The toughest part of bringing home your new baby Ragdoll kitten is introducing them to an established boss cat.
Cats have a strong need to protect their home and will naturally be very defensive in the presence of a new animal. Not every cat will be aggressive and some will take to your new babies as readily as you do.
There are a few steps that can smooth out the transition between your new Ragdoll and an established household boss cat.
NOTE: THESE TIPS WILL WORK INTRODUCING ANY ‘HEALTHY KITTEN’ TO OTHER CATS. NOT JUST RAGDOLL KITTENS.
Introducing Your Ragdoll Kitten to Your Other Cats – Before You Get Started
My biggest tip is to avoid rushing the process. Expecting your kitten to be your current cat’s new best friend is a recipe for disaster.
Moving your kitten from her safe space into your boss cat’s territory can take weeks or even months. The truth is, it takes as long as it takes. If you want them to get along and be friends, it’s necessary to go slowly in stages for the best outcome.
Keep in mind that it is natural and expected for your resident boss cat(s) to feel threatened. Don’t forget this.
Even if your cat got along well with your previous or current cats, do not expect them to take to new kittens easily. Setting up the safe room is for the safety of the kitten and also for the benefit of your resident cat(s).
Step By Step for Introducing Your Ragdoll Kitten to Your Other Cats
Step #1: Establish Your New Ragdoll’s Safe Room
My established cat, Jack, was 7 years old when I got my Ragdoll kittens. My old Ragdoll cats had passed away a year before, so Jack was the King Pin and on his own for a while.
Despite the fact that Jack had lived together well with my previous Ragdolls, I still kept the new babies (ZeeZee and Duffy) separate from Jack for several weeks.
Always create a safe space for your Ragdoll kitten when bringing them into your home. It protects your existing cat and your kittens both physically and emotionally. It prevents either cat from feeling threatened and stops potential fights that could deteriorate their relationship.
My kittens’ safe room was a spare bedroom in our home. It was in the bedroom wing of the home, at the end of the hall which was isolated and quiet.
I personally let my two Ragdoll kittens adjust to their safe room for a couple of weeks so they were happy, comfy, and confident in their new surroundings. Although, at the end of the first week, they were already curious as to what was on the ‘other’ side of the bedroom door.
Step #2: Extending Your Ragdoll’s Safe Room
After the two weeks were up and it was evident my Ragdoll kittens were confident and comfortable, I extended their safe area beyond the bedroom. The bedroom wing has a sliding door which divides the room from the main living area in the home. I kept the sliding door closed and all bedroom and bathroom doors closed. I left their safe room door open so they could explore the hallway and the extra space. They were still separate from the area of the house where Jack ruled.
You may not have the opportunity to add this transition step due to the layout of your home. This was just an extra step I added, which I believe really helped in the success of the process. It was a lead-in to the scent exchange phase.
Related > Why Are They Called Ragdoll Cats?
Step #3: Scent Exchange Between Your Boss Cat & New Ragdoll
Believe it or not, cats’ noses are even more sensitive than most dog breeds. Their sense of smell helps them discover and understand the world around them.
This is why you always see cats rubbing and marking your home. They are leaving their scent as a territorial marker. Trading scent between your cats is a neutral, passive way of letting your boss can know that new kittens are nearby.
Once I extended the kittens’ safe room, I noticed that Jack and the kittens would sniff and peek under the sliding door.
Each would lie on the floor on their respective sides sometimes staring for extended periods of time. They were typical cats being curious and often playful. This is an indirect exchange of scent and a neutral way to “introduce” your cats to one another.
Some sites recommend feeding your cats on either side of the door. The reason for this is that the cats will associate the other’s smell with the reward of a meal. This forms positive associations before a proper introduction.
You can also trade scent by exchanging blankets or bedding.
I took one of Jack’s small blankets from a chair and a blanket from the kittens’ room. I swapped them out, placing Jack’s blanket in the safe room and Duffy’s and ZeeZee’s blanket where Jack ruled. They paid as much attention to the blanket as you would expect. I notice my cats love to sniff, knead and rub on blankets that are fresh from the dryer. They want to put their scent on anything that smells different. Each cat frantically sniffed the blankets and seemed more than a little curious about where these strange smells came from.
An alternative is to have your boss cat go to the safe room while you allow your kitten or kittens to wander in your boss cat’s space.
Depending on your boss cat, this may or may not be effective. They could feel confused by being confined to a single bedroom. Feel out whatever works better for your cat.
Step #4: Controlled Introduction of Your Ragdolls to Your Boss Cat
We then thought it was time for them to actually see one another, without allowing any interaction. We first allowed our boss cat into the kittens’ safe space. Since Jack is the established cat, we thought it would be less invasive for him to come to them on his own terms.
We let Jack wander into the hallway, while Duffy and ZeeZee were in their carriers in the safe room. While Jack was curious, he did not actually approach the carrier until the fifth day. The kittens, on the other hand, had grown increasingly more eager to meet Jack with each passing day. We only allowed these interactions to last a few minutes and continued to allow Jack and the kittens to sniff through the safety of the carrier for five days.
