Feline sociability exists on a spectrum, says Mikel Delgado, co-founder of Feline Minds Cat Behavior Consulting. At one extreme you have cats that hate sharing space with another of their kind; opposite are the gregarious souls who revel in mutual grooming sessions.
Most cats fall somewhere in the middle, says Delgado, which means most can cohabit peacefully with a compatible cat. But there’s no magic formula to predict compatibility and no evidence to support commonly held assumptions that male-female or adult-kitten pairings will be more successful, she adds.
Still, you can increase the likelihood of a good match by choosing wisely. Look for a cat with a similar energy level to your resident cat, Delgado says. Consider your cat’s personality, preferences and history with other cats, and learn as much as you can about the potential adoptee, says Mara Keller, senior shelter associate with the cat adoption team at Sherwood, Oregon.
For a cat with a dominant personality, Keller recommends a “go-with-the-flow” type that is neither overly dominant nor overly submissive. A cat that demands a lot of your attention may appreciate a more shy friend who doesn’t compete for your lap, adds Danielle Bays, senior analyst for cat protection and policy at the Humane Society of the United States.
That said, feline pairing is more of a guessing game than a science, admits Keller, and there’s no guarantee that the cat you adopt will become your resident cat’s soulmate. But what you do at home can help pave the way for peaceful coexistence.
It smells of group spirit
The right environment — with multiple litter boxes, food and water bowls, scratching posts, and other resources dotted around your home — will go a long way in establishing multi-cat harmony, Delgado says. Use cat trees and perches to add vertical space and place resources so that one cat cannot ambush another.
Since most cats don’t like change, introductions should be controlled and gradual. Start by keeping the new kitten in a separate room away from your resident cat. This allows the beginner to adjust to your home environment while your resident cat gets used to the presence and smell of the stranger.
“Group scent helps create cohesion between cats that live together,” Delgado explains. You can make the process easier by swapping cats’ blankets and toys.
Over time, you can open the door or use a baby gate, allowing them to see each other and possibly move on to physical encounters. At each stage, use treats, toys, or praise to help cats form positive associations with each other’s presence and follow a predictable routine. Keep in mind that one cat may be ready to socialize before the other, and any sign of conflict means you’re going too fast and need to take a step back.
Be patient, Keller says, “You’re building the foundation for their future relationship.”