Cats can be notoriously prickly when asked to share space. So, introducing a new cat to a home can be a very difficult process. It will be some time before the two cats accept each other and develop a bond of friendship.
It can take up to a year for cats to get along. It depends on personality compatibility, and the work you put into encouraging a bond. Cats of similar temperaments and ages will bond faster. Positive early associations can also speed up a feline friendship. Well-matched cats in a suitable home can become friendly within months.
Cats do not need to be friends to get along. Chronic indifference may not be what you had in mind, but it is better than physical aggression. Some cats can live in the same house for years and barely interact. If both cats are happy and healthy, that is absolutely fine.
Can Two Cats Live Together?
Bringing a new cat into your home requires a lot of thought. Cats are not used to sharing, especially if they are the only pet in the home.
The idea of dividing territory and possessions will make many cats uneasy. Relationships between cats sharing space will often start out frosty.
In a study published in Applied Animal Behavior Science, half the cats in 252 surveyed households fought on the first meeting.
A bond between cats must be steadily built. You will have a large part to play in this process. If you are patient, most cats can eventually forge a positive relationship.
You enhance the chances of this by carefully choosing combinations of feline companions. If you pair up compatible cats, they’ll bond much faster.
How Long Before Cats Get Along?
Some cats connect quickly and become friends within a week or two. This is rare, though. Cats are typically wary of one another. Expect it to take 6-12 months before two cats become friendly.
This does not mean the cats will be at each other’s throats until bonded. Long before they become friends, the cats will become civil. This truce may be uneasy at times, but the cats will tolerate each other. If each cat has its own territory, they’ll stay out of each other’s way.
This is no bad thing. When dealing with multi-cat households, any lack of aggression is positive. If the cats are actively playing or sleeping together, this is a real bonus.
You can speed up the bonding process by choosing the perfect companion. There are a number of variables that prevent felines from getting along. Take these into consideration when pairing up two cats.
The age of a cat will influence its lifestyle. Senior cats are sedentary and prefer to spend most of their day napping. Kittens and younger cats will be more playful and energetic.
This means that mismatched ages can lead to frustrating dynamics. Neither cat will meet the desires of the other. If a younger cat continually attempts to coerce a senior counterpart to play, aggression will follow.
There is a counter to this. Older cats are less likely to consider kittens and young adults to be a threat. Cats of this age are less likely to have eyes on an established cat’s territory. This can help smooth over any initial distrust.
Cats at different ends of the age spectrum can get along. It may just take longer. The cats must learn to tolerate the quirks and foibles of each other. Indifference is as positive as friendship. The cats have accepted their differences and forged their own lifestyles.
Matching cats according to temperament is the most important consideration of all. All cats are unique. Some are dominant and confident; others are nervous and submissive. If you pair extremes of each personality type, bullying will occur. Dominant cats can smell fear.
All cat relationships will have one dominant and one submissive partner. The key is ensuring that both cats are happy with this dynamic. Cowing and browbeating a submissive cat is not friendship.
Equally, do not match up cats with identical personality traits. Two dominant cats will constantly fight, each seeking to supersede the other. Two cats defined by nervous anxiety will be equally apprehensive around each other. You must find the perfect blend.
The perfect combination of temperaments as less fire and ice, more two bodies of tepid water. The cats do not need to be identical. They will enjoy learning from each other. Polar opposites do not attract when it comes to cats, though.
3/ Background and History
Nurture is just as important as nature when pairing up two cats. If adopting a second cat, learn about its history.
Cats have long memories when it comes to bad experiences. Cats can also be slow to forgive when a line has been crossed.
If the cat previously endured a troubled relationship with a housemate, it will be instinctively apprehensive. If a cat assumes all ginger cats are bullies, for example, bonding will be challenging. Sights, sounds, smells, and behaviors can all trigger bad memories.
A history of trauma will also define a cat’s personality. Such cats will be skittish and troubled. Ensure that a traumatized cat is paired with an appropriate partner. Nervous cats need a calm, nurturing, and patient companion.
Anecdotal evidence claims that mixed-sex cat pairings are preferable. The science bears this out, to an extent. Applied Animal Behavior Science surveyed 60 households with pairs and groups of cat companions. Some differences between genders were observed.
All-female pairings were not observed to groom each other. This fits with claims that female cats strive for dominant status. Allogrooming in cats is often a mutually agreeable establishment of dominant and submissive power dynamics.
The all-male groups spent more time together. This suggests that male cats can forge strong friendships. Note that all the cats in the study were spayed or neutered, though. Never house two unfixed males together.
Male cats are territorial and aggressive before neutering. Their bodies are flooded with testosterone. Veterinary Quarterly confirms that fighting and marking behaviors almost completely disappear in neutered males.
Signs That Cats are Getting Along
Cats that are fighting will hiss, growl, and swipe at each other. Signals of mutual contentment in cats can be tougher to recognize. Many cats are rarely happier than when completely ignoring each other.
