How to introduce a new kitten to a resident cat

Bringing a new kitten into the home is such an exhilarating time for the entire family, but have you ever wondered how your resident cat feels about the newcomer?

 

Cats are territorial solitary species, placing cats from different social groups together in one room in the hope that they live amicably just isn’t intrinsic in the feline world since conflict can cause substantial physical health and emotional distress to your adult cat.

 

By forward planning and a little bit of extra setup effort can make the difference between happy or hostile relationships for years to come.

 

In this article, we look at how to get the introduction process right from the start and help cats live harmoniously in multi-cat households using successful stress-free methods.

11/09/2022 By Melina Grin
This article enjoyed by 2005 pet lovers
How to introduce a new kitten to a resident cat image

Preparing Your Home for a New Kitten

Optimising the environment before bringing a new kitten home will help the resident cat feel as comfortable as possible and offer opportunities to cope with the sudden territory change.

 

Choose a separate room within the house which is off limits to the resident cat while the kitten settles in. This should be a room the adult cat spends little time in so there’s the least disruption to their safety and routine.

 

The kitten’s room should contain food, water, bedding, multiple litter boxes with low side rims, toys, hiding spots and a heartbeat stuffed toy to reduce loneliness and ease separation anxiety. Ensure there aren’t any possible hazards, pot-plants or small gaps the kitten may get stuck in. Blankets and toys should either belong to the kitten or brand new without the adult cat’s scent.

 

Consider purchasing two pheromone diffusers like Feliway to create a soothing ambiance for both cats (plug one within the kitten’s room and another where the resident cat spends most of their time).

 

Lastly, if you’re limited with space, prepare the newcomer a playpen or extra-large crate covered with a blanket. Once the kitten has been crate-trained, incorporate the crate during introductions.

 

Settling in Your New Home

Provide your kitten time to settle in and familiarise with their brand-new home, routine and new owners to maintain calmness before introductions.

 

A crucial factor to think about before the actual introduction is that cats are extremely scent oriented. Feline’s can distinguish by scent alone whether both cats belong to the same social group hence before they even meet face to face, it’s a clever idea to let both cats smell each other’s blankets.

 

Watch for negative signs like hissing, growling or blanket avoidance which may predict the introduction process can take longer than first anticipated.

 

How to Introduce a New Kitten to an Adult Cat

 

Introduce Both Cats in Stages

Introductions should be conducted in several stages to reduce the resident cat feeling threatened or trapped. Fundamentally the subsequent steps should be completed in appropriate order without rushing the process.

 

Stage 1 Swap scents and bedding

Once the kitten has settled into their room with all relevant resources. Start introducing each other’s scent by swapping the cat’s bedding and toys to familiarise the scent of one another without actually meeting.

 

Both cats should show positive responses to the bedding, observe any negative reactions and proceed slowly if there’s hissing or avoidance (this step should take about three days to a week). Once both kitties display calm behaviour in the presence of the bedding, place the blankets into each other’s room to continue with scent intermingling.

 

It may even be helpful to stroke the new kitten around their cheeks to gather natural facial pheromones, then deposit them against furniture, doorways and walls to further improve detecting each other’s presence.

 

Stage 2 Encourage your kitten and resident cat to investigate each other’s area

As long as there’s no adverse reactions to each other’s scent of the bedding or the rubbed areas. Temporarily confine the resident cat to their favourite room (for few hours as long as it doesn’t elicit frustration) and offer the new kitten opportunity to explore other areas within the home. Equally the resident cat should also have the opportunity to investigate the kitten’s room with the latter confined somewhere else.

 

Stage 3 Allow visual contact through a controlled barrier

Execution of this step requires both cats, a controlled barrier (i.e. baby gate or a chicken wire mesh) inserted into the door along with the owner plus another person with lots of time, patience and a stash of favoured food treats and toys.

 

Introduce both cats visually through a barrier with the new kitten remaining in its room. Give each cat a high value food treat or play with toys to distract and associate the introduction with a positive feeling. Don’t feed cats regular meals on either end of the barrier since felines are solitary hunters and feeders, they prefer to eat alone. Repeat above process for extended periods using physical distractions through play.

 

If you’re unable to supply a physical barrier, introduce both cats visually, however at a distance (i.e. opposite ends of a long corridor) but make sure there aren’t any staring competitions and there’s lots of high vantage points to diffuse tension. Likewise if at any point either cat looks anxious, separate both and repeat the process again afterward or at a greater distance.

 

Stage 4 Remove the barrier and encourage positive interactions

This next stage should only occur when both cats completely relaxed in each other’s presence. Yet again, this step requires an owner and another household member or a friend.

 

Remove or open the barricade in a tranquil manner, allow both cats to play within the same room with a distinct household member. Don’t force both cats together, allow them to interact on their own terms. If neither wants to play, distract the kitten with some treats while offer the resident cat a high value food treat (i.e. Dine creamy treats or Inaba Churu) to reinforce positive associations. Reserve these delicious cat treats for introductions to maintain their value.

 

If either cat shows distress or negativity towards each other, place the barrier back and return to the previous step.

 

Stage 5 Let the kitten and resident cat have unsupervised interactions

As long as both kitties are friendly and get along well (i.e. touch noses, rub each other’s face/body, groom each other, play together) continue to the final stage. Let both cats interact for brief periods unsupervised. Always monitor their body language and behaviour, separate if there’s any disagreements or negative interplay.

 

Gradually increase interactions for extended periods but make sure each cat has their own bedding, food/water bowls, litter trays, hiding places and toys in separate parts of the house to reduce feeling of competition with each other.

 

Lastly, both cats should have opportunity to avoid or escape one another, particularly if a kitten is likely to direct unwanted play behaviour towards an adult cat. High resting areas (i.e. shelves, walkways) will provide an escape route the kitten can’t reach which might help the resident cat cope with the kitten’s presence.

 

Conclusion

Many owners introduce cats by placing them instantly together. Although some felines adapt easily, majority have a challenging moreover stressful time adapting. As long as introductions are forged in a slow and steady manner, expect positive results within few weeks to several months.

 

If both cats don’t get along or you’re experiencing setbacks during the introduction phase, consult an Animal behaviourist.

 

Bibliography

Care, I. C. (2020, September 01). Advanced Feline Behaviour for Vet Professionals Module 9 Clinical Animal Behaviour Part 2. UK. Retrieved September 05, 2022