Searching for how to introduce a new kitten to an older cat throws up a staggering amount of information – and I have to admit that most of it was a bit overwhelming. In fact we almost didn’t do it. I am a ‘follow the rules’ type of person and get really bogged down in doom-and-gloom! Most of the internet advice suggested that it could take weeks, sometimes months of horribleness… But it has been fine. Really. Which is why I’d like to give a personal summary on how the last 10 days have been for Lyla-cat and Indy-boop.
Introducing our older cat; we adopted Lyla when she was about three years old (now six, 2012) – a 3kg, completely flea bitten, un-neutered and feisty female. She was a teenage cat, testing her boundaries. After being desexed, she completely calmed down, piled on the pounds and became a loveable but very emotionally demanding one-cat-per-household-pet. When she used to go outside to potter around she would freeze when seeing another cat, and usually run away. She follows us round from room to room, tells us when it’s bedtime and when it’s time for breakfast and when we go out, she sits on the windowsill waiting for our return. We’re also happily childless so life has been nice and quiet for the three of us. So! Before she got any more sedentary, set in her ways and human-like – we asked ourselves, should we get a second cat? We answered yes.
We’d used an old dog cage (yes the same one Lyla-cat uses to sunbathe in her temporary catio) to set up a safe area for Indy-Boop in the living room (inc. litter tray, water, dry food and old Lyla-smelling blankets). We brought home a feisty, male little kitten who bounded straight out of his travel box and scurried around the room purring before using his litter tray, lapping up some water then coming to nuzzle into my hair and go to sleep. We happily sidestepped the stages featured in most new kitten articles that are intended for nervous kittens.
We brushed Lyla then brushed Boop then brushed Lyla again. Nothing. We took Boop’s blankets for Lyla to sniff. Not interested. We let Lyla smell Boop’s cage and litter tray. Slight interest / then a nap. By this point we were pretty sure that as Boop had come from a house of cats he’d be fine and it would be all down to our lovely Lyla-cat who is bouncy and friendly and loves people and fuss… Cue the first meeting; Lyla-cat storming into the room to meet Boop (safe in his cage) to hiss at him, spit at him, swipe at him and then retreat to glare at him from across the room. She let out the occasional yowl and seemed to be tutting at one point – but Lyla-cat is VERY vocal and tends to talk most of the time anyway. We managed to watch a film while they both slept. The next few days were similar – Lyla running in to hiss and spit then glare then put up with him for their ‘brief visitation periods’.
Then Boop stopped eating as much and spent a day quite quiet and sleepy. Lyla seemed a bit glum too – so we moved Boop’s cage into a spare room upstairs and gave them both a full day apart. Lyla spent a nice day lying in the sunshine back in her living room – and he bounded around the bedrooms upstairs showing off. By the following day Lyla was standing outside his door wanting to be in. We let her – cue more hissing and swiping. By this point I was frantically trying to make sure I was giving as much attention and affection to our old cat as we were for the new cat. I was trying to show Lyla that I really liked Boop and that she had to like him too – then I was cuddling Lyla so she wouldn’t be so huffy. The end result was each evening I’d be with one cat in the living room, and Mr Whitburn Whiskers upstairs with the other cat. Then swap. Not ideal.
At this point, we introduced feeding Boop in his cage at the same time as putting Lyla’s food dish next to him. Luckily as she’s so food orientated she barely batted an eyelid at this. We also tried putting Lyla in the cage and letting Boop waddle around the room and peer in at her. Boop wasn’t interested and Lyla was livid – so a week in, we took Boop (and his cage) downstairs again to try and spend an evening altogether. We let Boop come out and walk around next to me – and Lyla was at the other side of the room watching. This was fine, until Boop got over excited and started stumbling about and falling over. Lyla HATED this. She bounded over, hissed and bopped him over the head – which lead me to read some interesting thoughts on cat psychology, particularly the following from an article by W.V. Cats;
“For adult cats who’ve [never seen] kittens before, kittens are strange creatures, not acting like proper cats in the viewpoint of the adult cat… Little kittens make different noises, and move differently than adult cats. They often are overly bold, just trotting right up to an adult cat… Many adult cats don’t know what to make of tiny kittens and this can worry and stress them. Most creatures fear what they don’t understand.”
So we have a boisterous kitten ready to play, and a nervous, suspicious six year old who doesn’t know what to do. Three more days of them sharing the same space in the living room = Lyla ignoring Boop in his cage – unless he miaowed and she’d saunter over to sniff him. Nothing else happened – and because Mr Whiskers is braver than me – and because we really did trust our Lyla-cat – we let them loose together on the 9th day.
It was terrifying (for me). For them it looked like fun. Our living room has a lot of hidey holes for Boop and we left the door open incase Lyla wanted to leave – but really all that happened was that Lyla hissed a lot and jumped about and sniffed and yowled and then hissed some more and then out of nowhere – she lay down and stretched her paws behind her head tempting Boop to come over. He did so, happily. At which she bopped him on the head a few times then sat and cleaned herself. Then he discovered her tail and they spent a good 10 minutes running around the living room – taking it in turns to chase each other (cue me googling ‘how to tell if cats are play fighting or real fighting?’ – the answer seems to be that you’ll KNOW if they’re really fighting – blood, hair, screaming etc.). This was definitely Lyla putting Boop in his place. We didn’t push it tho. They both had some ‘Dreamies’ and then Boop went up to bed.
This morning they ate breakfast together side by side, sniffed each other and then then began sorting out their friendship. It’s been a day of rough playing and Boop doting on Lyla’s every move – until he gets too pesky and they have to be separated again. With Lyla still giving him the odd hiss and thump when he tries a sneak-attack, we think cuddles are a long way off – but I’m feeling really positive – almost certain that they can be friends. Maybe even best friends?
Most Helpful Tips:
Separate living rooms
Brief visitation periods
Cross-contamination of smells
Taking things slowly
Don’t expect too much
Make sure you have lots of time for each cat
Be prepared for emotional demands
Be brave – let them figure out some of it for themselves
Kitten is the baby – so primary concern is his safety
Try to have no negative experiences at all
Never punish either cat
Try to show your older cat that the newcomer is wanted and welcome whilst you…
…Make sure you don’t neglect the older cat
Have a water spray to hand – just incase you need to separate them
(The Cat Whiskerer)