Adding a new kitten to your family can be a fun time in your life, but what if you already have an adult cat at home? When introducing a new kitten to your established feline friend, you want to make their health and safety the priority.
Cats are social creatures and often enjoy having a friend or two to share their life within your home. Introductions of new kittens to your older cat can be tricky though. It can be tempting to quickly introduce the cats to one another, but waiting for the right time will save you lots of grief. Older cats do not like change and having a new kitten in the home is definitely a big change.
Your older cat may hiss, become reclusive, and act unfriendly towards the new kitten. The change in the household is causing stress for the older cat. If you take proper steps to prepare, you can help ease this stressful time for your older cat and make it a more pleasant experience. Patience is key when introducing a new kitten to your older cat.
So, what should you do to help introduce your new pet and your established pet?
1. Quarantine Your Kitten
If you have rescued a kitten from outdoors or from someone that is not a shelter or recognized animal rescue, you should quarantine the kitten for a minimum of two weeks. Why? Kittens can carry infectious diseases that can be contagious. Taking two weeks to quarantine will allow you to monitor for potential symptoms and keep your older cat safe while doing so.
Just because your kitten appears healthy, it does not mean that they are not carrying a disease that could infect your older cat. You should monitor them closely, observe if they are going to the bathroom normally and that their stools are solid and not watery. Look to see if their skin is healthy and make sure they do not have ringworm or flea infestation. A good idea is to take the found kitten to a vet to get a full health check-up as well.
If you have adopted or bought your kitten from a shelter or breeder it is still a good idea to quarantine your kitten to allow them time to get used to their new space. Throwing the two together immediately will be stressful for both and will usually not provide a good outcome. This will also allow the cats to smell each other’s scents through the doors of the different rooms they are kept in. They can slowly acclimate to the other’s scents this way.
Speaking of scents…
2. Mingle Your Cats’ Scents and Provide Pheromones
Before ever introducing the cats face to face, you should allow them to become familiar with each other’s scents and smells. You can do this by swapping out blankets or toys from cat to cat. You can also do this by switching the locations of the cats. For example, if your older cat has had free range of the house, and your new kitten has been confined to your bedroom, allow the kitten free range of the house and place your older cat in your bedroom temporarily. This will allow them to get used to each other’s scent in a stress-free environment.
To help make the environment even more stress-free, consider using pheromones. You can buy wipes, sprays, and diffusers that provide pheromones that will help both cats feel less stressed. These products mimic a cat’s natural pheromones and help create a calming environment.
3. Make Your Home Cat-Friendly
Make your home cat-friendly through the use of toys, cat trees, shelves, and other cat-related items. If your cat has the ability to access your home vertically through cat trees or shelves, they can remove themselves from the situation if they find it to be stressful. This can help your older cat adjust to the new kitten by being in his own separate space.
Another great way to help your new cat and your older cat get along is by having separate litter boxes for each cat and having separate eating areas for each cat. This will help stop territorial behavior and lead to a better relationship between the two cats.
4. Feed Your Cats on Opposite Sides of a Door
To help your older cat associate the new kitten’s scent with a positive area in their life, feed your cats on opposite sides of a closed door. The older cat will associate the kitten with food, which is something they enjoy. To start this technique, start a few feet away from the door and move each cat’s food bowl a little closer to the door day by day. Eventually, the cats’ bowls should be about a foot away from either side of the door. The older cat should now positively associate the new kitten’s scent with the smell of their food.
5. Give Visual Access Through a Baby Gate or Screen Door
Your cats should now be ready to finally lay eyes on each other! For this important step in the introduction process, use a baby gate, pet gate, or screen door to allow your cats to see one another while they are eating. If your older cat is too stressed by the introduction, they can walk away from the gate. If this happens, don’t worry! Keep trying and just take it slow.
6. Distract Your Cats with Play Time and Food
Finally, it’s time to allow your new kitten and older cat to be in the same room! Don’t just let the cat and kitten together and step back though. Make sure their food is out and distract each of the cats by playing with them with their favorite toy or cat treats. If the two cats begin to have a stare-down with each other, go ahead and remove the kitten from the situation and try the same thing tomorrow.
Eventually, the cats will acclimate to one another and tolerate each other. Don’t be discouraged if your cats don’t become instant friends. Over time, the cats can become closer and will improve their relationship. They might not ever become best friends, but they can live in a peaceful and harmonious household.
Featured Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock