How soon can we introduce our new kitten to two resident cats?
October 26, 2011 4:09 AM   Subscribe

How soon can we introduce our new kitten to two resident cats?

We have two adult cats in the household. As littermates, Buffy and Willow were rescue kitties we adopted four years ago. They are now eight years old, and both are affectionate but nervous girls who have a tendency to pee on furniture and walls when they feel threatened and need to reestablish safe territory. Physically small, most people who meet them are amazed to learn they are fully grown adults rather than year-old kittens.

Ten days ago, we adopted Dawn, a nine week old rescue kitten. On the advice of the adoption shelter, Dawn is currently sequestered on her own in the spare room with food, water, litter tray and toys. She is full of energy and affection and seems to be settling in well. She received the first of her vaccination shots whilst at the shelter, and is due to receive the second from the vet on 11th November.

Although Dawn is in isolation, Buffy and Willow both know full well of her presence. They can smell her, and can hear her through the door. When we go in to see her, brief visual contact has also been made when Dawn either tries to make a break for it out the door, or when the other two see inside from their vantage point on the landing. We are making efforts to make a fuss of them as much as possible, with cuddles and attention, particularly just before and after we spend time with Dawn.

Predictably, Buffy and Willow have been intensely interested in the goings on in Dawn's room, especially when the kitten is hungry or wants attention, when she screams and cries like someone is strangling her... and can make herself heard two rooms away. There doesnt seem to be any animosity or aggression from either of them, but its becoming apparent that our adult girls are very concerned and worried about the presence of a new kitten. Both have taken to following us about and being more than usually cuddly and clinging. They're off their food, and are ignoring their dinner when it's presented, although both bowls get licked clean later on when no-one is watching. Past behaviour from them is to gorge themselves the second they see a dinner bowl. They're still playing with their own toys and don't seem actively unhappy, but they're both showing signs of feeling insecure and apprehensive.

By now cats and kitten should know each others' scents, and we are wondering if it would ease Buffy's and Willow's concerns to make introductions with Dawn, in case its the fact that they're unable to get at the new arrival which is worrying them so much. Being able to have all three in the same room would make logistics much easier as well, as whichever side of the door we're on, someone feels left out and neglected.

From a kitty social perspective, how soon can we introduce the new arrival to our resident kitties?

From a health perspective, how soon is it safe for Dawn to come into contact with our resident kitties? Both Buffy and Willow have up to date vaccinations, but Dawn won't have her second shot for another two weeks. The last thing we want is a sick kitten.

And to meet the expectations of metafilter, we wouldn't dream of asking a kitty question without payment in pictures. This is Dawn, and here are Buffy and Willow.
posted by talitha_kumi to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
10 days is longer than I've ever waited for some supervised time together.
posted by tyllwin at 6:02 AM on October 26, 2011

So when I got a new kitten and introduced her to our other cats, we brought her home, put her on the cat tree in a room and the other cats came in and everything was fine. So I guess I'm saying that after two weeks you should be fine too. At some point they're just going to have to meet each other and work it out.

In terms of her being ok healthwise, if your other cats are indoor cats there shouldn't be a problem, but obviously if you're concerned you could always ask your vet.
posted by Kimberly at 6:04 AM on October 26, 2011

Ten days? Let them interact (supervised), and if it goes well, start allowing more interaction with less supervision that you "supervise" by ear from wherever you are in the house.

I'd still separate them at night until you're sure all is going well, but that's partly because I'd lay awake worrying about it and partly because things that go wrong are noisy. :)

Honestly I attempted to separate my first two for 48 hours (when adding #2) and made it about six because they were pawing each other under the door and howling about it. They were fine upon introduction, not messing with each other, though wary of each other for a while. When #3 came, I could barely keep them physically separated because my house is old, my doors are a bit warped, and #3 was tiny and kept trying to squeeze under the too-large door-bottom gap. #3 decided #1 was either his mom or his god and followed #1 around non-stop in an ecstasy of kitten love. So that also went well, except that #1 got real tired of someone following him 5 feet behind, eating his dropped food morsels, and watching him pee.

When I saw your first two were Buffy and Willow, I was like, OH THAT KITTEN BETTER BE NAMED DAWN, so good job!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:09 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

We introduced Mr Ban (about 2 years old) to Boutros (about 8) with only about two hours of Ban being confined to the bedroom. Bou was used to changing houses and sometimes living with cats or dogs and Ban had been in and out of the shelter before we permanently adopted him. Both are males.

