Cat-to-Cat Introductions: A Step-by-Step Guide

Whether you adopted a new cat or are fostering kittens that are going to be temporarily integrated into your home after a quarantine period, follow these 8 steps for a peaceful cat-to-cat introduction. Continue reading to learn about Finch and Tosca’s stories for two real-life examples of what cat-to-cat introductions can look like.

Why You Need to Bother with Cat Introductions

First, congratulations for deciding to adopt a new feline family member! The journey ahead may be bumpy at times, but it will be so worth it. With time, your cat is going to love their new friend. 🙂

A cat’s territory is very important to them, so bringing a new cat into your home can make them both feel threatened and stressed. This is the main reason why you simply throwing the cats together and assuming that they will work things out between themselves doesn’t always work. It’s not always the case, but you want to avoid having your cat view the newcomer as a constant threatening stranger. 

Not doing a proper introduction means you are essentially forcing your cats to coexist, and this can lead to behavioral issues. Cats may avoid using the litter box, scratch unwanted areas, or even hide for long periods of time.

It’s possible that your cats may never get along without your help. From the moment you decided to add an additional cat to your home, you made a commitment to help the cats form the best relationship possible.

Getting Started with the Introduction Process

Please understand that it can take days or even several weeks for the introduction process. It’s going to be so worth it in the end, but patience is key. 

Start by dedicating a space where the new cat will spend time during the introduction process. Check out The Ultimate Guide to Setting Up Your Kitten Room for a guide on how to do this! The new cat’s home base will not only keep them separate from the other cat during this time, but it will also serve as a safe haven and a place for them to establish their sense of self in their new surroundings. 

Also be aware that by setting up a space for the new cat, your other cat is likely losing a part of their own territory which can cause some stress and confusion. This is why you should also make sure that your resident cat’s home base is solid. Make sure that no matter where you decide to dedicate space to the new cat, your first cat has a safe zone to relax in. 

Let the Cats Get Used to the Energy

Cats are sensitive little creatures. Come on…you can’t tell me that your cat doesn’t sense otherworldly spirits or that they don’t always know when you’re about to leave for work. 

Because of how sensitive kitties can be, your cat will be aware of the newcomer based on the change of the energetic vibrations in your home, if nothing else. The change in human stress levels, the moments of excitement, and the energetic space that an unfamiliar creature takes up will all make your cat privy to the knowledge that something is different. 

Subtle changes in the routine will stick out to your cat as well. For instance, your cat may be left wondering about why you stepped behind that closed door and opened a can of cat food, thinking Wait, they already fed me!

The energy changes alone will take some time for your cat to adjust to. 


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Any contribution is greatly appreciated!

– $6.00 allows us to buy a bag of litter
– $25 helps us buy 12 cans of cat food
– $100+ allows us to fund general medical procedures for any felines that we foster on our own

Thank you so much for considering a donation! 🙂

Any contribution is greatly appreciated!

– $6.00 allows us to buy a bag of litter
– $25 helps us buy 12 cans of cat food
– $100+ allows us to fund general medical procedures for any felines that we foster on our own

Thank you so much for considering a donation! 🙂

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Let Each Cat Settle in and Establish their Confidence

Allow your first cat to adjust to the changes in energy and the loss of part of their territory. Their confidence is likely a bit shaken because of all the changes they’re sensing and experiencing. During this time, do not force them to approach the newcomer’s space.

Allow the newcomer to adjust to their new surroundings in their home base. This step is so essential!

By letting each cat settle into those big changes before crossing each other’s paths, you’re giving them time to build up their confidence and their sense of territorial ownership. With access to their very own, familiar scratchers, beds, toys, etc. in their own safe zone, each cat will become their own strong individual that feels secure in who they are. Without that strong sense of self, interacting with an unfamiliar cat will likely be a constant source of fear or threat.

Wait until your resident cat, in particular, shows you some confident behaviors like rubbing against your leg, using their scratchers, and napping comfortably in their favorite spots. If your cat is still trying to hide or shows other signs of stress, they need more time to adjust.

Let the Cats Get Used to New Smells

One of the first main senses the cats might use to figure out what’s going on is their sense of smell. Cats bring their own smells on their bodies, including the scent glands on their cheeks and on their cute little toe beans. 

Other smells include moments when each cat uses the litter box and when one cat has food out that the other can each smell. 

At this point, your cat may be suspicious that there’s another cat in the home, but seeing is believing. The cats may growl, hiss, or hide when they’re near each other. This is normal, and please don’t immediately jump to worrying! They’re just processing the new information and the uncertainties of the new smells. 

Let the Cats Get Used to New Sounds

The cats will need to get used to hearing each other meow at you, dig in the litter boxes, eat food, walk around, scratch their posts, etc. 

Sounds of an unknown origin can be mysterious to either cat, and don’t be surprised if some of the sounds make one or both of the cats very curious or nervous

While the cats, especially the resident cat, get used to the smells and sounds of one another, watch closely for signs that they’re ready for the next step. One sign of this is calmly spending time looking at the door that separates them even when the other cat is right on the other side. Some other signs are calmly meowing at the door or even feeling comfortable enough to nap by the door.

A good test is to feed both cats on opposite sides of the door. Start however far away your cat needs to be from the door to eat comfortably, but once they’re able to eat pretty much right up against the door at the same time, you can know that you’re heading in the right direction. This trick also helps the cats start to associate each other with food, something they probably love. 🙂

Let the Cats Get Used to New Sights

Now that you know the cats are comfortable being near each other’s smells and sounds, even while eating, you’re ready to let them see each other for the first time. However, this doesn’t mean just opening the door to your newcomer’s home base and letting the cats mingle. You have to explicitly guide them through this step.

