Having two, three or more feline friends all getting along and providing calendar worthy adorableness is a great goal to have. However, sometimes adding a new "friend" doesn't go as smoothly as we would like!
Here are some helpful hints to ensure smooth sailing in a multi-cat household.
Slow is best.
I know you want everyone to be the best of friends, but believe me; slow is best.
Gradual introductions give everyone the chance to get to know each other, at their own pace. By paying attention to your cats' verbal cues and body language, you can best judge how they are feeling, and how to proceed.
Cat A is the original cat. A for awesome.
Cat B is the newcomer. B for Barbarian invader.
Put cat B in their own room to start. This can be a guest room, a bathroom, or a family member's room that cat A isn't possessive of. This lets them get used to being in a new place one room at a time, and it also lets the cats interact under the door.
Watch how cat A approaches the door. Is it a slink? A stalk? A saunter? This can tell you if cat A is feeling scared, confrontational, or confident. Growling indicates a readiness to rumble. Hissing is a sign of fear. Meowing is generally interest, but can also be distress. As your cat's person, you should be able to discern the difference. Large dilated pupils, and pinned back ears show that your cat is not ready to meet cat B. Forward and alert whiskers are generally a sign of interest, and bode well for future interactions.
Let cat A and cat B interact under the door for the first day.
Keep letting the cats interact under the door.
You can also shut cat A in a different room, and allow cat B to explore the house. This lets cat B know more about their new and exciting forever home, and also allows the cats to cross scent trails with each other without a direct face to face interaction. Because slow is best!
While making dinner, or playing board games, or watching TV...some regular family activity, bring cat B out in a carrier, and set them in the room the family time is happening in. This brings them into the house with the family, and allows cat A to interact with them in a safe way. Cat B should feel reasonably safe in the small enclosed space the carrier provides. Cat A has all the power in this interaction. Cat A can approach as quickly or as hesitantly as they want to. They can go back and forth, without being pursued. And, if their kitty panties are in a bunch about having a new cat in the house, they cannot start a fight with a cat that is safe in a carrier.
Based on how the cats are acting with the carrier barrier, you can get an idea on how long it will be before they can have barrier free interactions.
When both cat A and cat B are ready for bed, you can take a sock or t-shirt that smells like their person, and rub it on the other cat. This way cat A smells the comfort of their person along with the scent of the new cat, and vice versa for cat B.
Some cats are ready to make friends in a few days.
Let's say your cats are taking a bit longer. (And that's ok, because slow is best.)
I'm a big fan of the use of baby gates. Its a barrier, but its see through. Invest in a tension rod, ($4) and make it so that there is a curtain/blanket over the top of the baby gate. Because we all know that your standard cat can leap a three foot gate without any issue. Use the top of the baby gate to secure the bottom of the curtain, and the tension rod to hold the top, at least 4 more feet up. If your cat has a favorite treat, or wet food flavor, give both cat A and B that special snack at the same time, on their respective sides of the gate. Make sure to leave a few feet between them, so they don't feel the need to protect this precious resource, but you want them to be able to see each other, to associate this yummy ritual with the other cat. Tell them how wonderful they are. Positive associations are great!
Let's say that cat A is a 6 year old, and cat B is 12 weeks old. Your introduction took a whole 4 days, because cat A has lived with other cats before, and kittens aren't a territorial threat. However, after a while, cat A loses some patience with cat B and gets a little snippy.
Adding vertical space, and additional hiding spaces can really help! Even if you just bring home a couple of cardboard boxes from the store, and put them in different rooms. Feel free to get as creative as you want!
The longest is has ever taken BCR's Captain to introduce an adult cat to a household full of cats and kittens was one month. And she took much less time to adjust to the cats in her forever home when she was adopted. It might take a bit more time than you planned, or you might be pleasantly surprised at how smoothly everything comes together.
Either way, take it slow, and shower everyone involved with love, and life will be good!
The Captain of Browncoat Cat is a self proclaimed crazy cat lady. Of course, we're all mad here...