How to Introduce a New Kitten to Your Older Cat

Pet Health

How to introduce an older cat to your new kitten.
Getting a new cat is exciting - who doesn’t love a cute little kitten? For one, your existing older cat might not be so thrilled about it. Cats can be jealous of new animals in their territory and may react badly to the change. 

That’s why you need to be careful to give both cats a few weeks to gradually get to know each other in stages. If you follow the process and don’t rush things, your kitten and cat should be able to get along just fine.

Is it Easy to Introduce a Kitten to a Cat?

Introducing a kitten to a cat is usually easier than introducing a new senior cat to a resident cat. A kitten hasn’t yet worked out the concept of territory and its body language is less threatening to the resident cat. Make sure the mature cat doesn’t feel left out. Give it the same attention you would usually so it knows it isn’t losing you or its resources to the newcomer. 

How to: Introducing a Kitten to a Cat

New kitten hiding under red blanket

As tempting as it may be, don’t introduce your kitten to the entire household on day one. Imagine how stressful it is for your kitten to arrive at your home with new surroundings and new people, let alone the ‘threat’ of a mature cat. The best way to introduce them is slowly and a later date when they already know another cat is in the house. 

1.    Place the Kitten in a Safe Room

Bring your kitten home and place him in a safe, quiet room in the house. The room should be away from your resident cat so they can’t see each other. Allow your kitten to spend one week in the room with everything it needs including food and water bowls, bedding, litter tray and toys. If you need to move your existing cat’s belongings to make way for the kitten, do it at least two weeks in advance so it inconveniences the mature cat as little as possible. 

2.    Get Used to the Other Animal’s Smell

During the first week, they will have time to get used to the smell of the other animal. Move between the two cats after patting. Another way to introduce the scent is to rub the cat’s cheeks and head with a small towel so its pheromones (scent) transfer to the material then place it under the other cat’s drinking or feeding bowl. You can also swap bedding and, if suitable, switch rooms so the cats get to know more about the other. 

3.    Introduce through a Cage

After a week, you can try letting the two cats meet through a cage. Do it when both cats are relaxed. Place your kitten in its cage or a pen and allow the cat to approach. Be ready to pick up the cage if the cat is aggressive. Do this a few times until you think your cat is ready to meet the kitten without the bars. 

4.    Introduce Face to Face

Once you are happy both cats tolerate each other through the cage, open the door and let them meet. Be sure to supervise the early meetings and be ready to pick up your kitten if it’s in danger. The introductory phase can last a few days to months so be prepared to take it at your cats’ pace. It can take up to a year for the cats to really form a friendship

5.    Supervise Their Play Time

Continue to supervise any time the two cats spend together until you are sure your older cat and kitten are getting along. If you aren’t confident, separate them when you aren’t there to supervise. 

A new kitten and cat enjoying play time

6.   Create Separate Areas

Even if both cats seem to get along well, it’s ideal to give the cats their own resources and spaces. They should have their own water and feeding bowl, and a bed and litter tray in separate areas so they can eat and rest undisturbed.         

7.    Check Your Cat Isn’t Bullying Kitten

Your senior cat might take the position of alpha cat and bully the kitten. The bullying can go on for years, making life miserable for a beta cat. You can tell if your cat is bullying your kitten (or new cat) by:

  • Refusing to let the kitten eat. 
  • Not allowing the kitten to settle down and rest.
  • Kitten isn’t allowed to enjoy playtime because the jealous older cat arrives on the scene.
  • Kitten is attacked, often for no reason. 

It can be difficult to tell the difference between playful and predatory behaviour. Look out for intense focusing on the other pet, stalking or chasing. Don’t allow bullying because your kitten may be permanently anxious and stressed.

 How Long Does it Take For a Cat to Get Used to a New Kitten?

A new kiitten and older cat becoming best of friends

All situations are different but you can expect it to take at least a few weeks for a cat to accept a new kitten. It will depend on your cat’s temperament and how much time it has spent with other cats in the past. It’s not uncommon for it to take 6 - 12 months for two cats to become completely comfortable with each other.

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Is it Normal for a Cat to Dominate a Kitten?

Cats are territorial and they may want the kitten to know who owns the territory. A cat will usually hiss, growl and swat a kitten to mark its dominance. Both male and female cats are territorial but a female may claim a much smaller area than a male. 

A cat may also spray to mark its territory. But it can be more aggressive by scratching and biting or not allowing the kitten access to the food. Male cats are usually more aggressive in defending their territory. Spaying or neutering a cat could help with their aggression but it may not make any difference either. Territorial problems may start when the kitten reaches sexual maturity. 

When the kitten is on the receiving end of the treatment, it may have annoyed the cat or its mere presence may be enough for the cat to teach him a lesson. A kitten will often accept its place and not test the cat’s patience. They may show they’re submissive to an older cat by rolling on to their back or side. Whatever the behaviour, it’s best to leave them to sort out the hierarchy and only get involved if your kitten isn’t safe. 

An Animal Behaviourist Can Help

There’s no doubt introducing new pets into the house can be a stressful time – for you and them!  With some patience your cat and new kitten should grow to tolerate each other or even become good friends. 

If you’re having problems and not getting anywhere on your own it’s worth seeking help from an animal behaviourist. Your vet should be able to recommend someone.  Advice and coaching from an expert can make coexisting easier on everyone in the house.

Tammy George

Please note: Tammy's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic please consult your healthcare professional.

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