Strategies for successful new cat integration,
copyright (c) 2021 Frania Shelley-Grielen. All rights reserved.
What is the best way to introduce new cats? How to make sure new cats get along
with each other? Integrating a new cat into your existing feline family is best done
as a gradual process for your established resident cats and your newcomer. Home
and territory are key elements for cat welfare. Know that in a natural environment
cats typically socialize with family members or choose affiliates to socialize with. In
our homes we do the picking and choosing and must allow for an appropriate intro-
duction and integration process to enable successful new relationships.
For starters, set up a separate room for the new cat. One room is best to begin with
as the cat needs to acclimate to this totally new environment of place with all the
novel infrastructure and attendant sights, smells and sounds (including you).
Limiting the new environment to one room will enable the cat to navigate this
uncharted territory on a smaller, less stressful scale. Remember to offer a cat bed,
perch, scratching pad or post, toys, food and litter box (keeping the litter box a
good distance from the food and bed). Do not be alarmed if there is a lot of
hiding initially, this is normal, the cat needs to get acquainted in this new place
with the environment and to trust in its safety and this can only happen with the
passage of time. (More on welcoming a new cat and for the extra steps a
feral or former feral may require.)
Resident cats may display little or no interest in a closed off room unless of course,
this is a room they have been using. If your original cat sleeps with you every
night, installing the newcomer in your bedroom will be problematic for the
resident cat, so do consider the best room for all concerned. To facilitate the
adjustment process for each cat, resident or newcomer keep in mind that cats are
extremely sensitive and reactive to changes in environment. As we are a part of
their environment we can be instrumental in familiarizing them to both new
situations and individuals. Follow these guidelines for success:
Start by being a calm and soothing presence. Your body language, eye
contact and tone of voice will set the tone for each and every encounter. Remember
to always announce your presence and acknowledge the cat with a greeting coupled
with the use of their name. Begin with first acknowledging your resident cat when
you enter your home and/or a room they are in. Keeping the cat who came first
also first in your interactions can help. Your affection, attention and engagement
are just as much of a resource as raised resting places, litterboxes, etc., to
Along with a soft and gentle tone employ an approach from the side rather than
facing directly in front of the cat, this is perceived as less threatening. Lower
yourself to cat level and offer hands for petting from below where they can be
seen by cat eyes. Avoid direct eye contact but do try a slow and steady blink
which is an affiliative response in cats.
Remember that cats do not respond to correction or punishment and tend to associate
that event with the person instead.
Begin interactive play time with all cats. Take three-five minutes each morning
and in the evening and play with your cats using an interactive toy. Fishing wand
toys where you can engage the cat by drawing a lure across or away from their line
of vision are best. (The lures on these wands vary from feathers to objects to
cardboard pieces; you may need to try several to see what best attracts the attention
of your cat.) Always start playing with your original cat first.
For the first week or so play with your newcomer in the room they are in without
asking for any other interaction (unless actively solicited). Try to stage your
play sessions with your original cat as close to the door of the newcomer’s room as
possible. Should your resident cat seem more interested in the door than in playing
try moving away from the door to get the attention back on play. You can work on
moving forward later in the process. (This can also be done by two individuals
playing at the same time with each cat.) Keep interactive play sessions as close to
being on schedule as possible - cats benefit from the sense of control schedules
provide but make sure they happen. Hide fishing wand toys when not in use.
Cats rely heavily on scent to process their environment. Scent exchange is a
great way to introduce the residents to the newcomer and vice versa. Try using soft
cat toys (and at least one catnip filled toy) and rub the toys behind the ears of the
cat, along the muzzle, on flanks and base of tail. Exchange cat scented toys in each
area. In addition to exchanging cat scents with the toys, add yours to the process:
A small piece of clothing from the bottom of your hamper (you can skip rubbing
this behind human ears since it is already scented) can be rubbed along cat areas
noted above and one item left in each cat area. Scent exchange should begin right
After the first week of the above progress to supervised interaction, play in
eyesight of each other. Install removable baby gates in the door of the newcomer—
one on top of the other. While the gates are in place practice this routine:
- Use the interactive toy each cat prefers most and play several feet away from
the opposing cat location.
