Most people will agree that it is risky to add an adult cat to a household with existing adult felines. While some people do manage to do this with little problem, it is extremely difficult to achieve successfully and impossible to predict the outcome of an introduction. Even if things seem to go well initially, they often break down with time and result in a disaster with severe in-fighting between the cats, depression and stress behaviours such as soiling in the house.
Kittens, however, are usually accepted by an existing adult cat eventually, even if it is reluctant to start with – the process just might take a couple of weeks. Particularly if the existing cat has been used to being a single pet for years, it may have become more “people-orientated” than “cat-orientated” and unlikely to welcome a new feline arrival. However, with extra care and attention, it is usually possible to induce the existing cat to accept the presence of a kitten and with any luck, the two might even become “friends”.
- Try to allow the existing cat to get used to the kitten’s scent before a direct introduction. This can be achieved by letting your cat sniff a blanket the kitten was sleeping on or even letting them sniff each other through the gap underneath a closed door.
- Let the adult cat approach the kitten and supervise the interaction. Most adults will hiss and spit and may even swipe a paw at the inquisitive little intruder, who they regard as a pest. However, rest assured that most adults will not seriously attack a kitten.
- Make a fuss of the existing cat, particularly if the kitten is around, to try and prevent jealousy in the older cat. This assures the older cat that it is still “No. 1” in your household.
- Ignore the kitten (no matter how hard it is!) as much as possible whenever your older cat is around, again to reassure her that her position in the household is unchallenged by the arrival of the kitten.
- Make sure there are adequate litter trays for all the cats (usually one per cat and often, one extra); a choice of beds and resting spaces, and also several feeding stations, to prevent fighting over resources.
- Don’t leave the kitten alone with your older cat initially. While it is rare for an adult cat to attack a kitten outright, it is safer always to supervise the interactions at first. Not only can you prevent your older cat from hurting your kitten, you can also prevent a kitten that is too boisterous and playful making a serious nuisance of itself with a sedate older cat.
- At the same time, don’t be over-protective of the kitten – aside from making sure that it is not under serious threat, it is best to let the cats sort things out between themselves. It is important for the kitten to learn to respect the older cat and an occasional spat is nothing to be concerned about.
- Don’t try to force the cats together, no matter how cute you think it would look for them to be “snuggled together”. While some cats may become inseparable friends and eat, sleep and play together, more often than not, cats living in the same household simply learn to tolerate each other’s presence and go about their own business, effectively ignoring the other cats.
In the wild, cats are solitary creatures and except during courtship and motherhood, they do not usually spend time with other cats. However, although multi-cat households are not what nature intended, if managed properly, all members can live in peace and harmony.