Adding another cat to the household requires a serious amount of patience and compassion. After all, we’re asking a lot of our feline buddies when they are forced to share their space — and their humans — with a totally unfamiliar pussycat. And considering these cats are going to be spending a lifetime together, it’s important to take your time with the introductions and do it right.

Throwing two kitties into a room together and watching the fur fly is simply not going to work, and can even be dangerous. Our Daily Cat behavior expert, Pam Johnson-Bennett (author of Think Like a Cat), suggests creating a sanctuary room for the new arrival. Set up one room for him with his food, water, litter box and scratching post, and allow the resident cat to have the rest of the house. “This is done for the benefit of both cats,” says Johnson-Bennett. “For the new cat, it lets him get his bearings, because this is a totally unfamiliar environment. It also lets you evaluate how scared he is so you can start the bonding process [at his pace]. For your resident cat, it helps him know that his whole territory isn’t being invaded at once.”

Once the sanctuary room is established, you should allow the kitties to get to know one another one sense at a time. Johnson-Bennett suggests putting a sock on your hand and rubbing the new kitty around the face (to get some of his pheromones on it) and then placing the sock in the resident kitty’s territory. Then do the reverse, putting the resident cat’s sock in the new cat’s room. This gives the cats an opportunity to get familiar with each other’s scents while keeping them at a safe distance, and gives you an idea of just how upset each cat is going to be, so you know how slow this fragile introductory process should go.

The next step is to let them get a quick glimpse of each other under positive circumstances. “What you do is open the door, let them see each other and give each one a treat and close the door,” says Johnson-Bennett. “So, basically they haven’t had time to get upset. All they know is, “Well I saw something and then I got a treat.'” You can do this a couple of times a day, eventually working up to the point where the cats are spending up to a half an hour together. The timing all depends on how strongly the individual cats seem to react.

Pet care and behavior expert Amy D. Shojai, author of Complete Kitten Care, suggests allowing the cats to briefly trade spaces before the first nose-to-nose meeting. “Typically, cats are not going to be willing to meet each other unless and until they are familiar with their environment,” says Shojai. “So if you just open the door and allow the new cat out there, he’s either going to hide or he’s going to flatten himself down and he’s not going to really learn much of anything except this is a scary new place and there’s a scary new cat and I don’t know what’s going on.”

Once you have slowly worked up to the point where both cats have free reign of the house, it’s important to remember that, much like humans, not all kitties are going to become fast friends. Rather than forcing them to directly interact with each other, Shojai and Johnson-Bennett both suggest playing with each of them at the same time using two fishing pole toys (one for each of them to play with separately). “Then they start to recognize, ‘Hey the only time I get to play is when Goober is here too,'” says Shojai. “So maybe Goober isn’t so bad.”

Finally, it’s important to remember that you need to be very patient and proceed at both cats’ pace. It can take days or it can take weeks for two cats to learn to get along.