If you’re wondering how to introduce a kitten to an older cat, you’ve come to the right place. As pet parents we always want the best for our fur babies, and it can be worry if you want to add to your feline family.
Unfortunately, cats have very short lifespans compared to ours, and many owners of elderly kitties chose to adopt a kitten, lessening the pain of loss. It can work well in many cases, but there’s definitely an art in getting it right!
As with people, cats all are different with individual personalities. There’s no guarantee your two fur babies will get along, but if you follow the tips in this post, you’ll have the best chance of success! You’ll learn how to prepare your home, as well as your cat for the new arrival. You’ll also discover what not to do, as well as what you must do, for the best chance they’ll accept each other.
Preparing your home for the new arrival
Firstly, you’ll need to buy essential items for your kitten in advance placing them in a room just for her. Ensure you choose a litter tray with low sides, making it easy for your little one to climb into.
Small kittens would find an adult size litter box to big, and could end up soiling the floor instead. The Pawise starter kit is perfect for your little one as it has a shallow tray suitable for young kittens. Plus,it has as 2 kitten size food bowls as well.
Place all food and water bowls away from the litter tray, but within sight. Get a few toys, as well as a small scratching post to keep kitty amused. You’ll also need a place for your kitten to sleep. A small catbed, or cardboard box is fine. Line it with a soft blanket or old item of clothing with your scent.
Getting your resident cat ready for her new playmate
Before you bring a new kitten into your home you must make sure your resident kitty is ok. Vaccinations must be up to date, and a check up with your vet is advisable. Worming and flea treatments are essential, as you don’t want to infect your young kitten.
If your elderly cat is arthritic, deaf, or losing her sight, please take this into consideration. The stress of a new arrival may be too much for her. As long as your cat is in good health and sociable you should be ok though.
Bringing the little one home
If you’re getting your kitten from a rescue centre it’s important you know it’s age and whether or not vaccinations have been given. Kittens can’t be vaccinated until around 8 weeks old. A very tiny kitten under 6 weeks is going to need a lot of care. You’ll have to be prepared for sleepless nights and bottle feeding. You’ll also need to take time off work unless you work from home, so an understanding boss who loves cats would be ideal!
Don’t consider taking on a newborn unless you’re prepared for a lot of work over the next few months. Although they grow faster than human babies, it’s still a responsibility. A newborn kitten can’t see or hear, and has very limited mobility. On top of which, you’ll need to bottle feed every few hours.
If you’re getting your kitten from a breeder, it should be fully vaccinated and microchipped before you take it home. All kittens should be kept with the mother until at least 8 weeks old. It’s important for the kitten’s walfare that she’s weaned off the mother’s milk and stong enough to leave.
Taking the pet carrier indoors
As soon as you enter the front door, don’t be surprised if your cat comes running up to inspect the carrier. There may be growling, as she’ll pick up on the kitten’s scent. Protect the newcommer by carefully taking the pet carrier into the designated room. Let her explore and stay with her for a while. She’ll gradually get used to all the strange scents of her new environment, as well as her human carer.
It’s a good idea to keep your kitten in her safe space for a week, giving plenty of time for any smells from the rescue centre or breeder’s home to disappear. She’ll gradually start to smell less of her previous environment and more of your home. This makes face to face introductions a lot less stressful.
As I’ve mentioned before, cats have a far superior sense of smell than us. It’s the most important out of all 5 senses, and you’ve probably seen your kitty sniffing everything you’ve bought home! If your newcommer smells of home, your other cat will feel less threatened by it. To make your cats feel more comfortable with each other, exchange scents. Simply rub a cloth over the kitten, then rub the same one over your cat.
The first face to face meeting
Your resident cat will have sniffed the closed door and know of the kitten’s presence! She may have scratched at the door, or tried to get her paws under the gap. If you feel the two cats will tolerate each other, it’s time for the first face to face meeting.
If you have a baby gate, you could consider putting that in the doorway as a barrier. Alternatively, put your kitten in the pet carrier and place in the area your other cat is sitting.
If the kitten is very young, your older cat will it as less of a threat, and may even stir parental instincts! Don’t be surprised if your senior kitty starts grooming the little one. Supervise the initial meeting and be prepared for any hissing. If you feel anxious and the two cats seem aggressive towards each other, wait a while longer.
Otherwise continue to let them sniff each other, and remove the barrier if you’re happy about it. If there’s any fighting don’t try and separate them. Knowing how to stop your cats from fighting is advisable as not only could you get badly hurt, but your could end up making them even more stressed.
Whose the boss around here?
Never rush things as it can take weeks or even months for your two kitties to bond and accept each other. Cats are usually good at adapting to new environments, and learn to tolerate other felines. They’re complex animals, and though seen as loners they do form relationships with each other, with one being boss, or top cat!
Surprisingly, it’s not always the biggest or strongest kitty that’s boss around the home. Even an older kitten can assume this position! Both will eventually learn to live together, respecting each others space. Occasional fights will break out which is completely normal. Most of these will be play fighting though, and all part of the bonding process.
Make sure each cat has her own food bowls, and place at opposite ends of the room to avoid conflict. Feed both cats at the same time and resist giving more attention to the kitten. Your other cat will soon note any favouratism, and store it up for future use!
When you shouldn’t consider a new kitten with a senior
Just like humans, elderly cats will slow down. They won’t have the same energy as a youngster, and may suffer conditions such as arthritis. A senior may also have deafness, poor eyesight, and even dementia. A young kitten full of bouncy energy may be too much for your elderly cat. It’s fine though if your kitty is aging well with no outward signs of illness. She may even love having a youngster around.
The need for vertical space
All cats need somewhere to hang out that feels safe and comfortable. Even your senior will appreciate a cosy window perch to watch the birds and other wildlife from. Giving both cats their own private space helps them get along. You can discover some of the best cat condos in my blog post. If your older cat is finding it hard to jump up, provide easy access to perches with steps. Pet steps can often be found in many larger stores both on and offline.
How pheromones can help your cats get along
All cats have scent glands in their cheeks, forehead, tails, and paws. These glands produce pheromones and used like calling cards, giving information about other cats in the area. Felines use scent glands to mark family members as well as define territory. It’s like a way of saying “this is mine!” Feliway is an artificial pheromone, mimicking those released by scent glands. You can find out more about Feliway and if it really works in my blog post. As you’ll discover, installing Feliway in the home may help your fur babies get along peacefully.
What if it doesn’t work out?
There’s no absolute guarantee your cats will accept each other, as just like people, there can be personality conflicts. Of course, you don’t want to send your kitten back to the shelter or breeder, so what can you do? Firstly, don’t panic, as I mentioned earlier it can take months before they accept each other. If you’re really worried, talk to your vet or an animal behaviourist for advice. They may suggest things you’ve not thought of, but could make all the difference!
Giving it careful thought
Now you know how to introduce a new kitten to an older cat, I hope it’s helped you decide if it really is the best option. If your cat suffers from any illness or severe problems associated with old age, it may not be a good idea. The stress of a new kitten could make things worse. On the other hand, if your kitty is in good health and still enjoying her golden years, they could very well end up becoming best buddies!
If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, please share. Also if you’ve had any experiences of introducing a kitten to an older cat I’d love to hear about it. Please leave any questions or comments below.
Wishing you a purrfect day:)