Introducing Cats Part III: Meeting, Mingling & Coexisting

Learn what to expect when new cats start sharing the same space.

Introducing cats is always a process. If you’ve taken the steps to keep the cats separate for 1-2 weeks, as well as scent swapping and combo feeding, you have a greater chance of success. This post will cover what to expect with the two cats finally meet, and how comingling will likely go the first few weeks.

The Introductory Hello Hiss

gif of cat hissing at another cat
Roo tells this foster kitten what’s up.

The first thing your resident cat will likely do when he meets your new cat is hiss. Sometimes, people freak out – do not – this is normal. Hissing is one way cats verbally communicate with each other, and is often a warning … kind of a “stand back” type of thing. One thing it doesn’t mean: “These cats will never get along.”

Think about it like this: When you meet a new person, are they instantly your best friend? Unless you’re a drunk girl in a bathroom, probably not. Cats are the same way – it takes time to build bonds and relationships, and it is pretty rare for them to meet and be like, okay, let’s lick each other and snuggle in the sun.

Disrupt Stare Downs

Stare downs are trouble. If there’s a tail flinch too – look out. Why? When one cat is fixated on something, it’s usually planning an attack.

cats staring each other down
Max is staring down Sox (RIP). This is when you would want to distract one cat away from the other to prevent a fight.

First, be careful. You don’t want your cat to direct the stare to you because then she’ll attack YOU. Here are a few ways to disrupt stare downs when introducing cats:

  • Try to distract with a toy and see if you can get the staring cat to look at and interact with the toy.
  • Use a noise to “snap” your cat out of the stare contest. I often clap really loud multiple times and call the cat’s name.
  • Shake treats. This is the tricky thing: You want your cat to look away and come to you for treats. If she does, you can reward her with a treat, but if she doesn’t do exactly what you want her to, you don’t want to reward her. For instance if she walks over to you but still stares at the other cat, no treats.
  • DO NOT SPRAY YOUR CAT WITH WATER. You aren’t teaching your cat to stop doing anything, you’re just teaching her to be scared of water. She doesn’t understand why you’re doing it, she just knows she doesn’t like being sprayed. People who use this technique never stop needing the water bottle. If the water was working, the cat would have stopped doing the undesirable action by now! Instead, the cat continues to do what you don’t like and you make it stop with water. If the cat was actually “learning,” the behavior would stop completely, and you wouldn’t have to continually reach for the water bottle.

Split Time: Resident Cat, New Cat, Both Cats

As you welcome your new cat into the home, it’s important not to forget your resident cat still needs you. Whether you need to devote one-on-one time for pets, brushing, playtime – whatever it look like for you – you have to do that. In turn, you’ll have to do the same with the new cat to make her feel like she’s part of the home, and get her used to some sort of routine.

As the cats get to know each other better, you may be able to play with them or feed them treats at the same time. Do positive things together to make sure both cats associate good things with you and each other.

Catify Your Space: Provide Vertical Environments

Before introducing cats, make sure you have some vertical space for them. A vertical cat tree or cat steps will help multiple cats get their “own” space, while they still do something together. It also allows shyer, less confident cats, the option to watch everything from a safe position. Make sure to reward your resident cat and new cat when they’re sharing the same space.

Coexisting Is a Good Thing

Three cats relaxing
Fosters Jackie (calico) and Ava (tortie) and resident Beaker coexist.

While cats are designed to live in communities, they are also highly independent. Some have had bad experiences with other cats, pets, or kids. It’s important to give the new cat a fair shot and integrating into your home. If you aren’t willing to give 1-3 months for an adjustment, maybe a new cat isn’t for you. Before you adopt a new cat, realize that you will have to work to make it part of your family, but time and patience will pay off in the long run.

I know, you want your new cat to be besties with your resident cat. Sometimes, it happens immediately. Other times, it takes months or even years. In other instances, they just coexist. All of those options are OK and healthy for your cats. Just because your cats aren’t besties, doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. Sometimes, they are just roommates, and that’s okay, as long as they aren’t harming each other (or you).

Help! It Isn’t Working.

You’ve done the research on introducing cats, you’ve given it three months and it simply isn’t working. You are worried about the safety of one or both animals. Now what?

You can contact a feline behaviorist for advice. They may be able to tailor a program based on your cats’ personalities, or even suggest some medicines to calm one or both cats enough to safely adjust.

If that isn’t an option, contact the person/rescue where you got your cat, and inquire about options. Do your best to rehome the cat on your own and avoid taking it to a shelter. Animal shelters serve a purpose, but they are often underfunded and overcrowded. They should really be a last resort.

My disclaimer, as always: Be smart. Do not keep an animal that is a threat to anyone’s safety. Hissing is okay. Hurting is not.

If you missed the other posts in this series, check out Part I and Part II.

By LizsKittyBootCamp

Hi, I'm Liz, and I'm a cat behaviorist who provides advice and insights on cat behavior.

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