Planning on introducing two adult cats? Follow this advice to ensure the cats get off to the best start.
(Q) My son is moving house and cannot take his eight-year-old cat, Honey, with him. I am moving into his house and taking her on. My own cat, Kitty, is six and doesn't take kindly to other cats. How should I integrate them?
Behaviourist Francesca Riccomini answers: This is unlikely to be an easy task because females tend to be more territorial than neutered males and Kitty isn't keen on other cats. Your best chance of making this work is to have a well thought-out plan of action and realistic expectations.
Assume that the best outcome would be a situation where the cats tolerate each other's presence without stress, but it seems very unlikely they will ever become friends.
As Kitty is moving into Honey's territory, you will need to minimize the negative impact of 'invasion' and set the newcomer up with her own area with everything she needs. Choose this area carefully, plumping for the part of her territory that Honey is least interested in.
Bear in mind that even when all is well, cats need plenty of hiding places where they can 'spy out the land' and take refuge while they de-stress. Some need to be high up, some dark, and these are a particular issue in areas of the home and garden where cats feel most vulnerable such as corridors, landings, patios and open lawns.
Once Honey and Kitty are in the same space, if there is any competition for the ideal refuge or they can't hide from each other when they want to, you are likely to fail. Use Feliway around the home, particularly where the cats are likely to be most aware of each other's presence and in their core areas.
Never try to rush the pace, and ensure that if either smells the scent of the other on your clothing or hands, you link it with a very high-value food treat in an attempt to create positive associations. You could do this ahead of the move by wiping each cat with a cloth and introducing it to the other with a favourite treat.
Once you and Kitty are settled in, gradually start letting her out to explore when Honey is outside or shut up asleep in a room. This will start to broadcast her scent further afield. Keep these sessions short and positive by ensuring the cats don't meet or see each other through glass doors, for example.
It's best to keep introductions low-key and distant by, for example, getting someone to help you feed or play with Kitty and Honey at different ends of a hallway or either side of a glass door. The aim is to distract them with something good while they become aware of the other cat. Keep these sessions very short and only gradually prolong them as the cats indicate they can cope.
You are unlikely ever to have anything other than two cats and two separate feline social groups. If they can co-exist happily in the same home and garden you will have achieved a great deal. If you can set things up so that Kitty has a different entrance when she starts to go outside, you will probably have an even better chance of making this work.