Expert Advice: Introducing a new cat and other FAQ's

While some cats do enjoy the companionship of other cats, most tend to be loners at heart.  Aggression between cats at home is therefore a common problem for cat owners.  It can often be seen in cats newly introduced to each other but also between cats that have previously been friendly until an event has resulted in a problem in their relationship. 

Alexandra Beck, one of our technical experts, answers questions below commonly asked about cat rivalry and gives advice on how you as the owner can help to alleviate the problem.

What​ ​is​ ​the​ ​best​ ​way​ ​to​ ​introduce​ ​a​ ​new​ ​kitten​ ​to​ ​a​ ​resident​ ​cat?

The first meeting is essential to help them get along, and should be managed gradually. It’s advised to confine the new kitten (or adult cat if you adopt an adult) to a room that has all of the essentials a cat needs such as a bed, water, food, litter tray, scratch post, and toys.

Whilst the new cat is restricted to one room, ​you can swap scents between the cats so they get used to each other’s scent before meeting for the first time. Scent swapping can be done either by exchanging the bedding or by you stroking one cat after the other. Another easy way is rubbing​ ​a​ ​cloth​ ​material​ ​on​ ​one​ ​cat’s​ ​cheek​ ​and​ ​placing​ ​the​ ​cloth​ ​with​ ​the​ ​other​ ​cat.

The first meeting between the cats should be made under your supervision. You can use food as a reward during this time to make them both enjoy the experience. ​Each cat should be able to​ ​have​ ​an​ ​escape​ ​route​ ​if​ ​they​ ​do​ ​not​ ​feel​ ​happy.

Using a FELIWAY Classic diffuser during this first introduction is advised to help your cats feel safe and secure. This helps reduce the chance that they will view each other as a potential threat. Plug in the diffuser at least 24 hours before letting the cats meet and leave it for at least one month. Sometimes your cats may need longer to adjust, in which case you can use FELIWAY​ ​CLASSIC​ ​refills​ ​as​ ​long​ ​as​ ​needed.

For​ ​optimum​ ​results,​ ​plug-in​ ​the FELIWAY​ ​CLASSIC​ ​Diffuser​ ​in​ ​the​ ​room​ ​your​ ​cats​ ​spend​ ​most​ ​of​ ​their time.​ ​If​ ​cats​ ​do​ ​not​ ​share​ ​the​ ​same​ ​living​ ​areas,​ ​this​ ​may​ ​require​ ​one​ ​FELIWAY​ ​CLASSIC​ ​Diffuser​ ​in each​ ​area.​ ​Additionally,​ ​each​ ​cat​ ​should​ ​have​ ​access​ ​to​ ​their​ ​own​ ​essentials​ ​(separate​ ​food​ ​and​ ​water bowl,​ ​litter​ ​box,​ ​resting​ ​area,​ ​scratching​ ​area).

My​ ​newly​ ​ado​pted​ ​cat​ ​is​ ​fighting​ ​with​ ​my​ ​resident​ ​cat​ ​-​ ​is​ ​there​ ​anything​ ​I​ ​can​ ​do​ ​to​ ​solve​ ​this?

It’s​ ​possible​ ​that​ ​the​ ​introduction​ ​has​ ​been​ ​made​ ​too​ ​fast,​ ​and​ ​that​ ​your​ ​cats​ ​need​ ​more​ ​time​ ​to​ ​adjust to​ ​each​ ​other.

Using​ ​a​ ​FELIWAY​ ​FRIENDS​ ​Diffuser​ ​can​ ​help​ ​them​ ​better​ ​cohabitate.​ ​They​ ​may​ ​have​ ​two​ ​different personalities,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​comforting​ ​message​ ​from​ ​the​ ​maternal​ ​pheromone​ ​will​ ​help​ ​restore​ ​harmony between​ ​them.​ ​The​ ​diffuser​ ​should​ ​be​ ​left​ ​plugged-in​ ​continuously,​ ​for​ ​at​ ​least​ ​one​ ​month.

You​ ​should​ ​also​ ​ensure​ ​that​ ​all​ ​essential​ ​resources​ ​are​ ​provided​ ​to​ ​each​ ​cat:​ ​this​ ​means​ ​that​ ​you should​ ​still​ ​have​ ​multiple​ ​resources​ ​(at​ ​least​ ​one​ ​per​ ​cat)​ ​spread​ ​in​ ​different​ ​locations​ ​in​ ​your​ ​home. This​ ​will​ ​help​ ​prevent​ ​competition​ ​for​ ​access.​ ​Feeding​ ​separately​ ​is​ ​also​ ​key​ ​so​ ​that​ ​your​ ​cats​ ​don’t feel​ ​like​ ​they​ ​are​ ​in​ ​competition​ ​for​ ​food.​ ​This​ ​can​ ​be​ ​easily​ ​achieved, for example​ ​by​ ​feeding​ one​ ​cat​ ​on​ ​the floor,​ ​and​ ​another​ ​cat​ ​in​ a ​higher​ ​area,​ ​such​ ​as​ ​on​ ​the​ ​kitchen​ ​counter.

