Behavior and Introductions


The most important rule is the slower you go, the longer you take, the greater the chance of a successful and seamless introduction.  Studies have shown that the majority of failures in this category have been due to lack of understanding of the requirements of the cats for proprieties of proper introductions.

Studies have shown that an adult cat introduced to the resident cat often requires a significant amount of time (8 months to a year) to begin to show acceptance behaviors such as scent sharing (allogrooming and allorubbing) and tolerance of shared space.  Cat to cat introductions should be controlled and implemented gradually by providing opportunity for the cats to watch or sniff each other without direct.  In fact, rushing introductions is the major contributor to the social stress which develops problems with acceptance and can lead to fighting and is usually the reason introductions fail.  Cats have long memories, a trait that works against them if they have a bad experience during initial introductions.

 Kittens, on the other hand, want to belong.  They are designed to be obsequious, sidling up to the first thing in fur they see, ignoring you in favor of the larger feline.  No amount of rebuffs will dissuade a determined kitten.  If the resident cat is elderly and arthritic, give him or her space and a place away from that persistence and get a second kitten instead to redirect those energies.  If a male is the resident cat, don’t leave them alone until the kitten is about half grown and the two have come to an ‘uncle-nephew’ arrangement.  If the older cat is female, she will probably serve as a stern disciplinarian until the kitten gets larger, but will not hurt it.


 Why are cats intolerant of other felines?  Cats are predators.  Their bodies are weapons.  They are literally armed to the teeth.  They have nervous systems wired to react first and think later.  Therefore they can hurt each other – badly.  To prevent this from happening accidentally, cats have developed sophisticated body language and complex rules of social behavior.   For their own safety, cats maintain distance between themselves and to this end cats have developed elaborate protocols.  Here are but a few examples of some of these rules which we have observed:

 It is impolite and aggressive to stare into each other’s eyes.  It is only polite to look at each other if the other cat is not looking back.

 If caught in an embarrassing or compromising situation, diffuse the propensity for aggression by grooming oneself and so appear casual and confident.

  It is impolite and aggressive to sniff noses or tails if you have not been previously introduced.

  Nose touching is reserved for only the best of friends.

 Mutual grooming occurs between equals or ‘friends’.  However grooming of one cat by another can occur as an act of domination or can be a prelude to aggression.

 Sleeping spaces are owned (including cat beds), although the same spot may be utilized on a time-share basis throughout the day.

Within a group (two or more) a hierarchy exists.  But unlike dogs and people, the structure is fluid, with the group made up of many co-equals.  Pariah cats or bottom of the rung unfortunates can exist within a group and should be identified by owners and given special protection by their owners.

Access to owners and to food follows this hierarchy.


The Feline Checklist:

Cats, unlike dogs, have long memories.  They are quick to anger and slow to calm.  (After a cat “explosion” leave the cat alone for a cooling off period up to 24 hours.  Hormones and steroids released are very slow to leave the bloodstream.  It may very well be beyond your ability to calm your friend until these chemicals effects have worn off.)

 Polite, safe distances must be maintained.  Cats, like mathematicians, have derived a complex formula involving volume, time of day, and number, age, and sex to determine this.

 Pathways may be traveled single file at specified distances between felids.

  Felids meeting each other on a path must defer to each other according to their status,

 Finally, kittens must learn all these rules the hard way from other cats.   Cuffing and boxing (claws retracted) is the preferred teaching methodology.

        When coming into a new household, a cat sees things in this order of importance:

  1. What are the boundaries of the new territory?
  2. Are there other cats here?
  3. Where are the necessaries?  i.e. hiding places, food, water, litter box.
  4.  We, their people, are at the bottom of this checklist

Feline Introductions Summarized:

 To avoid immediate inter cat aggression, give the newcomer his own room for as long as it takes him to settle and be confident.  Then let him explore the house with the other feline inhabitants put up in his room…so that he can make a mental map of his new territory and get familiar with the other cat’s odors while they familiarize themselves with his presence through his scent.  When he shows confidence and comfort in his new territory, he is ready to begin slow introduction to his housemates….playing footsies under the door for several days with toys is a good start.   Start feeding the cats together and separating them after meals…it is a positive way of bringing them together.  Bring them together for treats and then separate.  Take your time.  The idea is to prevent cat spats by going slow and you will better insure acceptance.  Remember, “cats are quick to anger and slow to forget.”  Don’t set a deadline…let the cat’s let you know when they are ready.  It may take weeks, or months.

 When introducing a kitten into a household with an elderly cat, or a female adult, it is better to bring a pair of littermates into the house.  They will maintain their bond and play together, allowing the adult to have the space and peace they prefer.

Female cats are more protective of territory then males and therefore much less tolerant of other cats.  Therefore by social maturity (18 months,) it is very hard to successfully introduce another cat or kitten into a single female household.  If your intention is to have more then one cat and you have a female kitten, acquire the second cat before social maturity of the female takes place.

Two Kittens are Better Than One:


... or four!

 Always try to adopt a pair of littermates.  Kittens teach each other how to play without pain…they teach each other how to retract their teeth and claws in play.  It is very difficult for people to duplicate this play lesson…so adopting a pair of kittens almost always acts as insurance against biting, clawing and aggressive play behavior, which can develop especially in some males.  Another plus of kittens in pairs is that they are much less likely to annoy their owners by waking them in the middle of the night or early hours for play time or attention.  Undoubtedly kittens offer each other companionship and entertainment.  Undeniably watching kittens cavort together is universally accepted as more entertaining then television.