INTRODUCING A NEW CAT to your current cat(s)
February 17, 2016
No matter the age of the cats or how much you think/want them to get along, you can’t force them to like each other. Putting them face to face is not how you properly introduce cats. Doing it the right way will increase the likely hood of a positive relationship, but be prepared as it can take days to weeks, maybe longer for your cats to adjust.
How long depends on several things… how patient you are, whether you’re introducing a kitten to an older cat or an older cat to an older cat, if the cats have any history of being around/playing with other cats, or how their very first encounter was, and a few other reasons.
Follow the advice as close as possible, listen to your cats, if you get impatient and they have a bad 1st experience, this could leave a lasting impression and could effect their relationship from then on, it’s better to stop the session and try again another time/day
Think of every behavioural issue that you want to stop or control being exactly like a person that has a phobia they would like to go away. Let’s say it’s a fear of spiders, well, on day one you wouldn’t place a bunch of spiders on the person to make their phobia go away. The first few sessions might be just talking about spiders in a positive way, once you’re comfortable with that, maybe looking at picture of a spider, then when you’re comfortable with that, maybe a spider in an aquarium at a far distance, and so on and so on. There could be weeks or months of this process to help your phobia and it usually doesn’t go from 100% disliking spiders to 100% liking them. after following all the steps there may just be a 50% improvement to your phobia.
That’s how it is with training/changing/modifying a cats behaviour. we’re conditioning them new behaviours or counter conditioning old/ ingrained one’s.
A crate/pet carrier is your friend, make sure you teach your cats (at least one of them) to like being in their crate/pet carrier.
Step – one: Keep them separated for the first 2 to 7+ days, letting them explore the house separately which will get them used to each others smells.
Next, when allowed, and for short amounts of time throughout the day. carry one cat around the house, like one would a baby, sitting occasionally, don’t egg your cats on by talking to them, just do things you might do normally. As the days/sessions go by you’ll notice less negative reactions and a more “curious” demeanor starts to develop, the one not being carried will come over to investigate. Stop the exercise if things start getting heated.
Note: If a cat doesn’t like being held, you can try to create a positive association with it where you pick up the cat and feed or have the cat in your lap and feed. This technique can take a few weeks of practice, but the more you only feed your cat in your lap, the more the cat will tolerate being picked-up/held. (At least that’s what’s supposed to happen) your results will vary.
After you see the non-held cat become more and more curious and getting closer without hissing, hold one of the cats in one hand and super high value food (‘gamey’ meat on the end of a spoon) in the other hand (CATS MUST BE HUNGRY AND YOU MUST HAVE THE RIGHT HIGH VALUE FOOD) walk up to the cat on the ground, try to feed them at a long arms length away. If, by seeing the cat in your arms, they run away, that’s okay, it happens. stop then try the same thing an hour or two later. (Make sure your cat doesn’t have access to food elsewhere). Eventually, possibly 3 to 5 tries of this, you’re hoping your very hungry cat won’t run away, and may start to eat off the spoon, (again, please don’t talk to them) with each feeding session crouch lower & lower to the ground until you can set the held cat on your knee, having them both eat off the spoon, then eventually placing the held cat on the ground (at this point take turns feeding them both).
The goal is to get the 2 cats on the ground within reach of you. This will free up your hands so you can start using the clicker to help speed the process up and continue to create a positive association with each other. AGAIN DON’T TRY THIS UNLESS THEY ARE HUNGRY. if they are hissing or running away, you might be getting ahead of yourself.
When on the ground, If your cats look at each other, click- feed, if your cats take a step towards each other, click- feed. If it seems that you have one friendly cat and one aggressive cat focus mostly on the aggressive cat making sure they get the clicks and treats.
Once your cats start turning away from the food (getting full), stop the session and try again later. Anytime there is a negative confrontation stop the session and try again another time, you’ll be AMAZED at what gets carried over to the next session, that’s why you have to have patience. If you push this process and they fight, then your chances of them getting along becomes less realistic.
FYI – When Didga and Rascal, Didga and Boomer were at this point, there was never any hissing while I was clicking and feeding. I hope you’re getting the same results.
Once you do all the above, or if you notice there really is not a lot of aggressive signs from either of them, just curiosity, you’ll still want to do the following things before their first “official” face to face greeting: Have your cats interact/smell and or play with each other under a closed door or separated by a puppy/child gate. you can use a toy in this case to encourage them to get close to each other. Next with no barrier, play with a feather toy with one cat while the other cat watches from afar, This is a great way to keep them both focused on the toy and in a good mood which will help build their confidence with each other. Note that during the play try not to cause them to jump at each other and risking them getting too close. if they both want the same toy, try using two toys. This is a good sign if they play or eat while the other cat is near. It’s also a good idea to teach your cats other tricks separately and if you can, practice when they’re close to each other as it builds confidence and trust of one another.
When you feel like they are ready to meet, pick the room that has cat tree’s or something they can climb on if they need to get away from the other cat. Be involved in their meeting, don’t just put them in the same room and stand back and watch, I don’t want you to get hurt but if one is a young kitten, I might get right in-between them and pat, tease play and or treat while they are close…. older cats that potentially are aggressive I’d have a spray water bottle at the first sign of aggression, (set on stream, so it’s quiet when sprayed)
Let me reiterate, please don’t push them into a relationship, patience is the key. WITH THAT SAID, there are cats that no matter what you do, they will not 100% tolerate another cat(s). If you’re following my advice, step by step, over days, weeks or months but not seeing the change/progress I’m talking about, then you may have one of those cats that just never will get a long. then it becomes a situation of just managing their behaviour, OR if the stress on both the cats is too much and it’s been months and months of trying, finding a home for one might be best for all involved.
…. Happy training.
Robert, Didga and Boomer