How to Introduce Cats

Updated: 12/13/20232-4 minutes
Cats hugging

Introducing cats to other household pets requires knowledge, planning and patience. As many cat owners already know, cats can be resistant to change.

Fortunately, whether it’s figuring out how to introduce cats to each other, introducing a cat to a dog, or introducing cats to people and children, there are steps you can take to make cat socialization a positive experience.

How to Introduce Cats to Each Other

If you already have a cat and plan to add another, remember that while kittens often get along with each other, older cats can become more territorial. That doesn’t mean your current cat and his new housemate won’t become great companions. All it means is that you have to take things slow. When it comes to learning how to get cats to get along, patience is key.

How to Socialize a Kitten

Start early. The first few weeks of your kitten’s life will set the stage for how they will interact with other cats and people in the future. Purina Senior Scientist, Human/Animal Bond, Ragen McGowan explains, “the critical socialization period for kittens is two to seven weeks of age.”

Here are a few tips:

Timing

  • When possible, introduce cats to each other over a period of weeks.

Familiarity Through Scent & Close Proximity

  • If you’re getting the new cat from a breeder or a shelter, ask to take home a blanket or towel that your new cat has slept on. Let your cat sniff it and get familiar with your new cat’s scent.
  • When you bring your new cat home, allow both cats to hear and smell each other from behind closed doors.
  • Depending on how this goes, try feeding them their cat food at the same time. Put their bowls close to each side of the door. This allows them to associate each other with things that they like.
  • If either cat shows signs of aggression such as hissing or growling, do not introduce them face to face yet.
  • If neither cat shows signs of aggression or stress, allow each cat to get used to each other’s scent. Let them play with each other’s toys, use the same litter box and use the same food bowls, but continue to keep them separated in different rooms.

Introducing Your Cats to Each Other

  • If there are no signs of trouble, it’s time to allow your cats to see each other, but make sure there is a barrier to separate them in case one shows aggression.
  • Try introducing both cats face to face.
  • Allow interactions to happen naturally.
  • Make sure to give each cat an area to retreat to, so they don’t feel trapped.
  • Note that cats may swat at each other or hiss, but unless a fight breaks out, these mild signs of aggression will likely subside.
  • In the event of a full-blown fight between your cat and the new cat you are introducing to the home, this is a problem. A fight is a strong indicator that these two cats are unlikely to get along.
  • If your cats seem to get along or can be around each other without aggression, that’s a good sign.
  • Remember, even if your cats are getting along, remain vigilant and supervise them. Don’t leave them alone together until you’re confident they’re getting along.

How to Introduce a Kitten to a Cat

Adopting a kitten is always a fun adventure. The same rules apply when introducing a kitten to an adult cat as they do when introducing cats to each other. In fact, following the same steps outlined above will ensure your new kitten has the best chance of coexisting with your cat.

The key difference is that the first two to seven weeks are a critical socialization period for your kitten. It’s important they become socialized through positive interactions with both humans and other household pets.

Take things slowly. Don’t overwhelm your kitten with too much too fast during their first few weeks at home.

Introducing a Cat to a Dog

Fortunately, the stereotype of cats and dogs not getting along is not always true. Many dogs and cats get along quite well.

Usually, this has a lot to do with the individual personalities of the animals involved. Pet owners can ease the process by taking it slow and letting their cat and dog become familiar with each other from a distance at first.

Timing

  • Keep your dog and cat separate for at least three to four days. This will allow them to become familiar with the sounds and scents of one another before any interaction takes place.

Familiarity Through Scent & Close Proximity

  • Feed them on opposite sides of a closed door. This helps them associate each other’s scent with positive things like eating their cat and dog food.
  • Watch for any signs of aggression, such as growling, angry barking or hissing.
  • If things seem to be going smoothly, try introducing the two.

Introducing a Cat to a Dog

  • Introduce your cat and dog in a “neutral” part of the home (i.e., not close to either animal’s territory such as food bowls or bedding area).
  • Keep your dog on their leash and allow your cat to explore the area and decide for themselves if they want to approach the dog.
  • Try giving your dog commands like “sit” or “stay” if they start to get overly excited by the cat and reward them with praise and dog treats for good behavior when they listen. You can also teach your dog a command like “watch” or “look at me,” which can go a long way in defusing stressful situations like this.
  • Reward your cat with treats as well for any socially positive behavior.
  • Should either animal show signs of aggression, remain calm, but separate them quickly. Try to lure each one out of the room with treats or toys.
  • If this meeting was successful, try it again for several days. End it immediately, however, if you sense either animal is becoming agitated or aggressive.
  • When your dog and cat seem to be getting along, try allowing them loose in the same room together. As a safety precaution, keep your dog’s leash attached. This way you can quickly grab it and stop them if they get overly excited or either animal shows signs of aggression.
  • Allow your cat an area that is dog-proofed that they can retreat to if they become overwhelmed.
  • Make sure to keep each animal separated when you leave the house or are unable to supervise them.

Ways to Continue Cat Socialization

Cats, by nature, love new experiences. Filling their lives with new adventures will help encourage positive interactions with people and pets.

As you introduce new sights, smells, sounds and tastes into their routine, they will come to expect them and be more open to them.

Discover more cat training articles and hear from our pet experts on our Pet Expertise page.

Related articles

Tabby cat
Cats can be trained and doing so can provide great mental stimulation for them! Learn what you can train your cat to do and some methods for how to train them.
How to Discipline a Cat
How to introduce cats and dogs
MyPurina App - woman with dog

Earn myPurina Rewards with Every Purchase

Use your points for treats, toys, and gift cards with myPurina app.