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How to Introduce Your Older Cat to a Kitten

Reviewed by Vanessa Farner, DVM on July 08, 2021

Getting a new pet is always exciting, especially when it’s a spunky and fun-loving kitten. But if you already have an older cat at home, you may be concerned about how they take to one another. While kittens are often more accepting of other animals, your older cat may not be thrilled about your new addition.

Kittens in Your Home

Kittens are baby cats and vary greatly by breed. Kittens may be weaned from their mothers to eat kitten food between three and five weeks of age. They are often made available for adoption around six weeks old, when they have mastered eating independently and begin to litter box train. 

Since they are predatory by nature, kittens can be entertaining pets to have. By ten weeks old, they are full of pent-up energy that they need to get out. Kittens often run around excitedly, climbing on furniture and attacking toys to practice their predatory skills. Because of these behaviors, your older, calmer cat may not be interested in having a kitten companion. In fact, they may dislike the kitten completely.

Prepare Your Older Cat for the Meeting

Preparation is the key to ensuring your older cat is prepared for a new arrival. Use these tips to get your cat ready:

Make sure your cat is healthy. A checkup with your veterinarian will ensure your cat is in good health. If they have any health conditions that cause discomfort or pain, try to address them before adding a kitten to the mix.

Respiratory diseases are common in kittens, and you don’t want to pass one along to your older cat if they aren't in good health. A strong immune system will ensure their body can adjust to the new germs a kitten will bring to your home. 

Set up your house. Cats are smart creatures. By putting out new supplies for your kitten early, your cat will be able to investigate and sense that something is about to happen. Choose a spot for your kitten’s food and water bowls, a new litter box, and a bed or climbing tree. Make sure there is an extra litter box (number of cats + 1), so if getting a new kitten and you have one cat you will need 3 litter boxes.

Make sure to buy new toys, too. Kittens and cats love to play, but your older cat may be wary of something flashy they're not used to. Allow them to adjust to physical changes in your home before the addition of a kitten.

Tips to Build a Relationship

Be patient as your cat adjusts to a new kitten in your home. Cats can be territorial, and your older cat may feel threatened at first. Give them time to relax before you force them to interact with a new kitten.

The first meeting. When you first bring your new kitten home, allow your cat to sniff and see what the kitten is before putting them down or taking them out of the carrier. This gives your older cat the respect of checking out the new companion before the kitten is released into their territory.

Allow space. It’s a good idea to keep your pets separated from each other at first unless supervised. Consider dedicating one room of your home to a new kitten. This gives them a chance to explore safely without having free-reign of your entire house. 

By keeping your cat and kitten separated at first, your cat can go to the door and sniff their new playmate without being forced to interact. It also sends a message to your older cat that this is still their home, and you respect the hierarchy of their relationship.

Encourage bonding. Give both cats treats at the same time to provide the opportunity for positive interaction. This also gives your cat the chance to see that your kitten is the same as them – just smaller. Put their food bowls close together, but don’t make them share. Of course, they may just eat out of both bowls, but that’s okay.

Play with toys like feathers, balls, and laser pointers to get your cat active and excited. This will help them to relax and give your new kitten a chance to earn their trust and attention, too.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

AAHA: “Kittens.”

AVMA: “Feline development, from kitten kindergarten onward.”

The Spruce Pets: “How to Train Your Older Cat to Accept a Kitten.”

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