Your Guide to Introducing a Kitten to Your Multi-Cat Household
A seamless introduction of your new kitten to longer-term feline family members is the dream. But the reality is that sometimes first meetings don’t go off without a hitch.
Cats accustomed to having their own space can find it difficult to adjust to a kitten newcomer, which can make things stressful for both you and your feline housemates.
The good news is that kittens are malleable and often quickly adapt to new environments. On the other side of that equation, however, might be an older, less enthused cat.
Regardless of how many cats you have, it is important to be thoughtful about how you introduce your new kitten to your multi-cat household. In this guide, we will focus on your kitten’s introduction to the household in three key categories—physical health, social health and home health.
Physical Health Considerations
Before you bring your kitten home and begin introductions, consider the physical health of your kitten and any other cats in your home.
Have your resident cats and new kitten all been recently examined by a veterinarian? Shelter kittens and those who have been rescued off the streets often carry contagious diseases. Ask your vet about testing for common transmittable diseases and pests such as ear mites, fleas and feline leukemia. Through testing and proper treatment, you can help prevent the transmission of diseases and pests between your kitten and your current pets. Also make sure that all cats are up to date on their vaccinations before you bring any new pet into your home.
For some, it may be a good idea to do a two-week quarantine of your kitten before introducing them to the rest of the household so you can monitor signs of illness. Ask your vet if they recommend this course of action for your family. Once you know that your new kitten and your current pet(s) are healthy, you can shift your focus to their social health.
Social Health Considerations
Keeping your feline family members confident and comfortable around each other contributes to their social health. When introducing a new kitten into your home, it is important to focus on how you will help encourage healthy relationships between your cats and ensure the least amount of stress possible.
The number one rule to keep in mind when introducing cats is to go slowly! Throwing two cats into a room together to see if they get along is a recipe for disaster. Instead, take a gradual approach to the introduction to help build confidence between your new kitten and your resident cat or cats.
The Slow and Steady Introduction
Some cats aren’t big fans of change, and bringing home a kitten is one of the biggest changes of all for them. Also, some cats can be territorial and aren’t keen on sharing their space without a period of adjustment.
With this in mind, before you set your kitten free to roam your home, it’s important to have a multi-step introduction plan in place. You should take into consideration that the introduction process might take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Patience is key.
- Start your kitten and your current cat or cats off in separate spaces. Make sure that everyone has access to a litter box, water, food, a scratching post, a bed and toys.
- Place blankets in the cats’ beds.
- At feeding time, place food bowls on opposite sides of a shared door. This will help your cats associate a positive experience—mealtime—with each other. Their bowls should be close to the shared door but far enough away that no one gets stressed out and starts skipping meals. You can slowly move the bowls closer to the door as the cats grow accustomed to each other’s nearby presence.
- Each day, swap a blanket from your kitten’s bed with a blanket from your cat’s (or cats’) bed. This will slowly acclimate all cats to the smell of each other.
- Once your kitten is accustomed to their new room, litter box and toys, it’s time to introduce your kitten to the rest of the home. To do this, move the longer-term resident cats into a closed-off area and allow your kitten to explore small sections of the home at a time. Not only will this give your kitten a chance to get to know their new home, but it will also help introduce more of each cat’s smell to the other.
- After a few days, it is time to prop open the door between your kitten and other cats ever so slightly, just enough so they can see one another. Be sure to supervise, and take note of how the cats interact. Each day, increase the length of time the door is propped open.
- Once you feel that your cats are acclimating, it is time to allow them to meet each other. Never force this interaction. Open up the door for your kitten and see if they try to interact. Don’t be surprised if the longer-term residents act upset about the presence of the new kitten. As long as they are not getting into a serious fight, allow your kitten and cats to figure each other out.
- Be sure to give your cats time away from your new kitten in the beginning. This can help keep everyone calm and ensure no one feels trapped.
After the initial introduction, playtime is a great way to build social health between you, your cats and your kitten. Play a game with everyone together to help make the introduction fun. Grab a couple of teaser wands, for example, and let your cats and kitten bat and pounce. Not only will playing a game help create a stronger bond, but it gives your kitten and cats something else to focus on besides each other.
Preparing for Chaos
While, ideally, a slow introduction will prevent any major fights from breaking out, there are no guarantees. For this reason, it is best to prepare for a tiff with the following tactics:
- Block off spaces: Before opening up the door for your kitten to enter your other cats’ space, block off the undersides of beds, couches and other areas where a cat might get cornered by their housemates.
- Have a sight blocker: Sometimes the best thing to do if your cats are not getting along is to place something between them that blocks their sight of each other. This can also help you guide the cats and kitten back into separate spaces if needed.
- Remove with a blanket: If fur is flying, throw a blanket over one of the offenders and remove them from the situation.
Knowing when to pause an introduction is key. Watch your cats’ behavior. Hissing and making sounds might be an indication that your cats are not ready for an introduction. In this case, back up to the previous step in the process of assimilating your cats.
Home Health Considerations
Consider purchasing all of the following items to help set everyone up for success before you bring home your new kitty:
- Extra bowls: You’ll want adequate water bowls placed throughout the home—at least one water bowl located on each floor of your home—and a separate food dish for each cat. Feeding your cats from separate bowls can help lower tension.
- Additional litter box: A good rule of thumb is to have one litter box per cat, plus one extra. Make sure that these litter boxes are placed throughout the home to allow your cats safety and privacy from one another.
- A second cat tree and/or scratching post: Having a few cat trees and scratching posts around your home will help ensure each cat has a safe, high-up place to spend time alone when they wish to be apart.
- Extra cat beds: Each cat should have their own bed, offering them a safe place to relax.
- New cat toys: Kittens are playful, so having ample toys on hand can help distract and improve the bond between you, your cats and your kitten.
Being prepared with all the right gear helps ensure your home is a safe, stimulating environment where all your cats feel like part of the family.