Introduce a New Cat
The key to introducing a new cat to your other pets lies in one word: patience. It’s tempting to let the animals meet right away to see if they’ll get along, but the risk of the interaction going wrong is not worth taking. Placing a new cat in front of the fur family as soon as she comes in the door can be overwhelming for her — and for your existing pets. It’s better to go slowly and introduce your pets in a way that is as stress-free as possible.

There isn’t a specific step-by-step formula for introducing a new cat to your household; every animal and every situation is unique. There are, however, a few strategies you can use that will increase the chance that your new cat will successfully integrate into your family.

Welcoming Your New Cat Home

As you introduce your cat to her new home and her new fur friends, keep interactions as positive as possible for all of your pets. When you bring her home, place her in a separate, closed-off area of your home, such as a bedroom, with all her essentials — food, toys, litterbox — inside. Keep the door closed and keep your other pets out of this space.

Start the introductions by giving your pets a chance to get familiar with each other through the closed door. Pair enjoyable, calm events with the presence of the other animal. Feed your pets their meals or play and interact with them while separated by the closed door. Place food and treats on either side of the door to help your pets associate the sounds and smell of the other animal with good things.

Let your pets get to know each other by sniffing each other and hearing one another from either side of the closed door, rather than face to face. After a while, you can also encourage your new cat to investigate another area of the house while your other animals are in a different room. This allows your new cat to become familiar with the house and get to know the other animals through scent before they’re physically present and vice versa.

Minimizing the Barrier

Once your pets are comfortable being near each other on opposite sides of the door, it’s time to move on to a visual introduction. Keep it gradual — a barrier that allows your pets to see each other without interacting, like a screen door or baby gate, is a good place to start. If you have a pet who is at risk for jumping over or breaking through the barrier, keep him on harness and leash.

To help keep your pets’ anxiety levels low in the initial face-to-face meeting, cover some portion of the barrier to limit their view of one another. A baby gate can be draped with a towel or blanket while a screen door can be partially covered in newspaper. Once your animals are comfortable seeing each other, you can begin to reduce the visual blockers. 

During these early introductions, keep your pets focused on a productive activity. Ask your pets to do familiar tricks, such as sit, target or down and reward their efforts. It is also helpful to reward any calm, acceptable behavior, like looking over at the other animal or sitting still.

Face-to-Face Meeting

Once your pets are comfortable spending time near each other with the barrier between them, it’s time to introduce them face to face. You will need one person to handle each animal during the introduction. If you have more than two pets, enlist the help of friends or family members, or, if it’s easier, work the training steps with the new cat and one other pet at a time.

Start slowly: Allow your pets greater sight of each other in a protected manner. During the initial introductions, keep all pets on a harness or leash. Make sure all of your pets, including the new cat, are comfortable wearing the harness before you begin training.

Another option is to put one animal in a protected area, like a crate or carrier, while the other animal is nearby on leash. Have your pets take turns being in the crate and on the leash and offer the pet in the crate a food puzzle to keep him occupied. This approach works well if you are doing this introduction on your own or with minimal help.

Tactics like rewarding calm behavior, asking for tricks, playing with a toy and petting can help your pets stay focused and engaged during this initial meeting.

At the first introduction, keep pets at a distance from each other, moving closer only if both animals remain calm. Once they’ve gotten used to each other, let them approach; a slack leash or a drag line can be used as a protective measure if desired.

Getting Your Pets Together

If your pets are interested, you can play a low-key game with them. Cats may enjoy batting a feather toy together, while dogs and cats can work on simple trick training. When I introduced my two Pugs to our new cat, we did a training session together first before they fully sniffed one another. The focused attention helped to dissipate the excitement and made this first meeting easier for everyone.

After this first face-to-face meeting, place the animals back in their separate areas. Repeat the same sequence at intervals until they’re fully relaxed with one another. In some situations, pets are immediately comfortable after a first meeting and simply require loose supervision when together. In other cases, though, pets will need several meetings to get used to each other. Go at a pace that is comfortable for all your pets.

If, at any point during the training, any of your pets show warning signals, such as a desire to flee or chase or signs of aggression, immediately stop the interaction and separate the animals. Restart the introduction at an easier level — increase the distance between your pets or separate them with a barrier. If this does not help or if you have concerns about a pet’s behavior, consult a professional, such as your veterinarian, for help.

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