Source: Animal Discovery

The antics of two or more cats are better entertainment than television. And what surer way is there to ease your guilt about leaving your cat alone during necessary absences than to know he has feline companionship? Whether best of friends or merely resigned cohabitants, cats will at least provide stimulation for each other, even if only in heated chase.

The joys of living with more than one cat and watching them interact almost always outweigh the extra expense. And if you have an indoor-only cat, a feline companion can do wonders in staving off the boredom that can result in stress or destructive behavior. Even if two cats never become good friends, it’s rare that they don’t eventually call a truce. At least they have another living being around for distraction when you’re out and chasing and tussling are good forms of exercise.

If you already have an adult cat, a kitten (or another smaller adult cat) is usually easier to integrate into the household than another full-sized adult. He’ll be considered less of a threat by your resident cat. But there are no hard and fast rules. Many people have introduced adult cats with great success. The chances of having the integration work are even greater if the newcomer is already sterilized, is already accustomed to living with other animals and has a personality similar to your cat’s. Cats of opposite sexes often get along better, although again, there are countless exceptions to this rule. Don’t bring unneutered males together; territorial conflicts may trigger offensive urine spraying.

Introducing Two Cats
Some cats will be completely nonplussed by a new arrival. Others will consider the turn of events as nothing less than an encroachment on their space and an affront to their status. When another cat enters the scene, your first cat loses his territorial monopoly. A hierarchy will need to be established: Being first into the home doesn’t automatically earn a feline the status of “top” cat. You can expect some conflict as both cats adjust to the new circumstances, even if initial introduction goes well. In time, however, most cats will come to a mutually acceptable arrangement. Be prepared to make allowances for both cats through the adjustment period, which can last for a week or two to many months.

Plopping down a new cat in front of your resident feline rarely makes for a smooth introduction. A better approach is to keep the cats apart at first and let both acclimatize gradually, which will take some patience on your part.

  • Set up a separate room for the new cat, with food and water bowls, a litter box, toys, a bed and places to hide. Make sure the food and water bowls are set away from the litter box.
  • Take the new arrival straight to this room, and for the first day only go in to check on his food and litter box.
  • Let your resident cat smell the carrier you used to transport the new arrival so that he gets used to the stranger’s odor.
  • Keep the newcomer isolated long enough for him to adjust to the new situation without the additional stress of meeting another cat. This may take as little as a day, but sometimes more than a week; you’ll know he is ready when he comes out of hiding and shows an interest in exploring what’s on the other side of the door.

The next step is to shut your resident cat in another room and let the new cat out to explore the house for a short period of time. If he simply runs back into his safe room, try again later. Once he’s comfortable with the rest of the house, it’s time for the cats to meet. Experts usually recommend waiting until there has been no hissing or growling from either side of the door for a day or two.Clip the claws of both cats and allow the new cat to come out of his room. Try not to greet his presence with any fanfare. Allow the two cats to interact. An arched back and puffed-up tail, hissing and snarling from one or both cats on these first face-to-face meetings are normal reactions. But be prepared to separate them should a serious battle break out. Try distracting them with a loud noise, spraying them with cold water, or dropping a box or laundry basket over the aggressor and placing the other cat in a closed room. Never reach into the melee to pull fighting cats apart; you’ll be clawed or bitten for your trouble.

Even if things seem to be going smoothly, play the psychologist. Fuss over your resident cat, but don’t pay a lot attention to the new cat in front of him. Put the new cat back in his isolation room after a short session. Continue this routine until the cats appear to be more comfortable with each other, letting the new cat stay out for longer periods of time, but only when someone is around to supervise. Cats usually work things out by themselves, although it can take from a few days to several months. Usually the existing cat is the one that takes longer to accept the presence of the other cat. The best thing you can do is to leave them to it; as they grow to accept each other, you’ll need to separate them less and less often.

The final step is to start gradually moving the new cat’s litter box and food bowls closer to those of the other cat. They will probably end up sharing litter boxes, but keep the food well separated. Cats can become anxious when they eat too close to each other.

Territorial Behavior
After introducing the cats, establish conditions to minimize possible friction, principally ensuring that each feels secure about his source of food. Just as felines in the wild exercise territoriality over the availability of prey, your cats may turn quite aggressive if at the sound of the can opener they fear they won’t get enough food to eat. Such stress can easily lead to behavior problems such as fights and territory-marking contests.

Make sure each cat has access to his own resources: a feeding station, including a water bowl, set at a comfortable distance from others and his own safe area to retreat to in case of hostilities. One cat may seem to be taking over, finishing his food first and nudging the other cat away from his bowl, or consistently displacing the other cat from a favored sleeping spot. While it may seem unfair not to intervene on behalf of the “under” cat, it is best to let the animals work out their own arrangement of which one rests where, as long as there is no serious aggression. Just make sure each cat is getting enough food, attention and play.

Cat on Cat Aggression
Some arching of backs, hissing and spitting are to be expected. These behaviors, along with occasional spats, are the cats’ natural ways of renegotiating their relative social positions. But if a real fight breaks out, complete with ear-splitting screams and bodily injuries, it’s time to intervene. Also step in if one cat is reduced to a bundle of nerves and hides all the time, overgrooms, stops eating or stops using the litter box.

If trouble breaks out, separate the cats, giving each of them access to all his necessities in a stress-free safe room. Once each feline returns to normal, go through the introduction process again. Before actually letting the cats meet face to face, you may want to add a step, allowing them only to see and smell each other from behind a barrier for example, a screen door or a gate. This way, there’s no risk of injury if one cat reacts aggressively. Continue this until the cats no longer behave antagonistically toward each other.

If one cat waylays the other en route to the food bowl or litter box, he is only mirroring the hunting behavior of a wild feline. A cat learns the paths of his prey, then hides in a convenient spot for an ambush. Most household ambushes involve play, at least on the part of the pouncer. However, if the pouncee isn’t in the mood, aggression can result. This is a common problem when a younger cat lives with an older one. It can take a long time (perhaps even longer than their natural life span) for one cat to accept that the other doesn’t like to play this way. The victim may become discouraged from eating or using the litter box if the attacks continue. Place food bowls and litter boxes in areas with clear, unobstructed views and remove any items that provide hiding spots for the antagonist.

If all else fails, speak to your vet or a certified applied animal behaviorist for advice on remedying the situation. Sometimes medication can be effective in calming aggression until the cats can adjust to each other. If all these efforts fail and you feel the quality of life of one or both cats is being compromised, you may need to find a new home for one of them.

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