Cats are not obligate social creatures, so they are not necessarily good when it comes to social interactions.
Felines become socially mature around two - three years of age and at this stage they are less likely to accept a newcomer. As such, it's best to add a kitty before the resident cat reaches social maturity.
According to UK veterinarian Dr.Sarah Heath, a certified clinical animal behaviourist, in an article for veterinary journal dvm360: "Introducing cats to each other abruptly can be very stressful if they are not socially compatible. While physical confrontation may not be seen, passive signs of social tension, such as social and physical withdrawal, are likely to occur."
She adds: "This may result in owners considering that there has been no problem with the introduction since there is no fur flying or blood being shed. However, cats that are expected to live close to cats with whom they are not socially compatible can suffer from chronic stress, and this can have physical health implications as well as behavioural ones."
While cats may tolerate each other's presence if introduced gradually, their need for separate territories has to be respected. To make the introductions a less painful experience, consider the following tips and actions:
1. Stick To Status Quo
Ensure that you don't make any other huge changes during the introduction period – the only change should be the presence of the new cat. Felines are generally intolerant to change, and your first cat may associate the second kitty with all these changes.
Hold off your home repairs or the movement of furniture until the two cats are properly acquainted with one another.
2. Personal Space Please
Cats are solitary hunters by nature, and thus need a fair bit of personal space. Do not place your new kitty into your seasoned cat's territory (including its favourite cardboard box or hiding spots).
If possible, prepare a confined area (such as a spare room) for the second cat prior to its arrival. A kitten needs limited space and ample time to adjust as well.
3. Double Up
When you double the cats, you not only double the cuddles, but the expenses too. Each cat should have its own litter box, food dish, and hiding places–they should never have to compete or feel challenged when it comes to necessities.
It's important to ensure that there's enough space for them to be able to avoid each other completely if and when they feel like it. This makes sure that there is no forced confrontation between the two and they won't be left feeling like they have to fight for survival.
4. Don't Push It
Felines can be slow to accept the presence of another cat, and most do not see friendship as an advantage.
Some cats may never be friends no matter how long they stay together, and we'll just have to accept that. It's already great news if your two cats are tolerating each other, and co-exist peacefully. Forcing them to be BFFs may end in a difficult struggle and fight.
5. Plan Ahead
Before bringing your second cat into your home, ensure that you've already considered everything very carefully. Have you set aside a place for the second cat so that the two of them will be separated?
Also, don't bring in a new kitty when you're feeling stressed at work or school – it may not be an ideal time. Be patient, and wait until everything is calm and when you have absolute control of your life before doing so. It is a good idea to consult your vet and get targeted advice about the introduction of the new cat too.
All the best!
*This article was updated on 22 Dec 2020. It first appeared in PetsMagazine.com.sg on 23 May 2016.