- Offer high value treats to each cat in view of the other. Real turkey or chicken
usually rocks. For this they can be with in two-three feet of each other which
means that is where you should be standing. Toss treats behind or to the side
of cats not in front of them to avoid pressure to advance.
- Feed dinner or breakfast, try this one last and place food bowls a good six feet
Ideally, you would do this every day but it may not be possible. Even if you miss a
supervised interaction do make sure your interactive play session happens.
Exchange environments. You can do this anytime after the first week or so of
interactive playing. (Interactive playing continues throughout this process and
hopefully continues afterwards.) Allow the newcomer cat to explore the rest of the
house or apartment and the resident cat to hang out in the newcomer’s room. Stay
with the original cat during the first week or two of this process and advance to
allowing cats in exchanged environments when you are not there. Do this when
you are most comfortable to be out of the room; eating dinner, watching a movie
etc. Progress on both phases (being with the cats and without) gradually from an
hour, to a few, to a day to overnight.
More cats? More cat furniture. Experts recommend, with good reason, at least
one raised resting space and one floor space (igloo/box/bed) per cat. With cats
being both prey and predator, retreat from danger is more than innate in their
behavior. Cat trees and shelves placed properly, amazing next to windows to allow
cats to look outside, especially from a high vantage point and survey their interior
and exterior world safely. Adding more horizontal resting areas expands cat
territory for that sometimes necessary hiding/alone time needed in a multi cat
household while offering more cat friendly areas for cats to share or time share.
A cat tree (or a cat shelf) next to a window or on a corner wall will enrich their
world tremendously (more on making a cat friendly home) Add more scratching
opportunities too. Corrugated cardboard or sisal scratch pads with catnip/valerian
root) rubbed in offer a soothing and stimulating experience especially beneficial
around the presence of another cat.
"Read" where things are before progressing further with your integration.
Pay attention to the behavior of your cats. Know that if things are not proceeding in
a positive direction going back to what was last working and starting from there is a
good strategy. Should you have more than one original resident cat use the most
resistant cat as your touchstone here for timing since she is the one to win over in
accepting the newcomer cat as belonging to "her" apartment. To that end, paying
tons of attention to her by the door, treats leading up to the bowl, playing next to
the door, any and all good associations you can create for her will work. Again,
with cats go slow to go fast -so taking more time with any of these steps is a good
thing not a bad one, especially if you see that a step may be premature according
to the behaviors you are seeing in response.
Maintain exits and escape routes. Once cats are in the same room there is both
the opportunity for friendly contact or consternation. Make sure your cats have
clear paths to exit an encounter. Clear escape routes are key in avoiding actual
conflict. Can cats get on to raised resting spaces, around furniture and each other
without being backed into a corner?
Always closely monitor these exercises and use your judgment. You are
working toward allowing these cats to be in the same room together, with you in
it to supervise. Do not push for more than 10-15 minutes initially, while this may
seem like a lot of work remember –go slow to go fast with cats. The thing to know
is that you want to end each exercise or encounter on a good note in order for it to
be both a pleasant experience and positive association in relationship building.
Should you start to see signs of stress in any cat that are not replaced by calm
signals, you want to end the session as quickly as possible while remaining calm
(and if you can toss a treat or two that is accepted at the end, even better). For
example, a swishing tale in a cat is usually a sign of stress, if the tail stops swishing
and the cat appears calmed, good. Hissing is a warning signal (and a distance
increasing behavior) and as long as it is fleeting - "heard" by the other cat should
be allowed. More serious signs of stress include spitting, growls, yeowls, flattened
ears, whiskers back, tensed body posture and rippling muscles along the back. Can
you redirect tension with a toy or treat when you see it?
More on cat aggression and what to do here.
Always remember the 3 P's: No Punishment, Interactive Play, and Priority of
Original Cat. Taking the time to do a feline friendly integration can make all the
Watch for paws under the door or supreme indifference. Your new cat
combination may be interested in interacting with each other or not. Allow for
this and do not force a fast friendship if that is not what is being presented.
Juvenile cats or opposite genders may bond more readily or they may not. Cat
timing is vastly different than human timing and relationship may take months
or years to develop.
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|"in a natural environment
cats typically socialize with
family members or choose
affiliates to socialize with.
In our homes we do the
picking and choosing
and must allow for an
and integration process
to enable successful new
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
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