How to introduce a new cat or kitten to my pet cat

When introducing a new rescue cat or kitten to your home, and an existing cat, the key is to take your time and be patient.

The ideal scenario when first introducing a rescue cat or kitten into your home, is to place them in a separate room. This room should be prepped and ready with all the things your new furry friend will need such as a litter tray, bed, scratching post, food, water bowl, and plenty of toys. Be mindful that the litter tray should be as far away from the food and water bowl as possible.

Allow the cat or kitten a few days to settle in and adjust to their new surroundings. Your existing cat will likely show some interest in the room, but at this stage it is important to keep them separated. Allow the cats to smell each other through the safety of the closed door. Exchange blankets and toys so that both cats can get familiar with each other's scent.

The next stage will be to open the door so they can see each other, but having a barrier such as a stair gate is advised. You will need to supervise both cats to ensure that if there is any negative reaction, you can intervene. It is common for there be some vocalisation, such as hissing, so don’t let this dishearten you. Provide both cats with treats and try to initiate play to make this interaction as positive as possible.

If either cat display signs of distress such as ears back, eyes wide, arching their back making their body as big as possible, and puffing up their fur, it is time to finish the introduction. Let both cats decompress and try again later.

Once the interactions are mostly positive, it is time to move onto the next stage. You can now remove the barrier and allow the cats to meet. It is best to give the new cat the opportunity to meet the resident cat outside of its ‘safe room’. Therefore, if the new cat does feel threatened or unsure it can retreat to the safety of its room if needed. Again, use treats and toys to make the interaction as positive as possible and try to reassure both cats. These interactions should be completed in short bursts, with each positive interaction the time they are left together can be extended. It is important to supervise the cats until you are sure that they get along. This is especially important when introducing a new kitten as they are more vulnerable. You may need to keep them separate whilst you are not at home and even overnight for the first few weeks.

Introducing cats can take some time and it is not always straight forward. It is very important not to rush through these steps as negative interactions can put a strain on the cats and their relationship. Calming cat pheromone diffusers such as ‘Feliway Friends’ are recommended to help with the introduction process.

How long does it take for a cat to accept a new cat or kitten?

It may only take a few days, or it could take a couple of months, there is no set time frame. Some cats may never be friends, but they can usually learn to coexist together peacefully. It is very important to ensure there are plenty of resources for both cats to prevent any friction arising. Ideally both cats should have a separate litter tray, and these should be placed in two different locations in the home. They should also have a separate bowl for food and water, scratching posts, toys, and beds.