How Do You Do? Introducing Cats - Cat Info Detective

How Do You Do? Introducing Cats

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Greetings feline friends! How do you do? Skye Blake here to help you introduce a new cat to the resident feline.

“I’m Fluffy”… “I’m Shadow, pleased to meet you”.

I’ll bet you never thought about cats greeting each other politely, did you?

paw prints coming in from a distance

Let’s take a look at why proper introduction is so important and how you can accomplish it…

The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs.

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian or behaviorist) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page. 

All sources are at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping… 

Why Do Cats Need Special Introductions?

tabby cat sniffing, licking white rex cat, introduce, how do you do

You’re probably wondering, “What in the world is so important about doing special introductions for cats?”

Don’t you just bring a new cat in, open the carrier door or drop her in the living room with the other cats?

Can’t they sniff each other, shake paws, and say “how do you do”?

angry cats, fighting, how do you do

They may hiss and fight a bit, but they’ll work it out, right? Wrong!

This is because cats are territorial… a new cat is invading the territory of the resident cat.

We felines are NOT little dogs, pack animals slobbering all over each other.

Bengal cats sniffing noses, introduction

We size each other up and decide whether another cat’s scent means friend or foe.

The key to a proper “how do you do” is allowing cats to slowly accept each other through scent, not sight.

Once cats realize that the new cat is not a threat, they’ll be able to live together peacefully.

2 cats sleeping together in sunlight, window, introduction

They may never snuggle together, but they’ll learn to tolerate each other and that’s just as big a win!

The good news is if you’ve done it all wrong and are having trouble, you can start over and reintroduce your cats.

Discover more about our view of the world at “Cat Behavior – Or Is My Cat Nuts?

Before the “How Do You Do”

a white cat sitting with a black, white cat, how do you do

The biggest mistake you can make, especially if you already have resident cats, is not doing your pre-intro preparation.

Choosing a new cat rationally with the best interests of all parties in mind will have a much greater chance of success than “falling in love” with a cat and expecting everyone else to accept it.

Start by asking (and answering) these questions…

Matching Purrsonalities

3 kittens playing in a basket

Before getting another cat, think about your resident cat’s age, purrsonality, and energy levels.

  • Is she easy going or sensitive?
  • Ruler of the roost or chill?
dark tabby cat resting head on paw
  • Is she a kitten, adult, or senior?
  • Do you have multiple cats of different ages and energy levels?
  • How well do they get along?
two kittens playing, fighting
  • Are there any who are under unusual stress, like a medical condition, or bullying by another cat, dog, or person?
  • Is there one who would willingly take on the energy of a kitten?
  • Will a new cat be too disruptive to your current kitties, dogs, people, and other critters?
senior majestic tabby cat with paws crossed, how do you do
  • Will there be enough territory for everyone to coexist peacefully and each cat has quiet spots for sleeping, litter boxes, eating and drinking?
  • Do you have the time, energy, patience, and inclination to take charge of the introduction period?

Matching these traits, stress, and energy levels is important for all the cats to be able to adjust to each other.

2 cats on cat tree

Here are some examples…

A senior cat is less likely to put up with the high energy of a kitten, but two kittens or a young adult will most likely enjoy playing together and running around.

A more dominant “take-no-prisoners” adult cat will do better either alone or with a more laidback but confident cat who won’t be constantly challenging him or allow himself to be bullied.

Experiences

2 cats by a window, one grooming the other

It’s generally known that early positive experiences make a cat more likely to extend a paw and say “how do you do” to a new cat.

Cats without early experience with other cats may have a more difficult time adjusting, so you’ll need to be patient when training.

These experiences set up a cat for easier introductions…

kittens lounging together
  • Had positive interactions as a kitten with at least several adult cats
  • Spayed/neutered as a kitten or before introduction into home
  • Is a kitten between 2 months and a year old
  • Is related to resident cat
  • Came from parents who are friendly to other cats

Pre-existing Problems

calico cat in cat tree bed

If you already have multiple cats at home, take a hard look at how well they’re getting along.

