A week ago, I rescued a four-month-old kitten from my local rescue. I hadn’t gone to the rescue with the intention of adopting another cat for my household, but this kitten was just so sweet that I had to take her home with me.
This normally wouldn’t be something to write about, but I have always been under the assumption that my older cat, Baylee, would always be an only furchild. My Baylee is a spoiled three-year-old domestic short hair who hasn’t met any other cats outside of her siblings. She was also a rescue, but from a foster set up and she, too, was brought home at four months old. Her personality always dictated that we didn’t have many visitors due to her timid nature around other humans and my fiancé and I had always assumed that we wouldn’t be able to bring another cat into our household—unless the other cat was the right fit for our first furchild.
And that four-month-old kitten I just brought home, Storm, is sweet, brave, and so unlike our Baylee that I couldn’t pass up bringing her home. Whereas Baylee is timid and always scared of change, Storm took to her new home without a hitch. She didn’t hide in a corner or in the recliner of the room I secluded her when I brought her home.
However, we had one big issue that we had to bypass before we could have a harmonious two cat household.
After the rush of bringing her home and placing her in one of our upstairs rooms, I had the sudden realization that I had no idea about how to introduce cats to one another. My mother, who grew up with almost every animal imaginable, told me just to throw them together.
To clarify to anyone who wants to know, that is probably the worst thing you could do to both cats involved. Your resident cat will feel like its territory is being invaded and will most likely act in an aggressive manner. There will be hissing, swatting, and flattened ears.
I knew to isolate the new cat—but the question was what to do afterward. I found out that my cat knew there was another kitten in her territory rather quickly. Baylee hid in the basement for a whole day and, when she came into my bedroom, heard the kitten meowing in her room and hissed at me when I tried to reassure her that the new resident of our household was a tiny kitten that wouldn’t do any harm to her.
I consulted an old co-worker, a veterinary technician, who told me to do the following:
- Isolate your new kitten in a room of your house that allows your new cat to have her own safe space. We allowed for our new kitten to spend four days in her new space before allowing her to wonder the upstairs with a baby gate at the top of our steps.
- Place a blanket your resident cat likes to sleep on in the room so your new cat can get used to the scent of the resident cat.
- Swap the blanket out after the new kitten has gotten her scent all over it and allow your resident cat to smell the new kitten on her terms
- After your resident cat has stopped hiding (or hissing if your cat is much bolder than mine), allow for them to eat on opposite sides of the door that you have your new kitten locked in.
- Once they are comfortable eating with the barrier, allow them to see each other through a baby gate or the cracked door. Don’t worry—there will be hissing and maybe a few swats.
- Place your new kitten in a carrier and place her in the middle of your living space and allow your resident cat to see the kitten. Placing the kitten in the carrier allows your resident cat to feel a sense of superiority to the new kitten and allows them to approach them on their own terms
- Once you feel your resident cat is comfortable with the kitten in the carrier, has shared play time—but at a distance. Make sure to play with your resident cat and the kitten with a good distance between the two until they are able to play closer without any hissing or swatting involved.
- For a good while afterward, you will have to monitor their interactions and if there are any signs of aggression (hissing, ears flat, swatting with nails, growling) calmly separate them and start the process over.
Of course, you may be able to skip a step, or need to add playtime between a barrier if you end up adopting an older cat that your resident cat may not take to as quickly as ours did to the kitten, but these steps worked out well for us. We were able to go from our resident cat hiding in the basement to both cats playing well together in a week period. I still monitor their play for sings of aggression, but it has gone well for our household. I hope this had helped anyone who has been considering adding a new cat to their household.