Older cats, especially if they have been the only cat in the household, can find it very difficult to get along with a new kitten if it is suddenly introduced into the home. Cats don’t like to have their established territory changed and so they may seem sad and even reclusive if you bring home a kitten. In some cases, the older cat may stop eating altogether.
That is why we have put together some steps you can take to make the transition for your older cat, your kitten, and you, easier.
Preparation makes all the difference
Instead of simply bringing your kitten home one day, prepare for your kitten starting already a week or two before you bring your kitten home. This can start by bringing home new food bowls and litter boxes (3 litter boxes are usually advised for a household with 2 cats). You can also during this time make some nooks for your cat to lie in that only they will be able to reach (the same goes for some higher hammocks in their cat enclosure as well, for example). From this vantage point they will be able to look out over their kingdom (and their new subject, of course), or just retreat there after playing too much with the new arrival.
A trip to the vet
It’s important to make sure that not only your new kitten, but also your older cat’s vaccinations, deworming, etc. is all up to date. A trip to the vet is therefore a good idea in order for your vet to give your cat a health check and make sure that they are healthy.
You can also ask your vet for help with nutritional supplements or pheromones that will keep your cat calmer and more relaxed during this stressful time. Remember that the supplements will most probably need to be taken for a few weeks to reach their full potential, so don’t wait until the last minute to go and see the vet or enquire about this.
The day of arrival
On the day that your new kitten arrives, keep it in its carrier and give your cat a chance to inspect the kitten like this before taking your kitten to the room that you have prepared for them.
This room should have a door that you can close (and lock if your cat is adept at opening doors like some are!) and contain the kitten’s food bowls, litter box, toys, bed or blanket, and a toy belonging to your older cat to let them get used to the scent. Remember not to put the food bowls and litter box next to each other.
Get your kitten settled without your older cat present, and then leave your kitten alone to explore their room a bit while you lavish your older cat with love and attention. You can also give them treats while the kitten’s smell is still on you and, in that way, show them that the kitten smell is a good thing.
The first week
Keep an eye on the pair when they’re together during the first week, and always supervise the playtime. However, if your older cat wants to retreat, let them and don’t force interaction between the kitten and cat.
During this week, you should also still keep your kitten in “their room” that you’ve prepared for them, but you can let your cat come into the room for a visit — as long as both behave themselves, of course. However, just like giving your kitten a chance to be curious, you should also give your older cat a chance to be curious.
After the first week — time and patience
It may take some time and patience for the two cats to become friends, so don’t sweat it if they don’t hit it off the second you carry the strange kitten into your home. Give them time to get used to each other, but also give your older cat a chance to show that they are the dominant cat.
To do this, they may hiss or swat at the kitten if the kitten acts in a way it shouldn’t or if the kitten tries to be dominant. However, if you find that they fight more like cat and dog than two kitties who just need to set boundaries, you might need to call in a behavioural specialist.
Remember, however, that you shouldn’t let a kitten outside before they’ve had all of their vaccinations. This, of course, still gives your older cat some time in the cat enclosure to themselves — and gives you a chance for a new setup that includes some other toys, hammocks, and all-round kitty fun.
Make this time of transition a fun time as much as you can, and be sure not to scold either of the cats or raise your voice at them. You’ll soon see that they find their stride and will get along.
Of course, if you are worried that a kitten will be too energetic for your older cat, or you’re afraid of your kitten being left alone in a year or two, getting two kittens can be a good idea. Here are some things to consider when getting two kittens.
The steps you followed for one kitten, however, will stay the same if you decide to get two kittens.
Image by Tania Van den Berghen from Pixabay