To​ ​encourage​ ​them​ ​to​ ​accept​ ​each​ ​other​ ​you​ ​can​ ​also​ ​use​ ​“scent​ ​transfer”,​ ​by​ ​rubbing​ ​one​ ​cat​ ​from face​ ​to​ ​tail​ ​with​ ​a​ ​soft​ ​cloth​ ​or​ ​a​ ​brush,​ ​then​ ​the​ ​other​ ​cat,​ ​to​ ​mix​ ​their​ ​smells.​ ​Leave​ ​one​ ​cloth​ ​or​ ​brush with​ ​each​ ​cat,​ ​for​ ​example​ ​where​ ​they​ ​sleep.​ ​You​ ​may​ ​also​ ​place​ ​treats​ ​on​ ​the​ ​cloth​ ​or​ ​material​ ​that you​ ​share​ ​between​ ​them,​ ​to​ ​make​ ​it​ ​even​ ​more​ ​appealing.

Introducing​ ​one​ ​cat​ ​to​ ​the​ ​other​ ​one​ ​can​ ​also​ ​be​ ​encouraged,​ ​using​ ​delectable​ ​food; ​this​ ​will​ ​distract them​ ​and​ ​positively​ ​reward​ ​them​ ​for​ ​sharing​ ​the​ ​space​ ​with​ ​each​ ​other.​ ​We​ ​want​ ​them​ ​to​ ​associate being​ ​together​ ​as​ ​a​ ​pleasant​ ​activity.​ ​It’s​ ​advised​ ​you’re​ ​always​ ​present​ ​to​ ​supervise​ ​their​ ​reactions, and​ ​interrupt​ ​if​ ​needed.

My​ ​cat​ ​is​ ​fighting​ ​with​ ​a​ ​neighbour's​ ​cat​ ​-​ ​how​ ​can​ ​I​ ​help​ ​calm​ ​the​ ​situation?

Conflicts​ ​with​ ​neighbour​ ​cats​ ​outside​ ​your​ ​home​ ​can​ ​represent​ ​a​ ​major​ ​source​ ​of​ ​irritation​ ​for​ ​your​ ​cat. Especially​ ​if​ ​there​ ​are​ ​many​ ​cats​ ​in​ ​the​ ​neighbourhood!

You​ ​may​ ​first​ ​try​ ​to​ ​identify​ ​who​ ​initiates​ ​the​ ​aggression.​ ​Especially​ ​if​ ​your​ ​cat​ ​is​ ​the​ ​aggressor​ ​and​ ​if​ ​he’s​ ​an intact​ ​male,​ ​you​ ​should​ ​consider​ ​neutering,​ ​to​ ​decrease​ ​the​ ​likelihood​ ​of​ ​conflicts.

If​ ​you​ ​cannot​ ​keep​ ​your​ ​cat​ ​indoors,​ ​you​ ​should​ ​try​ ​to​ ​make​ ​your​ ​cat​ ​perceive​ ​your​ ​garden​ ​as​ ​safe​ ​as possible​ ​for​ ​him/her.​ ​For​ ​instance,​ ​if​ ​you​ ​observe​ ​that​ ​conflicts​ ​most​ ​frequently​ ​occur​ ​at​ ​certain​ ​times​ ​(since other​ ​cats​ ​are​ ​allowed​ ​to​ ​go​ ​outdoors​ ​only​ ​at​ ​certain​ ​times),​ ​you​ ​could​ ​try​ ​to​ ​adapt​ ​your​ ​cat’s​ ​schedule accordingly,​ ​to​ ​minimize​ ​interactions.

When​ ​conflicts​ ​occur,​ ​do​ ​not​ ​intervene​ ​physically​ ​with​ ​your​ ​hands​ ​as​ ​you​ ​could​ ​be​ ​injured.​ ​However,​ ​you can​ ​try​ ​to​ ​interrupt​ ​the​ ​aggression​ ​by​ ​throwing​ ​a​ ​toy or​ ​object​ ​away​ ​from​ ​the​ ​cats​ ​to​ ​distract​ ​them.

Within​ ​your​ ​home,​ ​you​ ​can​ ​also​ ​try​ ​to​ ​block​ ​window​ ​access​ ​to​ ​avoid​ ​the​ ​threat​ ​of​ ​outside​ ​cats​ ​or being​ ​observed​ ​by​ ​them.​ ​Provide​ ​opportunities​ ​for​ ​your​ ​cat​ ​to​ ​rest​ ​in​ ​high​ places ​(add​ ​a​ ​shelf​ ​for​ ​example)​ ​to observe​ ​outdoor​ ​cats​ ​without​ ​being​ ​viewed.​ ​Moving​ ​food​ ​away​ ​from​ ​windows​ ​can​ ​be​ ​helpful​ ​also​ ​as​ ​the outside​ ​cat​ ​may​ ​be​ ​attracted​ ​to​ ​the​ ​food.

