The step-by-step instructions given here should help you to introduce your new kitten and cat with the minimum of fuss. However, only time will tell whether these careful preparations have really paid off. Despite the best intentions and great care, some cats never learn to curl up together, wash each other behind the ears or become great friends. Personality types play a great part in all social interactions – human and feline – and it is impossible to ensure that all people, or all cats, will love each other. Sadly, friendship can never be guaranteed.
Stress-free introductions, step-by-step
Remember that all cats are different. Some may require only a brief period of introduction; others may take longer to accept each other.
1. Accustom the kitten to spending short periods in the pen, crate or carrier. Initially, you should place this somewhere above ground level -such as on a table – so that, when the time comes, both cats can see each other but are not forced into direct eye contact on the floor.
2. Bring your adult cat into the room. Make sure that it feels secure by talking to it and favouring it with your affection all the time that it is being non-confrontational. Ignore the kitten for the time being, as this will help to ease any ‘jealousies’ over the new arrival. Give your kitten affection and contact when the other cat is not around to see it. In the cat’s presence, your kitten will probably prefer to be ignored rather than be forced into a jealous confrontation by your attention.
3. Allow the adult cat to investigate the kitten more closely. If it decides to depart to the nearest shelf to examine the newcomer from a distance, accept that this is your cat’s way of coping. Never try to force a meeting between cats, because they will need to establish a relationship in their own time. Introductions like this should be brief and positive. A few minutes of controlled, gentle introduction, several times a day, will be far better than long, tense periods of confrontation.
Once you have carried out the initial introductions with the kitten in the pen, reverse the situation by placing the older cat inside. The body postures of this pair show that they are still unsure of each other, and will need more time to adjust.
4. If possible, employ a ‘remote’ distraction to interrupt any signs of aggression between the two cats. Making a loud noise by dropping a bunch of keys is usually enough to achieve this, provided that you catch the intention rather than a full attack.
5. With the kitten still confined, feed both cats – at opposite ends of the room – with some extra-special food (cats are more likely to eat when relaxed, so this will be a useful indicator as to their emotional states).
6. Gradually move the adult cat’s food bowl closer and closer to the kitten’s pen or crate. Watch for nonchalant body postures in both cats – a willingness to eat in close proximity will indicate calmness in one another’s company.
7. Move the pen around the room, and then around the rest of the house. Place it on floor level and feed the cats close together again.
8. In between these short, sweet introductions, keep the two cats apart. Play with your kitten in the other rooms of the house to ensure that its scent is as widespread as possible in the older cat’s territory. In a natural situation a new cat wanting to join a group would ‘visit’ intermittently when the other cats were absent, to leave its smell for the others to detect; this allows gradual familiarity without confrontation.
9. Do not be in too much of a hurry to allow the cats a face-to-face meeting. As part of the process, it can be helpful to place the existing cat in the pen while the newcomer is free to wander in the room.
10. When you feel that they are ready, allow the cats to meet in one room, with the door closed. Prepare for this first ‘free’ meeting carefully. Delaying both cats’ mealtimes so they can be fed together with some extra-tasty food often helps to defuse the situation. Place the bowls some distance apart and stand by with a means of interrupting any antagonistic behavior, just in case. Make sure that the established cat has a place of safety to jump up to if it feels threatened.
11. Graduate to supervised meetings between the cats in other parts of the house, allowing the kitten greater freedom (if you have a cat flap, remember to shut it first!).
12. Once you are confident that the cats are happy with each other, leave them alone for short and then longer periods, until you no longer need to supervise them.