HELP Introducing kitten to our senior cat - Need some specific advice!

Jbrts

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My wife and I have a 17-year-old senior cat (M). He's been on his own for about 5 years now. Previously we had 3 other cats who have since passed away. One of those he absolutely loved (cleaned, cuddled), one he essentially ignored, and one he completely hated (he'd scream and chase at any opportunity).

Recently we rescued a 6-wk old kitten (F) from freezing in a barn and have brought her home. We had her separate for a couple of days, scent swapped some items, and finally let her explore. The older cat spends most of the day under the bed and only comes out to eat in the living room, then up on the bed in the evening and at night to sleep. The kitten played in the living room. The older cat would hiss and growl if the kitten went under the bed, but he didn't seem to care too much. When he'd come into the living room the kitten would follow and watch him, try to sneak around. Again the older cat would hiss and growl, but was not aggressive. His food and litter are on the other side of the living room, so essentially he had to run the gamut to get there. We didn't want to move his things because we read that disruption of his space isn't good. We continued this way for a few days, letting her out in the day, supervising whenever the older cat came out, putting the kitten away for the night. When he came out we gave him some of his favorite treats. He'd get close to her if he was getting treats, but would growl again once the treats were gone. Mostly he seemed annoyed.

The other night, however, we had her up on the bed. She was napping on my lap, then got up to explore. The older cat didn't see her, and she surprised him. He hissed and gave a scream and went after her. Obviously we separated them. We held the kitten and he came out into the living room and sat under a chair (in shame or defense we don't know). The next day things seemed to be ok again. Routine seemed the same.

But yesterday morning, he came out and seemed to be stalking her and growling. It didn't feel like play. He did a small pounce and swatted at her again. Since then we've kind of decided to start the process again, but slower. The kitten is in the bathroom, he stays in the bedroom. We will close off the bedroom and let her out into the living room, and then reopen for him and put her away. We plan on doing this for a week or so, then letting them interact through a screen, then letting them be in a room together if that goes well.

Any insight into our situation would be great, especially in relation to his behavior. The kitten is curious and fearless, but we think she's learning his boundaries. The older cat is very sweet, and we know he can interact well with another cat, but his stalking worried us. He's old, he seems to not care until he does, feels fine being close to her while eating treats but doesn't seem to connect her to them. Doesn't seem to want to become aggressive, but we don't want him to start. Any advice would help. We worry that being too carefree or too rigid will make it worse. Thank you!
 

ArtNJ

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Even when it sounds aweful, and adult is almost never trying to injure the kitten. If they were the kitten would be literally dead in a blink. Rather, this is almost certainly akin to an old man with a cane trying to actually thump the annoying kid trying to retrieve a ball on his lawn with his cane while shouting "get the bleep off my lawn!" with spittle flying everywhere. Not a pretty image, but not a threat to the kitten. The real issue in these things is almost always the older cat's stress level. You don't want a 17 year old cat to be so worked up it has an adverse effect on them.

Lets back up a step. Is it actually worth doing this? Is the 17 year old in great health for his age? Because if he, for example, likely has less than a year or so, then I would argue he doesn't need to spend the next month or two unnecessarily stressed. But if he is in good health for his age, and seems to be eating ok, then sure, lets give this is a whirl. From what you've described, he doesn't seem to be reacting bad at all for a few days, so I'm certainly not suggesting calling it off -- more just asking about his health.

Assuming we are giving this a go, a separation of a few days was way too optimistic. You never can tell, sometimes you get lucky, but senior cats are generally not very open to new cats and tend to need a lot of time. You want the full slow process. How To Successfully Introduce Cats: The Ultimate Guide – TheCatSite Articles
 
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Jbrts

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Thank you!

Yes, our older cat is very healthy for his age. No real health problems to speak of; he jumps on the bed, plays with our phone charging cables, has a very healthy appetite. Overall, he seems more wary than stressed. He comes out at his usual times, looking for breakfast and dinner. He's using the litterbox, still cuddling and rubbing against my wife and I. It was just the turn from "I'm looking around to see if the kitten is around" to "I'm following her and growling" that threw us. Otherwise the kitten was running around keeping to herself and there was only tension when he'd come out.
 

ArtNJ

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Sounds ok then. I'd give it a couple of weeks of introduction process. Set up a gate so they can see each other. No guarranty it will help, but its worth trying because sometimes these things go very slowly if they are left to work it out on their own.
 

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I think you need to back up a few steps and go way slower on the introductions!!! Cat introductions take months, with kittens the process is faster.

