By Larry Chamberlain
So, you read somewhere that introducing a new kitten into your home could be great for your existing cat, for companionship. And you remember how much fun your cat was when she was a new kitten, and you would love to re-live those days.
It is generally thought that cats thrive better with the company of another feline, especially cats confined indoors. But before you rush off to your local cat shelter or breeder, here are a few tips to make bringing home a new kitten as stress free as possible.
Choose a time when your home is not too busy and you will have time to devote to your new kitty and your existing cat, avoid holidays, for example, or other times when friends and family are likely to visit.
Before bringing home the new kitten, take her to your veterinarian to get her checked and vaccinated, kittens have weak immune systems and are likely to pick up something at the shelter or cattery. Consider adopting a cat of the opposite sex to your existing cat, this will avoid same sex rivalry and associated problems. For a number of reasons all your cats must be spayed/neutered.
If possible arrange to bath your new kitten at a friends house before you take it home, this will neutralize kitty's odor, and go some way to prevent unsettling your cat.
A short isolation period is necessary when introducing a new kitten. It would be ideal to have a separate room for the new kitten, your new little pet will need her own litter box, and food and water bowl. Some kittens will hide out under furniture for some days, more adventurous ones will be eager to explore their new home almost straight away. Do not try and force kitty to leave the room, you will know when she is ready.
Allow your new kitten to explore around your home while your older cat is in another room. Make the introduction, slowly, bit by bit, it is a good idea to let your existing cat sniff your new kitten's blanket a few times before they actually meet. Make the initial periods of contact short. Gradually increase the time that they spend together as they get used to one another. It is not unusual for there to be a few spats in these first meetings, so do not leave them alone together until they get on. If a fight does break out, distract the combatants and get them into separate rooms as soon as possible, never punish either cat.
The process of introducing a new kitten to an older cat, can often be relatively stress free and need not be full of problems. The key is in making the introduction slowly, and perhaps the best tip of all is to give your older cat just as much attention and affection as you give the newcomer.
Before you know it you will have two cats that thrive on each others company.
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Those who have mentioned having a kitten and an older cat not get along after only a few days need to give it more time. Patience. Also, letting your cat roam outside is "not' the answer to a proper introduction and yes, you "could" lose your older cat. Keep her indoors.
The key is to lavish your original cat(s) with attention and to "ignore" the newcomer until your original cat has accepted it. This means no baby talking to your new kitten. No holding or petting of your new kitten. Babytalk your older cat, hold and pet your older cat, and never, ever scold your older cat for hissing or swatting at the newcomer, as this will make the new cat introduction take even longer.
Give full access of all rooms in your home, except one bathroom, to your older (resident) cat. Confine the new kitten to one bathroom. Allow access through a cracked door, with both sides of the door held shut by several rubber doorstops, so that the door is only open a couple of inches and only when you are there to supervise. When you are not there to supervise, shut the door.
Make sure the door is only cracked far enough for them to see glimpses of each other, but not wide enough for them to get their heads through. You do not want to risk a fight. If you allow them to get into a fight, the introduction will take even longer. If a fight does break out, do not reach your hand in to try to stop the right. Clap your hands, bang a kitchen pot with a spoon, or spray some water on your cats to break up the fight. Never, ever scold your cats for fighting. Just calmly break up the fight, then separate them. Put the kitten back into the bathroom.
If it is a very young kitten, being introduced to a very young cat, the process shouldn't take very long. "Only" in the case of a very young kitten, from 12 to 16 weeks, being introduced to a cat of between 6 months to 2 years old, would I recommend the following: A very short introductory period wherein the kitten is kept in a separate bathroom with resident cat having run of the house. After a few days, crack the door and let them sniff each other and play through the door. After a few days of this, put your resident older cat in a separate room (at a time so that the older cat doesn't feel he/she is being unfairly placed in the room, but so it feels natural; such as a room to sun him/herself in) for a brief time. Allow your kitten to access the house and explore. Allow your cat to explore the kitten's bathroom and smell the kitten's smell, while the kitten is not in the bathroom. (With the door shut so the two do not accidentally meet.)
Do not pick up the kitten or give the kitten any attention. Do not talk to the kitten. Do this for a few times. After a few days of this, pick a morning (cats are calmer first thing in the morning) to let the kitten out into your cat's space. Do not say anything or react to your cat when your cat hisses or growls at or swats at the kitten. All of these are normal behavior. Only intervene if a cat fight breaks out, and by this I mean two cats in a ball that are truly fighting. With a young kitten the chances of this happening are "slim to none". They may have brief scuffles, including low, menacing growling and hissing and swatting with paws, but that is not a fight.
Keep their litter boxes separate (the kitten's should be in a bathroom) and their food separate (eating on two sides of the same door is a great idea, as it is a positive experience they can both share). Keep this up and do not talk to the kitten nor give it any attention "until you see that your cat has fully accepted it." This will greatly minimize the introduction period. Good luck. (10/26/2008)
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