Shelters and breeders encourage prospective cat owners to get two kittens from the same litter. Although there are a few challenges, having two cats is beneficial both for the cats and their humans. But what if you already own a cat and you are planning on getting another? Will the cats get along?
For a long time, people, including biologists, thought of felines as solitary animals, with the exception of lions. However, recent studies indicate that many cat species, including domestic cats, can form bonds with other cats of the same species.
How Long Does It Take for Cats to Get Along?
Although two cats can bond with one another in a couple of weeks, the more realistic timeline would be between half a year to a full year.
For littermates, the bond is instant. This is primarily the reason why if you are planning on keeping two (or more) cats, you should get siblings.
However, it is possible to keep two unrelated cats. But it will take a substantial amount of time before the two even tolerate each other.
What are the factors that affect the bonding process between cats?
Cats are notoriously territorial and they do not immediately warm up to the idea of sharing their home with another cat or a dog. When you bring another cat into your home, your resident feline will perceive the new cat as a competitor for his resources.
But apart from this innate desire to protect his territory, other factors can influence the time it takes for two cats to form a meaningful bond. Here is a brief look at each of these factors.
If you already own a cat, what should be the age of the new pet? There are two prevailing schools of thought, each with their own merits.
Some experts suggest that you should get another cat that is about the same age as your resident cat. They argue that if the two cats are too apart in their ages, conflict will definitely arise.
For example, if your resident cat is a senior, it is highly likely that he has mellowed out and prefers lounging around the home. A kitten, on the other hand, will be definitely more playful.
The mismatch in age and energy level can lead to negative interactions as the senior cat can get annoyed by the kitten’s energy.
But on the converse side of the coin, some argue pairing a kitten with a senior cat. Although there might be a big gap in age and energy levels, an older cat may be more tolerant toward a kitten.
To a senior cat, a kitten may not exactly look like a competitor for resources. Although the older cat may at first be wary of the kitten, he may let his guard down.
Furthermore, a senior cat can show the kitten the ropes, especially in how to behave and how to use the litter box.
Personalities matter when you are pairing your resident feline with a new cat.
Although breeds are predisposed to act in a specific manner, you also have to take into account the fact that each cat is an individual with a unique personality.
Before you even plan on getting another cat, you should be familiar with your pet’s temperament and tendencies. Is he bossy or is he laid back? Is he timid or is he confident?
Ideally, you should pair your resident feline with a cat that complements his personality. Otherwise, you are making one of the cats susceptible to bullying.
The operative word here is complement. It is natural for one cat to be dominant and the other one to be submissive. That dynamic is key to making the pairing work.
If your two cats are dominant, neither will give an inch and make concessions to one another. This will leave you with two cats constantly bickering and anxious.
That, however, does not necessarily mean that you should get a new cat that is the polar opposite of your resident cat. It simply means that your next cat should find a happy medium between an identical personality and a polar opposite.
Should you pair your resident cat with a feline of the same or different gender? There is no clear cut answer to this question.
If you try to pair your male cat with another male, especially if the two are intact, the two will most likely compete to establish dominance. You might have to deal with unwanted behaviors, ranging from spraying to actual fights. These behaviors are driven by hormones.
Although it is possible to diminish aggressive behavior between two tomcats through neutering, there is no real guarantee that the two cats will stop fighting.
But how about two females? Although queens will not usually fight physically, they will try to outdo each other by vying for your love and attention.
If you have no other option but to get cats of the same gender, your next best option is to make sure that one of the cats is younger than the other. Or you can try adopting cats of the opposite sex, just make sure that both of them are fixed to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
If you are planning to adopt a cat that was previously owned, be sure to learn as much as you can about his background and history.
Cats have exceptional memories. This can sometimes make it difficult for them to integrate into a home, especially if they were maltreated or had negative experiences in their previous homes.
These cats may be skittish and may resist your efforts to make them feel at home. Plus, certain sights, sounds, and scents can make their traumatic experiences come back again.
Consider adopting this kind of cat if your resident feline has a calm and nurturing personality. Otherwise, you might be taking on an insurmountable task.
5. Availability of resources
Your two cats will have a difficult time forming a bond when they feel that they need to compete for vital resources like food and the litter box. One cat may hog all the food while the other one goes underfed.
When you are planning on keeping two or more cats, you should make sure that there are multiple feeding and drinking bowls available. It is also a good idea to have multiple feeding stations instead of one. This allows each cat to eat and drink in peace.
