Deciding to bring home a kitten sure is wonderful and exciting. At the same time, this entails commitment as a cat parent to ensure that you provide your new feline friend with a safe, healthy, and loving environment while growing up.
If you currently have a cat at home, you might be wondering how she would feel about the new family member. As a cat parent, it’s normal to want to know how to introduce cats successfully and to desire for everyone to live in harmony. However, while you’re hoping that your cat gets along with the new kitten right off the bat, sometimes this might not be the case.
It’s easy to think that your affectionate furkid will become friends with a new kitten right away. Yet, you must remember that cats are territorial animals solitary in nature. Sudden changes in the home setting might stress them out. Case in point, your cat might not be too keen about having a new kitten in their established territory.
For one thing, kittens are usually eager furballs of energy that want to play all day. Your cat on the other hand might just want to chill out without being pestered by a youngling. Not to mention, a new kitten might also trigger feelings such as jealousy, discomfort, anxiety, and hostility in your cat.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t necessarily mean your cat won’t warm up to the new kitten in the near future. There are ways on how to get your cats to like each other, so you shouldn’t be discouraged.
Thinking of how to get cats to like each other might be worrying at first. Don't worry — when you make an effort to prepare and do so with care and patience, you can definitely help your cat adapt to the presence of the new kitten more smoothly.
8 tips on how to introduce cats successfully
Let us talk about the possible ways on how to make cats get along and hopefully enjoy each other’s company when the right time comes.
Before the new kitten arrives, prepare separate spaces (or “territories”) for each of them. The new kitten’s items such as their own litter box, food and water bowls, bed, toys, or scratching posts must be placed in their designated space. If possible, bring the items with the scent of the kitten already. Upon seeing and smelling these items, your cat will be introduced to these new things.
This period is the start of the transition towards introducing the new kitten to your cat. The key here is not to overwhelm your cat upon the arrival of the kitten, so it would help to slowly introduce the new kitty’s items to your cat first.
Make sure your cat is healthy
Preparing your cat is an essential part of introducing a new kitten. A big factor to consider is your cat’s health. Apart from their mental health, their physical wellbeing is equally important. If your cat is unhealthy, a new kitten will stress them out and this will just aggravate the situation. That is why bringing your cat to the vet for a checkup would be a great idea to ensure that they are in good health and that their vaccinations are updated.
Note that kittens are prone to respiratory issues, so you want to make sure that your cat has a strong immune system not to catch such illnesses. Also, make sure that your cat has an up-to-date anti-rabies vaccine not to cause any issues if biting or scratching ever takes place.
Allow them to become familiar with each other’s scent
One way as to how to introduce cats is to let them become familiar with each other’s scent early on. Wait until they are comfortable in their own separate spaces first. Once they’ve settled down already, allow them to explore each other’s scent while still keeping them apart.
For example, you can pet them separately, and let both of them smell your hands after you pet the other. Gradually allow them to explore each other’s spaces and items such as food and water bowls, beds, and toys while making sure that the other is not there. Give them treats to associate the new scent with something positive.
Let them see each other at a safe distance
After being accustomed to each other’s scent, your cats may be ready to see each other, but at a safe distance. A suggestion would be to place a small barrier between the two where they can still visibly see each other. If you live with other people, you can help each other keep both cats entertained whilst separately.
After engaging in such activities, they may feel relaxed and might be ready to meet without the barrier. However, if they don’t seem ready yet, it’s okay. Give them some time to just see each other without having to interact.
Organize supervised bonding sessions
Set up brief sessions of supervised bonding, then you can gradually make these interactions longer, depending on how your cats react. Remember that when any of them show signs of aggression or anxiety, postpone the sessions for the meantime until they become comfortable. Respect your cat’s pace to maintain a healthy environment for both your new kitten and your older cat.
If both cats seem to be enjoying each other’s presence, this may be a good sign that they are beginning to learn how to coexist with each other and not see the other as a threat. Giving them treats when they behave in a good-natured way will help them associate the sessions as positive experiences.
Establishment of boundaries and respect
When we talk of how to introduce a kitten to an older cat, boundaries and respect need to be established so that the cats won’t see each other as a threat. Cats are very serious about having a degree of order at home. When a new kitten arrives, this doesn’t happen right away.
For one thing, the kitten has yet to learn social norms while the older cat establishes her role as the senior between the two. Allow them to slowly set up some boundaries that will hopefully allow them to understand their place in the scheme of things as they co-exist in your home.
Help keep your cat calm down
There are various ways that can help you calm down your cat. If you feel that they’ll be stressed upon the arrival of a new kitten, one remedy that you can consider is natural supplements with calming properties. This may help relax your cat in anticipation of new changes in the home.
Normally, these supplements work best when they’re given a couple of weeks before the kitten is expected to arrive home. Always consult with your veterinarian before giving your cat any medication.
Understand that introducing cats successfully may take some time, and that’s alright. It’s normal for newly introduced cats to not get along right away. Do not rush things or it will cause much stress to both cats. What’s important is to be there to support them through the process. Hopefully, there will come that they will be happy to co-exist together or even become best of friends. Patience is the key.
Meanwhile, if you are thinking of getting help from experts, consider certified applied animal behaviorists who have the background and experience in assessing pets’ behavior.
Warning Signs When Introducing Cats
- Chasing Hazards
Fighting between cats usually starts when they chase each other. They may chase each other across the room, through pieces of furniture, under the bed or couch, or anywhere that there’s space to run about. What you can do is control the space to manage the mayhem. This can be done by blocking and sealing certain passageways to prevent fights from happening.
- Serious Fights
If your cats get into a serious fight and you can’t get sight blockers through to stop it from happening, you can throw a blanket and use it to carry one of them away from the other.
- Signs of Stress
In the process of acclimatizing, have a discerning eye on signs of stress that either of your cats may exhibit. Among some of the signs of stress in cats include aggressive behavior, hiding, and loss of appetite. If either of your cats exhibits these behaviors on more than a few occasions, consult with your veterinarian to help determine further steps you can take to help calm down your cat or kitten.
How long does it take for cats to get along?
The process of making cats get along is something that shouldn’t be rushed. While you wish that your cats would become buddies in an instant, it is important to respect your cats’ pace without pressuring them. This process takes anywhere from a few days to several months and there is no definite period to know for sure.
What you can do is to let each of your cats feel your love and support throughout the introduction phase. That way, they’ll be able to adjust to the new situation more smoothly, no matter how long it takes.
How to tell if cats are bonded
It’s relatively easy to spot if your cats have bonded. Some of the signs include:
- Grooming each other
- Being beside one another all the time
- Sleeping together
- Sharing their favorite toys and other things
If your cats exhibit these signs, congratulations! There’s a good chance that you’ve introduced them successfully.
For a cat parent, one of the best feelings ever is to know that your cats are happy and healthy. By adopting a calm, prepared, respectful, and loving approach in introducing a kitten to an older cat, you’ll be able to provide a positive environment for both your new kitten and your older cat in the long run.
Read more about raising a happy and healthy kitten.