Introducing Cats – Step by Step Process
*There is a myth that cats are solitary animals and don’t want feline companions-that is simply untrue. Cats live in colonies for a reason; they love their friends and family!
1. Get “Base Camp” ready.
Have a room ready for your new cat. They will need food, water, and litter boxes along with appropriate hide places, toys, a cat tree, treats, bedding, etc. Use the blanket given to you by us at adoption which will smell like your new kitty.
Here is a video on how to set up Base Camp for your new kitty.
Here is a video on setting up a room for a shy or fearful cat
2. Start New Kitty in “Base Camp”
The new kitty should be in Base Camp to start. Once they are comfortable and confident in this room, meaning they come out right away and seem to want to see what is on the other side of the door, you can move onto the next stage. But if they are hiding, creeping around and seem uneasy, they are not yet ready. It’s important to socialize your new kitty properly while in their Base Camp.
You can check out our YouTube videos on socializing shy cats here –
3. “Site Swapping”
When they are ready and confident in Base Camp, you do what is called “Site Swapping”; which means you take your resident kitty and put them into Base Camp. Allow your new kitty to explore a new part of the house, hopefully a place your resident kitty loves. This should be another room and not the whole house as that may be too much space all at once. Allow them each to explore the new territory. Play with each cat as they explore, reward them with treats, and pair anything they like or enjoy with the new spaces. This can be for just 20 minutes a day or even less; the amount of time depends on the new cat’s level of comfort. You continue to do this as your new cat explores a different room each time.
*IMPORTANT: The cats should not physically see each other while you swap spaces. This may mean you need to put your resident kitty in the bathroom for a minute while you place the new cat in an unknown area, and then put your resident kitty in Base Camp.
*If either cat shows any signs of aggression or fear, end the site swapping and put them back in their designated spaces. They may not be ready for this stage just yet.
*If all goes well, you want to do this “Site Swapping” several times over a few days if needed.
*Some cats may be ready within a couple hours and some may need more time-days, weeks, etc. Just be aware of your new cat’s behaviors and comfortableness in new places.
4. Start Feeding
Next step is to start feeding the cats (breakfast and dinner) near the door or “barrier”-your resident cat will be on the opposite side of the room. You need to see where your new cat is comfortable enough to fully eat their meal. That may be 10 feet away from the door or closer or further. The cat needs to walk to the bowl comfortably and not feel any fear. That same distance should be given to your resident cat. So if your new cat feels comfortable eating 7 feet away from the door, you will place your resident cat’s bowl 7 feet away as well. With every meal you will move the bowls closer. This is pairing mealtime and a very positive and rewarding experience with the other cat.
5. Introduce Visuals
Once they are about a foot apart from the door and with the door still closed, it’s time to introduce some visuals. You can put up a screen door or some baby gates. You can stack two baby gates on top of each other; you want something high enough to where cats cannot jump over them.
6. Drape a Blanket or Sheet
First step is draping a blanket or sheet over the gates and start the feeding ritual again. Place the bowls farther away again and start slowly raising that sheet or blanket with every meal and seeing if you can move the bowls closer together. All of this “gate/screen door” work should revolve around mealtimes, NOT just the cats hanging out. Once they get comfortable eating while being able to fully see each other without the blanket or sheet present, it’s time to remove the barrier.
7. Remove the Barrier
You begin feeding them and while they are eating, you remove the physical barrier, the gates, or screen door. You may need to engage one in play or something they really like if eating their meal is not engaging them. You do this “no barrier” interaction in short sessions at first.
*IMPORTANT: Always end on a positive note. Once you see one cat acting fearful or lacking confidence, you end the session and close the door. You will do the same thing at their next meal and try again.
8. Extend the Physical Interaction
Keep extending that physical interaction each feeding time; maybe it starts with just 5 minutes, then 10, 20, etc.
9. Prevent Aggression or Fighting
You always want to prevent any aggression or fighting. Start with small, short sessions and take your time. A physical fight or any negative interaction can possibly set them back.
Here is another video about introducing cats: