Best practice for introducing two cats?
June 26, 2013 4:18 AM   Subscribe

What's the best practice for introducing two cats? I have a separate room with closed door, litter box, food, but how long do I keep the new cat in there for?

Current cat, Lizzie: 13 year old female burmilla (sterilised), friendly, affectionate, very shy and scared by loud noises (hides).

New cat, Max: very friendly younger male burmilla (sterilised) "Max was surrendered by
his family to a shelter. He is a delightful boy who needs a forever home. He grew up with young children and likes other cats and dogs."
posted by Year of meteors to Pets & Animals (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It might ease the introduction if you could open that door and replace it with a window screen for a few days so the cats can interact while still being separated.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:29 AM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Try placing Max in a cat carrier. Every time Lizzie looks at him without hissing, give her a treat. Slowly bribe her closer to Max, still in the carrier, giving her small treats as she approaches. Talk soothingly to Lizzie if she starts to hiss, but stop the treats. After a few minutes of Lizzie sniffing at Max, more treats. What you are trying to instill in Lizzie's little cat brain is that Max means good things (treats)!

I have introduced more than a few cats using this technique. Always put new cat in carrier. The established cat is more accepting of the new cat when he is not walking around in her territory. By using a soothing voice tone with both cats, you are not escalating the situation with loud, harsh noises which could be interpreted as "Danger! Bad thing! Full Alert!"
posted by JujuB at 5:21 AM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Good thing to do includes, swapping rooms so that Lizzie can go sniffing Max things with the door closed so that there is no threat and Max can explore the house also without Lizzie being present. Do this a couple of times. Feeding them wet food with a baby gate in place. Start with a long distance between them and then slowly decrease the distance. When it's time for them to meet, take two towels and rub each cat with them and then rub them down with the other cats towel to distribute the scent of the other cat. You can also swap sleeping beds and towels. What it comes down to is SLOW! There will be hissing but that just means, you are too close, back off. If they just hiss at each other you are doing fine. Expect them to just coexist, anything else is just a bonus. Also a 13 year old might not be to happy with a younger cat that wants to play 24/7.
posted by Ferrari328 at 6:52 AM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Our 10+-year-old cat does fine with his 1.5-year-old new friend. We did the separate rooms thing at first, for about a week - letting new guy out to play and explore a little each day, and making sure old grumpy cat had a safe "no new cat" refuge he could escape to when the new guy was on the (supervised) loose. After about a week grumpy old cat would tolerate the new cat but kept hissing at him if he got too close. A month or so after introducing them, we went on vacation for a week, and when we got back home it became clear that in our absence grumpy old cat had finally made friends with new guy. Even to the point of reciprocal grooming.

It helped that the new cat is so happy-go-lucky that being hissed at didn't phase him in the least. If your new cat is nervous in his new home, you may need to extend the introductory period.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:29 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

PS the cat intro meant we spent a lot of time ignoring the new cat and soothing the old one - to reassure him that he still had his place in the home, and reduce the perceived threat of new cat taking over.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:30 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

our go-to for successfully introducing cats (we've done it 3 times in the last 12 months; don't ask) is a combo of the above techniques.

We come home with NewCat in the cat carrier, and our resident cat always comes to meet us at the door, as is his wont. We set the carrier down in the middle of the living room and let the 2 get a good whiff of each other. Typically what happens next is that our RC, Marlowe, gives the carrier a few good sniffs and a good healthy hiss, then the carrier hisses back, and Marlowe runs away. Your cat mileage may vary.

Next we sequester NewCat in the guest room with his own food and water bowls, litterbox, cat tree (we have 2 big ones) and low and high hiding spots. Typically we will leave NewCat alone with not a ton of interaction beyond refreshing food/water for the first 12-24 hours, depending on the amount of hiding and/or meowing is going on in there. Cat personalities will be all over the map on this; some cats will want more time to adjust to their surroundings and tend to be hidey, some will want more interaction and reassurance and look for people / petting (so they'll generally be meow-ier). If there's a lot of meowing, one of us will hang out with the new guy more. I slept with our kitten Justin (RIP) for the first few nights because he came from a very interactive household and wanted company. Our latest rescue kitty is pretty independent but does like to have lots of toys and stimulation, so adjust accordingly.

This juncture (before any physical contact has been made) is an excellent time for everyone to have their claws clipped, if you haven't already done so.

After NewCat has been in the house for 12-24 hours and ResidentCat has been sniffing around the door (and reaching under, and maybe meowing and/or hissing a bit), we will switch them to let NewCat get a sense of place. For whatever reasons our cat intros have nearly always coincided with a weekend where we could swap cats and monitor things a bit better.

After the swap, we stack 2 baby gates in the guest room door and let them see each other. We've been lucky so far in that our resident cat is pretty chill with new intros and by the time we get to the baby-gate stacking interlude they're generally well along the path to being able to share spaces. We will generally sequester NewCat for one more night, or maybe 2, with monitored interaction during the day. Any hostilities are noted, and so long as it's just hissing and/or noise, and not an actual yowling cat tumbleweed a'la the Tasmanian Devil rolling about the floor, then we let them sort it out on their own.

All of the cats we've intro'd so far have been younger neuter males with fairly easy going dispositions. I've introduced younger cats to older territorial spayed females before and it has been... significantly more fraught and taken considerably more time, although this will also have a lot to do with the cat personalities in question.

Good luck and as always it's easier to help when we have pictures of the cats in question! :)
posted by lonefrontranger at 3:53 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

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