I'm going to be a complete basketcase if I ever have kids
September 7, 2012 3:18 PM   Subscribe

Adopting a kitten into a house that already has a young cat. I have some questions on how to make this process as smooth and painless for all humans and felines involved.

In all likelihood, my girlfriend and I are going to be adopting a kitten tomorrow. The kitten is probably 8-12 weeks old and is a male. He was found under a porch with another kitten and (according to the friend that found them) is extremely friendly and seems healthy.

We’ve already set up a vet visit and will be taking the lil guy directly there after we pick him up. We also plan to sequester him in a spare room until we get a clean bill of health.

Sega, our current cat, is about two or three years old. She lived with another cat at my previous apartment but has been queen of the castle since we moved in with my girlfriend about two months ago. She made the transition without any issues but I do think she’s a bit lonely; she’s more needy and anxious than she was before and she will occasionally wander around upstairs and make sorrowful meowing noises until we call to her. We decided to look for an additional cat to keep her company and then this opportunity presented itself. How fortunate!

My question is...what do we do once the new kitten is home?

I imagine he’ll be quite stressed since it’s about an hour from where he is now to our vet and then about 15 minutes from vet to home. Should we bring his carrier in his room, let him out and let him do his thing? Should we try and interact with him or leave him alone for a few hours? We’ll have everything he needs in his room so he won’t have to leave.

I’m also not 100% sure how to best introduce him to Sega. I planned on letting him have free reign of the house once we get the ok from the vet. Before that, I intend to keep a blanket with him and periodically let Sega sniff at it to get used to his scent.

The advice online is all over the place. Some articles recommend isolating the animals for days or weeks and gradually introducing them to each other and some say to just let em go as soon as possible and they’ll sort it out on their own.

Any tips or anecdotes on introducing a kitten to another young cat would be much appreciated. I can’t help but be an anxious cat dad!

Obligatory pic of Sega. I don't have any pics of Potential New Kitten just yet.
posted by Diskeater to Pets & Animals (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Obligatory Feliway recommendation.
posted by holgate at 3:21 PM on September 7, 2012

Seconding Feliway. When we brought a new kitten home we put her in an extra bedroom for a few days, and I spent a lot of time in that room, playing with her, sleeping in there and just generally getting her accustomed to some of the sounds and rhythms of our day. The older cat would come around and sniff at the door but wasn't overly concerned.

But when we actually let the kitten out into the house the older cat reacted with intense violence. Within a day or two I felt that it was getting dangerous -- I actually thought we might have a cat murder if I didn't intercede. So we got two Feliway plug-ins (for our 1400 square foot home). The level of hatred (by the older cat) went down a notch or two immediately, and then slowly progressed over the next several weeks. We ended up using Feliway for three months, replacing the diffusers each month. By the end of that the two cats were madly in love with each other, and they continue to be, years later.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:40 PM on September 7, 2012

Proper cat introduction procedures are to separate them for a week, swapping toys to get them used to each other's smells, and to generally adjust in a low-stress way to the introduction of a new cat. Yes, it's a pain, but it leads to a lifetime of happiness for everyone. My wife and I did this, and our prior cat had no problem with the introduction of the new cat. Friends who just tossed the new cat in with the old, ended up with two cats who hated each other their whole lives.

Keep them apart for a week. Swap toys and then blankets. By day four or five, crack the door enough that they can touch noses but not get through. Day six or seven, allow them supervised access to each other for short periods--keep keys or pennies-in-a-can ready to distract them if it goes badly.
posted by fatbird at 3:47 PM on September 7, 2012

My usual introduction goes kind of like this: kitten is in one room with a baby gate (or more likely a piece of plywood, it's taller and harder to climb) barring the way. That allows the existing kitty easy access into and out of the room yet keeps kitten contained. That way the existing cat can socialize or not as s/he sees fit. Once the kitten is 12 weeks or so, s/he can easily scale the plywood and can join the rest of the household. The kitten's food, water and litter box are in the room with the kitten.
posted by deborah at 4:35 PM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

We just did this with our 4 year old cat and 5 month old kitten. We were told not to separate them at all. There is going to be hissing, you might as well get it over with. Out guys are buddies now, two months later.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:17 PM on September 7, 2012

However you decide to structure the introductory period (weeks v. days) you'll have happier cats if you can make sure kitten first gets established in his own territory, and at the same time, be sure that Sega has territory where he feels safe & secure. (Cat trees or other higher perches work great for this.)

