As much as cats love ear scratches and catnip, that’s how much they can hate change. Our feline friends are big fans of routine and predictability. So, when we throw them a curve ball, like a new kitten, it’s hard to anticipate their reaction. Some cats will love getting a new friend. They’ll accept the kitten right off the bat and might even act like a big sibling or protector. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. It’s true that some cats have more trouble making friends with fellow felines. If you’re worried about your resident cat’s reaction to living with a new kitten, it’s important to get the introduction just right.
Here are a few tips to help your new family in those first few days.
Give Everyone Time to Calm Down
Introductions will go a lot smoother if both parties are cool, calm, and collected. When you first bring your new kitten home, they’ll understandably be a little nervous and confused. They might prefer to hide or could even be a little aggressive (in a scared kitten kind of way). Meeting a bigger and potentially intimidating cat right away could be too much for the little fluffball to handle emotionally. It’s best to give your kitten time to decompress. Set them up in a room where they can be by themselves and settle in.
At the same time, you don’t want to introduce the kitten when your resident cat is in a bad mood. Cats can be moody, so either wait it out or do something to keep your cat calm. Calming pheromones could help, or you could let them indulge in a favorite food or activity to make sure they’re in a positive state of mind.
Keep The First Meeting Brief and Positive
When kitten is feeling confident and settled, it’s time for the big introduction. You don’t want to move too fast, so the first meeting should be short. It’s also a good idea to keep the two cats separated in some way, especially if your resident cat has shown a dislike of other cats in the past.
A good way of doing this is to keep the kitten in a closed carrier and to let the older cat approach. The kitten is safe in the carrier in case things go south, but both parties can see and sniff each other. If not a carrier, a baby gate will work just as well. While the introductions are happening, remember to stay calm and keep things positive. Offer both cats yummy treats and speak in a soothing tone. If things go well, the next meeting can be longer and face-to-face.
Know The Warning Signs
Every time the two cats are together, it’s your job to read their body language. You need to be on the lookout for warning sounds that say the meeting isn’t going well. If you can calm things down before emotions get too intense, you can start over and try again later.
Signs that the cats are dangerously uncomfortable include things like flattened ears and growling. A hiss or a swat are also obvious signs that things could be going better. Your attention might be on your older cat, but also pay attention to how your kitten is acting. You don’t want them to be too scared and end up traumatized. If they’re cowering or trying to hide, they need a break.
Only Allow Supervised Interactions
As your cats get used to each other, you can let them interact face-to-face and on their own terms. Let them sniff and stare all they want, but make sure they do it with supervision. The situation can change quickly, and you don’t want things getting out of control when you’re not there to enforce the peace.
You want your new kitten to start getting comfortable in their new environment. As long as your resident cat isn’t actively attacking them, your kitten should have freedom to explore. But when you leave the house (or even the room in some cases), you should separate the two new family members. It might be a few weeks before everyone is ready for unsupervised time together. You’ll know they’re ready when both cats act perfectly calm every time they’re around each other.
Know What To Do If Things Go South
Cats are territorial, and it’s not surprising when initial introductions get heated. Your resident cat might feel like the newcomer is invading their territory or stealing their toys and attention. At the same time, fear can make kittens lash out, even if there’s no hope of them winning a fight. Your job is to prevent those tensions from turning into a full-blown fight.
Distraction is your best defense in these tense situations. Offer up a fun toy or treat to try and change the mood. (Make sure you don’t give the kitten your cat’s favorite toy, though.) If that doesn’t work, make a noise or jump around to get their attention. When their focus shifts, you can determine if they need to be separated.
If your worst case scenarios comes alive and the cats start fighting, resist the urge to pull them apart. This only puts you in danger. Instead, make a loud noise, squirt them with a spray bottle, or throw a pillow at them. You’ll need to start your introductions back at square zero if this happens. Go back to safe carrier meetings and keeping them separated until they show signs of acceptance.
If you’ve tried everything you can think of, and your two cats still aren’t getting along, consider talking to a feline behaviorist. These are professionals with expert knowledge on the way cats think and behave. It might be a long process, but it will be worth it when you’re all one big happy family.