In​ ​addition,​ ​if​ ​your​ ​cat​ ​is​ ​frequently​ ​harassed​ ​by​ ​neighbor​-cats​ ​outdoors,​ ​consider​ ​plugging​ ​a​ ​FELIWAY Classic​ ​Diffuser​ ​where​ ​they​ ​spend​ ​most​ ​of​ their ​time​ ​lounging:​ ​this​ ​will​ ​reinforce​ ​their​ ​perception​ ​of​ ​your​ ​home as​ ​a​ ​safe​ ​place​ ​by​ ​releasing​ ​comforting​ ​territorial​ ​pheromones.

My​ ​cats,​ ​who​ ​have​ ​always​ ​been​ ​buddies,​ ​have​ ​started​ ​fighting.​ ​Why​ ​might​ ​this​ ​be​ ​and​ ​how​ ​can I​ ​help​ ​restore their​ ​friendship?

First​ ​you​ ​need​ ​to​ ​make​ ​sure​ ​it’s​ ​a real​ ​fight,​ ​and​ ​not​ ​play​ ​fighting,​ ​which ​can​ ​be equally​ ​impressive!

Play​ ​fighting​ ​is​ ​often​ ​silent​ ​(no​ ​hissing​ ​or​ ​screaming),​ ​with​ ​gentle​ ​biting​,​ ​or​ ​scratching with​ ​retracted​ ​claws, that does not result in injuries.

Sometimes​ ​real​ ​conflict​ ​between​ ​cats​ ​develops​ ​secondarily,​ ​which​ ​is​ ​even​ ​more​ ​surprising​ ​for​ ​the owners​ ​than​ ​when​ ​observed​ ​since​ ​the​ ​first​ ​meeting.​ ​Tension​ ​can​ ​occur​ ​suddenly​ ​or​ ​grow​ ​gradually (and​ ​sometimes​ ​without​ ​being​ ​clearly​ ​perceived​ ​and​ ​recognized​ ​as​ ​such​ ​by​ ​the​ ​cats​ ​themselves!).

Usually,​ ​the​ ​reason​ ​behind​ ​the​ ​aggression​ ​needs​ ​to​ ​be​ ​identified.​ ​Make​ ​sure​ ​each​ ​cat​ ​still​ ​has​ ​access to​ ​their​ ​own​ ​resources​ ​and​ ​that nothing has​ ​changed​ ​ ​in​ ​the​ ​home​ ​layout​ ​(such​ ​as​ ​removing or​ ​displacing​ ​a​ ​litter​ ​box​ ​or​ ​a​ ​food​ ​bowl).

If​ ​not,​ ​search​ ​for​ ​any​ ​external​ ​event​ ​that​ ​may​ ​have​ ​changed​ ​the​ ​relationship​ ​between​ ​your​ ​cats:

  • Has​ ​the​ ​composition​ ​of​ ​the​ ​family​ ​changed?​ ​Any​ ​new​ ​pet​ ​introduced (a​ ​cat,​ ​a​ ​kitten​ ​or​ ​even​ ​a dog)?
  • Are​ ​their​ ​new​ ​neighbor​-cats​ ​outdoors​ ​who​ ​threaten​ ​your​ ​cats​ ​(at​ ​least​ ​one​ ​of​ ​them),​ ​leading​ ​to redirected​ ​aggression​ ​from​ ​one​ ​towards​ ​another​ ​due​ ​to​ ​arousal?
  • Have​ ​any​ ​of​ ​your​ ​cats​ ​been​ ​brought​ ​to​ ​the​ ​vet​ ​recently?​ ​When​ ​back​ ​home,​ ​this​ ​cat​ ​may​ ​look strange​ ​to​ ​the​ ​resident​ ​cat​ ​(especially​ ​after​ ​an​ ​anaesthesia),​ ​or​ ​have​ ​an​ ​unpleasant​ ​smell.
  • Have​ ​any​ ​of​ ​your​ ​cats​ ​reached​ ​sexual​ ​maturity?​ ​This​ ​can​ ​modify​ ​their​ ​social​ ​interactions.

It’s​ ​recommended​ ​to​ ​plug​ ​a​ ​FELIWAY​ ​FRIENDS​ ​Diffuser​ ​where​ ​your​ ​cats​ ​spend​ ​most​ ​of​ ​their​ ​time,​ ​for​ ​at least​ ​one​ ​month.

We​ ​also​ ​recommend​ ​you​ ​to​ ​see​ ​and​ ​use​ ​our​ ​advice​ ​on​ ​how​ ​to​ ​make​ ​your​ ​​home​ ​cat-friendly​,​ ​to​ ​help stop​ ​potential​ ​conflict​ ​issues.