“Hi I’m Mitsy – are you new too?” There is considerable variation in cats’ behavioural responses to the introduction of another feline. Image courtesy of asamask92 at freedigitalphotos.net
When considering introducing another cat into a pre-existing family of one or more other felines, there is great variation in how smoothly the process may run, due to a number of factors.
Female cats may be more likely to be comfortable sharing their home with other felines than males.
For indoor cats, territory is defined and limited by the size of the home, and this is an important consideration. In contrast outdoor cats exhibit variations in the degree to which their personal territory can be shared with other cats. This can depend on temperament, how close their food and home is and whether or not they are desexed. Male cats who haven’t been desexed generally demonstrate a greater need for territorial space than do females, due to greater sexual desire and competitive need to mate.
– How well outdoor cats take to the introduction of another feline may depend on whether or not they are desexed. Image courtesy of Tina Phillips at freedigitalphotos.net
The way cats define and mark their territory is via their scent from glands in the face, chin, feet and tails. Marking behaviour tends to increase when another cat is introduced within their territory. In indoor cats, this behaviour gives cats a sense of security that their home still belongs to them. Cats territories often overlap. More assertive cats usually have ‘first say’ in how much territory they ‘own’.
According to Dr. Bonnie Beaver, author of “Feline Behaviour: A Guide for Veterinarians”, cats may show signs of stress in accommodating other cats in their surrounds. Symptoms may include soiling, grooming too much or too little, over- or under-eating, loss of appetite, change in bowel habits and social withdrawal.
“Hey Doc, I’m stressed! Image courtesy of iosphere at freedigitalphotos.net
Fights between 2 or more cats sharing the same territory may be able to be tolerated and accommodated. However, in cases of severe fighting, one cat may literally try to ‘run’ the other cat out of its home, and even attacking them upon their return. In these cases, the kindest option may be to rehouse the less dominant cat.
When introducing a new cat to a co-existing group of felines at least two weeks of isolating it apart from the other felines is necessary. This is because the resident cats then get used to the new odour of the cat without feeling the need to defend their zone physically.
Caging or screens may be necessary in more complex cases to enable feeding without risk of injury.
If you are considering having more than one cat, here are steps you can take to minimise stress during the process.
1. Consider adopting littermates or cats from the same household.
2. Additions usually run more smoothly when the cat is physically smaller and not sexually mature.
3. Consider choosing a cat that has a background of staying with their litter until 9 or 10 weeks of age. These cats may take more kindly to new additions.
4. Once adult males are neutered, spraying problems may be reduced.
It may be hard to accurately predict how well adding another one or more cats to an existing one cat household may go: however the above steps may help to reduce stress and make the process happier and easier for the cats, and for you!