Do you feel like it’s time to add another furry feline to your home? Before bringing home a kitten from the animal shelter or rescue centre, there are things you need to consider and prepare.
First and foremost, think about your existing cat. Cats are territorial by nature, so your cat (aka the master of the house) may not readily accept the young kitty. Though some cats may quickly adjust to having new kittens around, others don’t and just end up barely tolerating them. The way your cat reacts to the new kitten greatly depends on how old and how well socialised your cat is when they meet. However, it doesn’t mean that you should leave everything to fate. There are ways to introduce a kitten to a cat to guarantee they’ll get off on the right paw, but you’ll need heaps of patience and sensitivity to succeed.
This article will explain how anyone can introduce a cat to a kitten peacefully. It includes:
- What to do before the kitten arrives
- Best practices for introducing a cat to a kitten
- Methods to maintain cat and kitten living together happily
- What to do if the cats get aggressive towards each other
- How to tell if your cat isn’t reacting well to the kitten
What to do before the kitten arrives
As much as possible, choose a kitten that has a similar personality as your cat. Though kittens are mostly playful and inquisitive around other new animals, it would help if the kitten you choose is of the opposite gender and matches the energy level and dominant traits of your cat.
Prepare your cat for the new kitten’s arrival by making sure she is physically fit and mentally ready. Check for respiratory diseases and make sure her rabies shots are up to date (kittens are known to bring home these potential illnesses). Use pheromone diffusers, sprays, or wipes and consider feeding vet-approved nutritional supplements to put your cat in a calm state.
Buy a new set of feeding bowls, collar, bed, toys, brush, litter box, and scratching post for your kitten. Your cat will not appreciate passing on her old stuff to the new pet, nor will the kitty appreciate getting hand-me-downs that smell like another cat. Place all the essentials within a secure, cat-proofed space with a closed door that the kitten can stay in for the time being. Make sure that this area is different and far from the existing area that your first cat owns.
Best practices for introducing a cat to a kitten
Take things very, very slow. When you finally bring the kitten home, take her directly to her designated space. Keep her there for at least a week, and do not allow her to leave the room anytime.
Before proceeding with your introduction, make sure both cats are calm and relaxed. Do not let the cats see each other first until they’ve gotten used to each other’s scent. Start by letting them smell each other from their own side of the closed door. Feed them simultaneously, with the bowls placed several feet from the door. Gradually move the bowls closer to the door for every meal if both cats don’t show any hostility or uneasiness. Aside from letting them get used to each other’s scent as they eat, you can also try the scent transfer method. Wipe your resident cat’s mouth and cheeks with a sock and place it in the new kitten’s room. Do the same for the kitten, and put it in your cat’s area.
After a week has passed, give your new kitten a chance to explore your home twice a day. Place your resident cat in another room, then open the door to let your new kitty learn about its new surroundings. Allow her the opportunity to look around as she deposits her scent around your home, and at the same time, familiarise herself with your cat’s smell.
Put a pet gate or screen door so the cats can acquaint themselves with each other with a barrier between them. Feed them their favourite treats as they observe each other from a distance, so that they associate each other with positive emotions. Do this for a few seconds a number of times each day.
You can also try introducing them to each other through interactive play. With the pet gate firmly in place, you and a companion can use a wand toy to simultaneously play with each cat on both sides. Do this for short periods of time, gradually increasing the amount of playtime if the cats do not display hostile reactions such as hissing, stalking, or hard staring. Reward their behaviour with treats. Once both cats are comfortable, you can let them play without a gate between them. As a precaution, you can let them wear leashes or harnesses, so that you can easily pull them apart if needed.
Methods to maintain cat and kitten living together happily
Always make their interactions positive by showering each cat with praise, treats, and physical affection. Let your resident cat establish hierarchy with the new kitten by allowing her hiss, growl, or swat at the kitten whenever the latter does something she does not approve of. This is normal behaviour in which your cat tries to assert her dominance at home.
It’s also important to keep the same routine your resident cat is used to even after the kitten arrives. Maintain her regular play, feed, and sleep times so you don’t add to the stress that she may already be feeling (more on this later!). Following a consistent schedule will also help your new kitten settle in. Make sure that your cat’s regular passageways to her usual sleeping spots, hangout areas, and litter box are still accessible even with the new pet around.
What to do if the cats get aggressive towards each other
Not all feline introductions go smoothly. When your resident cat suddenly becomes aggressive towards your new kitty, you’ll need to restart the entire process and work on introducing them gradually. As mentioned earlier, do not rush things. This could take a few days or even weeks.
You can prevent a cat fight from taking place. Control the space the two cats interact in so it limits their chances of chasing each other. Block and seal off areas such as underneath beds or couches, and open doors or passageways. You can also distract them by using a sight blocker (such as a hard piece of cardboard or blanket), clapping your hands loudly, or using a water squirter.
How to tell if your cat isn’t reacting well to the kitten
Your cat can manifest the stress of having a new kitten around in different ways. Senior cats might start sleeping in unusual spots at home or display a marked decrease in appetite, which may lead to dehydration. Other cats may show territorial marking behaviours and eliminate in inappropriate areas. Some self-mutilate or groom to the point of hair loss, while others hide or become depressed. Excessive vocalisation, restlessness, and redirected aggression towards people or other pets can also be indications that she is feeling stressed. If your resident cat displays any unusual behaviour, it’s best to speak with your veterinarian or cat behaviourist and get advice on what you can do.