We foster cats quite a bit, and have done both the sudden immersion as well as the extended introduction. Usually the extended introduction works best for us. Right now, we're fostering 3 malnourished stray cats -- we have 3 resident cats and a small dog as well. Here's how we do it:

Week 1: Fosters are set up in an unused bedroom with food/water/carriers/litter boxes. There's a small crack (1/2") below the door, so we roll up a towel and stuff it in front of the crack. This prevents any paws and/or glares from being exchanged under the door. The new cats get time to settle in, look out the windows, and get comfortable with the smells, sounds & routines of our house. We allow our resident cats the opportunity to sniff our hands after we visit with the new guys, so that they can get familiar with the scent. Lots of petting, playing and tasty treats for all involved during this time period. (Cat lesson: new cats = awesome! YAY!)

Week 2: Everyone is a little calmer, so the door towel is removed. Sniffing (and a bit of hissing) ensures, but everyone is reassured by a few delicious canned food meals on either side of the (closed) door. Paws are inevitably extended through the door crack.

Week 3: The door is opened while a human stands in the doorway, allowing staring from a distance & refereeing any hissing or growls that occur. (They will.) As a referee, your goal is to foster short, positive encounters. Better to have happy 1 minute sessions than 5 minute sessions ending in growling and hackles.

Week 4: At this point, if things are going well, the new cats can come out to explore. Most likely they'll be tentative and resident cats will start establishing territory boundaries by growling and hissing. That's okay. Start slowly; first let them explore for a half hour (supervised), then an hour, then a few hours, then a day, etc. You'll feel when everyone is tolerating one another, and you can wander off. Alternatively, if there is still a lot of hostility, resident cats get locked in a room, and the new cats are allowed to explore the other space. Then new cats get locked in a room, and resident cats are allowed to explore the new cats' digs. Repeat as needed until it's no longer a big deal.

And if this sounds like too much work, you can always do what we tried in 2010: introduce your resident cats with your latest foster kitten on a 14-hour road trip across the country in a mid-size sedan. You'd be surprised at how quickly shared misery at the hands of humans builds kittie-bonds!
posted by muirne81 at 7:15 PM on September 7, 2012

When we brought home a stray to a house that already had a young cat, we asked the staff at the vet about the best way to introduce them. The vet tech gave this detailed plan that involved gradual introduction over a few months....and then the vet came in the room and we asked her and she said "meh, just put one of them in a carrier and let them sniff each other for a while first". We used the second approach. After the 'initial sniffing' new kitty was kept sequestered for about a week, coming out for supervised visits in the evenings. After about 10 days I was pretty confident they weren't going to kill each other, so they started getting unsupervised time together. Basically, they hissed at each other for about a week, ignored each other for a week, and then they became friends. I'd recommend starting with the sniff test, and then going from there based on the results. The cat we already had, Jack, is sort of ridiculously friendly with other cats (he's 'special'), and didn't get territorial. Also, kittens tend to get a free pass on the normal cat social hierarchy rules, so there's that.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:48 PM on September 7, 2012

UPDATE: The kitten somehow managed to escape before we could visit him. We decided to visit a shelter instead and came home with this guy. His energy level is perfect; he’s very cuddly, curious and playful.

We let our other cat sniff him while he was still in the carrier and she hissed and pouted, which was expected. We set up our spare room with litterbox, food, water, and a ton of cat toys and gave him time to get acclimated to his new environment.

He very much wanted to explore the rest of the house so we let him have run of the place last night for a few hours. Sega basically hid the entire time and hissed at him when he came close, which didn’t faze him a bit. Metaphorical balls of steel.

Our plan for the week is to keep him in his room overnight and during the day and let him out when we’re both back from work. If all goes well we’ll let him out for good over the weekend.

I bought some canned tuna and I might use that to entire them to be in the same room later on in the week.
posted by Diskeater at 11:10 AM on September 10, 2012

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