If you see signs of stress and unhappiness, like peeing outside litter boxes or a cat who hides most of the time, take the time to fix those issues before trying to add another cat.

Don’t bring home a new cat if your resident cat is sick, recovering from an illness or injury, or is dealing with a life changing situation.

tabby cat in tub-yawning or angry

Examples would be if a cat, dog, or human to whom she was attached recently died or left, or if new children or adults have recently moved into your home.

If your cat had a companion who died, it’s probably best to wait until you’ve dealt with it yourself before attempting to introduce a new cat.

Your sad energy affects your cat and your ability to continue with the daily routine and rhythms of her life.

woman wearing bathrobe sitting on bed with cat and laptop computer

Rather than focusing entirely on what you’ve both lost, make an effort to help your cat stay in her usual routine as much as possible.

Play and feeding routines are especially important for getting your cat happy again.

Should You Even Have Another Cat?

man thinking, pondering, wondering, choice, question

While answering these questions as objectively as you can, it might become clear that everyone will be better off without a new addition, at least for now.

It may be a difficult decision, but there are situations where there should be no disruptions to the status quo and your decision to wait is the best one.

Don’t assume that your resident cat will get along with any cat just because he got along with a cat in the past.

tortie wearing medical cone (cone of shame)

As mentioned above, if you have behavior issues with the pets you have now, or someone is dealing with medical issues who will be hurt by the stress of a new cat, you owe it to all involved to deal with these issues first.

Before making the final decision, ask yourself these questions as well…

balancing money figures
  • Are you able financially to provide for all your cats need?
  • Are you able to put litter boxes, food and water sources, beds, etc., in various areas to avoid overcrowding and stressing the cats?
  • Do you have enough room in your home for everyone to coexist comfortably?
Graphic of cat bed, litter box, litter
  • Do you have the time and energy to pet, groom, train, and play with each cat individually daily?

You will all have a longer, happier life together when you approach this from a mature perspective, creating a home where everyone can feel safe and comfortable.

Male or Female?

2 cats nose to nose, facing each other, introduce

Some people believe that the sex of the cats will affect how well they get along.

One popular thought is that you should always get a cat of the opposite sex, never two males or two females.

However, behaviorists who have many years of experience and observation, have found that the sex of the cat doesn’t seem to make any difference.

Curious tabby, white kitten sitting on back of chair

Matching temperament, energy, and purrsonality are much more important factors.

This is primarily because male cats, once neutered, usually match the calmer attitude of female cats.

An exception is the age at which a male cat is neutered… the older the cat, the more likely he won’t get along with other tomcats, although females could be accepted.

tabby, white cat hunched, loaf

These tomcats are the mostly likely candidates for a one-cat-only home.

Once you’ve decided your household is ready for a new kitty, get everything set up BEFORE bringing him home…

The Safe Space

fearful cat hiding

Before you bring in a new kitty or when separating warring parties, you must set up a safe space, a.k.a., “sanctuary” or “basecamp”.

A safe space gives her a quiet place to get her bearings, explore new scents, and get to know you.

“Why is this important?”, you ask… let’s discover answers at “The Safe Space for Cats“.

Pre-Introduction Vet Visit

vet writing and curious grey tabby coming out of carrier

Before bringing her home, take the new cat to the vet for an exam, flea treatment, deworming, vaccinations, microchipping, and tests for FIP and FeLV.

If you got the cat from a reputable shelter or rescue, they should have already done this and will give you papers with all the appropriate information.

You don’t want fleas, ticks, and the possibility of serious diseases to affect the rest of your household.

The Rest of the House

shelves & chair - living room, den

Preparing the rest of the house is important for a smooth transition from the safe space once the introductions are made.

Disrupt the resident cats’ lives as little as possible while accommodating the needs of the new cat.

Litter boxes are important territorial scent signposts.

