In the wild, cats are largely solitary creatures and they usually only live in groups if they are related or they have opted to live together because they get on well. When you bring two or more cats together for the first time, you have no guarantee that their personalities are going to mesh well. But since cats are more likely to simply remove themselves from a difficult situation than to fight, it may not be so obvious to us humans that our furry friends are suffering from stress.
So here’s what you need to know to prevent an uncomfortable situation from developing.
- Cat’s don’t like to share
Cats lay claim to their possessions and will get pretty upset if you suddenly take those possessions and give them to a stranger cat. The exception to this is if the cats happen to be siblings and have grown up together sharing items. Otherwise, the easy rule to remember is one item per cat, plus one extra. In other words, each cat needs their own bed, litter tray, bowls and toys. And it’s a smart idea to have one extra of each of the items that isn’t allocated to a particular cat, so that they never need compete.
- Get the newcomer acclimated first
Choose a room for your newcomer cat that isn’t disturbed by others and allow your new cat to become acclimated in that room first before introducing to other members of the family. Set it up with its own bed, bowls, toys and litter box to make the room as inviting as possible. One advantage of the ‘safe room approach’ is that it gives the different cats a chance to get used to the scents of each other without having to deal too quickly with the stress of a meeting that could result in a fight.
- First impressions count
That first meeting between your cats will set the tone for their relationship. It is not wise to confine your cats when you introduce them to each other in boxes or cages, since this will only add to the tension. An ideal location for their first meeting would be a part of the house that the resident cat rarely visits and thus is not so entrenched in its mind as its own territory. And the introduction is best done at a quiet time, preferably when the house is likely to remain quiet for a few weeks. Mealtimes can be ideal for introductions due to the delicious distraction!
- Keep your newbie cat indoors
Regardless of where you come down on the indoors v. outdoors debate for cats, you should keep your new cat indoors for a period of time so that it can get used to its new home and family. If there is lingering tension between the different cats, a less dominant newbie cat might just decide to leave, given the chance.
- Entertainment = distraction
A good way to distract your cats from their stress is give them a bit of fun. Cat trees, cat dens, toys and tunnels should take your cat’s mind off things and hopefully allow your cats to develop their relationship together in their own time, on their own terms.
- Spraying means stress
If you suddenly notice that your usually tidy cat is spraying or soiling around the house, this a sign that they feel stressed out. Take action to alleviate that stress and you’ll have a much better smelling home.
- Not all spraying is bad
Cats, like humans, are greatly affected by their hormones. Feliway and Felifriend are fantastic spray and diffuser products that release a synthetic copy of the hormones used by cats to mark their territory, the presence of which makes them feel safe and secure.
With a bit of patience and planning, you and your cats are hopefully set to become one happy family.