Introducing a new kitten to an older cat can be a bad experience for you, the kitten, and the older cat. When done improperly, you can look forward to many years of harsh feelings between the felines. First impressions are very important to felines. If the first impression is negative, the cats may never get along. If this is the case, you can look forward to years of frequent hissing, growling, and fighting. You can also look forward to inappropriate elimination and other destructive behaviors. If introducing a kitten to an older cat is done improperly, you may even need to give up one or both of the cats to return your household to a “normal” state. Read on to learn some important and helpful tips for this process.
The first step is a “do not”. Do not put the two cats next to each other and just let them get acquainted. Cats are territorial. The older cat will most likely not want a younger cat encroaching on his or her space. This can also encourage the older cat to harm the kitten. Since the older cat is not the kitten’s mother, the older cat will not feel the need to protect the little one. Kittens are energetic, cute, and unsuited to defend themselves against older cats. You can also end up injured by trying to break up the inevitable fight. Cat bites and scratches can get infected very easily and can cause serious damage to you. If you find that you have been scratched or bitten and the injury bleeds, you should get checked out by a doctor at your earliest convenience.
The most recommended way of introducing a new kitten to an older cat is in stages. Kittens and older cats are both naturally curious. They are more likely to be accepting of new animals when they have time to investigate a new circumstance from a distance. When bringing a new kitten home for the first time, make sure your older cat is put away where he or she will not see you with the kitten. Have a room set up for the kitten that will be completely shut off from the rest of the house. Make sure the room has adequate food, water, litter box, and comfort areas. The kitten will be living in this room for at least a week (and maybe more than a month), so this needs to be an appropriate space for him or her long-term. Make sure to introduce the kitten to the litter box immediately. Also, you will not just abandon the kitten in this room. You need to be sure you are spending at least an hour every day with the kitten. You need to bond with the kitten as much as the kitten needs to get used to the older cat.
Once the kitten is safely in the room, you can let your older cat out in the house. Allow the cat to come across that closed door during his or her regular day. The cat may hiss at the door as he or she discovers the smell of the kitten. Ignore this behavior completely. This will go away in time. It is very important that you do not allow the two cats to meet until this behavior stops. The kitten will probably respond from the other side of the door with a hiss or two of his or her own. This is normal, and there is no reason to be alarmed. Once the two cats get over their initial disapproval of each other, they will start to become curious. This could take a week (for more accepting cats) to a month or more for a stubborn cat. The kitten will most likely get over it quickly. The older cat may not be so accepting. Remember that the house is the older cat’s territory, and he or she will protect this territory from other animals. By setting him or her in another room, you have given the kitten a piece of the older cat’s territory.
Once you have reached the stage where the two cats are no longer “arguing” beneath the door, you may introduce them to each other in a supervised, brief session. Choose a neutral location (NOT the kitten’s room, and not the room where the older cat’s food or litter is kept). Have someone help you so that both cats are brought into the room. Remember that cats look to YOU for guidance in potentially emotional situations. If you are stressed, your cat will be stressed as well. Do not reassure either cat. When you speak in a reassuring voice, it lets your cat know there’s a reason to need reassurance. You should be calm and matter-of-fact (as should whomever brings the other cat into the situation). The initial meeting between the cats should be brief. Hold both cats, but allow them to sniff each other. A minute is enough time for this encounter. Then return the kitten to his or her room and set the older cat down. You will do this three to four times a day for a couple of days to get the cats more acquainted. When you can hold both cats for a few minutes without hissing, it is time to let them on the floor with each other. Keep it supervised and separate them if growling occurs, moving the kitten back to his or her “safe” room. Once the cats can spend about fifteen minutes with each other without fighting, they are ready to be unsupervised. Gradually move the kitten’s litter box near where the older cat’s box is kept. Move food and water bowls gradually as well. If you move the litter box too far too soon, it is possible the kitten will not be able to find it. Move it about ten to fifteen feet per day. This process may seem inconvenient and tedious, but it will pay off in the long run for a harmonious feline household.