The ASPCA estimates that each year, over 3.4 million cats enter shelters across the country. Of those that are not later returned to their owners, 37% are adopted. It’s more than likely that some of those kitties will make their way into homes which already house a cat. The world is awash cats that need loving homes, and many people who already have a cat often choose to get another one – whether that’s through adoption programs, breeders, or just taking on a neighborhood stray. It’s a kind option, provided you have the time, resources, and space to look after more than one cat.
In this article
- Considering the adoption of a new cat
- What you need to make ready before you do so
- The best way how to introduce two cats
- The story of Yoda and Peter
How To Adopt Another Cat
When you already own a cat, the hardest hurdle is taken care of – your own induction into caring for a cat is passed. You have proven yourself a responsible owner, and you know what the demands are. If you feel like you can care for another cat, without compromising the quality of your life or either of the other two, then you can at least try.
The next step is to find an adoption shelter (unless you are getting a cat privately, in which case follow the guidelines anyway). The ASPCA has a list of shelters and registered places to adopt from – and you can be sure that you are giving a needy animal a home, or an unloved one a second chance, saving it from potential euthanasia. It’s the most responsible way of adopting, and while you’re at it, give back to them for their good work.
Next you’ll need to know a few basics.
How To Introduce Two Cats: Some Practical Concerns
We’ll start here with some of the more superficial, physical necessities to owning more than one cat. Two cats, obviously, exponentially increases the amount of cat-related items you need to buy. Cats, being more independent by nature, don’t tend to share, so some items – such as food bowls and cat beds will be needed in duplicate. Some items will even need to be tripled (read our article on cat litter boxes). This is a hygiene concern as much as anything else, but may also take it’s toll on your finances, so plan accordingly.
Does your new cat eat the same food as your first one? Or will it require a more sensitive diet? If it has a thyroid issue or perhaps is just a different age – these are the things to consider, as you will need to institute a strict feeding policy (i.e – not letting one greedy cat gobble everything up, or eat prescription food).
Do you have enough space to accommodate another cat? And, for the initial meetings – do you have separate places that they can retreat to? They are notoriously territorial; if you’re wondering how long it takes two cats to get used to each other, it can take longer than you think.
As all cats should be spayed or neutered by a responsible owner, the sex of the cats you are matching up actually doesn’t matter that much. It certainly doesn’t matter as much as the ages, which should fall closer to one another. An older cat won’t gel well with a young one, and a young one might not have the stimulation it needs from a mature companion – which could cause stress for either of them.
All of this comes secondary however, to the question that cat owners must ask themselves before they proceed any further: how will the two cats react to one another?
How to introduce 2 cats: patience is key
You may be wondering: how long does it take cats to get used to each other? When wondering how to introduce two cats, the common wisdom is to do “one sense at a time”. Rather than placing both in the same room and expecting them to accept the new situation, you must handle them delicately. The time scale can be a lengthy one, taking several days or even weeks depending on their personalities.
As you already know, cats are sensitive to changes, and while they can’t tell you they are stressed, they will express it in their body language. A very stressed cat may end up with a UTI due to increased constipation, which can in some cases be fatal.
The day you bring the second cat home, make sure any contact with your first cat is prohibited. Isolate them in separate areas. Next, you should ‘swap scents’. This means you take a towel and rub it on a scent gland (the cheek contains the most) of one cat, and present it to the other. This can also be achieved by presenting some of one cat’s bedding to the other. However you choose to do this, do it both ways so each cat has a chance to
Next, the cats must be able to see one another. If you have a transparent screen door, you need to get the cats on either side of the glass. If not, leaving a living room door ajar, and letting the cats see another through the opening will also suffice. This is a territorial concern. As cat behaviorists have noted,
“From the resident cat’s perspective, there’s an intruder in his territory. From the newcomer’s point of view, she has just been dropped on hostile turf. Both cats need to feel secure.”
Feeding the cats together (after a requisite amount of time allowed to appreciate each other’s existence) can also be beneficial, provided you supervise the whole time. This reinforces a positive feeling (eating food) with the presence of another cat. Stressed cats may not eat, so it’s important to get them to make this connection.
The story of Yoda and Peter: From strangers to furends
How to introduce two cats is not always obvious. What we as cat parents would think is best, may not be after all. About two months ago, we moved into a temporary little studio in the Netherlands while the owner of the place went on holiday. While she was away, we offered to take care of her cat, Peter. Peter is a lazy, gentle, somewhat over-sized, white and black cat with big green eyes. Long story short, we had to introduce Yoda and Peter. We thought it would be best just to let them “do as they do” and just see what happens. Low growls emitted from both of their stomachs. We knew this wasn’t the best way.
So we decided to start over. Yoda was afraid as Peter’s scent was covering the house everywhere, he was basically thrown into a new environment, and he felt vulnerable. We wanted Yoda to sniff around the place, so we let Peter outside (as he is allowed), so that Yoda could explore his new home. When Peter and Yoda were in the house at the same time, we would separate them into two parts of the house during the day, and during the night we would have them swap rooms so they could get used to each other’s scent without having to see each other directly.
We also gave them their dinner on either side of a closed door. This way, both Yoda and Peter could have the positive association from food while smelling one another close by. After a day we would crack the door, and continued like this until the door was wide open, allowing them to eat right next to each other.
Within one week, as they both were allowed to roam freely through the entire studio, I witnessed that they cautiously approached each other. Yoda let out a cute little trill, followed by one brief nose bump, and just like that two strangers became furends.
Final thoughts on how to introduce two cats
In conclusion, when asking “how long does it takes for two cats to get used to each other”, the answer is: as long as it takes. In other words, don’t rush it. It can be easy to get disheartened during this period, but remember that any adversity encountered may be a result of anxiety or panic – or even just a shyness in one or both animals, and not necessarily a sure sign that the cats do not and will never get along.
Of course, if their animosity shows no sign of dissipating, you must rehome one of them, it’s not fair for them to live in an environment where they feel unsafe all of their lives.