Introducing a Second Cat

Whether you decide to add a second cat to your household immediately or you wait months — or perhaps even years — to introduce a companion to your resident cat, you want to keep the process as stress-free as possible for both cats. 

While metaphorically “throwing them in together” might be the chosen method for some cat owners, this can cause undue stress on all parties. What follows are some tips to help make introducing a second cat as smooth as possible.

Introducing a Second Cat Help Guide

Introduce a second cat using a “sanctuary room”

If your home allows for it, have a space available for the second cat to use as their sanctuary room.  This will give the new cat their own space where they can familiarize themselves with their new environment without being overwhelmed.  Your sanctuary space should include:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Litter box
  • Hiding spots
  • Comfortable resting spots
  • Cat carrier
  • Scratching post

Ideally this space should have a door adjoining the sanctuary room to the rest of your place.  Your resident cat will become aware that there is a new cat and the door will allow the cats to hear and smell each other, but not yet see each other. 

After a couple of days of them hearing and smelling each other, begin feeding them with their dishes on either side of the door, so they are “eating together” with only the door between them.  They still won’t be able to see each other, but this will help them to bond while engaging in a rewarding act.

A “scent exchange” can make your cats more comfortable

To give your resident cat more opportunities to smell the newcomer cat, you can take a clean sock (or other material) and pet the new cat around his/her face.  When cats rub their faces against things, they are releasing positive pheromones.  If you collect these pheromones on a clean sock and then place the sock in the resident cat’s turf, he/she will have positive smells from the new cat.  Do the same thing with the other sock, except rub it on the resident cat and place in the new cat’s sanctuary.

Slowly introduce your cats to each other

After a few days, you’ll want to allow the new cat to explore the rest of the house.  Keep the resident cat separate and allow the new cat to walk around the place, rubbing and leaving his/her scent for the resident cat to notice when he/she returns.  Do this a couple of times a day for a few days.

Gradually make mealtimes more unrestricted.  Open the door a crack and hold it open with a door stop while having them eat on their respective sides.  Eventually, you might put a baby gate in place of the door so the cats can fully see, hear, and smell each other while maintaining a barrier.  Graduating to these steps is completely up to you and how you think your cats are progressing. 

Here are a few final tips to fully integrate your new cat into your household:

  • Have vertical space and hiding places for both cats
  • Play with both cats at the same time so they have other positive experiences together
  • Keep their environment full of plenty of toy options so they don’t have to cross into each other’s territory unnecessarily

Good luck!

For more detailed information, check out Pam Johnson-Bennett’s article.

-Kathy Saunders