Cats also need multiple litter boxes. Otherwise, the dominant cat will hog the litter box while the other feline will be forced to do his business elsewhere.
If you are keeping two cats or more, the rule of thumb to follow is to have one litter box per cat plus an additional one.
Apart from food and the litter box, your cats will vie for the available spaces in your home.
Each cat will have his favorite spots in your home. It can be the couch where you usually hang out or a sunny spot in the living room. And if one cat takes all the best spots in the house, the two felines may fight for those spaces.
Eventually, the two cats will come to an agreement on which spots belong to which cats. But initially, you can expect disputes over these spaces.
6. Intact or neutered
Keeping intact cats poses several problems. For one, intact cats can exhibit behaviors related to mating. For example, females can vocalize excessively while males can spray all over your home.
Furthermore, if you keep cats of different genders, you have to be ready for the idea of being a fur grandparent.
Spaying and neutering is a must for a few good reasons. For one, you can avoid behavioral issues. Males, for example, become less aggressive with other males. And although females can become aloof, they are less likely to be anxious.
Furthermore, spaying and neutering can boost a cat’s health and longevity.
How to introduce your cats to one another
The worst thing that you can do is to put your resident cat with the new cat together immediately. Doing so will only put your cats under stress and undermine the goal of making them like one another.
A proper introduction is crucial in preventing unnecessary fights and ensuring that both felines warm up to each other. Here are the steps that you need to undertake.
1. Prepare your home
Before you bring your new pet home, it is highly recommended that you prepare a separate room for him. This area should contain a sleeping area, feeding station, and hiding places.
2. Getting your new cat settled
Before bringing your cat home, ask the shelter staff or the breeder for your cat’s towel or bedding. Cats feel calm when they can smell their own scent.
When you arrive home, go to the new cat’s room and do not allow your resident cat to see his new housemate.
Put your new cat’s carrier in one of the hiding spots and then open the door. Let the cat come out on his own. If he does not come out, do not worry. He might still be stressed from the journey.
Afterward, leave the room, making sure that the door is closed.
3. Introduce each cat’s scent to one another
Instead of allowing your cats to meet face-to-face, it is vital that they become familiar with each other’s scents.
Start by placing the new cat’s towel or blanket near your resident cat’s favorite spot in your home. After that, observe the cat’s behavior. If he reacts aggressively, put the towel or blanket on the floor near where he usually eats or sleeps. Do these for a few days, moving the fabric closer to the food bowl. Do this also with the new cat.
After a few days, swap the food bowls of the two cats. This will allow them to associate each other’s scent with something pleasant, in this case, their food.
There is no strict timeline for these steps. If you are lucky, your cats will like each other’s scent in a matter of days. But realistically speaking, it may take a few months.
While the two cats are separated, be sure to spend equal time with each pet, playing, grooming, and tending to their needs.
4. Letting your cats meet
If both the cats do not react negatively to each other’s scents, you can proceed to the next phase of introductions.
First, set up a room where both cats can see each other but still remain physically separated. You can use a baby gate or a screen door as a barrier. Next, allow both cats to see each other, offering them treats.
Ideally, the two cats should sniff each other’s noses or act playfully. When this happens, you can proceed to the next phase. Otherwise, if at least one of the cats is still aggressive, exhibiting behavior like hissing or growling, you will need to feed them close to each other while still separated.
If the cats are not aggressive toward one another, you can put them together in the same room without any barrier.
Once inside the same room, allow your pets to explore. Do not force their interaction by picking one up and moving the other one. Just let them be. Some cats may not come close to each other and that is just fine.
But if the two start to fight, intervene by clapping your hand or making a loud noise. In this scenario, you will need to keep the two separated and reintroduce each other’s scent again.
5. Watch out for bullying behavior
If all goes well, you can leave the cats in the same room unsupervised. However, you should watch out for bullying behavior.
Bullying can manifest in a variety of ways, from preventing access to food to hissing and swatting.
If you notice that one of your pets is being bullied, bring him to a separate area, complete with sleeping and feeding areas plus a litter box. As for the bully, resist the urge to punish that cat. Doing that will only make things worse.
It can take a long time for your cats to get along
Although it is possible for your pets to get along in a matter of days, it is more realistic to expect your pets to bond in a matter of months.
Cats do not readily warm up to the idea of having new housemates, even if they are felines. It can be frustrating at times, but if you follow the necessary steps, you can ensure that your cats will get along over the long term.
Image: istockphoto.com / maximkabb