Old cat and new kitten strategy
August 7, 2011 10:23 PM   Subscribe

Old cat, new kitten filter: Does anyone have experience introducing an older cat to a new kitten? My cat is 17 years old, female indoor. Any advice/ best practices?
posted by tessalations999 to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We introduced a male kitten to an 18 year old male cat. It didn't go well for about a couple of weeks, I think. We kept the kitten locked in the bedroom whenever we were out of the apartment because we were worried about him getting clawed in the eye or something. Just supervise them to see how it's working out and take it from there.

They eventually sorted it out and got along peachy.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:10 PM on August 7, 2011

There are lots of guides on how to introduce two cats here on AskMe and elsewhere on the web--keeping them quarantined for a bit, getting them used to each others' smells, Feliway....But the best advice I have for you is: get two kittens.

Kittens at a certain age are relentless, fearless, and clueless. A single kitten will be curious about the elderly lady and will not take no for an answer if wanting to play with her. I have had several experiences with this dynamic and, for example, had an elderly cat made absolutely miserable by a kitten who went so far as to ride him around like a horse and keep him from getting to the food bowl and litter. It is actually quite disturbing to see and made me enjoy that kitten less.

The solution, suggested by my vet, was to get another kitten of the same age. Despite my misgivings, this worked beautifully. Another kitten is loads more fun to play with than a grumpy old lump of elderly cat, after all, and the two kittens together harassed my old fellow about 90% less than the one kitten alone.

Good luck to you, and cheers for being such a good cat parent!
posted by thebrokedown at 12:43 AM on August 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

Seconding second kitten. We got one kitten when our other cat was 7 years old, and that worked out fine, but 17 is way too old to want to adjust. It will be pretty stressful for her. If you absolutely can't get a second one, then separate them for a good long time until they're used to each other's smell, then start with short supervised visits. I think your old cat is either going to put the smackdown on kitten, or feel so harassed that she'll run and hide.
posted by desjardins at 6:44 AM on August 8, 2011

I have recently introduced a kitten to my 7 year old. Not quite as old as yours, but when the 7 year old was a kitten, he was introduced to a 13 year old.

All cats are different. I haven't had any problems with either of these introductions. The 13 year old hissed a bit, but I think he quickly became alpha and my 7 year old is such a relaxed cat that he didn't care. That not caring came in handy when the new kitten arrived. New kitten was the hardest part, actually. She did some hissing and running away, etc. Now she loves the 7 year old and he seems to like her just fine.

Not knowing your cat's temperament, it's hard to suggest things. It certainly doesn't hurt to do all the suggestions of keeping them apart and slowly introducing them. With this new kitten, she stayed in the bathroom for a night and then came out in the morning and they said hello. Things were ok as they got to sniff each under the door, etc through the night. Slow and steady is better than just throwing them into it. Be patient no matter what. They'll sort it out one way or another.
posted by itsacover at 7:24 AM on August 8, 2011

We brought two kittens (about 3 months old, littermates) into a home with a 17-yo cat. We did not do any of the gradual-introduction stuff that some recommend. We had no problems whatsoever.

The two kittens could roughhouse with each other, which was a good thing, as the old guy would not have been up for such shenanigans. But one of the two kittens almost immediately decided that the old guy was her new buddy, and within a couple of weeks they were cuddling all the time.
posted by adamrice at 7:45 AM on August 8, 2011

I've decided it's pretty much impossible to predict how cats are going to get along beforehand, so I would just introduce them gradually and see how it goes. When I moved in with my honey, we figured his senior citizen cat wouldn't be very happy about having two younger cat roomies; turned out that she fell in love with the youngest cat (4 years old) and they played and hung out together. I think it was really good for her to have that extra stimulation and exercise for her last year or so.

Anyway, I would just try it; adding a second kitten might be necessary, but it might not. Make sure that the older kitty has her own safe place to go to and that she gets lots of attention from you so that she doesn't feel insecure. And also play with the kitten so that the older cat doesn't get all that rowdiness directed at her.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 8:46 AM on August 8, 2011

When we introduced our new kitten to our old female cat, the cat was ready to commit murder. The level of intensity was frightening. And then we got Feliway. I hate to sound like a Feliway commercial, but it WORKED. It immediately took the edge of violence off, and then over the course of two months (using 2 diffusers in a 1400 sq. ft. house) the cat transitioned into full-blown love. Now it's been 2+ years and these cats adore each other.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:19 AM on August 8, 2011

I've done this twice, each time with the older cat 14+ years old. I just brought the new kitten home and let the old one feel it out for himself. There was a little hissing and cautiousness at first, but within a week everything was good.

Maybe I just have really easy-going cats.
posted by Fuego at 11:02 AM on August 8, 2011

My only similar experience has been introducing a middle-aged (8 year old) cat into a home where three 5-month-old kittens had already been living for several months. Having read lots of books on multi-cat households, I did the whole "keep new cat in separate room, then gradually introduce to rest of household" thing.

Worked out okay, inasmuch as nobody actually injured anyone else once they all met physically, but I did end up having to put Nikki (the older one) into her own room at night every so often during the first few months, as the youngsters were total party cats and hadn't quite developed the social skills to figure out that Nikki running away from them did NOT mean Nikki was enjoying a fun game of tag.

So, in other words, the most important thing is probably to make sure OlderKitty has a "safe haven" where she can go if the kitten gets overly rowdy. It's not likely the kitten will hurt her (or vice versa) but they may well spend a while antagonizing one another, especially as the kitten learns boundaries, etc. Hissing, growling, and slapping are all pretty normal, so don't be overly alarmed by these things, but do take care to make sure OlderKitty can escape from the stress of kittenish OH HAI OH HAI PLAY WITH ME!!!! antics.

Oh and definitely have two litterboxes, and two sets of food bowls, etc. Introductions will go MUCH more smoothly if OlderKitty doesn't have to deal with feeling like her access to resources is being threatened.
posted by aecorwin at 7:41 PM on August 8, 2011

I have done this a few times with success. The way I do is it is have the kitten(s) blocked into an area with food, water, litterbox, etc. That way they are contained, but if the older cat wants to visit s/he can do so AND they can easily get away if overwhelmed by the kitten. By the time the kitten can get over the barrier (and the barrier is removed), the older cat has accepted the kitten. Even so, once in a while the older cat can get aggravated, so make sure there are places s/he can get that the kitten cannot (desk, table, etc.).
posted by deborah at 1:43 PM on August 9, 2011

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