When it comes to cats, the more, the merrier. Feline housemates can play, cuddle and eat together peacefully, keeping one another company when you’re not home.
Cats in multi-feline households generally adjust well and don’t experience more stress than “only” cats. However, many behavioral issues do stem from inter-feline drama. Here’s what you should know before adopting a second cat to help them transition easily into your family.
1. Understand your first cat’s point of view.
If you currently only have one cat, take into consideration the life they’ve become accustomed to. An only cat enjoys access to all areas of their home, all of the food, litter-box access, and human attention is theirs alone. Their favorite surfaces are embedded with their own scent. They never have to share scratching posts or toys. When a new cat enters the home, all of that changes. Making changes gradually gives your first cat a chance to adjust.
2. Choose a compatible housemate.
There’s no solid evidence of what gender combination will create the least friction. However, spayed and neutered cats are less likely to act out territorial behaviors that may lead to conflict in your home. According to the Animal Humane Society, age and temperament are most important: your adult cat may be more likely to accept a new kitten than another adult cat. If you adopt a second adult cat, look for one that has a similar personality.
3. Don’t expect them to “work it out.”
It’s common for people to let the new cat loose in their home and hope for the best. Even docile cats may fight when a new cat suddenly enters their turf. By allowing the cats to fight, you’re setting them up for a tense relationship that may take months to heal – if it ever does. Cats do not need to fight to establish “leadership roles” or to get to know one another.
4. Create a sanctuary room.
Your new cat or kitten should have a private room with a litter-box, bed, food and toys for at least a few days after adoption. Your cats can safely get to know one-another’s scents through doors and baby gates. You can also switch their bedding so they can exchange scents.
5. Double up on resources.
Cats can become aggressive towards their housemates if they feel they have limited access to resources like food bowls, toys, scratching posts, perching spots and litter boxes. You should have at least one litter box per cat, plus one extra. Make sure those boxes are clean.
6. Keep introductions brief.
Have a helper assist you in introducing the cats for the first time. Don’t insist that the cats get up in each others’ faces – instead, engage them in opposite sides of a room with a meal, treats or toys. Be prepared to toss a blanket over each cat if they begin to fight.
7. Know your cat’s body language.
It’s not unusual for cats to be wary upon their first meeting. Look for alert, curious ears that face forward and a tail that loosely swishes upward. An arched back, fluffed tail and pinned ears indicate fear and possible aggression. Staring is a sign of an imminent attack.
8. Create a low-stress environment.
Your cats’ environment has a significant impact on their mood and their ability to handle stress. Adding mental enrichment such as cat trees, cat shelves, hiding spaces, nooks, and puzzle toys can help them better adjust to your expanding feline family. You can also use an essential oil diffuser to disperse a calming lavender scent. Scientifically composed Music For Cats can also help soothe your cats as they learn to become friends.
9. Don’t rush.
It can take weeks to properly introduce two cats. The cats will decide when they’re ready to take the next step. A slow introduction may be inconvenient, but too much, too soon can cause tension that will be much more difficult to resolve.
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