Some cats won’t use the same box as other cats… some won’t pee in the same box they poop in.

Black cat in litter box, introducing

Have at least one box per cat plus one extra.

You want to give them options, so there’s no need to reject the boxes and find alternative places to go!

Discover more about the importance of boxes and their locations at “Cat Litter Boxes… Location, Location, Location“.

graphic of cat tree with cat holding ball of string, yarn

Getting the rest of your house ready for the new addition is mainly the same as prepping the safe space.

You may already have catproofed your home if you have other cats, but it’s good to double check.

Use pheromones in the resident cats’ areas to help them be calm and happy.

Preparing Resident Cats

persian cats on cat tree, introduce, how do you do

Whether it’s one or more resident cats, bringing a new cat into the house is a disruption of their world.

The new cat feels like he’s been parachuted behind enemy lines and the resident cats see their territory being invaded.

Cats need to feel secure and confident in their ownership of territory, so this is a big deal to them.

2 tuxedo cats looking up at person

Even though you hid the new cat in a carrier as recommended, the others know something’s afoot!

Your most important job in this situation is to be calm and act normal.

graphic cartoon of cat opening door, fear, caution, how do you do

Don’t feel sorry for anybody and don’t overcompensate with extra attention, petting or food for the resident cats.

Now that you know how to prepare for bringing home another cat, follow this step-by-step guide for a successful “scent-before-sight” introduction.

Introducing New People

man drinking coffee next to cat, introduce

Bringing in new people is another territorial invasion that can worry or frighten a cat.

If you get married, bring in a blended family, or have elderly parents move in, it creates new dynamics.

Your cat had a regular rhythm of hunt, catch, kill, eat, groom, and sleep each day that’s now completely interrupted.

woman and child with black cat, introduction

People are able to shake hands and say “how do you do, my name is…”

This gives them a way to size each other up and decide if someone’s friendly or not.

Cats can’t do that… people just expect us to make adjustments without properly making non-threatening introductions.

children playing with white cat, wand toy, how do you do

Introduce new people, especially children, by teaching them how to play with and feed your cat.

Each person who participates this way gives your cat a positive association with them and he learns to trust them.

Children, as well as adults, can have fun playing together and training cats.

Moving to a New House

moving-day-lady-with-boxes

Moving to a new house is an upheaval for you and earthshattering for your pets, especially cats.

They now have no familiar territory!

Discover how to move your cats as stress-free as possible at “Moving With a Cat… An Adventure“.

This video answers questions about things to consider when getting another cat, specifically when the resident cat is older…

“Cat Introductions: Does your Senior Need A Friend?”, Jackson Galaxy, August 26, 2020

Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.

However, sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

“Animal House”, Chapter 10, Cat Wise by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Penguin Books, Penguin Random House LLC, New York, pp. 162-172

“Living with Multiple Cats” by Leticia Mattos De Souza Santas, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVB, Decoding Your Cat, by Editors, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co., New York, hmhco.com, pp. 93-114

“Cat Etiquette: The Art of Introducing, or Reintroducing, Cats to Each Other”, Chapter 4, The Cat Whisperer by Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Bantam Books, The Random House Publishing Group, New York NY, 2013, www.bantamdell.com, pp. 125-170

Cat vs. Cat” by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, New York, NY, 2004, pp. 43-71

“New Kit on the Block”, Tiny But Mighty by Hannah Shaw, Plume, Penguin Random House LLC, penguinrandomhouse.com, pp. 257-8

“The Trainable Cat” by John Bradshaw and Dr. Sarah Ellis, Basic Books, Hachette Group, New York, 2016, pp. 115-160

Think Like a Cat, How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat – Not a Sour Puss” by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, New York, NY, 2000, 2011, pp. 216-236

Total Cat Mojo“, by Jackson Galaxy with Mikel Delgado, PhD, Tarcher Perigree, Penguin Random House, LLC, penguinrandomhouse.com, New York, NY, 2017, pp. 156-246

Updated December 28, 2023

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