Once you experience the absolute joy of being a cat parent, it is very likely that one, two, three (or twelve) more might come your way in the future. It is important therefore to know a few things before introducing your new cat to the queen/king of the house (because, let’s face it, they own the place, they just let you stay there).

So here are a few tips to have in mind before and during the introduction process.

Keep the New Cat in a Separate Room

This is preferably one that your existing cat and yourself don’t use very much, be that a spare bedroom, WC or study. This is to slowly get the new cat accustomed to the smell of the house and also to the scent of the existing pet. Make sure to have everything the kitty needs in the room, including water, food, a cat litter, toys, and a bed. It’s best to buy new items instead of reusing the existing cat’s possessions as the scent might make the new resident uncomfortable.

Start Swapping Scents

Once the new cat has grown accustomed to its new space, it’s time to start the initial introductions. Since much of animal communication and behavior is driven by smell, making the cats familiar with each others’ scent is a crucial step before actually putting them together in the same room. Try swapping their bedding, toys or blanket to see their reaction. There might be hissing or even peeing involved, so give it some time (might be a few days) until they’re more comfortable with it. You can also pet each cat with a glove and then touch furniture with it to allow the scent to be spread around the house. Another trick is to place each cat in the other’s living area. Confine the resident cat in a room and let the new cat wander about in the yet unexplored part of the house and vice versa.

Establishing Visual Contact

Once the cats get acclimated with each others’ smell, it is time to move on to the next step: establishing visual contact. It is important for the cats to see one another, but a barrier must be placed in between to prevent any aggressive reactions. This could be done either through a window, or a door kept slightly ajar. A children’s stair gate works great as well if you happen to have one. Repeat the process until no negative behavior is shown from either feline.

Introduce Supervised Physical Interactions

If no outbursts or negative reactions occur and the cats seem quite comfortable seeing each other, then it is safe to try and remove the barrier. This has to happen quietly and at a time when both cats are preoccupied with either playing or eating. Never force the two cats together. Be vigilant to see their reactions. If they start behaving aggressively, separate them and reintroduce the barrier. If they seem to be okay with being in the presence of one another, this interaction can happen as often as you’d like. Remember, the goal is not to have them play, eat or sleep together (yet), but simply to get them comfortable with physically being in the same space.

Allow Short-term Unsupervised Play Time

Hopefully, the process has been smooth sailing up until this step. If the cats have spent a considerable amount of time in the same room without any barriers and seem to be behaving appropriately, then it is safe to leave them alone in the room together for a while. This should range for a few minutes, but if your cats demonstrate friendly behavior towards one another, the time can and should be extended. Make sure to have separate resources for the cats (water/food bowls, beds etc.) and always leave access open to their “designated” part of the house. These interactions should happen as often as possible to get them fully used to each other.

Depending on the cats, acclimation time can vary from a few days to some weeks. So don’t expect your cats to become best friends overnight. With the necessary steps and time, however, most cats end up liking each other’s company and become co-rulers of your home.