BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

How to Introduce a New Kitten to a Cat: Help Them Get Along Like Old Friends

Cat-sniffing-kitten
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

Dogs are pack animals, so it’s usually easy to start a multi-dog household. Cats, on the other hands, are solitary creatures. Once they consider themselves the “master of the house,” it is very difficult to make them accept any newcomers—or, in their opinion, “intruders”—even if the newcomer is from their own species. What you need to do is start off on the right foot. When it comes to how to introduce a new kitten to a cat, knowing which buttons to push and when to pull back will make all the difference.

You might think that it shouldn’t be a problem if it’s another cat. It’s not like you’re bringing a dog to your cat’s territory, right? True, sometimes the cat will accept the kitten immediately. However, most of the time the cat will act hostile towards the kitten. They see the kitten as a threat to their food, territory, and your affection. Thus, you need to reassure your cat that the kitten will not take all those away from her. It will take time and a lot of patience, but just imagine living in harmony with multiple cute cats, and it’ll all be worth it.

Image showing mother cat and the kitten staying together

As we know that a lot of our readers are curious as to how they should introduce a new kitten to an already-present cat, we created this article to give you some clear examples on how to best do it. We have the perfect solution to help your cats get along. Our step-by-step guide will help your kitten make a good first impression on your cat so that there will be peace and harmony in your house.

Step by Step Guide on Introducing a New Kitten to a Cat

Think back for a second to a situation when you met someone new. Did you become friends with that person immediately? Of course not! You need time to get to know each other, and then you will start sharing secrets and become close. In the same manner, your cat will not immediately accept a new kitten in your home. This introduction process should be taken step by step to allow the cats to bond together.

Image of two cats looking at each other in the kitchen

As we mentioned in the first paragraph, cats are solitary creatures, so they might never warm up to each other if you let things run their course naturally. You need to step in and offer some assistance.

Step One: Prepare a Separate Room for the New Kitten

Before you bring the new kitten home, you should prepare a separate room for her. Never put the new cat in the same room as the old one as soon as you bring her home. This could lead to an all-out fight with one of them ending up hurt. It’s important to take it slow with the introduction process.

Offer the kitten some time to acquaint herself with the new environment. Even though she seems playful, she’s actually quite stressed right now. Cats are a creature of habit, and when she sees herself in a new home, it’ll take some time for her to get used to it. The more relaxed your new kitten is, the better the meeting with the resident cat will go.

Close-up image of a little kitty looking at someone

The separate room should be prepped with all kinds of supplies necessary to help your kitten feel at home. The things you need to prepare are:

  • A litter box

  • A constant flow of food and water

  • Lots of toys to keep her busy

  • Hiding places: Whenever the kitten feels like something is threatening her, she needs to have some place to hide. For example, you can place some paper bag tunnels in the room right next to the food and water. Another good option would be some upside down boxes where she could spend her days until she becomes familiar with her new home.

  • The carrier: Leave the carrier you brought your kitten home in inside the room. She may stay in it for the first few days. She sees the carrier as a familiar place where she can sleep and rest in peace, so it will help her feel less timid and fearful.

Even though you placed the kitten in a separate room, at this point, your old cat should already know that there’s something different about her territory. She will know exactly in which room you’re accommodating the new kitten and will head there out of curiosity. This is a totally normal reaction. Just make sure your cat can’t actually get inside the room, and you will avoid any extreme conflicts.

Step Two: Let Their Noses Establish the Connection

Now it’s time to help both cats get used to each other’s smell. But don’t just let them loose to sniff each other out freely. Rather, you have to help them. One successful method that many veterinarians recommend is to rub a clean towel on your new kitten’s cheeks.

Method #1: Use a Towel

In the case of cats, the face is one area where there are a lot of scent glands, and they release a lot of pheromones. Once you have rubbed the towel on your kitten’s cheeks, you can place the scented towel in your old cat’s area. This is how you will give her the certainty that there is a new cat in the house and that she is here to stay. After that, leave her alone to do her own investigation.

A good exercise would be to reward your cat every time she has a positive reaction towards the towel. This is how you encourage her to have a friendly reaction when she finally meets the kitten. This is a very safe exercise because you will be able to control your cat’s behavior without worrying that one of your cats will get injured.

Cat taking a treat from his owner

Once you are satisfied with the reaction your old cat is having towards the towel, it is time to switch the roles. Now you will rub the same towel on your resident cat’s face and take it to the kitten’s room. You can do the same reward exercise with your kitten also, even though it is more likely that her reaction will be much calmer than the cat’s.

If you feel that they will still have negative reactions towards each other when they meet face to face, you can repeat the exercise. You can move the towel from one corner of the room to the other however many times you want. It is very important to make them conscious of the existence of the other cat, so there are no limits on how often you do this exercise.

Method #2: Switch the Rooms

Another method would be to let the cat explore the kitten’s room while letting the kitten explore the resident cat’s area at the same time. Make sure to close the door so they won’t meet in the middle. You can also leave the kitten’s toys and treats in the room and encourage the old cat to sniff and explore them.

