Introducing a senior cat to a new kitten can be tricky. The difference in ages, energy levels, and physical conditions can create tension. But it doesn’t mean that your two cats will dislike each other forever.
Introducing your cats to one another the right way will build a strong foundation for their relationship. There are ways of presenting your cats that will keep your older cat from becoming stressed, but you will have to prepare before you bring your new kitten into your home.
In this article, we will take a look at the best way to introduce your cats to one another and what exactly you can do to make the transition as easy as possible.
Something to Think About First
As a cat owner, you’re probably aware that routine is comforting to a cat. Introducing a kitten may disturb your senior cat’s established territory, which can be stressful. There are various ways your cat will show they are stressed, but some of them are not obvious. If you see any of the following signs, your cat might be stressed:
- Eating/drinking less
- Crouching and looking tense
- Excessive meowing
- Less tolerant of people
- Reluctant to use the litter box, the cat door, or sit with you
- Scratching the furniture
- Withdrawn/hiding more than usual
Hopefully, your cat won’t show any of these signs, but it’s always best to know what to look out for in case. Preparation is the key to a successful introduction when it comes to bringing a new cat to your home. Ensure you give your senior cat enough time to adjust to this change.
Before You Begin
As a health precaution, always quarantine a new pet away from your existing cat for a period of at least 2 weeks. During this time, ensure you don’t share bowls, litter boxes, toys, beds, and other tools (example: nail clippers) between the two individuals. Thoroughly wash your hands before and after you interact with each cat.
The new addition to your family might be harboring an illness that could spread to your existing cat if you rush an introduction. A period of at least 2 weeks allows each cat to familiarize themselves with the other’s scent, while also giving you ample time to observe the newcomer to see if they develop signs of an illness.
Ensure that your veterinarian gives your new addition a thorough checkup before attempting a physical introduction with your existing pet. It is ideal to have potential newcomers checked by your vet both at the start and end of their quarantine period.
Consider Your Cat’s Health & Temperament
The first thing to consider is the health and temperament of your senior cat before you bring home a new kitten. New kittens introduced into your cat’s territory may carry diseases or pathogens that your cat could be susceptible to, especially if your senior cat has a medical condition that comprises their immune system. Kittens are full of energy and will show they want to play indelicately, which can be stressful and painful for an older cat that can’t keep up.
The cat’s temperament will also play a significant role in your decision or at least how you introduce your cats to one another. Mild-tempered cats won’t mind the extra company as much, but if your cat has a temper, your kitten might get a bit of a feisty welcome. You, of course, know your cat best, and there’s no doubt you will make the best decision for your senior cat and new kitten.
Potential Benefits for Your Senior Cat
Kittens are full of energy, which might be the perfect motivation for your senior cat to get off the couch and join in the fun. Light exercise is vital for your senior cat, and playing with the kitten is the perfect way to add playtime into their day. This will also please the new kitten.
As your cat ages, they may, at times, develop a level of cognitive decline, and what better way to keep young than hanging around with someone young, right? For all those times that you’re out of the house for work or seeing friends, your kitten will now be there to keep them company. If your senior cat ever feels separation anxiety, this is the perfect solution. However, keep in mind that not all cats appreciate the company of other cats. If your senior falls into this category, you might be better off not adopting a kitten.
How to Introduce Your Cats to One Another
So, we’ve talked about preparing for your kitten’s arrival, but how exactly do you do that?
Prepare Your Home
You may be thinking about everything you need, but make sure the new food bowls, beds, and toys are placed in the house before the kitten arrives. That way, you’re not cramming too many new things into one day, and your senior cat can get used to these new items before the kitten comes into their life. This will also mean you’ll be less stressed on the day of arrival. If you are stressed, your cat will pick up on it.
Prepare a space for the new kitten for when they arrive, like a spare bedroom, where your kitten can spend their quarantine period. This also allows your older cat to get to the door of this room, so they can hear and smell the kitten but not interact with them.
Cats are also easily stressed out when they can’t access necessities, like litter boxes or even you. You should have a litter box for each cat, plus an additional litter box, distributed throughout the house. Make sure you carve out some time for you and your senior cat, so they don’t feel left out.
Sight & Touch
Once your cats are familiar with each other’s scent, you can attempt allowing them to see each other. To do this, place one cat in a carrier and allow the other cat to come into their vicinity. Do not force an interaction and allow them to approach each other on their own terms.
The choice as to which cat you place in the carrier depends largely on their temperament. If your kitten is very skittish but your senior cat is relatively placid, you should consider placing your senior in the carrier, so your kitten doesn’t feel trapped and frightened and can approach the senior at their own pace. Conversely, if your senior seems relatively cautious about the new cat but your kitten appears aloof and only interested in playtime, consider placing the kitten in the carrier so that your senior can safely inspect the newcomer.
If your cats seem comfortable with each other, you can attempt to open the carrier and attempt a physical introduction. This requires close monitoring, and if either cat seems distressed, you should separate them before things escalate.
One way to facilitate an introduction is to transfer each cat’s scent to the other cat. To do this, you’ll need two towels. Rub each towel on a cat and then rub it onto your other cat. This establishes some degree of familiarity between the two cats before they physically meet.
Another way to facilitate familiarity is to do a room reversal once your kitten’s quarantine ends. One day, consider letting your kitten explore the house (in your presence) while placing your senior cat in the now vacant kitten room. This allows each cat to inspect the scents left by the other and familiarize themselves with the new cat. Pay especially close attention to your senior cat during their process. If they appear distressed by the kitten’s scent, you might have to proceed with extreme caution during the introduction process.
Pheromones create a calm environment for a cat, and you could make great use of them in the weeks leading up to your kitten’s arrival. Sprays, diffusers, and wipes are all available and will help your cat feel relaxed without having to turn to drugs.
Your veterinarian is a fantastic resource for recommending effective and safe calming supplements, so it’s worth checking with them before you try a pheromone product.
Building a Bond
When it comes to your cats getting to know one another, you want to encourage play sessions to help them get along. But there’s a fine line between encouraging time together and forcing interactions. Let your kitten explore the house under your supervision, and allow your senior cat to observe their exploration or retreat.
A fun way to get them together is to give them treats at the same time from separate bowls. Your senior cat will want to interact with your kitten more if it associates it with positive things.
Your older cat might also establish boundaries with the kitten; try not to interfere when this happens. You’ll notice your senior cat hiss and swat at the kitten if the kitten does something they don’t like. This is normal, and as long as it doesn’t go beyond hissing and swatting, it’s usually not a cause for immediate concern.
At the end of the day, your senior cat and kitten might not become the best of friends, but most cats will accept and even occasionally appreciate another feline around. The trick is to be patient and avoid forcing them into one another’s space. If your senior cat is particularly aggressive with your kitten, speak to your vet for some advice.
Senior cats and kittens can get along. It can be stressful for an old cat to get used to the energy a kitten brings, and the change to its routine can undoubtedly be challenging. It’s essential to prepare before your kitten gets there and ensure you’re patient.
Not only can your pets become friends, but it can also benefit your senior cat to have some company around the house!
Featured Image Credit: Pixabay, Pexels