We brought Kitty Annan in a couple years later. She was just over a year old and she had to be segregated from the boys for almost two weeks. She hissed and charged whenever she saw the boys, who seemed very agitated by her behavior--sometimes beating up on each other, which they had never done before. The boys occasionally scratched at the door, but mostly just stared at it when she was locked behind it. We swapped bedding between her room and their perches regularly, used feliway, and did the tuna trick. For the tuna trick, you dish out a little tuna into bowls. One of you goes in the confinement room (with tuna) and the other stays on the other side of the door (with tuna). You put the tuna down, open the door, and the cats are distracted by yummy tuna, even though they can see each other.

Eventually, we just let her out and let them deal with it. It hasn't been a problem.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:43 AM on October 26, 2011

Healthwise - both adult cats are indoor/outdoor cats, although we currently have no catflap after moving house six months ago. They get shut indoors overnight and when we're out of the house, and at other times they get let in and out on request. There's little risk Dawn could escape the house, so the only cats she'd have immediate contact with would be Buffy and Willow. And other than the worried clinginess, neither of them look or are acting sick.

Feeding all three the same kitten food for lunch seemed to help with the not-eating thing. Mr Kumi had the brainwave that it could perhaps be traced to Buffy and Willow historically getting stroppy unless both of them had the same flavour sachet of wetfood as each other at a meal. If the two bowls have different flavours, neither of them will eat because they can't decide which bowl to eat from even if they like both. From the smell they must have known that Dawn was getting kitten food different from their adult-kitty food, which might have set off the indecisive jealousies even if they couldn't get at the offending bowl.
posted by talitha_kumi at 6:57 AM on October 26, 2011

I always heard to wait until the vet gives the all-clear. Even if your kitten has been fostered rather than in the shelter, she's probably been around a few other animals, and who's to say if those animals were ill?
posted by amarynth at 7:01 AM on October 26, 2011

I've heard of this isolation and gradual introduction routine, but I've never heard of anyone actually doing it. I grew up with a lot of cats (a lot) and we never did it. As an adult, I've never done it. The worst that's happened is that cats have remained aloof from each other.
posted by adamrice at 7:46 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

growing up I had many-a-cat, and we never isolated the new kitten when they came home. Sure there was some hissing, and occasionally some hiding (usually from the established kitties of the house), but with the exception of one grumpy female (who never got along with any other cats her entire life and just sort of kept to herself), they would get to a place of cohabitation within a couple of days, and usually become good buddies within a couple of months.

I would say make sure the kitten doesn't get beat on too hard by the older kitties, but at the same token, cats are ridiculously resilient creatures. At this point now that they know eachothers' voices and scents, you are going to go through some rough patches, but it's better to just get the process started.
posted by aloiv2 at 8:25 AM on October 26, 2011

10 days is plenty long enough to wait in my opinion I'd get a Feliway diffuser or 2 set them up around the house. Once they have had time to get the nice calming smells in the air for your nervous kitties I'd have a little introduction session of maybe 10 mins or so.

Ignore the new guy and keep patting and loving on the older cats, I know it's hard when one of them is a kitten, but reassuring the new ones that their position hasn't changed is important to help keep fights and stress to a minimum.

Let the cat's approach in their own time. It is easier to introduce a kitten instead of an older cat in my experience as they don't tend to produce so much aggression in other cats, the fact your cats are female helps too. There may be some hissing and carrying on as positions in the hierarchy are determined, just make sure there is enough room for everyone to get out of each others way if this happens.

I can understand your nervousness to introduce them, cleaning up pee from nervous cats marking is NOT fun, the feliway does help with that as I had a nervous marking cat that freaked out when a cat moved in next door and would mark all the doors and windows. The pheromones really calmed him down.

I would keep your all your kitties inside though if they are going to be mixing with the new guy until the kittens shots are all up to date.
posted by wwax at 8:59 AM on October 26, 2011

I should have mentioned that we have two feliway diffusers running already in the house, which have been there several months. They've helped a lot in calming down the anxious pee marking, but not eliminated it entirely. We're definately feliway converts!
posted by talitha_kumi at 10:19 AM on October 26, 2011

Yay Feliway! That's one of the best kitten introduction tools out there. Socially, you can introduce your kitties to each other (supervised) after a few days of being on opposite sides of a door. They'll duke it out and come up with a hierarchy. You may want to keep Dawn in the separate room whenever you're not around for a week-ish, though she may have her own ideas.

Health-wise, though, please make sure everyone has been tested for Leukemia and FIV before introducing them. As long as Dawn is on schedule for her vaccines and everyone has the same viral testing status, it should be ok to start introducing them. And I agree with wwax to keep everyone indoors until Dawn is completely up to date.
posted by faethverity at 12:09 PM on October 26, 2011

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