Tip for gradual introduction of an incoming cat to a resident cat

There are at least three ways of introducing an incoming, new cat to a resident cat’s home which is of course their home range. They are as follows:

  1. Using a crate;
  2. Using a cat carrier;
  3. Using an escape-proof room.
Cat in crate method of introducing a new cat into a resident cat's home
Cat in carrier method of introducing a new cat into a resident cat’s home. Image: Pixabay.
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Using a crate

A crate about a metre square and about 75-100 cm high, is a good way to introduce a new kitten or cat to your home in which there is a resident feline. These crates come folded and they can be snapped open to form a rigid box.

You can place a litter tray in one corner and food and water bowls in the opposite corner. You can add a blanket or a cat bed beside the water bowl.

Plastic sheeting should be under the crate to prevent soiling of the floor. You can place a blanket or large towel over the top of the crate at one side of it to help provide a sense of security for the cat or kitten. You see this a lot in cat shows by the way when show cats are kept in these sorts of crates for quite long periods.

With the incoming cat inside the crate the resident cat is allowed to come into the room and investigate. You let the resident cat do as they please and reward good behaviour by providing their favourite food or interacting in a favourite way.

It is said that the ideal time to set up this introduction is after delaying a meal for about an hour or so to ensure that your resident cat is hungry. And you should feed your cat in the presence of the newcomer.

Years ago my new cat hiding under a coffee table while being introduced into my home
Years ago my new cat hiding under a coffee table while being introduced into my home. Photo: MikeB

Using a cat carrier

An alternative to a dog crate is to place your cat or kitten into a cat carrier and place it on a table or chair which is above the eye level of the resident cat. This avoids direct eye contact. The resident cat is allowed in and he or she will investigate and obviously be interested in the newcomer. If they object and start becoming aggressive, they should be distracted but they should not be rewarded.

These meetings can happen every few hours and if all goes well you can try feeding them both at the same time. When it is safe to do so you can feed them both with the incoming cat out of the carrier at one end of the room and the resident cat at the other end.


Using an escape-proof room

An alternative is to select a room and the incoming cat can live there for the first few days. Within the room there should be a good hiding place for the newcomer and litter tray at one end and food and water at the other end together with a comfortable bed and some toys to play with.

There should be a window and access to it but of course it should be closed. We know that cats like to look out of windows as it is a form of cat television. Initially you should stay with your new cat and get down to their level while they explore with freedom.

Patience is the byword and the cat should not be grabbed or forced to do anything. Your voice should be melodious and gentle and the whole situation should be calm. A good sign will be that they eat, drink and use the litter tray normally and then sleep well afterwards. Once they get used to their new environment, I would suggest that they should be introduced to the resident cat cautiously and perhaps if you foresee difficulties, you might then incorporate the crate or cat carrier introduction process as a second stage in a different part of the home.

RELATED: Resident cat, Andy, loves kitten newcomer, Opie, and makes him very welcome

It’s probably fair to say that not all resident cats will be prickly and difficult with an incoming cat (click link above). This is about individual cat personalities. The default situation will be that a resident cat will object to an incoming cat because of their instinctive desire to protect their home range but we’re talking about domestic cats living inside a human home where the home range is much reduced and in multi-cat homes they overlap tremendously and therefore the classic model of distinct home ranges is blurred. This, I would argue, encourages adaptations and more tolerance by domestic cats in multi-cat homes.

Below are some more pages on introductions.

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