How to Introduce a New Cat

How to introduce a new cat. A grey and tabby cat snuggle with their ears perked. Helping cats get along. Introducing cats. New cat family.

Are you thinking about ways to introduce a new cat to your home?  We found out the hard way you can’t just put the new cat in front of the others. Expecting them to sniff and hiss it out in order to become friends.  Doing this, both animals will likely have behavior problems ranging from marking territory throughout your house, fighting or increased aggression.  The worst part is, once a cat starts marking in an area, its difficult to get them to stop.  I share this from experience. I had to find separate homes for my two cats because I couldn’t get them to stop marking and fighting.

The good news is there is a much better solution! We now have three cats that love each other, and don’t have any behavioral issues. When bringing in each new cat, we followed tips on how to introduce a new cat from web articles by: Best Friends, Pet Finder, and The Humane Society. I’ve summarized the steps that worked best for us in this blog post.

Decide what kind of cat you want.

Spend time with the cat or kitten at the shelter to ensure they will fit in with your current family.  For example, our cats are all very social and love to be around us.  We looked for these same traits to ensure a good fit. You can’t guarantee traits seen at the shelter will be the same at home, but this is a good start. If you aren’t sure about a cat, this blog post is about finding an animal that is compatible with your life. Another aspect to think about is age. If you have an older cat who doesn’t like to be bothered; a kitten who just wants to play may not be the best choice for your family.

Give your cats their own spaces

Ensure you have a dedicated room in the house with a separate litter box, food bowls, and a closing door ready for the new cat BEFORE bringing them home.  As soon as you bring the new cat home bring it straight to that room. Don’t stop in front of other cats.  Ensure the door is closed and the other cats have no access to this room. This allows the new cat to get used to being in a new space on their own. Saving you from the stress of too-early introductions .

Integrate your new cat slowly

For the first few days keep the cats completely separated. Keep the new cat in a private room and have the others stay outside.  On the fourth and fifth day, start feeding the cats outside the door from each other. Place the food bowls for the new cat just inside the door of the private room. On the other side of the door, place the food bowls for the others. This will allow them to associate the good feelings of feeding with the scent of the new cat.

Allow your new cat to explore alone.

On days six thru eight, continue feeding outside the door and swap rooms for short 30 minute periods twice daily.  Allow the new cat to come out for into the house to explore and sniff. While this is happening, the other cat(s) are put in the private room to get further used to the smell of the new cat.

Encourage safe play for cat interaction

On days eight through ten add play times under the door. Use a string or feather under the door. This way the cats can play with each other without having to see each other.  We have an office with a glass door allowing them to see each other through the glass. There can be some hissing in the beginning. We find that they usually start playing under the door together after a few hours. Especially since they’re still being fed together and we’ve been encouraging this play.  

Supervise space integration

On days eleven through fourteen continue all of the above steps but add short periods where the door is open. This allows them into each other’s spaces. Supervise this time closely, where you introduce a new cat. Ensure to move back to play times under the door if you feel they aren’t ready for this step yet.  Especially if they’re being aggressive toward each other and biting or fighting. A little hissing is normal but anything like excessive hissing or growling means they aren’t ready for this step yet.

Have patience.

Continue the above steps, making the visits together longer over time.  We know they are ready to be joined together when we observe the resident cats initiating play. Seeing them laying together or grooming each other is also a good sign.  The longest its ever taken us to introduce a new cat has been three full weeks. It has been worth the wait every time.  There’s nothing sweeter than seeing them nap together or groom each other.

We hope these tips have been helpful for you!  We’d love to hear what has worked for you to introduce a new cat to your family. Let us know if you have any questions.


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