Listen to the audio version of this article
Introducing a second cat to your resident cat is one of the most frightening and frustrating aspects of living with felines. It’s often a nail-biting experience but it doesn’t have to be. The key is to do a gradual introduction and give the cats a reason to like each other.
Pam’s Secret Trick
In this article I’m going to discuss a little trick that can make a difference in the acceptance process…a sock. Yes, an ordinary sock (a clean one, please).
Scent is one of the most valuable communication tools used by cats. When doing a cat-to-cat introduction you can use scent to your advantage. During the introduction the kitties will need to become familiar with each other gradually but that first time they get close enough to sniff each other can result in hissing, growling, fighting, and fur-flying if not done correctly. A safer way to go about this is to start with a pre-introduction with a sock. I know it sounds strange but stay with me here. It’ll all make sense. Read on.
Put a clean sock over your hand and gently pet the newcomer cat around the face to collect his facial pheromones (scent chemicals). Facial pheromones are the “friendly” ones. Cats facially rub where they feel comfortable. These pheromones are not high-intensity the way the pheromones are on the back end of your cat. Once you’ve collected the pheromones on the sock, you can also spray it with a quick spritz of Feliway. This is a product you can get at pet supply stores that contains a synthetic version of feline facial pheromones. This step is optional. Some people have good results with Feliway and some don’t see any effect at all. If you do spray Feliway on the sock, don’t spray it over the area that contains the newcomer’s scent. Spray in a different location on the sock. Feliway spray has a generic pheromone effect in that any cat who sniffs the sock will think it’s his own pheromones. He’ll think he facially rubbed there. I’m not endorsing Feliway but if you want to try it, you may have a good experience with it. As I said, my clients have had mixed results.
Place the sock in your resident cat’s area. Place it in a general area and not where your cat eats or sleeps. Don’t place it near the litter box either. You don’t want this to appear to be a scent invasion so stay away from locations that your cat considers truly his. Don’t point the sock out to your cat or coax him to go over to it. Just casually drop it as if you were carrying a load of laundry and one sock made an escape on the way to the washing machine.
Your Cat’s Reaction
Whatever reaction your cat has to the scented sock is normal. Don’t be alarmed. He may sniff it and think it’s no big deal, or he may hiss at it. The purpose of this exercise is for your resident cat to start getting acquainted with the new cat’s scent without having an actual physical confrontation.
Use the mate to that sock and do the same exercise with the newcomer cat. Gently pet your resident cat around the face. Spritz the sock with Feliway (optional)and then place it in the newcomer’s sanctuary room. Since his location is limited you won’t have as many choices for placement but stay clear of the spots where the cat eats or sleeps. Also, don’t put the sock near the litter box location.
Do this exercise as many times as you feel it’s needed before moving on to the actual introduction. If you plan on clicker training during the introduction you can start now by clicking and rewarding the cat whenever he approaches the sock. Ignore any negative behavior and reward all positive or neutral reactions.
Need More Information?
Once you’re ready for the introduction, you can find step-by-step instructions in the book, Cat vs. Cat. This first-of-its-kind book has Pam’s proven techniques for helping create and maintain a happy multicat household. You can also find information in Pam’s most recent release, CatWise. Pam’s books are available at bookstores everywhere, through your favorite online retailer and here on our website.
Please note that Pam is unable to answer questions posted in the comment section. If you have a question about your cat’s behavior, you can find information in the articles on our website as well as in Pam’s books. If you have a question regarding your cat’s health, please contact your veterinarian.