Adopting a Second Cat
When I married Scott, we did more than promise to love, honor and respect. We also agreed to merge our households, which meant his indoor cat, Pumpkin, would have to live side by side with my outdoor cat, Ashley.
I wish I could say the transition was seamless, but that just wasn't the case. Ashley was used to ruling the household, and wasn't happy about the orange invader. Poor Pumpkin went from a small apartment to a large, active household and brazen cat who thought she was queen bee. There were several nights of snarling (from Ashley) and wailing (from Pumpkin) before these two learned to be as happy as we were.
But the good news is they did adjust, even though Scott and I did almost everything wrong. The even better news is you can learn from our experience and, using these helpful hints, successfully integrate your cat with a new one (or more!).
"Begin introductions slowly," advises Heather Black, media representative of the American Humane Society. "Some cats will immediately accept each other, but many won't. You're better off beginning slowly and set the relationship up for success."
Although slow and steady may be best, animal behavior consultant Sherry Woodard points out, "There's more than one way to introduce a second cat into the household. The old standard is that, as soon as the new cat is medically cleared, bring the cat into a separate room that has been set up with everything he needs."
"Then, right away, take two dry washcloths and wipe down the cats, then put the each cat's washcloth in the other's area so they can get used to the other's scent." Woodard suggests.
As soon as the new cat seems comfortable in the room, open the door and allow the cats to see each other without putting them together. Allow each his own things, so there is no competition for toys, space or even people.
"If you're using this method, it's important to spend time with each of the cats and make sure they both feel comfortable," Woodard says. "Then slowly start leaving the door open longer and longer. If they don't approach the door, start bringing them together."
The second, faster method, according to Woodard, is to have a rescue do the introduction, with one cat still in the crate or both on leashes. "This will give you better control while they're getting to know each other," she says.
Some shelters offer cat socializing classes, which allows the cats to practice socialization skills in the shelter. "It's almost like play dates," Woodard says.
After the cats are living together, watch their body language to see their comfort level. Put food and water in different places and keep multiple litter boxes so the cats can be as together -- or separate -- as they desire.
Black noted these signs of comfort:
- relaxed, blinking eyes, not staring
- relaxed body language and grooming (self or each other)
- normal appetite and litter box use
- moderate interest in each other or mutual indifference
"Cats are social animals, and enjoy each other's company, though not always immediately," Woodard adds. "Ultimately having cats live together adds to their quality of life."