Introducing a Cat into the Household
Introducing a new cat into a household with existing cats can seem like an overwhelming task. The transition can take several weeks but planning ahead can reduce the stress, allow for an easier transition, and build a positive relationship between your feline companions.
The first few days you should isolate your new cat in a separate room with its own food, water, litter box, and toys. Then be sure to make an appointment with your veterinarian. They will conduct a physical examination and test the cat for viruses like FIV and FeLV which can be transmitted to other cats in the household.
In a multi-cat home the separation will allow each cat to adjust to the new smells and sounds while providing them with their own safe space. Your cats will show increasing curiosity as the time passes and once a veterinarian has deemed cats healthy, you can exchange bedding and facilitate short introductions that are short and supervised.
For the initial exposure, have one cat in a carrier and allowing the other cat to approach. Feeding both cats at the same time can reduce stress as well. Following this, allow cats to walk around and sniff each other.1 It is vital that you reward positive behavior, maintain normal routines, and do not allow unsupervised interactions until all signs of aggression have disappeared. Older cats may need a quiet space away from kittens for an extended period of time. Friendly, well-socialized cats may adapt to each other rapidly. Pheromonal products, such as Feliway, may ease the introduction, but should be used in conjunction with gradual introduction.1
It can still be overwhelming to acclimate a cat into a home without other cats. As your companion becomes more comfortable, he or she will be more likely to explore and test the boundaries. You should always check for potential hazards such as poisonous plants, full-length curtains, fireplaces, breakable objects, etc. The more prepared you are, the smoother the transition can be.
International Cat Care
Formally the Feline Advisory Bureau, International Cat Care is a charity passionate about improving the care of all cats. Their site contains much information on cat health information about helping acclimate a new cat or kitten. There is also information on how to introduce a new kitten to your resident cat.
The Humane Society website provides information on introducing your cat to other pets.
1. AAFP Behavior Guidelines