Introducing A New Cat To Your Family — Unconventional Wisdom For Unconventional Cats

Introducing a new cat isn't as daunting as it may sound.


Conventional wisdom tells us, when we’re introducing a new cat to the family, to hide the newcomer away in a room for a few days, or even a few weeks. The theory is that the resident cats and their new house mate will get used to each other’s scents before they’re formally introduced.

But most cats don’t buy into the conventional wisdom on anything — including introductions. And this method has never worked for me or any of the cats I know. The cats still growl and hiss at each other when they meet, even if they’ve been separated for weeks.

Meanwhile, the stress and anxiety have been building as the cats wonder about the enemy lurking on the other side of the closed door. 

A Different Way Of Introducing A New Cat To Your Family

So this is my way of introducing a new cat to the family. In all my years of living with cats, it’s never let me or my cat family down.

  • When you and your new cat arrive at home, put the carrier down on the floor for a few minutes so she and the resident cats can see each other and pick up each other’s scent. Be casual and upbeat when you’re introducing a new cat. If you’re anxious, the cats will be, too.
  • Set the new cat up in her own room with food and water, a litter box, toys and comfortable places to nap. The room should have a sunny window. Shut the door, and give the cat time to adjust to her new surroundings.
  • If the cat is outgoing and confident, open the door after a couple of hours and let her venture out when she’s ready. Chances are, your resident cats will respect her space and leave her alone.
  • If the cat is timid and shy, put a screen door at the doorway to her room so she and the resident cats can see each other, become accustomed to each others’ scents and get acquainted. Or stack baby gates in her doorway. Leave the baby gates or door up until the cats feel comfortable with each other.

  • Don’t be upset if the cats hiss and growl the first few times they see each other. That’s how cats communicate and make sure everyone understands the rules. It doesn’t mean a fight is brewing. Watch their body language. If one starts grooming, yawns or turns her head away, she’s giving the other cat an opportunity to go someplace else without losing face.
  • Be patient. It could take days, or even weeks, for the cats to work things out and for the newcomer to learn the house rules. Try not to intervene. Trust the cats figure things out themselves.
  • Even after you take the screen door or baby gates down, your new cat might decide she’d rather just stay in her room. Don’t force her to come out. She’ll venture out when she’s ready. It could be months before she’s ready! In the meantime, leave food and a litter box in her room.

Creating Friendships That Last A Lifetime

Here are some ways to help your original cat and the newcomer become friends.

  • Make the original cat feel special. Give her the most praise and attention, even if that means ignoring the newcomer. The new cat will understand. Her feelings won’t be hurt!
  • Help the cats associate pleasant experiences with each other. Feed them together. Or play with them together with an interactive “wand” or “fishing pole” toy.
  • Gently toss a handful of treats and let them “hunt” for food together. Or give each a mound of catnip and let them have a catnip party.

Other Things To Know About Introducing A New Cat

  • Female cats can be more territorial than males and are often less welcoming to newcomers.

  • Don’t carry your new cat out of her room and put her down in a different part of the house. Without the opportunity to create signposts for herself, she could feel lost and scared.
  • Try to keep your new cat out of the basement until she’s comfortable and feels at home. She could hide in a cluttered basement for weeks or even months!
  • If you want your new and resident cats to eat together while she’s still living in her room, put bowls of dry food or treats on either side of the door. If you put her regular meals there, she might be afraid to eat.
  • Some people rotate their new and resident cats in and out of the new cat’s room to blend their scents, but I wouldn’t do that. The new cat feels safe in her room because it smells like her. If it smells like other cats she could think the cats are there someplace but she can’t see them. Imagine how frightening it would be to think strangers are lurking just out of sight.
  • While most cats enjoy living with other cats, some prefer to live alone. If your new cat isn’t fitting in with everyone else after five or six months, it would probably be a good idea to think about finding her another home. No one should have to live with house mates she hates!

Tip: Your new and resident cats will be happier with each other if they’re about the same age and have the same activity level. If your resident cat is a couch potato, she’s not going to enjoy living with a  live wire who races around the house all day. Kittens are rarely good companions for adults. All that youthful energy and nonstop need to play can be annoying and even frightening to cats who are all grownup. 

Read more about adding a cat to your family

Things To Consider Before You Adopt

How To Find The Perfect Cat

New Cat Checklist

What To Do When Your Find A Stray Cat