As a cat owner, how do you introduce a new fluffy family member to your loyal moggy? It can be tricky. While all cats are different, by nature they are generally territorial and they don’t like change. They also might not appreciate a playful new kitten in their space, and they could show their displeasure by marking their territory or fighting off the new cat.
So what can you do? First, be realistic. While no one can predict what will happen when you introduce a new pet to your cat (they might actually hit it off straight away), it pays to be ready and take your time introducing the animals to each other.
Here are some tips for making the introduction:
- When choosing a new kitten, keep in mind the temperament of your cat – a particularly playful, outgoing kitten might not go down well with your shy, reserved older cat.
- Get your older cat checked by your vet to ensure she is healthy – if she is unwell, this is not the time to introduce a new pet to her.
- Collect your new pet at a time when you can spend a few days or a week at home to help with introductions, and choose a time when the home will be calm – avoid school holidays or while the in-laws are visiting.
- When you bring your new kitten home, place him in a small space, like the laundry, with lots of toys, his litter tray, bedding, food and water. Keep him here for a few days. Spend plenty of time with him, but not at the expense of your older cat. You can place your cat’s food bowl near the door to this room so she can get used to the newcomer’s smell while she eats.
- When you bring your kitten home, place a few pieces of fabric in his bedding and after a few days put these pieces near your cat’s food bowl or scratching post, so she gets used to the smell of the kitten. You can do the same for the kitten.
- Once your new kitten is comfortable with his litter tray and is eating and playing happily, let him have some supervised time to explore the rest of the home, while you keep your cat in another room. That way he can become confident around your home without the risk of being scared by your older pet. You can do this a few times a day for two or three days.
- Now it’s time for a face-to-face meeting. Wait until your cat seems calm and happy and bring out your new kitten so they can meet each other. Do this calmly and gently. They might start playing and grooming straight away or they might seem standoffish. If they are unsure, dangle and toy in front of them to encourage them to play.
- Unfortunately the meeting might not go well, and your cat might hiss or lash out at the new kitten. Watch for signs of aggression such as crouching or flattened ears and quietly pick up your kitten and take him back to his room. You can try introducing them again once they have calmed down.
- Once your cats have gotten to know each other you can reduce the risk of tension by keeping the same family routine so your older cat feels calm and safe. Have a litter tray each (expecting them to share a tray might lead to tension) and keep separate food and water bowls for each pet.
- If you’ve tried a few introductions and they always seem to end in a fight, chat to your vet or animal behaviourist for advice, and try not to get disheartened – your pets will eventually become best friends.