How to Get Cats to Get Along – Expert Tips for Harmonious Cat Relations

Are you thinking about getting another cat, and wondering how your existing cat will react?  Or have you taken the plunge and adopted another cat, only to find the two don’t like each other? Maybe you are moving with your cat into a household with existing furry inhabitants?  If any of these apply, don’t worry! We’ve created this in-depth guide to show you How to Get Cats to Get Along.

In this guide we will cover:

Choosing Your New Cat
Introducing a new cat to the household
Encourage Positive Interactions and Playtime
Check With Your Vet
Reintroduce Your Cats
What to do if your cats are fighting
How long does it take for cats to get used to each other
Will My Cats Ever Get Along?

Cats are wonderful pets that bring joy and companionship to our lives, but introducing a new cat to a household with an existing feline can be challenging. It’s not uncommon for cats to exhibit territorial behaviour and aggression towards each other, which can make it difficult for them to coexist peacefully. However, with patience and the right approach, it is possible to get cats to get along.  Click on a link above, or read on to find out how to get cats to get along.

Choosing Your New Cat

If you haven’t already chosen your new feline companion, taking time to consider factors which may influence compatibility helps enormously when knowing how to get cats to get along. Things to keep in mind when selecting your cat’s new feline companion include:

  • Ages of the cats. A kitten won’t be as much of a threat to an adult cat and can be taught the ropes before they get too big. An older cat may be more forgiving of a kitten’s mistakes than they would a cat of the same age.
  • An elderly or frail cat will instantly become bottom of the social standing, and may get bullied by a younger, healthier cat. If your existing cat is in poor health, it may be better to delay the introduction of a new cat.
  • Cats of similar personalities are more likely to get on, so it is worth trying to match personality types if you can. A study by the University of South Australia identified five cat personality types, namely Skittish, Outgoing, Dominant, Spontaneous and Friendly. Most cats will fit into one of these categories to some degree, and it may affect how they get along. If one cat is shy and timid, it may be overwhelmed by the introduction of an active, assertive cat. Try and choose a friendly cat that is not at either extremes of personality type.
  • Cats of the opposite sex are thought to integrate more easily. In my experience however two male cats can also be introduced and become great friends. What is important is neutering or spaying – do this and it will take a lot of aggression and hormones out of the equation.

Introducing a new cat to the household

Proper and patient introductions are the single most important step you can take in how to get cats to get along.  If you’re hoping to get your cats to live in harmony, it is important to understand that cats are naturally territorial animals. They have their own unique scent, and they mark their territory with urine and scratching. These behaviours are perfectly normal for cats, and they use them to communicate with other cats. However, when you bring a new cat into the home, it can disrupt the established territory of your existing cats, and this can cause conflict.

The steps you should to take introduce a new cat are as follows:

  • Make sure your house is big enough. Stress levels will be raised if you don’t have enough space. You can create space vertically with the use of cat shelves, tall cat trees and other high places to perch.
  • Use a calming pheromone diffuser such as Feliway.
  • Put the new cat in a quiet room on its own (not the favourite spot of your other cat). After a few days, swap over the blankets they have been sleeping on, so they get to know each other’s scent.
  • Allow them to sniff noses under the door, or use baby gates. Baby gates are a great way to introduce segregated cats visually without any pressure. They can be stacked on top of one other in a doorway that separates the cats. That way your cats can get used to each other by seeing and smelling each other through the bars.
  • If you aren’t using baby gates, once the cats seem comfortable with each other’s scent, you can start introducing them face-to-face in a controlled environment.
  • When introducing them face-to-face, make sure to supervise them closely and never leave them alone together until you’re sure they can get along. Start by feeding them on opposite sides of a closed door, so they can associate each other’s presence with something positive. Then, gradually open the door a crack, so they can see each other without being able to touch. If they react positively, you can gradually increase the amount of time they spend together until they’re comfortable sharing the same space. 
  • Remember, patience is key when introducing cats to each other, and it may take some time for them to get used to each other’s company.
  • Once the cats are comfortable to roam freely, it’s important to provide separate resources and spaces for each cat, to ensure they both have their own designated areas. This means providing separate food and water bowls, litter boxes, scratching posts, and beds. Cats are territorial animals, and if they feel like their resources are being threatened or invaded by another cat, it can cause tension and aggression between them.

