Cat interactions

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Contrary to popular belief, cats do not need friends! As a solitary species they are more than happy to live alone.

Many cats that live with others under the same roof would prefer not to and only tolerate the presence of others to gain access to the things they need such as food, water and litter trays. For many, close proximity to other cats can be extremely stressful and this stress can be difficult to spot.

There are some cats that do like each other. Cats which sleep touching and spend time grooming or rubbing against each other are likely to be in the same ‘social group’ or ‘friends’.

The resources below discuss how to tell whether or not your cats belong to the same social group, as well as advice on steps to take if all is not harmonious in your home.

Other Cat interactions videos

Cats grooming each other - Watch the video
Cat friends rubbing together - Watch the video
Cats and children - Watch the video
Cats Having a Wash - Watch the video
Simon’s Cat Logic – Do cats fall in love? - Watch the video 

The Cat magazine articles

Behaviour - Cat Introductions - Click here
Behaviour - Introducing cats and dogs - Click here
Behaviour - Cats and children - Click here
Behaviour - Do pets grieve? - Click here
Behaviour - Feline bullies - Click here
Behaviour - Friend or foe - Click here
Behaviour - Top cat: part one - Click here
Behaviour - Top cat: part two - Click here

Meow! blog articles

Behaviour focus: introducing cats
Cats Cuddling - Photo- Jackie May

In this behaviour focus post, Cats Protection Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow explains why two cats may not get along and how to gradually introduce them to one another.

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Behaviour focus: social groupsPhoto - Gemma Lovegrove

In this behaviour focus post, Cats Protection Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow explains how to recognise feline social groups.

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Introducing a new dog to your catPhoto courtesy of nguyen hoangnam via flickr / Creative Commons

So you've just got a new dog and you want to introduce them to your cat. When introducing any new pets to each other, it’s much better to control the situation rather than leave the animals to sort it out for themselves.

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 Photo courtesy of Stefano Mortellaro via flickr / Creative CommonsIntroducing a new cat to your dog

Contrary to belief, cats and dogs can get along if introduced appropriately. A gradual introduction can make all the difference and it can be easier if the cat had positive experiences with dogs when it was young and vice versa.

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We are often asked...

How can I introduce my new cat to my existing cat?

This issue is very common – in fact, problems arising from the stress of introducing a new cat to existing cats are some of the most common reasons for cats being returned to Cats Protection adoption centres after homing.

Introducing a new cat into a household is often stressful for both the existing cat and new cat, so the process has to be carried out slowly and carefully. Cats can be social with other cats but only as part of an established ‘social group’. They are most likely to form close relationships with other cats when they ‘grow up’ together, or where a relationship is developed over a long time – cats that are unfamiliar are usually seen as a threat.

Resident cats can be very stressed by the sudden introduction of an unfamiliar cat and might react with aggression, hiding away or avoiding the new cat. Other signs of stress might include urine spraying or over-grooming.

When introducing your new cat to your existing cat, keep the process slow and gradual. Firstly, set up a room for your new cat that is not one of the ‘core’ areas for the existing cat. This room can be set up with a litter tray, food, water bowl, comfy bed, toys and a scratching post and establishes a safe place for your new cat to get used to, as well as a ‘core’ part of his territory. It is important for your new cat to relax into his surroundings and get to know you, before facing the challenge of meeting your other cat.

Cats rely on scent for communication and identification. The introduction process should start with the ‘swapping’ of scent between the cats, by exchanging food bowls, toys and bedding. Through this process, the presence of the other cat should be associated with something positive, such as attention, play or a food treat. Only when the cats tolerate the scent of the other cat should you be able to introduce them to each other.

Be prepared, integration can take anything from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the age, character and previous experiences of your cats. Taking your time will make it worthwhile in the end.

How can I integrate a cat into a household with dogs?

This is likely to depend on the character and previous experiences of both animals. If you have a cat that has previously lived happily with a dog, they are likely to accept a new one more easily than those that have either not seen dogs before - or been chased by them! Equally, dogs that have lived calmly with a cat are generally easiet to introduce to a new cat than those that haven't had any interaction with cats at all.

When it comes to intergrating cats and dogs, the process needs to be slow and careful to make sure both the cat and dog are not stressed and that chasing and running responses do not become established. The easiest time to intergrate dogs and cats is during their 'socialisation period' (up to eight weeks of age in cats and 12 weeks in dogs), during which time puppies and kittens will accept the presence of the other individual as normal.

Other resources

Cats living together

Cats living together

If you already have cats that live together, or are thinking of getting two cats or more, there are some important things to consider about their social nature...