Last Updated on August 22, 2021 by Holly Anne Dustin
The day has arrived and you are bringing home the new kitten you chose. Everyone’s excited. Except perhaps the resident cats at home. If you have human children, introducing the new kitten is a little like bringing your new baby home to her big brother or sister. Great, but noses are bound to be out of joint.
So, how do we make this introduction of the new kitten successful? The keyword here is patience! Depending on the animals in question it can take weeks or even months. Introducing a new kitten, especially if he has been well socialized, is usually easier than introducing two or more adult cats.
Consider Territorial Needs When Introducing the New Kitten
Cats are territorial creatures. Some are more so than others. Suddenly this little cat arrives in your resident cat’s territory and everyone makes a fuss over her. This is HIS space and he’s not interested in sharing.
Consider the view of your kitten too. She has been taken away from her home and her siblings, or the familiar shelter setting to come to you, her forever home. She’s still young and she’s stressed and confused. It is important to set both of them up for success.
Give Baby a Sanctuary
Set up your kitten’s sanctuary room, with the items you have purchased for her. A small room, a den or guest room is ideal but a laundry room or even a bathroom can work.
You want a small room with limited places for your kitten to get into; with a door you can close where you can establish your kitten with her own litter box, food, and water bowls, scratching post or pad and toys.
Provide a box or carrier with blankets or a cave style bed to give her a safe place to hide out. If you are able to bring home her bedding from the shelter it will give her a source of familiar scents. If you have a blanket or towel with your resident cat’s scent on it, put that in the kitten’s room too.
A Feliway diffuser can help with stress relief. As can calming music, such as that found on this YouTube channel.
Now for the Resident Cats
Make sure there are a lot of enrichment opportunities, like cat trees, scratch posts, toys and hideouts, in their space too. A Feliway diffuser and calming music will help them too. Play with them, snuggle them, give them their favorite treats. Try and keep their routine as normal as possible. Don’t ignore them because the kitten is so cute and fun.
Let them sniff around the door. They are going to know the new kitten is there, but let them get used to the scent and the idea of it first before introducing them to the new kitten. If you have a blanket that has the kitten’s scent on it, leave it where the resident cats hang out. For the first few days just try to keep everything simple.
Scent Swapping and Creating a Group Scent
When everyone is comfortable, use a facecloth, a glove or a natural bristle brush and rub your big cat’s cheeks and chin when your petting her. Then take the same item and rub the kitten’s face and chin and repeat the process. Each cat will get used to the other’s scent. The combining of the scents of all the cats will create the unique group scent that belongs to your cat family.
After creating a group scent, start introducing the new kitten to the other cat’s space and allow the resident cat to explore the kitten’s safe zone. If you have a large house I suggest limiting the kitten to a few rooms at a time, gradually expanding his territory. You don’t want the kitten to be overwhelmed or hide away. Don’t allow the cats to interact during the switching.
Put the kitten in a carrier and move him to the other cat’s space, letting him out after the resident cat is in the safe room. Hopefully, they will use each other’s litter box during these site swaps to further integrate the scents. Play with everybody in every space so they associate positive interaction with both spaces. Continue this for a couple days.
Gradually start feeding the cats on opposite sides of the door and move the bowls closer and closer until they are side by side with the closed door in between. Then try it with a baby gate or cardboard panel raised slightly off the floor. Back them up if there is any hissing or growling. Try this when they are most hungry and with their favorite foods. Jackson Galaxy of the Animal Planet Show My Cat From Hell has a video on introducing the new kitten on YouTube here.
A Guide to Your New Kitten
Bringing home a new kitten is an exciting time for the family but an anxious one for the kitten. Kittens have needs that must be met to prevent stress, behavior problems, and health impacts. Download our guide to give your new furbaby the best life possible.
Put the kitten in his carrier or a pet playpen in the resident cat’s space. Let the cat explore the carrier. Don’t let the kitten out if there is any hissing or growling on the part of the big cat.
A well-socialized kitten is more likely to be curious than aggressive but he still might hiss or spit. Just keep trying until things are calm. Treats help.
Then try a face to face visit. It is helpful to have a second person there for this step. Let the kitten out and play with both cats, get out the wand lures and laser pointers for this. They don’t need to play together, they need to play with the other cat in the room without hissing, growling, or fighting. No puffed tails or airplane ears. Distract them with the toys.
End the game with treats and put the kitten back in his room. Keep this up until they are fine in each other’s presence. They don’t need to be friends, they need to be able to ignore each other. Then you have achieved the happy cat family you planned.
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