Strategies for successful new cat integration, (c) 2010-2019 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 introduction 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 infra-
structure 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 resident 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 familiar-
izing 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 cats when you enter your home
and/or a room they are in.
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 at least five minutes each morning and
ten in the evening and play with your cat using an interactive toy. Fishing wand toys
where you can engage your 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.)
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 resident 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
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 (try
using 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 away
After the first week of the above progress to supervised interaction, play in eye-
sight 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
- 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.
- Feed dinner or breakfast, try this one last and place food bowls a good six feet away
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
Allow the newcomer cat to explore the rest of the house or apartment and the resident cats
to hang out in the newcomer’s room. Do this when you are most comfortable to be out of
the room and with this happening; eating dinner, watching a movie etc. This needs to
happen for a good few hours or a day or overnight.
More cats? More cat furniture. Cat trees and shelves in corners are great and amazing
next to windows. Cats love to look outside, especially from a high vantage point and
survey their interior and exterior world. Adding more horizontal resting areas expands
cat territory and offers 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. The
corrugated cardboard scratch pads with catnip 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 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 by
the behaviors being observed.
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
around furniture and each other without being backed into a corner?
Always closely monitor these exercises and use your judgment. 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
(remaining clam). 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 as long
as it is fleeting and you can redirect the attention with a treat or a toy 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.
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. Taking the time to do a feline friendly
integration can make all the difference.
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"Know that in a natural environ-
ment 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 introduction
and integration process to
enable successful new
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
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copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
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