Introducing a new kitten

Bringing home a new kitten is so exciting, and everybody can’t wait for the new arrival. All sorts of plans are made, information about the cat’s diet and behaviour is researched, sleeping patterns are adjusted and toys are all waiting in anticipation of the kitten. But, if you have other cats, have you anticipated how they will react to the new kitten?

Keeping the peace

In order to facilitate the smoothest introduction between the new kitten and the current cats, it is important to allow all the cats involved to become accustomed to the presence of another cat without direct confrontation. More often than not, unrelated cats can tolerate one another without conflict, provided there are enough resources available to them to reduce competition. These resources include access to clean water, food, places to hide, elevated surfaces and roughly 3m2 per cat when all are in the same area. If you can provide this, your chances of successful cohabitation are greatly improved.

Taking it slowly

Take it as slowly as possible. Too much contact too quickly will overwhelm the cats and may lead them to behave aggressively as a defensive strategy. The most important consideration is to desensitise all parties to the presence of one another and this takes time.

Start by allowing them access to different parts of the house on a time-share basis. This way their scents will be transferred and they can become better accustomed to another cat’s scent on a more gradual basis, and your resident cats don’t have to be constantly bothered by an irritating and playful kitten.

Access to resources

Create more access to resources. Cats will often only eat together if they are related or grew up together. Place food, water and litter boxes in separate areas around the house. This will reduce the need for contact.

Supervise interaction with lots of praise until you can reliably leave them alone for short periods without conflict. Remember, a young kitten is incredibly playful, and it’s perfectly acceptable for an older cat to indicate her unwillingness to interact if she so chooses. Swatting and hissing to get rid of a pesky kitten can be fairly normal. However, if they are really piling into one another and causing physical damage, consult a reputable behaviourist, who can help you to facilitate successful cohabitation.

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