How to Introduce Two Cats | Our Guide

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. But how to easily introduce two cats?

The world has millions of 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 introduce two cats

Getting Another Cat

Cats are like chips, you can’t have just one! So in due time, your one cat might turn into two. Now you’re wondering, but how can I introduce them without there being a cat fight?

First and foremost, getting another cat is no light decision. As you all know, you should adopt and not shop when considering adding more felines to your home. The ASPCA has a list of shelters and registered places to adopt from. 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.

So now you have your precious second (or third, or fourth..) kitty in your new home. How do you introduce your new kitty to other felines?

how to introduce 2 cats

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 might need.

Cats, being more independent by nature, don’t tend to share (at first). 

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).

how to introduce two cats

Do you have enough space to accommodate another cat? For the initial meetings – do you have separate places that they can retreat to?

Cats 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. Our Yoda always takes around 2 weeks to get comfortable with another cat.

Cats should be spayed or neutered before leaving the shelter and coming to your home. But all of this comes secondary 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 Two Cats

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.

how to introduce 2 cats

First Step: Introducing Their Smell

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 get used to the other’s smell. 

Second Step: Letting Them See Each Other

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.

Feeding while cats are in sight, or in distance of smelling each other 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.

Third Step: Positive Reinforcement

Cats learn through positive reinforcement, so praise them when they are calm around each other. Caress and love on both cats equally while in front of the other one. Reward with treats!

What Not to Do

Never force two+ cats to like each other, as this will probably ruin their chances of forming a connection.

Storytime: Yoda and Peter

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 this time around we would 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.

how to introduce two cats | fluffy kitty
Peter being photogenic

From Strangers to Fur-iends

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.

how to introduce two cats | yoda and peter
“Play with me Peter!”

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: How to Introduce Two Cats

In conclusion, introducing two cats requires patience. Simply, introduce them slowly. Increase exposure over several days or weeks. In other words, don’t rush it.

It can be easy to get disheartened during this period. However, stress not. It might take a few days, but in the end your cats can become the best of fur-iends. 

6 Comments

  1. Cristin Gueho said:

    Is it possible to start over with two cats that have had a really rough start?

    July 20, 2018
    Reply
    • Hi Cristin, thanks for writing to us!

      Once a relationship has established, it can be difficult to “reverse” feelings, so to speak. So if your kitties have hard feelings for each other, it will take more time and patience than usual. But don’t worry, we think our kitty friends can be reasonable with lots of gentle exposure, treats, and cuddles. 🙂

      Start by separating the cats, as if they’d never met. They will be able to smell each other from underneath the door. Start placing their food bowls on either side of the door and feed at the same time so they can begin to associate food (positive) with the smell of the cat. Over the course of 2-3 weeks, slowly open the door little by little, so that eventually, the cats can eat just next to each other without freaking out.

      We did this with Yoda and a cat whom we took care of for a few months while in the Netherlands. It took about 2 weeks or more but Yoda and Peter eventually could lay next to each other without being bothered – about a foot away. Yoda even tried to “reach out” and play with Peter, but Peter was a little shyer.

      We hope you can find a solution so that your kitties can be friends again! Best of luck and thanks for writing.

      July 21, 2018
      Reply
  2. Johny said:

    Hi there, thanks for the info, I’m getting another cat very soon and was worried about the introduction with my old ball of fur 🙂

    July 16, 2018
    Reply
    • Hey John! Thanks for your question!! No need to worry, the worst thing that could happen is they get in a fight, you separate them, and then it takes two weeks or more for them to get used to each other. Just make sure to start slowly, as mentioned in the article and everything will turn out great in the long-run! Best of luck 🙂

      July 16, 2018
      Reply
  3. Patricia Logan said:

    Regarding introducing another cat. This is the scenerio, I am fortunate to live in a suburban/rural neighborhood. I have 3 16 year old cats, siblings. This past spring a visitor appeared and decided to stay. He appears to be about 2yrs coming into maturity and from the beginning he was submissive in body language and temperment. It is now December and he is now being fed (I waited 4 months) and here to stay. The problem is this, my cats are inside/outside cats, so the interaction for 2 of them is distant, guarded but peaceful. The other one is disturbed by his presence, growling through the glass door, all puffed up. This same cat lost her hearing this year which doesn’t help, she can’t hear the newcomers submissive meows. She has started meowing loudly through the night and having me well trained I get up, let her out, let her in and back to bed. I don’t allow “Mister” to come into the house but he has been here now for 8 months. He set up camp in a window well and I just put a bunch of straw in it for him to create a warm nest. He is well protected from the elements . My thought was to let “Sunshine” see me pet and accept this strange cat to let her know he was OK in my book. Getting them in the same area is difficult because he already knows she is unaccepting and leaves. Mister doesn’t know she is deaf and is probably quite confused as to why the others let me hang around, why not you? My concern also is the stress this is putting on Sunshine. Any suggestions?

    December 8, 2017
    Reply
    • Hi there Patricia,
      Thanks very much for reaching out and sharing your story with us 🙂 How wonderful your kitties are well-seasoned and all siblings! I think this is the reason why Sunshine is having a difficult time accepting Mister. She had her family and all was well but now this strange neighborhood cat wants in to “steal” all the love and affection (hehe cats are territorial!) It would be helpful to keep them separated, but living in the same area. The indoor/outdoor situation is not really helping because they don’t ever have the time to sniff each other out and get used to each other. We often recommend separating into two different rooms and then letting them eat across the door, and then opening the door and letting them see each other while they eat. You could put there food bowls on the opposite side of the glass door maybe? So they will hopefully start associating good feelings with food and seeing the other kitty at the same time. Is Sunshine showing any stress indicators? It might not be too stressful for her, but annoying. What I do when we want to introduce Yoda to other animals is I pet the other animal lots and lots to get their scent all over me… Then I go cuddle Yoda. He is sniffing me all crazy-like but he doesn’t react mad because it’s me. So I always do this as the first step of introducing Yoda to another pet. You could try this – go cuddle one then go to the other – and then add the food on opposite sides of the door so they see each other. When it gets warmer, you can start opening the door a little.. Then more and more until they practically eat next to each other. I hope this helps! Keep us updated with your situation 🙂 and thanks again for sharing!

      December 11, 2017
      Reply

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