Encourage Positive Interactions and Playtime

To encourage positive interactions and playful moments with your feline friends, you should incorporate interactive toys, such as feather wands and laser pointers, into their daily routine. These toys will not only keep your cats entertained but will also help them bond with each other. It’s important to supervise their playtime to ensure that the interactions remain positive and don’t escalate into aggressive behaviour.

In addition to interactive toys, you can also provide treats and rewards for good behaviour. For example, if you see your cats playing nicely together, reward them with a treat or a toy. This will reinforce their good behaviour and encourage them to continue playing nicely with each other. 

Check With Your Vet

If your cats have suddenly started fighting out of the blue, then you should talk to your vet, as it may be caused by a medical condition. Changes in a cat’s thyroid hormone production can make them aggressive.  

Vets can also offer medication to help calm anxious or aggressive cats.

Reintroduce Your Cats

If your cats are fighting and have been refusing to get along for a while, you may need to reintroduce them to each other. To do this follow these steps:

  • Put the most aggressive cat in an isolation room and give the victim cat the rest of the house.
  • Gradually expose the cats to each other in controlled situations. Place them in carriers at opposite ends of your largest room, and feed them treats or play with their favourite toy. This will teach them to associate the other cat with good things. Do this several times a day for a few minutes at a time.
  • Slowly decrease the distance between the cats.
  • Once they are not reacting, let one cat out but keep giving the other cat treats, and keep swapping them over.
  • Be patient. Reintroducing cats can take months.
  • Once the cats are tolerating each other and can be allowed to roam freely, ensure that they have at least one feeding and toileting station each and plenty of places to sleep. A plentiful supply of resources including food and water bowls, beds, litter trays and toys reduces the potential for arguments

What to do if Your Cats are Fighting

  • Do:
    • if they are still at the hissing stage, intervene with a long-distance toy such as a fishing rod or laser. The earlier you intervene, the easier it is to de-escalate the fight
    • startle them with a loud noise such as an air horn or compressed air spray
    • soak them with water. Half a glass aimed at the body (not head or face) should be sufficient
    • throw a thick blanket over the cats and try and bundle the aggressor to a different room for a time out. It could take 24-48 hours for things to settle so segregate the cats for a day or two or it could start all over again
    • ensure the fight hasn’t unsettled any other cats in the household or they may start to fight too
  • Don’t:
    • physically punish your cat. It only makes them more likely to fight back.
    • yell or shout – it’s likely to escalate the aggression.
    • physically intervene – you’re likely to get bitten
    • calm aggressive cats down with rewards like food or attention – this reinforces unwanted behaviour

How Long Does it Take for Cats to Get Used to Each Other?

In my experience, if the cats have compatible personalities and are both of a fairly easy going nature, it only takes a couple of weeks before they are sharing space together without any issues.

Kittens usually take less time, often only a few days. Confident kittens will find older cats fascinating, and want to pounce and play with their new companion (although that probably won’t be mutual!). As long as the kitten isn’t being attacked or bullied, all should be well.

Cats with dominant personalities may take longer to get along, sometimes even a few months. If you have followed the steps in Introducing a New Cat to the Household and they are still not getting along after a few weeks, go to Reintroduce Your Cats.

Will My Cats Ever Get Along?

Cats are great posturers, and despite showing teeth and swiping paws they usually resolve their differences without hurting each other. Cats that fight and draw blood really hate each other and have a poor prognosis of ever getting along.

If all tactics have failed, one cat may need to be rehomed, or permanently segregated in another part of the home.

For more information on choosing a cat, see Friendliest Cat Breeds.

Sue Light BA (Hons), DipHE

Sue Light BA (Hons), DipHE

Sue is the founder of Web Cat Central and has a Diploma in Feline Behaviour and Psychology. She is an experienced writer who loves spending time at home with her menagerie of seven cats, four dogs and three horses.

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