We are in the midst of kitten season and kittens are being adopted into new homes daily. Some are being adopted in pairs while others are going home to be a feline companion to a resident cat.
Bringing home a kitten is an exciting event – to you. But it may not be so exciting to the cat you have at home. The way you introduce the kitten to your resident cat will set the tone for their future relationship, so you want to do everything right.
Things to consider
There are a number of things to consider before choosing which kitten to take home to live with your resident cat.
Why are you adopting a kitten?
Have you had your cat for a couple of years or more and have decided that they need a feline companion?
Have you decided that you would like another cat?
Did you have another cat that died?
In the first two scenarios, your cat has not been with another cat since it was a kitten with littermates. Depending on its age, it may have forgotten how to interact with another feline and the introductions need to go slowly.
In the third scenario, a lot depends on how bonded your cat was to the cat that died. If they were very close and your cat is depressed about the loss of its buddy, it can either be excited about having a new feline companion or it can lash out thinking you are trying to replace their old friend.
Personalities and energy levels
Before you choose which kitten to bring home, you should consider what your current cat’s personality is like and how energetic it is in order to make the best match.
Even at a young age, kittens have already begun to demonstrate some inherent personality traits. In a litter, one may be the adventurer, one may be the lover, one may be the shy one, one may be the thinker and so on. You want to bring home a kitten whose personality will be the best to get along with your cat.
Stereotypically all kittens have an abundance of energy and love to play. While there is truth to that, some kittens are more energetic than others while other kittens love more snuggle time. Consider your cat’s age and energy level. If your cat still has a lot of playfulness, then an energetic kitten may be a good fit. If your cat is sedentary, they may prefer it if you brought home the gentler kitten.
The age factor
You must consider how old your cat is. In general, when people adopt a kitten to “keep their senior cat youthful” it can be a disastrous situation with the senior cat hating the energetic ball of fur that won’t leave them alone.
If you have an older cat and really are set on getting a kitten, chose the quitter, gentler and more affectionate kitten. We have seen kittens with that type of personality gravitate towards the more senior cats in the cat community room, so this can be a good match.
Arriving home – the starter room
Once you have chosen wisely and it is time to bring your new kitten home, do not just let the kitten lose in your home with the resident cat.
Your resident cat has established their place in your home and knows their routine, likes and dislikes. In order for the introduction of the kitten to be successful and support your cat and the new kitten establishing a good relationship, you must orchestrate their getting to know one another.
Initially, your new kitten should be placed in a room of its own. Choose a quiet, closed-in area such as your bed room or a small room away from the main foot traffic, and set it up with a litter box, bed, scratching post, toys, food and water.
This will give your kitten time to adjust to its new home – the smells, the sights and sounds.
Introduce your new kitten to your cat gradually. Before making any introductions, let the new kitten get to know and trust you.
If you have more than one other cat, introduce the new kitten to one cat at a time so that you don't overwhelm the kitten. Kittens are usually more adaptable, but if your cat reacts badly to them, it can scare or traumatize them.
Your cat will sense that there is another feline in the home and may be wary and may feel they are going to be replaced and lose their home and family. It is important that you make sure they know they are still loved – spend extra quality time with time, give them an extra treat or whatever means love to your cat.
At first, allow your cat lots of time for sniffing under the door to the new kitten’s room. If you use cat beds, switch cat beds. You can also rub a towel or cloth over the kitten and let the cat smell it.
Try switching rooms for a while, and let the new kitten explore the house (supervised of course), and let your current cat spend time in the starter room, sniffing around.
As they get used to the idea of each other, try allowing them to check out each other through a screen door or sliding glass door, or hold the kitten on your lap while your cat examines it. Let your new and resident felines sniff and inspect each other. They may growl and hiss at first due to fear or insecurity or as a way to establish boundaries. If there are any severe reactions with either cat lashing out, you will need to slow down the introduction process.
Never leave your new kitten unsupervised with your older cat until you are sure they have accepted each other.
These efforts can prevent an unpleasant introduction that is hard to recover from. Tempting though it may be, it can be a big mistake to rush this process. The slow approach is well worth the extra time, and you ensure your pets are all happy and comfortable in your home.