Introducing a new cat into any relationship can be hard. If you’ve ever owned a cat, you understand just how unique a pet they are. They need you and don’t need you at the same time. They’re peculiar and very picky. Every interaction with them must be on their terms – that is, if you want the interaction to be pleasant.
While these are tried and true facts for human/cat relationships, it’s not unlike the way cats behave towards one another. Simply stated, relationship building between cats is calculated, strategic and – let’s be honest – almost completely up to the cats.
To make things go smoothly, there are some important things to know and steps to take when introducing a new cat to your current feline resident.
Dominant Versus Submissive Behavior in Cats
To understand relationships between cats, it’s important to know that some cats are submissive, and others are dominant by nature.
A dominant cat pairs very well with a submissive one for obvious reasons. Two dominant cats are likely to face some conflict and turmoil as they attempt to get along.
What does all of this look like? In the home, a dominant cat may stake his claim at the foot of the bed every night, while the submissive cat sleeps on the floor.
Two dominant cats may duke it out frequently for the same spot. It’s all very territorial, with the general notion that dominant cats care much more particular about claiming what they believe to be theirs.
Introducing Cats to One Another
It’s often easiest to introduce two cats when they’re both young – ideally in the first year of life. This is when the animals are still adapting to new things and will be more open to accepting one another. Cats are creatures of routine, and this allows them to form a mutual routine together.
That being said, we know it’s not uncommon for pet parents to adopt a “younger sibling” for their current kitty. So if you’re one of those pet parents introducing a new cat to your family, there are some important things to keep in mind.
Introducing a new cat to your current kitty can be stressful on them both, which means it can be tricky for you. The way you introduce them will very much set the tone for their future relationship.
Here’s what you should do:
- Bring a towel or cloth that smells like the new cat into your home a few days in advance. Allow your current kitty resident to get used to the new smells before the new cat arrives.
- When you bring in your new cat, keep them confined to a single closed off room in the house for the first week.
- During that first week, you should bring your new cat’s toys, blankets, etc. out to your older cat, and vice versa. Let them grow more familiar with each other’s scent.
- Once both animals seem to be entirely used to the new smells, allow the new cat to roam free.
- There will certainly be some feelings of hostility (at worst) and curiosity (at best), so monitor their interactions closely.
Fostering a Healthy Relationship Between Your Cats
Just like any relationship, there’s sure to be lots of playing, and even some fighting. You’ll learn to recognize the difference. But even in more tense situations, you should allow the cats to work things out on their own. Only intervene if either animal seems to be in real danger.
This lets them establish a dominant-submissive relationship.
If you happen to have two dominant animals, you’ll notice a constant flip-flopping of “power” between them. This means that more high intensity moments will occur.
If this is the case, you should still avoid stepping in as much as possible. But there are additional measures you can take to keep the peace.
Make sure each cat has their own designated spot to lay (though we all know cats can and will lay anywhere), their own food and water dishes, and their own litter box.
If they don’t have to share much, they’ll each feel more at ease and less strained by the other’s presence.
It can take some time and a lot of getting used to, just like cats bonding with humans. But once the process of introducing a new cat is complete, and you’ve all become a family, the relationship ahead is very rewarding.