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Helping Cats Get Along

Updated on February 15, 2013

Plan ahead of time!

If you are thinking about introducing a new cat into a home with existing cats, be prepared to have some patience and understanding. Cats don't adjust as easily or as well as dogs do, since they are primarily solitary animals. In most cases, it can be done painlessly, if you take careful precautions to slowly adjust the animals to living in the same space.

In rare cases, some cats just can't seem to co-exist peacefully. You'll minimize this possibility by following this process.

Set yourself up to succeed

Before you pick out a cat at a shelter, consider the current conditions and personality of your existing pets and the possible new one.

1. How many cats do you currently have?
If you have only one cat, does he/she share living space with a dog or another cat? Having a cat that already has to share is a plus.

2. Are you current cats male or female?
In general, it is easier to introduce opposite sex cats.

3. Is your potential new cat a kitten?
Kittens can be annoying to adult cats, but they are also less of a threat. A kitten will adjust quicker than an adult cat.

4. Are all your cats spayed and neutered?
This is an absolute must if you are introducing a new cat. It is also the most prudent thing to do with cats because there are way too many abandoned cats as it is.

What to put in a safe room
Litter box
Food and water
Cat bed
Cat toys
A towel or shirt that smells like you and your existing cats.
A room that doesn't have a lot of hiding places.
A room that your other cats don't go into often.

Prepare a safe room

If you've done your best to pick out a cat that gives you the highest chance of success, create a safe room for your new cat. This will be where he/she stays for at least the first couple of days. There are several reasons why.

1. Your new cat will be terrified and shaken up. This is not the time to meet a new animal.
2. Your existing cats will need some time to adjust to the new cat's scent.
3. You will not be able to monitor your cat's every move, and you want to avoid a cat fight.

When there is enough food, cats shouldn't feel threatened by one another.
When there is enough food, cats shouldn't feel threatened by one another. | Source

A gradual introduction

For the first 24-48 hours, do not let the cats meet AT ALL. Give them all a little time to adjust to the scents. Once you are successfully playing and petting your new cat (in her safe room), you can begin the adjustment process. You'll want to have tasty cat treats or wet cat food on hand.

1. Have the cats switch places.
Put your new cat out in the main house and give your existing cat a chance to check out the safe room. They are still separated at this point, but are getting the opportunity to check out the other's scent in a more concentrated fashion.

2. Once you are sure that your new cat has a general feel for the rest of the house, put them back into their existing rooms. With the door open a crack, feed each cat on either side of the door. It is normal to expect a bit of hissing and growling.

3. Each day, offer the cats their treat with the door opening a bit more each day.

Face to face

After about a week of this method, your two cats are probably ready to meet. A couple things to keep in mind about cat face to face introductions:

  • Some hissing is normal. Keep their meeting brief and try to distract each cat with a toy or a treat.
  • Sometimes you have to give up the idea that they will ever be friends. If you can get them to eat side by side and ignore each other, that is progress!
  • Do your best to protect the new cat from harm (especially if she is a kitten). Have a blanket ready to throw over the cats should they get in a tussle.
  • Study up on cat body language so you can get an idea about when a cat is stressed or needing a break.
  • Do not leave them unsupervised.
  • Make sure you give both cats equal amounts of attention and affection.

This is my third and newest cat, introduced to two male brothers.
This is my third and newest cat, introduced to two male brothers. | Source
Our large orange tabby cat Rusty.
Our large orange tabby cat Rusty. | Source
Our other large cat Bobbers.
Our other large cat Bobbers. | Source

If things aren't going well

Sometimes, the introduction process doesn't go smoothly. Here are some extra suggestions.

For the time being, keep their litter boxes separate. Even if they are sharing living space, problems can arise if your cats have to battle for the bathroom. You may find one or the other peeing where you don't want them to.

If you have been unsuccessful in your attempts at them meeting face to face, you can introduce the new cat in a cat carrier on a table. Your other cat should be on the floor. They should be able to make eye contact, but won't be so close that they try to claw each other through the wire cage. Each day, let them get a little bit closer.

Another way to do this (so that the newer cat doesn't feel trapped), is through a baby gate. You may need to be right there so one or the other doesn't hop over it. You can also put two baby gates on top of each other so there is a barrier high enough. This way they can see each other without causing harm.

Things you should NOT do when introducing cats:

  • Hold one of the cats
  • Try to get them to interact
  • Use only one cat toy or dish
  • Have other people and kids around
  • Hit or slap a cat who is hissing

The best way to avoid cats fighting

Patience. Give each cat time to adjust. Make sure you've carefully assessed the personalities of your existing animals before introducing new ones. Follow the process so that you avoid injury or traumatic cat fights that make the adjustment process even harder.

Try not to flip out if there is hissing. There will be some necessary communication between cats to establish the pecking order. You simply want to avoid injury. If you can follow these steps, you'll have cats that can co-exist peacefully.

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    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Julie - I remember this from when I wrote the hub about Gabriela and you provided info. Very good information here. Btw, the two eat side by side out of their separate bowls without a hitch. When Faletame finishes, Gabriela will go to his bowl and finish what's left. Great Job!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks for the great tips! Your Bobbers looks just like our Angel. She's always lived by herself so we're not eager to introduce her to another kitty, but someday we'd like to have multiples.

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran 5 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Julie, I'm allergic to cats and although I like them I can't be near them. My house is surrounded by a bunch of ferrel cats that don't get along, and I have the bags under my eyes to prove it. Good hub!

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 5 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Very good and clear instructions! We recently brought home 2 new kittens at once with 2 adult females at home. We had some good advice and did most of what you said. We are still working on loving each other but at the moment, I'm okay with tolerating! Thanks for a great hub!

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 5 years ago from the South

      Excellent article on this subject! You covered everything.

    • lmlynde profile image

      lmlynde 5 years ago from Nevada

      Great article Julie! Thank you for sharing all of your helpful cat behavior tips! I have always loved animals, especially cats of course! I have a male named Sunny and a female named Suki and luckily they cohabitate quite well are a good match with each other. Of course, Suki, who I call the Princess is the ruler of the household since she was there first. Sunny performs his little funny action towards her power playing by chasing her around the house when he's spunky. Love my little angels!

      Take care....Lori

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Interesting! I only have one cat but it seems like they are about the same introing to a dog:). I have 6 birds, one cat, three dogs and we all love each other:) lol

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 5 years ago from New York, New York

      I too don't have cats, but truly have to remember all your advice and tips here if we ever do get a cat, because you really gave some wonderful tips here for helping cats get a long. Have of course voted and shared all over too!!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Great information and tips, Julie. I'll have to remember this if I ever get the chance to have cats again. Voted up and more.