If this is the case, leave your cats to it. Indifference is always preferable to hostility. If the cats are capable of relaxing in the same space, they have accepted each other. Cats playing with their own toys, or taking a nap, are clearly comfortable.
You cannot force your cats to be anything more than civil to each other. Cats pick and choose who they will be friendly with. Cats also hide their emotions well. The two animals may be closer than you realize. Signs that two cats are friendly include:
- Physical contact, especially bunting
- Playing together (including playfighting)
- Sharing grooming
- Sleeping together and sharing toys
Sharing does not come naturally to cats. They are more likely to hoard treasures, ensuring the other cat cannot access them. If cats are prepared to share a bed, it is a mark of trust.
Helping Cats to Get On Together
If you want your cats to get along, you will need to play a part. The key to helping cats forge a friendship is:
- Introducing the cats steadily
- Ensuring that each cat has their own territory and hiding places
- Providing separate toys, bed, food and water bowls, and litter trays
- Spending an equal amount of time with each cat
- Ending any conflict before it escalates
This will take time. You will need to be patient and vigilant. If you help the cats to work through their differences, it will bear results.
If the cats get off on the wrong foot, they are unlikely to become friends. As cats are innately distrustful of strange felines, this makes introductions important. Before the cats interact together, follow a 4-step process.
- Introduce by scent. Use blankets that carry the other cat’s aroma
- Let the cats see each other from a distance. For example, the opposite ends of a hallway
- Feed the cats at the same time, separated by a barrier
- Let the cats interact physically for a short period of time
Expect some hissing, growling, and posturing in the early stages. Neither cat wants to share its territory. Over time, the cats will grow used to having each other around. When they are no longer actively hostile, the cats can be left unattended.
Ignore unwanted behavior, unless it involves violence, and praise behavior. If the cats just ignore each other, that’s fine. Give them both a favorite treat. Each cat will consider the other to be a source of pleasure.
It is critical that both cats have territory and possessions to call their own. Even if cats are friendly, they are still governed by instinct.
In an ideal world, each cat will have its own room. This may not be realistic. Cats do not always need so much space. Even a corner is fine. Just ensure the cats know, and respect, what parts of the home are claimed.
Cat trees can also be a great way to give cats time apart. Assign multiple trees around your home. This way, cats always have the option of escaping to a higher plane. In the mind of a cat, those few feet are vital to privacy.
In addition to territory, each cat needs its own possessions. Never expect two cats to share bowls or litter trays. The scent of the other cat will create tension and squabbling.
Keep food bowls and litter trays at least six feet apart. Feed at the cats at the same time, in separate locations. Eventually, friendly cats can eat together. Until the cats have truly bonded, minimize the risks of food aggression.
It is critical that you treat both cats equally. This means not spending time with one cat at the expense of the other. As Physiology and Behavior explain, the mere presence of another cat does not cause stress. It is the changes in the relationship with the owner that matters.
If you are feeding one cat, feed the other. If you play with one cat, play with the other afterward. If you are petting one cat, make time for the other.
If two cats feel they are being treated unequally, they will never be friendly. Jealousy will take over, and the cats will fight.
Eventually, you can interact with both cats at once. In the early stages, make it obvious that neither cat is a favorite or being replaced.
Cat friendships can appear transient at times. Cats that get along 95% of the time must be watched for the remaining 5%. Even the best of feline friendships can sour in an instant.
Reduce the risk of inter-cat conflict with calming scents. The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery recommends Feliway, a spray-release diffuser. If both cats are relaxed, they are less likely to squabble.
Ensure that any conflict does not escalate to a physical fight. If the cats start to circle each other and hiss, separate them. Cats will warn each other before getting physical. Neither cat wants to fight, but neither wants to back down either.
If you step in at this stage, both cats save face. Take each cat to a preferred territory to cool off. Offering petting and reassurance. If the cats share respect, they will eventually apologize and make amends.
If the cats hurt each other, their bond may be permanently damaged. This is especially important when the cats are still getting to know each other. If a genuine fight breaks out, the cats will never fully trust each other.
Do Some Cats Never Get Along?
Unfortunately, some cats don’t get along. There could be a number of reasons for this that you cannot control. Interpersonal chemistry is important. The cats may just be too different.
Some cats are just natural, instinctive loners. They will never accept another cat in ‘their’ space. The cats may also remind each other of past trauma. If somebody in your life reminds you of your high school bully, you may not like them. The same principle applies to cats.
Cats do not need to be friends to live together. They just need to be capable of co-existing. If the cats constantly fight, you may need to re-home one of them. Both animals will be living in a state of heightened stress. Eventually, this will take its toll.
Most cats will get along within a year of sharing a home, sometimes sooner. If the cats are still unfriendly at this stage, this is unlikely to change.