Two cats sitting on strairs and looking at the camera

However, this method depends on how reactive your old cat is. For example, for some cats, this exercise can be too over-the-top, and their reaction might be very negative. On the other hand, other cats may enjoy exploring a new cat’s place, and this is going to help the resident cat a lot in accepting the new kitten.

Step Three: Mealtime Means Training Time

Even though the cats are now familiar with each other’s smell, this does not mean that once you open the door, they will be very happy to see each other. They first need to create a bond. If we think for a second, what is the best way to train a pet? The answer would undoubtedly be with food and treats.

Place their food bowl right next to each other, but make sure they are still in different rooms. Just push the food bowls against the door that separates them. If the door is transparent so they can see each other without actually touching one another, that would be better.

Close up of Cats eating

How far you should place the food from the door will be decided depending on how reactive your cats are. For example, if your old cat is very agitated, you should not place the food bowls too close together at first. It is very important to take into consideration your cat’s comfort zones. Then, gradually, you can move the bowls closer and let their instincts do the rest.

Step Four: The First Contact

Once you think your cats are ready to meet each other, it’s finally time for the first contact. It is not recommended to widely open the door and let them meet each other head-on. In most of the cases, they will fight, and one of them might get hurt.

To avoid such situations, one way is to offer a tiny amount of food while the door is slightly open. If you feel that a fight might occur, you can use a door stop to prevent the door from fully opening. This is a good exercise so you can test their tolerance and avoid any negative reactions.

Two cats meeting for the first time

As soon as your cats feel comfortable while they are being fed with the door slightly open, you can move on to the next step. If in the beginning, you are still worried about their reaction you can use two or three baby gates across the entrance.

Another alternative would be to install a temporary screen door. With that, your cats will be able to see each other but not hurt each other. You can remove this “barrier” as soon as you feel that there is no danger and that they are comfortable enough to meet each other without fighting.

Two cats waiting for a treat from the owner

The reward exercise is also going to be of great help during this period. You should reward them every time they have a positive reaction towards each other. For example, if your old cat walks by the kitten without hissing, this is a great moment to reward her. It is very important to let her understand that the kitten does not represent any danger to her.

In addition, the playtime should also be developed with care. It is very important to have one toy for each cat. You do not want them to compete with each other. Play with them while letting them get used to each other’s presence. This how you will let them know that you consider them equal and they should not feel intimated by the other cat.

Step Five: Let the Cats Share the Same Environment

Once your cats are ready to play together, it is very important to place them in a common environment that encourages security, fun, and enough space for everyone. You can use cat trees, perches, and hideaways to encourage them to play and hide when they want a solitary moment.

Image showing parent and the kitten sitting together

Never leave the two of them alone even though they seem to be getting along well at this point. You need to supervise them, so if things get hairy, you can divert their attention and drain their energy with some non-harmful pastime. For instance, you can set up some puzzle or food-dispensing toys. You can also ease the tension by placing some cat shelves they can use for climbing and playing.

When it comes to the litter boxes and scratching posts, you should also take into consideration that they should have their own places. What’s more, if your cats have their own preferred areas, you should place these items in their territory  One good idea is to feed them in separate bowls. As long as they feel that they have their own places and there is no competition, you will have two very happy cats.

Choosing the Right Cat is Also Important

Introducing a kitten to an old cat is easier than if you would bring another adult cat to your home. The kittens are not yet sexually mature, and so it will be easier for your old cat to accept her. However, the kitten’s behavior will also play a very important role.

While we are sure that a playful kitten will melt your heart and make you choose her, for an adult cat things are pretty different. An adult cat will see a playful kitten as a stressful partner.

Little kitty being aggressive to another cat

In general, adult cats prefer a quiet life and do not enjoy the company of a too-playful kitten. Therefore, it is very important to choose your new kitten based on your cat’s personality. Moreover, if you already have more than one cat, you should also take into consideration that a newcomer might destabilize the group.

All in all, it is not impossible to introduce a new kitten to your old cat. However, you should make sure that you have the necessary space and resources to make this transition as smooth as possible. Also, it would be great if you could discuss this with the vet beforehand so he or she can offer you some tips.

Wrap Up

You should never rush the above steps. First things first promote a relaxing and non-stressful environment for your cats. Next, let them smell each other, and then see each other. Finally, they should be allowed to get into contact.

What is very important in all this is that each step should be done in a controlled environment. From the old cat’s perspective, the newcomer is an intruder. On the other hand, the new kitten will feel insecure and stressed on the new territory. In such a tense situation, if you let the cats go unsupervised, you risk them hurting each other.

Two cats sitting together with a blanket on them looking outside the window

This is why it is crucial to help both cats feel secure and relaxed. For both of them, this is a life-changing event, and they will need to release the stress. The old cat needs to understand that she has to share her territory and the newcomer must get familiar with her new environment and enjoy sharing the space with her new friend. Once you’ve achieved this, your home will be in a state of perfect harmony.

Do you plan to have multiple cats in your house? Tell us how you plan to introduce your new kitten to the resident cat. If you have done this before and you have some useful tips of your own, please share them with us in the comments section below.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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