I would put the kitten in a room for 1/2 the day, same time every day. Your old man gets 1/2 the day to rule the house without the kitten.... and he should get your bedroom has his room! (Seniority.) He gets treats, food & attention first. Then in a week or two you can move to supervised visits where you distract the annoying kitten with tons of play. Lastly in a couple months I would move to letting them roam freely.

⭐becuase the kitten is a baby I might sleep with them in the spare bedroom or the couch.... but I would not dethrone your cat from your bedroom!

⭐be sure to give your senior kitty 1 on 1 play every day!

⭐lots of adult cats do not really warm up to kittens until they hit 3-4 months old ..... & become more civilized!

⭐ Let your adult cat bop your kitten on the head, all they want. It is how kittens are disciplined & is good for them! Quasi bopped one kitten all the time, then when she grew older Quasi was super close to her. So there is still hope.

⭐If your old man is hiding under the bed, you need to slow down the introductions by a lot. You need him to not be stressed out during the introductions! Plus it is bad for his health.
 
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Jbrts

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Thank you! Lots of great information here. Just to clarify, our older cat isn't under the bed because he's hiding. It's just his favorite place in the house. Since he's old he just spends most of his time there!

Any thoughts on him following the kitten while growling? Getting close and going after her? Is he hunting her?
 
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Jbrts

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This evening he saw her paws poke out from under the door. Now he's sitting and staring at the door. is this curiosity or aggression? Thank you
 

danteshuman

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If he isn’t trying to kill her through the door, I would put it as curiosity. Often cats will play with each other through the door if they know each other..... but it is just play, not aggression.

He might have been freaked out or nervous from the kitten so he was following her and warning her. 🤷🏻‍♀️ I would put that as, he needs more time getting used to her smell before they see each other again.
 

ArtNJ

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It can be a mix of curiosity and concern. My then 4 year old *had* to follow the kitten around, but would hiss. To me, it seemed like "I'm watching you! DONT TOUCH MY STUFF!" Or something like that. Two days later they were friends. Now I don't think you would be that lucky, thats very very rare with a senior cat. Let the introduction process run and see if there are any signs of stress. But watchful curiosity is not necessarily a bad thing.
 

Robyn5678

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I have an 18 year old cat that didn’t really want to accept new younger cats. It’s been almost a year and she will tolerate 2 of the male cats them as long as they don’t get close, but the female she will attack her. As someone said above, due to her age, I try to keep her stress as minimal as I can so I do keep them separated.
 
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Jbrts

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Small update: The kitten has been in a separate room since Monday. She and the older cat have been "time-sharing" the living room, but do not directly interact. We've been putting small blankets in their favorite sleeping spots and switching them. No troubles sleeping. The older cat, though, has taken to napping on a chair in the living room which he's never really napped on before. Any ideas why? How long do you think we should keep them separate before allowing them to interact between a screen? Thank you.
 

danteshuman

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He might be owning the living room by sleeping in the chair..... which is fine. Scent is a major way cats communicate. I would open the door a tiny 1/4 inch crack and see how your senior cat reacts to seeing the kitten. Can they calmly eat in opposite sides of the door?

If yes to eating & the door crack ..... I would try a supervised visit (with treats and distracting play for the kitten.)
 
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Jbrts

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Another update: Yesterday seemed good. Our older cat was sitting in what's now "his" chair in the living room while my wife played with the kitten on the floor. He was relaxed and was watching the action patiently. He got a bit growly when she started to play with his tail so we ended the session. Later they were both on the floor. She surprised him coming around the dining room table and he growled and swatted at her. This morning we did breakfast through the gate and he growled and went after her (the gate between them). Not sure what that means as my wife did the feeding not me. Is this progress? It seems like it is, but then we have disheartening mornings like this. Not sure what the best course is. Should we let some of this play out? I read somewhere else that removing the kitten right away "rewards" our older cat for reacting negatively. Should we move our older cat sometimes? Should we forget the baby gate altogether and focus on supervised together time? How do we let him set boundaries without hurting her, and how do we reassure him she's annoying, yes, but not a threat. Thank you!
 
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Jbrts

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Hello again. So it’s been some time. Still have our 17yo and now 10(?)wk old. We did separating, feeding together, the whole shebang. They could care less about each other if there are food or treats to be had.

So we’ve been trying to simply let them share space. We try to keep her out from under the bed (his favorite spot), but otherwise they roam. She will follow him, hide behind him, run ahead and round on him, try to touch his tail. He’ll watch her but ignore her mostly… until he doesn’t.