You can use something like a screen door or a clear panel that keeps them from having physical access to one another yet allows them to see each other

This is a big step in cat-to-cat introductions, because cat body language is so important. It can be hard for cats who aren’t used to being around other cats to readjust their brains and figure out how to read cat body language all over again. When they’re unsure of what they’re seeing, you may notice hissing, growling, and hiding behaviors. 

For example, Minnie takes a few days of walking in and out of the foster room, because each group I’ve fostered so far included different-sized kittens that had different voices and smells. She always shows me those fear-behaviors when she decides to take a look at the kittens. 

Another example is Finch. Finch has been interacting with kittens off and on ever since he was born. He typically joins foster groups seamlessly after quarantine. However, when I fostered two kittens with cerebellar hypoplasia, he was really unsure of the most wobbly kitten. He didn’t hiss or growl, but he spent a bit of time with a tense posture while he figured out her unique movements and what they meant. Once he took a few minutes to observe her, he was ready to approach her and started to gently play. 

You can also continue feeding the cats on opposite sides of the barrier in this step to help them get used to each other. However, I have to add that most cats just aren’t used to eating in close proximity to one another, so please use your best judgment with this tip.

You’ll know your cats are ready for the barrier to be removed when they are able to calmly observe one another and/or eat near one another. Look for relaxed body language like smooth fur, alert ears (not airplanes), slow blinking, slow or still tails, lounging by the door, gently pawing at the barrier in play attempts, rubbing their bodies against the barrier, etc. 

Guide the Cats Through Sharing Eat-Play Routines

You’re almost to the end! Now the cats are finally ready to have little supervised playdates with each other. Again, please know that they absolutely need your guidance for this step. Also, please be prepared to separate them if things get tense. 

Start by setting up a shared space where they will play with something like a wand toy or a laser pointer. Toys like these will help them get used to watching each other and understanding each others’ different play movements. Then, reward each kitty for the “hunt” with a meal or snack after playtime is over. 

By giving them a yummy snack after playtime, you’ll ensure that the playdate ends on a good note, and then you can put the newcomer back into their home base until the next play-eat routine. 

Repeat this sequence a few times a day for as long as you need to. Your cats will let you know when they’re ready to have longer playdates and when they’re ready be fully integrated. A good indication is when you can tell that they’re relaxed around each other the majority of the time and when YOU feel relaxed about them spending time together. 

Don’t Rush the Process

Like I mentioned before, your cats will tell you what they’re ready for.

If you’ve gotten to the last step in the process, but one day they’re suddenly growling at each other and playtime has turned into attack-time, go back to the previous step. 

You can also go backwards at any step in the process if you need to! Taking a step back doesn’t mean that you’ve done something wrong. It just means your cats aren’t quite ready and might need a bit of a break from each other. 

Finch and Tosca’s Stories

Finch and Minnie

After the quarantine period, during which Minnie was getting used to the changes in energy/smells/sounds, it took Minnie about three days to adjust to the idea of Finch. Finch was always interested in Minnie, but signs of stress I saw from Minnie were:

  • Eliminating outside of the litter box twice
  • Hissing and growling at the foster room door
  • Whining and getting stressed whenever I was in the foster room feeding the kittens
  • Hissing and growling whenever she saw the kittens move
  • Running away from the kittens (after she approached them and realized that they wanted to play)

Overall, it took Minnie almost three whole weeks to feel comfortable around Finch. When he was 2 months old, all he wanted to do was cuddle with her and get groomed by her. But, we experienced regression when Finch started teething and refining his hunting skills. Minnie hadn’t experienced constant kitten attention before, so she started to hiss at him again. She wasn’t sure what to do; she repeatedly engaged him in play but then immediately regretted it. So, we went back to using Finch’s home base at night so that Minnie could sleep peacefully. 

Tosca and Dante

Tosca went home to her new family with a lovely home base all for her and a confident big brother, Dante. His family was so prepared for the gradual introduction process that they even had notes and charts around their home! 

However, Dante was immediately interested in Tosca. He approached her home base right away on day one and calmly, but persistently, tried to get inside the room. Just a couple of days later, Dante and Tosca were on the play-eat routine step of the process! Rumor has it that Dante even pushed his food bowl towards Tosca during mealtimes. 🙂 

Overall, it took Dante just a couple of days to feel comfortable around Tosca. During the brief and beautiful time they were able to spend together as a family, they played and cuddled like long-lost littermates. 

These examples show two extremes of how the introduction process could go for you and your cats. Again, your cats cannot do this without you. It sounds complicated, but the time you spend letting your cats adjust will be so worth it in the end! I wish you the best of luck. 🙂

References: and hands-on experiences.

Exploring animal welfare one foster kitten at a time

5 responses to “Cat-to-Cat Introductions: A Step-by-Step Guide”

  1. […] Learn about the importance of taking time to introduce your dog and cat to one another, and read about two very different cat-to-dog introduction stories. These steps are very similar to the steps in the cat-to-cat introduction process! […]


  2. […] solitary creatures. If your cat gets along with other cats, or if you’re ready to commit to an introduction process, then you should get your cat a buddy! Two cats are better than one. If they’re set up for […]


  3. […] who will thrive when they have fellow kitten playmates. If everyone is healthy and you follow a careful introduction process, this is often a very enjoyable fostering […]


  4. […] This is why keeping cats and kittens with same-species companions is a great way to honor their true nature. When someone adopts a kitten, the ideal situation is that the kitten goes to a home that has another resident cat. However, keeping two kittens together is a way to ensure that each cat has a buddy without having to go through the lengthy introduction process.  […]


  5. […] not their foster kittens are compatible with animals such as dogs and other cats. In addition, the introduction process and any reactions you observe will help you determine if the kitten will be comfortable in a home […]


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