Warning Signs When Introducing Cats

Warning Signs When Introducing Cats

When you bring home another cat, you may expect that your resident cat will warm up and accept your new feline. With proper introductions, the chances for this happening increase. But sometimes, even if you follow the steps recommended by experts, one of the cats might act aggressively around the other. 

This is why it is critical to manage the first few meetings between the two cats, which also allows you to see possible warning signs when introducing cats.

Warning signs when introducing cats

Before you actually introduce your two cats to one another, you should set aside a couple of days to enable your pets to become familiar with each other’s scents.

Once the two cats have smelled each other’s scents, you can then allow the two cats to meet each other while physically separated. If all goes well, you can then get the two cats together in the same room.

Take every interaction between your pets as an opportunity to observe their behavior. Ideally, your cats should warm up to each other. But even if your cats just tolerate one another and remain passive, you can consider that as a win.

However, it is not unusual for some cats to exhibit some form of aggression. That is natural and should be expected. More importantly, noticing these signs allows you to evaluate the progress of the introduction process.

Here are the warning signs when introducing cats:

1. Hissing

Both cats can hiss at one another. However, your resident cat is most likely to exhibit this warning sign because he sees the other cat as an intruder to his territory. 

Although this behavior is natural and to be expected, you should be ready to step in once things begin to escalate. Usually, one cat will back off, specifically the fearful one. 

2. Grumbling and growling

From hissing, the conflict between your pets can escalate to grumbling and growling.

Left on their own devices, this warning sign can progress to a physical fight. Although it is still possible to diffuse this situation, you have to step in quickly by distracting your pets.

3. Posture change

When one of your cats is ready to slug it out with the other one, you will notice a marked change in his posture. 

If you look at his ears, you will see that it is pulled close to his head, making it look flat. He may also make his body appear larger by arching his back and making his back hairs stand. His tail may also look larger.

These posture changes are warning signs that a fight is about to ensue if you do not separate the cats. 

What happens if you ignore these warning signs?

If you do not know what these warning signs mean or if you deliberately ignore these, a full-on fight between your cats can ensue. 

Although your pets may be ready to fight tooth and nail, they exhibit these warning signs to scare off one another and prevent an escalation. Contrary to what some people may believe, most cats would rather avoid a fight if possible.

If your cats feel that there is no other option but to fight, the aggressive one will launch an assault. On the other hand, the less dominant between the two will prepare to defend himself by lying on his back. This enables him to use all of his limbs as well as his teeth to protect himself.

But apart from an actual altercation, one adverse side effect of ignoring the warning signs put forth by your cats is that it will take a longer time before the two can get along. You might even have to start with the introductions all over again.

Why your resident cat hates your new cat?

Felines are often thought of as solitary creatures. But the truth is, domestic cats are social creatures. Take for example feral cats in your community. These cats band together and form alliances.

Now, when a strange cat attempts to come near the group, the adults rally to protect the young ones in the group. This is because some cats, particularly male ones, kill kittens.

Although the intent of the strange cat may be to simply join the group, the members of the group may be wary of his presence and act aggressively out of fear. The strange cat may get integrated into the group but that can take a considerably long time.

The same thing happens when you bring a new cat home. Your resident cat may act aggressively because of fear. For one, he might fear that the new cat is trying to take away the resources in your home, from his cat food to his litter box.

Another possible reason behind your cat’s fear is his isolation. If you have kept your first cat alone for a long time, he is not used to the presence of another cat in your home.

Finally, your cat may be acting fearful because he did not have the opportunity to learn social skills from his mother and littermates. This usually happens when a kitten is adopted before he reaches the age of eight weeks.

What happens if you introduce cats too quickly?

If you introduce your cats too quickly, you will create unnecessary tension and anxiety in your pets. In turn, this can result in a physical confrontation if you do not know how to recognize aggression.

Aside from potentially having two hurt cats, you might also sabotage the introduction process. Cats can remember this initial encounter and they can become wary of each others’ presence.

Although the two cats can get along well in the future, this bad encounter will linger in their minds for a long time, making the introduction process longer than it should actually be.

How to increase the chance of a successful introduction

Even if you follow the recommended steps for a proper introduction, there is no real guarantee for success. Cats can be unpredictable that even those that have tolerated each other can fight.

But apart from introducing your pets properly, there are a few tricks that you can use to increase the chances of making your cats get along fine.

1. Adopt the right cat

Getting a second cat is a major decision that should not be taken lightly. 

Before bringing a new cat into your home, consider its gender, age, personality, and background. And on the converse side, you should also take into account these factors in your resident cat.

If you already own two or more cats that all get along fine, the addition of another cat can throw off that balance.

2. Set up your home properly

Another vital task that you need to complete before bringing a new cat home is preparing your home.

Ideally, your new cat should have a separate space for himself. This dedicated space should contain all of his needs, from a feeding station to a sleeping area. 

Experts also recommend installing Feliway diffusers to help keep your pets calm and secure during this transition phase.  It is also a good idea to install perches and buy cat trees that your pets can use to run away from each other.

3. Use the power of scents

Cats communicate with people and other cats in a variety of ways, including using scents.

To make your introductions successful, you have to leverage the power of scents. When you pick up your new cat, be sure to bring an item that contains your resident cat’s scent like bedding. This will help jumpstart the introduction process even before your pets actually meet each other.

Once you get home, you should start letting your two cats swap scents by exchanging the bedding of your pets. This helps both animals become familiar with one another. 

Heed the warning signs

Introducing two cats is a long process that entails patience and a watchful eye. Often, it can be frustrating, especially if the two cats exhibit signs of aggression.

But if you do it the right way, the more likely it will be that your cats will get along fine and keep unnecessary altercations at bay.

Image: istockphoto.com / Astrid860