For those of us with multiple pets who didn’t all come into our lives at the same time here are some tips and tricks on introducing a new kitten into a home with existing pets.
Why do you want another cat?
There are many factors that go into the decision to bring a new kitten into your life. It should be well-thought-out and well planned and never spur of the moment. For me, after 10 years of having my dog Lucy and two sister cats Chloe and Zoe, I was asked to take in a 14-year old male cat, Titan, who had once belonged to my Son but had been living with his ex-wife since their divorce 5 years ago. Suddenly she no longer wanted him and was threatening to take him to a shelter if I didn’t want him. Well OF COURSE I wanted him. I knew him to be a sweet loving and very unique (Pixie-Bob) polydactic, or 5 toed, cat. In this situation it was a bit spur of the moment, but since I knew the cat I was getting it made it easier.
Initial preparation tips
Whether it’s an adult cat or a new kitten the steps to prepare for its introduction to your existing pets are the same. I followed them for taking in Titan, and copied the same process just weeks ago with my new kitten Misha.
For the first few days or weeks, depending on how the introduction goes, the newest family member should be sequestered in a “safe room” by itself. This space should include everything the kitty needs, food and water, toys and a bed, and of course a litter box.
Plan to go into this space and interact with the newest member of your family several times a day. Spend time doing what kitty wants to do, NOT what you want her to do. If she wants to play then grab a toy and get in some good interactive bonding play. If she just wants a good cuddle then hold her and talk softly as you stroke her. It’s also a good idea to repeat her name over and over while you’re cuddling, it helps her recognize it and if there’s a strong bond she will actually come when you call her.
Easy does it for the introduction
After the new kitty has been ensconced in her own space for a while, take something with her scent on it (maybe a blanket or towel you’ve had on her bed) and bring it out into the main house where the other animals will have the opportunity to meet her scent. Animals introduce themselves to each other by scent, there is no secret handshake in the animal world!
Once everyone is used to the new animal scent they will be interested in laying eyes on her. At this point I recommend using a baby gate about 2 inches above the floor with a blanket or towel draped over it so they can only get a small glimpse of each other, and not yet complete sight or eye contact. It is at this point you will learn how the introduction is going. If there is interested sniffing and peeking under the barrier things are going well. If there is hissing or yowling this step should be left in place for a while longer until that behavior subsides.
Once you feel comfortable that there is curiosity and not animosity you can remove the cover from the barrier so everyone can fully see and smell each other, but still not have complete contact.
You may even move everyone’s feeding bowls within sight on both sides of the barrier. When they can eat within sight of each other without feeling either threatened or over protective of their food then this can be considered a big WIN!
Take down that wall!
You know your pets, and only you can decide when it will be safe and appropriate to remove the barrier completely. Titan blended in well fairly quickly, probably because he was older and didn’t present much threat to Chloe & Zoe. Lucy the dog loves everyone, she is the calming influence on all the other animals in my home.
Unfortunately the first vet visit with Titan uncovered the real reason he was no longer wanted, he was suffering from kidney failure. I began giving him IV fluids daily and started him on a special diet but sadly he succumbed to his illness within weeks. Soon after that Zoe was diagnosed with inoperable stomach cancer and when she could no longer tolerate any food I made the difficult decision to euthanize and end her suffering. Now I was left with only Chloe and Lucy.
They are truly the best of buddies, as you can see in the picture. They comfort each other during thunderstorms and clean each others faces if someone has a little food on their chin! However, of all the cats Chloe was the only one who was NOT a lap cat. She likes to be petted and brushed, and will sit next to me on the sofa or the bed but will not snuggle in my lap like both Titan and Chloe did.
That’s when I made the decision to add a new kitten to our lives. One who enjoyed being held and snuggling on my lap. Misha fit the bill perfectly.
I am happy to report we are past the introduction phase and the house is open to everyone. Misha will crawl onto my lap after she eats for a cuddle and a nap. She sleeps above my pillow and sometimes tries to “groom” my hair for me.
All’s well that ends well
My life is once again complete with Lucy, Chloe and new kitten Misha. Each one with her own personality, likes and dislikes, just like any family. I hope my story and these tips take away some of the misgivings you may have about adding a new kitty to your own household. I would love to hear from you, feel free to comment or add you own story below. Thanks!