progress with this! She actually came out of her safe place and came to me for more!
They haven't met for a long period of time yet. It would set them back. I don't have a time scale for this but will take the lead from them.
In the daytime, Fermi tends to stay in her safe place in the back room. Bean runs around madly all day and we keep an eye out for if he goes into the back room. We are trying to get Fermi used to him so it works well if she can watch him, but he if doesn't see her. If he does see her, he wants to play but their relationship isn't at that stage yet.
My Thoughts on How to Introduce a New Cat
This is going to be a long, slow process for Fermi and Bean. All the articles I've read have emphasised that this shouldn't be rushed. As Bean has lived with us for nearly two weeks, he is still settling in himself. This is a big change for Fermi as well. Hopefully now that the children are back at school, they will have the time, space and quiet atmosphere.
Originally I had thought that Fermi would be grateful for company of her own kind. I was wrong. I do think it is because she is very timid. On the plus side, she has been more interested in Bean so hasn't run away from us as much. A friend said that she had resting stroppy face which is very true. Hopefully, she will perk up soon.
I do think we did the right thing in introducing a new cat. Poor Fermi was very scared. I just hope it works out. Also next month, Bean can have his beans snipped/castrated so that may help.