Then he’ll growl and chase her. He won’t scream or anything, and doesn’t turn any of that on me when I pick him up to separate them.

She doesn’t seem especially scared and doesn’t get aggressive. She wants his attention and wants to play. We’ve been advised to keep her occupied with a toy while he’s in the room, but not many toys compete with another living cat, and we wouldn’t always be around to do it.
Thoughts? Advice? Are we doomed?
 
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Jbrts

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Also at dinner tonight we prepped and fed with both of them out and they briefly touched noses with no badness.
I have no idea.
 
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Jbrts

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Will our two cats ever get along well enough to leave them alone together? Right now we have them out whenever we are home. The older cat will be on the bed, under the bed sleeping, or in a chair in the living room sleeping or sitting. The kitten will try to play with him on the chair (and get a hiss, growl, and/or swat for the trouble). He'll do this if she gets too close. She will be chill and sit or nap, or follow us around and play, but as soon as he moves, she follows him and will try to get close or pop at him a little. She's cautious for now, knowing he'll react, but will she always be? Today he allowed her to sleep on the bed - not close to him, but he was relaxed enough to sleep.

She has also been racing ahead and getting into either litter box if he seems to be moving toward them. We'll move her, but she's fascinated whenever he uses it. Does she want to play? Is it the sound? Territory? Then today, he followed her into the room with the litter box and bopped her. He usually doesn't instigate things like this, so it's new.

They'll eat close by, wait for food without fighting, generally exist outside of these things. Can they do it?

I'm asking because I have to leave tomorrow and either take the kitten with me to start the process of rehoming, or leave my wife to continue trying to keep them together and hopefully become housemates if not friends. It's down to the wire and we still don't know.
 

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he followed her into the room with the litter box and bopped her.
This is normal, he's trying to teach her catly manners. Her behavior is also normal.

I wouldn't do anything differently from what you have been unless he starts to look stressed, then put one of them in a room so he can have a break from her uber energy.

As I mentioned, as the kitten grows, which will occur at an amazing rate, things will calm down. Your expectations are too high, and if you can lower those a bit and enjoy the baby while she's a baby you won't miss the lovely funny goofy silly things kittens do.
 

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Will our two cats ever get along well enough to leave them alone together? Right now we have them out whenever we are home. The older cat will be on the bed, under the bed sleeping, or in a chair in the living room sleeping or sitting. The kitten will try to play with him on the chair (and get a hiss, growl, and/or swat for the trouble). He'll do this if she gets too close. She will be chill and sit or nap, or follow us around and play, but as soon as he moves, she follows him and will try to get close or pop at him a little. She's cautious for now, knowing he'll react, but will she always be? Today he allowed her to sleep on the bed - not close to him, but he was relaxed enough to sleep.

She has also been racing ahead and getting into either litter box if he seems to be moving toward them. We'll move her, but she's fascinated whenever he uses it. Does she want to play? Is it the sound? Territory? Then today, he followed her into the room with the litter box and bopped her. He usually doesn't instigate things like this, so it's new.

They'll eat close by, wait for food without fighting, generally exist outside of these things. Can they do it?

I'm asking because I have to leave tomorrow and either take the kitten with me to start the process of rehoming, or leave my wife to continue trying to keep them together and hopefully become housemates if not friends. It's down to the wire and we still don't know.
Sounds just like my cats Maggie and Peaches when they were kittens,Josie was a senior. Furballsmom Furballsmom is explaining it perfectly. They will grow to tolerate each other. Let them be wherever supervised. You can start clicker training the kitten. Though not necessary
 

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It was a full year before we had Magnus (5 months at start) and Nobel (14 at start), fully integrated, even when we left the house.

Go slow. Keep patience and give your senior lots of extra love and attention.

Watch lots of videos on the difference between play and agression to comfort yourself. Seriously. It helps.

Keep at the bonding activities and help your senior cat to socialize your kitten by providing boundaries (picking her up and moving her away if needed).

Loads of praise with any positive interactions.

Use a toothbrush or cloth over a single finger to "groom" your kitten and instill a sense of peace in her over time.

Give LOADS of enrichment, and especially new enrichment and let your senior enjoy it too..you'll be surprised what he learns from the new little one. Nobel was always watching Magnus and then experimenting with things after Magnus slept.

Play with your younger cat at least 3 times a day to get a schedule for her and also to get her energetic energy out so she's not annoying the older guy too much.
 
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