Q: I have a 1- to 2-year-old indoor male cat whom we’ve had since he was a kitten, and I’d like to adopt a 2- to 3-year-old female cat. Do you think my cat will be able to adjust? My husband is afraid my cat will start spraying to be territorial I really would like to adopt a cat.
A: Some cats do very well with new cat companions — other cats enjoy being the king of their households. If your resident cat has enjoyed the company of other cats, then it will be easier to introduce him to a new, friendly cat companion. When searching for a new cat to adopt, look for one who has a history of successfully living with at least one other male cat.
Before introducing the cats to each other, bring the newcomer to your cat veterinarian for a medical evaluation. Also, make sure that both cats are spayed/neutered and current on their vaccinations.
Gradual and stress-free introductions will encourage the cats to tolerate each other and possibly become friends. It may take a few weeks or a few months to introduce cats to each other. First, give the new cat her own sanctuary room, where no other resident animals are allowed. Confining the new cat to one room will help her feel secure and encourage her to bond with you. Keeping the cats separated for about 10 days helps keep them both healthy, just in case one of the cats has an upper respiratory infection or another contagious disease.
Equip the new cat’s room with a litterbox, food, water and a comfortable place to sleep. A secure window to look out, interactive toys and a cat tree or window perch will help your new cat adjust faster to her new home.
Start introducing the cats to each other about 7-10 days after you bring the new cat home. There are four phases to cat introductions. The phases encourage the cats to get to know each other one scent and one activity at a time, without their physically meeting each other. Each phase can last a few days or a week or longer, depending on how the cats are relating to each other through the specific activities.
In addition to the gradual introductions, place horizontal scratchers, scratching posts and vertical territory, such as cat trees, throughout the house. One way cats mark territory is by scratching. There are scent glands located on the bottom of their paws that broadcast information about them when they scratch. The vertical territory will also help keep the peace since the cats will use the different heights to demonstrate their places in their flexible hierarchy.
One of the most difficult parts of introducing cats to each other is the cat’s people resisting the urge to hurry the introductions. Be patient and do not rush through the introductions stages. Cat introductions done too quickly can have disastrous results.