Introducing a third cat

November 24, 2018
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Little Errol has been with us now for exactly two weeks and it feels almost like he has always been part of the group. We are incredibly relieved and thankful that he integrated himself so smoothly into the household. But it did take a little work to ensure everyone involved was and stayed happy during the process which is why we wanted to tell you a bit more about it.

In our previous blog post we already discussed the "Why" of getting a third cat. Today I would like to discuss the "How" in terms of introducing little Errol to his sisters.

First Thoughts:

Before we even decided we wanted a third cat we had to be very honest with ourselves and answer questions that would determine whether a third cat was right for us or not. These included:

Do we have the time to introduce a third cat? - introduction processes can take anything from a few days to months

Does our financial situation allow for a third cat? - A third cat means more food, litter and medical costs

Do we have enough space for a third cat? - This does not necessarily mean floor space. Vertical space is just as important for cats as are places to hide and go to to be alone and away from everyone else

Do we think our resident cats would accept a third cat? - Now this one is difficult to answer usually. Cats are individualists and their characters change and adapt with age. You will have to know your cats very well to make a judgement on this question.

We could answer all these questions with a "yes" so we decided to start thinking about the next questions we needed to consider.

Kitten or adult?

We were thinking long and hard about this one, but decided that a male kitten would be the safest route to go, especially since Xafi and Auri, our resident girls, are still fairly young. Older cats can sometimes find kittens a little annoying but overall they do not pose a threat to the "top cat" position when joining a cat household and are often more easily accepted than adult cats. That is not always the case however and every cat owner will have to judge for themselves what they think their resident cat would be more likely to accept.

Preparations:

The first thing we did once we knew Errol was going to join us in a few weeks was preparing for his arrival. We decided to make the office into "his" room and ensured nothing the girls needed was in there anymore about a week before he arrived.

We also bought extra resources for him that we kept away from the girls so he could mark them as his once he arrived.

This included not only his kitten food, but also his own cat bed, scratcher (which they use to mark their territory), litter tray with fresh litter, food and water bowl or fountain and his own selection of toys.

The day of arrival:

We do not have any photos from the first couple of encounters between Errol and the girls. We made sure our entire focus was on them and making the experience as stress free as possible.

We brought Errol home on a Sunday afternoon and put the carrier into "his room" that we prepared with the above mentioned items. We opened the carrier and he came out purring, demanding cuddles and then explored his new home. We ensured he was happy and relaxed before going out to the girls to greet them properly and make sure they were okay. We also took the blanket that was in Errol's carrier and that he used the past days with us to give the girls to sniff.

Luckily Errol is a very confident kitten and the girls seemed so relaxed we gave them a first chance to meet that evening. The first meeting has to be timed right and should only happen when you are sure the new cat or kitten seems relaxed, confident and eager to explore beyond his designated room. This can take a little while for some new arrivals. Errol was extremely confident which is why we chose to do this so early. Equally the resident cats need to be relaxed, happy and curious about the new addition.

When first Errol met the girls they were absolutely fascinated by him. Errol on the other hand was a little scared and growled and hissed at them when they were near. However as long as the girls kept their distance he was happily exploring the rest of the house tail up and purring.

After about half an hour we put him back in his room, played with him for an hour or so until he fell asleep and then went to our usual evening routine with the girls. For us it was very important that the girls didn't feel like anything would change for them because of Errol. They still got their cuddles and playtime as usual and both slept in our bed as always.

Day 2 and beyond:

For us everything moved very fast. The next day we let Errol out in the morning and that was it really. He was still growling and hissing at the girls a little who stalked him at a safe distance. Auri gave a few hisses back, but Xafi seemed quite eager to adopt the little baby if Errol would have let her. Because all three seemed quite content we did not close Errol back into "his" room. It might have only caused confusion for him and the girls: One second he is there, the next he isn't etc.

Of course we did not leave them unsupervised all day and the next days to ensure they were all playing nice. And they did. On day three we already witnessed a few nose bumps

They tentatively started to play with each other and even Auri (who is still a little wary) made a few awkward attempts at playing with Errol. In the past days we have even seen first cuddles between Xafi and Errol. We never expected to see those in just a few weeks and are over the moon that both girls seem to have taken really well to Errol.

We were amazed at how quickly everything went and I know that this is not always the case in introductions. But what I think really helped us make the process easy were the following things:

  1. Choose the addition to the family carefully. We made extra sure the character, age and sex of the additional cat would fit the girls
  2. Prepare yourself - not just buying the extra resources you will need but also by taking the time and preparing for the whole process which can take a while
  3. Don't neglect the resident cats - a new cat or kitten is of course wonderful, fascinating and addictive. But this is the time to pay attention to the resident cats who will feel insecure, scared and threatened by the intruder into their territory. Make sure they get lots of reassurance and fuss in the process.
  4. Keep calm - when a new cat comes into the house they will hiss, growl and bat at each other. Don't interfere unless they are getting violent and stay calm using a reassuring voice. Don't punish them for hissing and growling. They need to do this to establish rank. Just praise them whenever they managed to be close without a growl or hiss.
  5. Don't force it - by no means try and pick one cat up to carry it to the others or try and trick them into being close to each other using toys or treats. It's frightening to them and they are keeping their distance for a reason. Give them the time they need and they will slowly get closer and closer in their own pace.
  6. Go with your gut - on the internet are as many different introduction stories as there are multi-cat households. There simply isn't a one-size-fits-all formula in introducing cats to one another. So you have to listen to your gut to some extend and do what you feel is right for your cats at that point. You are the person that will know them best and can judge when they are ready, when they need extra attention or when they need to be left alone

So really my most important advice is: Stay calm, listen to your cats, don't be an "uber-mum" and trust your gut.

Lastly I wanted to address one of the questions many of you asked us on Instagram: Did the relationship between Xafi and Auri or between them and us change? The answer is no.

The girls are still as close as they were before Errol joined. They still go about their daily routine as usual and seek time with us as well as each other. They don't currently cuddle because it's 30 degrees outside, but during the first days of Errol's arrival we saw some very sweet moments between the two girls. Auri was a lot more put our by the whole situation than Xafi. Everytime Auri seemed to get a little worried she hid in the bedroom. Shortly after that Xafi would seek her out and check on her to make sure she was okay. They'd share a quick headbutt or lick and Auri visibly calmed down.

We were really surprised and warmed by our girls and are so proud how they handled the whole process. We are now a very happy three cat household. Not something for everyone, but for us it definitely was the right decision.

I probably forgot to answer a load of questions so please feel free to ask those in the comments below.

Lastly I would like to say a huge thank you to Marjan, cat mum behind the wonderful Instagram account @lillmanlulu_luigi_and_co. She was a huge help in the entire process and a fantastic, knowledgeable and supportive friend. Marjan's account featuring the four cats that rule her home is also one of our absolute favourites. But be warned - these four cuties will steal your heart!

Thank you all again for reading and big kitty kisses from us all.

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