February 20, 2019
Author: Melissa Sitzman
Things You’ll Need:
- A room where you can put the new cat, separate from the existing cats. Such as; a guest bedroom, an extra bathroom, etc.. (Just make sure there are child safety locks on any cupboards and any harmful substances are stored to where kitty can’t get to them. If it’s a bathroom, keep the toilet seat down.)
- New Litter Box and Fresh Litter
- Dishes for Food and Water (separate from any existing cats dishes)
- Cat Food and Water
- A Few New Cat Toys
- A Cat Bed (you can make one out of some old towels and a box)
- 3 Baby Gates
- A Spray Bottle Full of Water
It’s a good idea to have a room set up before bringing a new cat home but, I know that’s not always possible. Whatever room you pick, make sure that there aren’t any hazards to the new cat or kitten. Kittens, especially, can fit into surprisingly small spaces! Any spaces under or behind furniture, should be blocked off. (Trust me, my cat Princess ended up stuck under my dresser, when I first got her!) Set up a new litter box, food and water dishes, some toys and some sort of cat bed, in the room you’ve selected.
When you bring the new cat inside, take it directly to the designated room it will be staying in. Make sure all existing cats are not in that room and shut the door. Only then should you let the new cat out of it’s carrier. The door to the room with the new cat inside, should remain closed, at least for the first day. If the new cat hasn’t been dewormed and vaccinated, the door should stay shut, until a few days after it has been to a veterinarian. Don’t leave the new cat alone that whole time! Frequently go in the room to check on him or her, check food and water, clean up the litter box and of course, spend some time playing with them. My husband and I always decide which one of us will spend the first night with the new cat. That way it feels safe and gives an opportunity to bond with it.
The other reason you want to keep the door shut, at first, is to allow your existing cats to smell and hear the new cat but, not see it. This gets them used to the new scent and let’s them know a new cat has arrived, without giving them a chance to fight. You also want to make sure you’re giving your existing cats extra affection and attention during this entire process. They may be agitated, curious, upset, scared and might hiss or even try to attack the door to the room where the new cat is. That’s normal behavior and it’s important to remember that cats are territorial.
After the first day, or after the new cat has had a few days after being dewormed and vaccinated, you can open the door. Before doing so, stack three baby gates, one on top of the other, in the doorway. This serves as a barrier between the existing cats and the new cat, while also allowing them to see each other. Make sure the baby gates are correctly installed and are secure, as one or more cats may try attacking the gates! The door should only be left open when someone is there to supervise what’s going on. If things get too heated and one of the cats is repeatedly trying to attack, shut the door and try again the next day. The time you’ll have to do this, depends on the cats. I’ve had a cat that was just curious and ready for a new playmate and I’ve also had a cat that hated other cats! Understand that it may take some time to get to where you trust the cats together.
When you have the door open, you should start feeding all cats near the baby gates, on their respective sides of it. You should not allow old and new cats to be together, without them, until they can calmly eat an entire meal, close to each other, without any incident. This could take a few days, it could take a year! Be prepared for that. Patience is an absolute must, if you want to make this work.
Once all cats can eat, without incident, you’re ready to let the new cat out of its room! Yay! Remove the two top baby gates and leave the lowest one. This allows the new cat to come out when they feel comfortable, it also allows existing cats to go in the room if they want but, leaves a small barrier they have to jump over, to do so. This should only be done under supervision.
This is when you may need a spray bottle of water. I know its controversial but, I would much rather spray cats that are getting into a fight, in order to get them to stop, then end up with injured cats! Cats don’t like water so, if they do get into a confrontation, a quick squirt of water should get them to stop. Doing so also sends the message that you won’t tolerate any fighting amongst them. You may want to give them a chance to stop before spraying them, by loudly saying, “no,” and clapping your hands but, if that doesn’t work, be prepared to squirt them with water.
All major bickering has to stop before you can take the final gate down and this should also be supervised, the first few times. Don’t leave the cats alone together until you’re confident that they won’t fight while you’re gone. Until you reach this point, put the new cat, back in it’s room and shut the door, anytime you leave. (Please, do not leave the new cat shut in its room for extended amounts of time.)
It’s worth noting that, not all cats will end up being buddies. With lots of patience and love, you should be able to get them to where they at least tolerate one another. Good luck!
I should mention, there are diffusers sold in major pet supply stores, that help calm cats. One brand is Feliway, and I’ve found that they do help.
I am not a veterinarian and am only sharing what has worked in my home. It’s always best to consult a veterinarian.
I’m not affiliated with or receiving compensation from any brands or products that I mentioned.