During these periods of time, you should monitor for signs of aggression or anxiety. Some signs to watch for include:
- Hissing & Spitting
- Trying to hide
- Excessive grooming
- Urinating near the box (in an attempt to mark the kittens)
- Reduction or increase in appetite
- Obsessively following you
Some of these signs are obvious and some are more subtle. You need to know your boss cat’s habits and pay attention to behaviour that seems out of the ordinary for them.
If you don’t notice anything that is too alarming then it is time to bring your kittens into your boss cat’s space. It is still important to control their interaction, so continue to use the carrier to keep your kitten or kittens contained. Allow your boss cat to approach the carrier and limit the interaction to only a few minutes.
During this phase, remove your kittens or boss cat BEFORE aggression is displayed. Increase the time together gradually and monitor them closely. Do not wait for either cat to have a chance to harm or frighten the other. This can cause you to need to step back to separation and passive scent exchange until they are more comfortable with one another.
When we did this for Jack and the kittens, we allowed Jack to check them out. He showed no signs of growling or hissing. After all, they did not have free reign of his ‘hood’. He seemed mostly curious and almost indifferent. We repeated this for 7 days. Again, how long your cat needs depends on them.
We gradually increased the time they were in the room with him. The kittens would lie quietly in the carriers and sniff at the new environment, while Jack just sat and stared at them. Jack would often jump up on a table or tv stand, so he could keep an eye on those newcomers. There was no growls or hissing…yet.
Step #5: Free Reign Introduction of Your Boss Cat to Your Ragdolls
This is a tough step. You need to really know your boss cat in order to tell when the right time is for him or her to do a free reign introduction. Despite sometimes weeks of scent exchange and “meeting” one another, giving your kitten the ability to roam in your boss cat’s territory can still be risky and tricky.
We brought ZeeZee and Duffy in their cat carrier/cages into Jack’s territory and opened the carrier doors. It was a tense moment!
They were allowed to roam in the room for a few minutes. They didn’t pay any attention to Jack, but Jack was certainly aware of their presence.
NOW, Jack showed his disapproval of the happy pair with a little quiet growl, which I fully expected. In fact, I was surprised it took so long to happen. But, hey, these little dudes were now in HIS space and he was feeling a little threatened. SO, it was clearly time to slow down.
I repeated this process once or twice each day for about 7-8 weeks. When all would go well, I would extend the time they were in the same room, roaming freely. Gradually the time was increased.
Jack adapted to his new brothers beautifully. It took months to work my way through the process with the boys, but it paid off.
It was absolutely nerve-wracking at times and even a bit frustrating to have to move so slowly with their transition. This can be especially difficult for people who have smaller living quarters and have issues keeping their cats separate. I promise that it is worth the trouble. Pushing for too close of an interaction can mean starting from square one or worse, dealing with aggression between your babies.
Step #6: Leaving Your Cats Alone Together
For the first few weeks, don’t leave your new cats alone with each other. Even if they appear to be getting along well, it is best to monitor their behavior in case there are triggers that can lead to aggression.
For example, I had a cat who was possessive of her “top bunk” bed. She never showed signs of anxiety or aggression to my other cat until he tried to share the bed with her. She would swat at him and hiss. It was surprising because they got along quite well otherwise. It wasn’t until later in their relationship that she allowed him to share the bed with her. This could have led to a relationship-destroying fight if I had not kept them separated during their initial few months together.
Tips & Advice for Dealing With Established Cats in Your Home Cats (aka Boss Cats)
Cats have a strong drive to protect their territory. Cats who have not been raised with other cats (and even some of those who have) will naturally be very defensive of their area.
Take as much time as is needed. I have heard of cats who were immediately best friends. Sadly, though, some cats may NEVER get along with the newcomers. You should still take every effort you can to ease their transition. Some cats may be stand-offish or indifferent to their new housemate. Some may be jealous and possessive of you. Taking time and having patience will definitely increase the odds of success for your group to be life-long pals. Some cats may cope more readily, some may take much longer than mine did.
Separate resources until a good relationship is established. Do not let your new kittens and your established cat share water, food or litter boxes throughout their transition phases. Duffy and ZeeZee had their gear still in their safe room and Jack’s remained in the usual spots. These are what cats will consider as precious resources and they will defend them. Even certain toys or beds can become points of contention in cats that were previously getting along well.
Try calming sprays and scents. I have used Feliway Plug-Ins. These produce scents that help calm your stressed cat or kitten. I used them with my last Ragdolls, as Bailey would hiss at her brother after they had a bath (he lost his scent and she was unable to identify him!) The pheromones in the plug-in device really helped to take the edge off for her until he got his scent back! Go figure.
Introducing Adult Cats
As one last note, introducing a boss cat to a fully-grown Ragdoll cat can take even longer. This is because both cats have grown with the notion that they are boss and they need to guard their territory.
This can be stressful for your new Ragdoll who may feel separated from his or her established territory. They can be even more nervous and defensive than your resident cat.
Keep them in their safe room as long as needed. Be prepared for aggressive behaviour and do your best to be patient with them.
In conclusion, as you should know it by now…be patient.
Don’t forget that as domesticated and darling as cats seem, they are still animals. They have natural instincts that are hard to navigate.
Each cat is different and building a relationship between them involves care and consideration. If you do your best to follow the steps to ensure an easy transition between your new kitten and your established boss cat, then you should be able to foster a beautiful relationship with your feline family.
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