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Introducing Cats: 7 Tips for When a Kitten Drives Other Cats Nuts

Kitten flying off the wall? Older cats annoyed? Try these behavior and training strategies.

 |  Mar 28th 2014  |   5 Contributions


I love kittens. Who doesn't? There may not be anything more adorable than a kitten, except perhaps a cat. And to be honest, I have always leaned toward adopting adult cats. I like their mature (usually!) personalities. But last August, we brought a kitten into the home. It was the first kitten we'd had in more than 20 years. He's a phenomenal cat, a young adult now, and he's going to be a phenomenal adult.

Introducing cats is almost always a challenge, and kittens can be especially tricky when it comes to behavior and training issues. Kittens bring a great energy to the house. They're fun, they make us laugh, and they're fearless. If you have another cat, a kitten can be easier to introduce than bringing in a full-grown adult. But what you may not be prepared for is that the kitten, at times, may be too much for the other cat.

When we brought our kitten home, he incessantly pestered the other cats and wanted to play. He also would jump some of the cats, on occasion. I had hoped that my youngest of the others, Jamie Bluebell, would play hard with the kitten. But I can't always force chemistry. They like each other -- all the cats like the kitten -- but they don't have his boundless energy. Or, when they do have energy, they have it for shorter amounts of time.

I asked the opinions of cat expert friends, and I did some experimenting. Here are tips based on what I've tried -- pretty successfully -- to help channel my young adult's energy and keep him from driving the other cats nuts.

1. Give the other cats an escape area or place to hide

I quickly figured out that my older cats needed to have a place to get away from the kitten. Not all the time -- sometimes they're content to play with the kitten. But I could tell -- and any one who observes cats will be able to tell -- when my older cats needed a break. In my small house, finding places where the cats could escape from the kitten was a challenge. When the kitten was too small to jump high (we're beyond that point now), the adult cats figured out that high places (such as the top of cabinets, or a high shelf in a closet) were good places to get away from the kitten. If I had to, I also made use of rooms, and would, at times, take the kitten into one room, leave the cat in another, and separate them for a while.

2. Keep the kitten busy

This is probably one of the best solutions, and one thing that an cat expert I talked to emphasized. "You are your kitten's entertainment director," she said, and it is true. I was advised to spend lots of time playing with the kitten and keeping him occupied. It worked well, and was fun for the kitten and for me. As an added bonus, sometimes the other cats seemed interested in the play and even tried to join in. That didn't always work, as this kitten is a play-monger. I had to dream up ways to play that all cats could participate in.

3. Play games that the kitten and cat can play together

Readers, I could use your suggestions here! If I'm playing with one toy, the kitten jumps in and completely hogs the toy. One thing I have figured out to do is to play a game that I call "chase the pellets." I scatter a few cat kibble pieces across a smooth floor, throwing each pellet in different direction. I can get two adult cats and the kitten to play this game together. But if any of you have other ideas of how to include other cats in play when the kitten really likes to dominate the play -- well, please speak up in comments!

4. Spay or neuter as soon as you can

I learned in a previous article I wrote for Catster that I could have neutered my male kitten younger than six months. If your kitten is displaying aggressive behavior like jumping your other cats, the behavior might subside after you neuter him.

5. Play with the kitten at night

Cats are most active at night. Play hard with your kitten before you go to bed, and he may have a little less energy to bother the cats all night.

6. If you can, disperse the litter boxes

If you don't have to have all your litter boxes (assuming you have more than one box!) in the same place, see if you can hide a box, or put it in a place where an older cat might feel like they can get away from a nosy kitten. I have had kittens (and adults) that unfortunately like to bother another cat trying to go to the bathroom. It's not a behavior I encourage, but you might be able to lessen its probability by putting a litter box or two in different locations.

7. Feed your cats right before bedtime

I had never thought of this simple strategy, but an ASPCA article recommended feeding your cats before your bedtime if your cats (or kitten) are extremely active at night. The suggestion was that the cats would sleep after a good meal. We cat lovers know that nothing is absolute in the cat world, so try this and see what happens.

So, what have you done if you if your new kitten drove your other cats nuts? Did you come up with an original solution? Please share so we can all learn!

More by Catherine Holm:

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 About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.

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