If you’re a cat lover, as I am, you may be considering adopting multiple cats to bring into your home. I have owned cats since I was a child and over the years have had many cats. They have brought me much joy and happiness, not to mention a contented peace of mind by their loving presence. At my home, we have two male cats that we adopted from the North Shore Animal League and we feed a number of feral cats that frequent the neighborhood.
When adopting multiple cats, patience is very important in bringing about a successful addition to the household. In a natural and feral environment, cats maintain large territories that can include forests, rural farmlands, urban gardens, and yards. In these types of environments, cats hunt, explore and scavenge for food in a solitary mode of operation. These cats don’t as a rule seek out other cats for interaction. They don’t live in groups, usually not in pairs either. So taking into consideration this natural instinct for the solitary movement you can see where bringing multiple cats into a new environment even if its your home may be arduous.
If you already have a cat and are planning on adding more to your home there are some basic preparations you’ll need to make. When bringing in a new cat make sure you provide the new family member with all their own needs. Such as their own food and water dish, a separate litter pan, their own bed and scratching post. This will help the new cat establish their territorial parameters. The introduction of the new cat to your existing cat should be gradual. It can take anywhere from 8 to 12 months for the cats to establish peaceful coexistence. They may become friends or they may learn to avoid one another. Some cats are very social and enjoy living with other cats, while others prefer solitude. The determining factors will be the personalities of the cats themselves.
The initial meeting of the two cats should be done in a controlled environment. If two cats show signs of aggressive behavior at their first contact, this may sow the seeds of future conflict. It’s best to separate your existing cat from your new cat at first. The two cats should not be able to see or touch one another initially but should be able to smell and hear one another at first. Feed the two cats on opposite sides of the same door so that they learn that coming together can denote a pleasant experience. Even though they cannot see one another they learn to associate mealtime with the other animal through sound and smell. In addition to their regular meals give them some cat treats near the door that separates them as well. Little bits of chicken, tuna, cheese, and salmon are good. After a few days switch the cats from one side of the door to the other, this gives the new cat a chance to see another part of the house and your resident cat and new cat can become more familiar with each other’s scent.
Conventional wisdom suggests rubbing the cats separately with the same towel to intermix their scents. First, gently rub one cat with a towel. Then rub the other cat with the same towel. After both cat’s scents are on the towel bring it back to the first cat and rub him or her with it again. Some days later play with each of the cats near the door. Try to get them to paw at cat toys beneath the door. Ultimately they may paw back and forth with the toy among themselves thus furthering the socialization process. You are now seeing signs of success starting to take seed. Things should be getting easier from here.
About a week into this process, assuming you’ve seen no negatives thus far, hissing, growling, or the like, you let the cats see one another. Replace the door separating the cats with two child safety gates stacked on top of one another in the door jam. If you have a screen door this would make the process easier but screen doors are usually utilized on exterior doors rather than partition doors. For this step, you could use the help of a family member. Have a person and a cat on each side of the temporary barrier. Start by setting each cat down a few feet away from the barrier. When the cats see one another say their names and toss each of them treats behind them away from the barrier. Over the next few days continue offering treats and meals closer to the barrier. Encourage play near the barrier as well.
The final stage in this process is to allow the cats to spend time together without the barrier in place. The best time for these interactions to take place is after a meal or vigorous play. Have a squirt water bottle on hand and be ready to spray the cats with water if any fighting should occur. You should closely monitor these periods initially until the cats have gotten acclimated to one another. As time passes they should develop a normal relationship that will enhance your family’s home and environment. And you’ll know you made the right decision in adding a new member to the family.
A Final Note: If you’re bringing a new cat to a household that already has multiple cats, introduce each of your existing cats to the newcomer separately. After each cat has gone through the introduction process you can allow them to mingle.