We think of cats as being solitary creatures but they can live happily with others if introduced properly. Bringing a new kitten into your home can pose challenges if you have an older resident cat but with a bit of preparation and careful management there is no reason why they cannot be friends – or at least tolerate each other! An unmanaged introduction can result in your cat feeling threatened or scared and increase the chance of aggression. If cats get off on the wrong paw it is very difficult to change their minds about each other.
Make sure you’re ready!
Before you bring your new kitten home you need to ensure you have enough resources to accommodate another cat. Cats generally don’t like to share litter trays so the rule of thumb is to have at least one per cat plus one extra. Each cat should also have their own food and water bowls, beds and scratching posts.
Cats need their own space so think about how you can give each pet an area that belongs to them. Put their bedding, bowls, scratching posts and litter tray here (maintaining a good distance between their toileting and eating areas) to help avoid any conflict over resources.
Before your kitten arrives, it is a good idea to get your older cat used to the area that you wish them to use. If there is a place in the house where your cat seems to spend most of its time, consider making that a kitten-free zone.
Your older cat is more likely to accept the new addition if they are as relaxed as possible beforehand. Consider using a calming cat pheromone plug-in or spray in their area in the weeks leading up to the kitten’s arrival.
When the kitten arrives
It is a good idea to keep your kitten and cat apart initially so you might like to confine your kitten to one room – preferably one that your cat doesn’t normally use. While your kitten is making themselves at home in your chosen area, you can get your pets used to each other’s scents by rubbing each lightly with an old tea towel or cloth – particularly around the face as this is where the majority of their scent glands are – and then do a swap. Your cat and kitten can then get used to each other’s individual smell before meeting face to face for the first time.
You should not attempt a face-to-face introduction until you are confident that your older cat is comfortable with your kitten’s scent. You can test this by offering the kitten’s towel to your cat and seeing if they choose to rub themself against it. A mixing of scents is a sign that cats belong to the same social group so if your cat does this, it’s good news!
Meeting face to face
Your kitten will have to learn how to behave in social interactions with other cats and it is likely that if your older cat gives them the cold shoulder, they may not take the hint! To avoid a scrap, it’s best to manage the first face-to-face meetings so that you can intervene if things start to get out of hand.
Stairgates are a useful tool for introductions as you can put them between rooms so that your cat and kitten can see and sniff each other but still have a barrier to any unwanted physical contact. Once your cat is visibly relaxed in the company of the kitten you can remove the stairgate for supervised interaction. Ensure that your cat has an escape route to a high place they can climb or jump to if the kitten’s attention gets too much for them.
To the future
If you continue to keep your older cat’s resources (bowls and litter tray) out of the reach of your kitten it will help to prevent any stress or conflict in the home. Over time your cat and kitten will get used to each other and may even decide to share beds in the future. The secret is to take it slowly and hopefully a good relationship will blossom as your kitten grows.