Step-by-Step Guide: How to Introduce a Kitten to a Cat

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Tips for a harmonious first meeting between cats.

Many cat owners choose to get a kitten to provide companionship for their older feline. But because cats have a reputation for disliking change or being territorial, you may have some reservations about introducing a new kitten to a cat. Don't stress — whether you've already adopted a new kitten or are planning to do so, you can teach them to live happily together.

Steps to Introduce a Kitten to an Older Cat

Various factors come into play when introducing a kitten to an older cat, such as their unique personalities and whether or not they get along well with other animals. If you think your cat will accept a kitten, follow these steps to help with the adjustment period for all household members:

  1. Set up your home. If you haven't yet brought the kitten home, it's helpful to prepare everything beforehand. The two cats should have their own separate territories for the first week, complete with food, water, a litter box, a scratching post and a comfortable place to sleep. This can help make the older cat less territorial, and being in a more confined, less overwhelming space can help the kitten adjust to their new home.
  2. Prepare your pets. Ensure your older cat is up to date on vaccinations and parasite prevention. Plan to take your new kitten to the vet before bringing them home or soon after. Your vet will make sure your kitten is vaccinated, test for conditions like feline distemper, and provide treatment or prevention for parasites like ear mites, fleas and intestinal worms. If one pet picks up a pesky parasite, it's a safe bet all pets will soon have them, too.
  3. Introduce the cat and kitten through scent and sound. The scent of pheromones, especially, plays an important role in cat introductions. Hearing and smelling each other allows cats to get used to each other without physically interacting. Keep your cat and kitten in their separate spaces, but gently rub them with the same towel so their scents mix. Feeding both cats at the same time on opposite sides of a closed door can also help them associate good things with the other cat's scent. Another option is to keep them in their individual locations for a couple of days and then swap them into the other's space. This strategy also helps the kitten adjust to a new room in the home.
  4. Bring them face-to-face. Initial introductions work best through a see-through barrier, such as a screen door or high baby gate. Recruit a friend or family member to stay on one side of the barrier with the kitten, while you stay on the other side with the cat. Use positive reinforcement, such as treats or toys, to encourage friendly interactions as they notice each other.
  5. Initiate supervised interactions. After your cats have had several meetings through the barrier without any aggression, it's time for a supervised interaction in the same room. Don't worry if they aren't best friends immediately. Getting to know each other takes time, and it's even possible they might ignore each other. Just ensure the kitten isn't pestering the older cat and the older cat isn't bullying the kitten. Bringing them together after a meal or strenuous play increases the likelihood of a calm interaction.

What Should I Do If My Cat and Kitten Don't Get Along?

Remember, patience is key. It can take eight to 12 months for cats to become friends. If you notice signs of aggression, such as flattened ears, growling, hissing, swatting with paws or crouching, don't let the cats work it out on their own; this could result in a fight with one or both pets getting hurt. Instead, distract them with a loud noise, such as clapping your hands, or toss a toy or a pillow to them.

If the aggression doesn't stop, take them to their separate territories and keep them apart for 24 hours. If they fight repeatedly, consider starting the introduction process over from the beginning. You can also talk to your vet or a pet behaviorist about solutions.

Introducing cats can be a long process, but a little planning and patience can go a long way in helping your cat and kitten get used to each other and live harmoniously.

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