Struggling to acclimate a new kitten into a home with a resident cat

catsunemiku

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I recently adopted a new kitten last week who’s about 8 weeks old. I’ve kept her in my bedroom as her safe room because it’s the smallest room in my apartment & I wanted to let my resident cat, a gray shorthair who’s about 2-3 years old, have more room to move around in. I feed them on opposite sides of the bedroom door as suggested by most guides & have been trying to introduce them as slowly as possibly. On the first day, my resident cat hissed quite a bit, it’s the first time I had ever heard her hiss which worried me, but read that this is normal behavior. I rubbed both cats with socks & put the opposite sock with the other cat on the 2nd day to see how they’d react & both cats had no negative reactions. She stopped hissing on the 3rd day of my kitten being here so I decided to move it forward a bit. I kept feeding them across the door for the past week & tried to get them to play with a toy on both sides attached to a string, which they did for a short period of time. It’s been a week without hissing so I decided to try something I saw on Jackson Galaxy’s website. I put a screen in the doorway & sealed it so neither cat could get through & put a blanket over it & lifted it to slowly visually reveal the kitten to my resident cat. My resident cat started to get hostile & hissed at the kitten who seemed scared. I dropped the blanket over the screen & closed to door to help the kitten feel safer. I’m worried that I’ve put both of them in an uncomfortable/irreparable situation. My resident cat appeared to feel more comfortable around the scent of my new kitten, but I am unsure now. Is this common? Does anyone have any advice on how I can help my resident cat feel more comfortable in this situation?
 

Elphaba09

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You seem to be doing all the right things. It seems you might need more time. It can take days to months for cats to start getting along. Hissing and some aggression are normal reactions. As long as both cats are safe, things are well. (They are both fixed?)

You can try room swapping: Let the kitten out into the rest of the house while putting your older cat in the room where the kitten had been. If they have collars, you can do collar switches every other day. Also, I know this seems a bit weird, but swap scoops of used litter between their boxes. Go slow at first with no more than 1/2 a cup switch at a time. It has proved surprisingly helpful in acclimating all my cats. (I currently have 12 cats between the ages of 10 months and 17 years old.) After things have gone well for a few more days, you can try playing with them in the same room. One might watch, but they may start playing with you together.

You can try calming sprays or plug-ins. You might have to have different types on hand because not all cats respond to the same spray.

When they are able to be in the same room, you may still see some aggression and/or hissing. For that behavior, I use clicker training and positive reinforcements. Technically, I snap my fingers rather than using a clicker. It still works, although it does take time. When you initially see aggression or hissing, click or snap, say the cat's name, go to them if you have to, and start petting them and give them a treat. My stalker cat has gotten to the point where I snap my fingers and point next to me she will come running and want to be pet rather than continue stalking.

We currently have an aggressive 1-year old whose spaying was canceled twice due to COVID. We are hoping she calms down. Because hers is associated with her hormones, our vet put her on melatonin and hemp oil. When things get particularly aggressive, I take out her favorite wand toy and start shaking it. She comes running, and the aggression ends. Using their favorite toys might also be helpful for you.

Good luck!
 
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catsunemiku

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thank you for the thoughtful & detailed response! I’ve decided to keep the cats separated for a while, but have swapped their placement, my resident cat is now in the bedroom & my kitten is in the other room. I’ve been observing them both closely after dinner & my resident cat seems stressed. The past week, she’s been less receptive to playing & won’t interact with her favorite toys. I will try out the litter trick! Thank you once again for the advice
 

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Hi. Here are a few TCS articles that might help (see links below). I also included one about introducing a kitten to an older cat, not that your 2-3 yo is old, but sometimes when they have been raised alone they can 'adopt' traits similar to older cats relative to being around another cat, especially a kitten.
How To Successfully Introduce Cats: The Ultimate Guide – TheCatSite Articles
How To Introduce A Kitten To An Older Cat – TheCatSite Articles
Do Cats Get Jealous? (and What To Do About It When They Do) – TheCatSite Articles
 
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catsunemiku

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Hi. Here are a few TCS articles that might help (see links below). I also included one about introducing a kitten to an older cat, not that your 2-3 yo is old, but sometimes when they have been raised alone they can 'adopt' traits similar to older cats relative to being around another cat, especially a kitten.
How To Successfully Introduce Cats: The Ultimate Guide – TheCatSite Articles
How To Introduce A Kitten To An Older Cat – TheCatSite Articles
Do Cats Get Jealous? (and What To Do About It When They Do) – TheCatSite Articles
I wanted to give an update & also say thank you for the resources.

I did a site swap & put my resident cat back in the bedroom & my new kitten in the living room. My resident cat has been drowned in attention the past week & I think it’s helped her feel more secure. I think the Feliway is working too as she seems incredibly affectionate lately.

Today I attempted the curtain over the screen trick again & it went incredibly well. My resident cat did not hiss at all & was very playful. She rolled over a bunch to show my new kitten her belly. She occasionally pounced at the screen & I’m unsure if it was her trying to be playful or aggressive towards the kitten.

I’m not sure if they’re ready to meet physically yet. I want the new kitten to feel more comfortable in my home & I’m not really sure if she’s ready to meet my resident cat. I’m thinking of continuing letting them see each other through the screen in short increments over the next week. I’m hoping that by increasing the time they can see each other gradually, they’ll be prepared to meet in a week or two. Any advice on how I should proceed would be deeply appreciated & thank you once again for the articles
 

ArtNJ

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Adult cats don't hurt kittens. And it usually goes very well with an adult cat this young. Some hissing at first is nothing. I'd put them together and let them work it out at this point; you might have a little hissing and uncertainty for a few days. Before long, you'll be back worried about rough play and the kitten squealing a bit. Its the natural sequence of these things, at least when the adult cat is young and doesn't seem too badly stressed.
 
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catsunemiku

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Adult cats don't hurt kittens. And it usually goes very well with an adult cat this young. Some hissing at first is nothing. I'd put them together and let them work it out at this point; you might have a little hissing and uncertainty for a few days. Before long, you'll be back worried about rough play and the kitten squealing a bit. Its the natural sequence of these things, at least when the adult cat is young and doesn't seem too badly stressed.
I took your advice & let them finally see & interact in person. I just wanted to thank you for giving me the reassurance to go ahead with it because it couldn’t have gone better.

I tried to keep my resident cat engaged in play & with treats while my new kitten entered the room. They instantly noticed each other & smelled each other. My kitten kept rolling onto her back & my resident cat reciprocated.

I was expecting them to hiss, but neither did at all. They chased each other around the room & play-fought for a while. I noticed that my resident cat would swat at the kitten without having her claws out. This was peculiar to me because it seemed like she was mock-fighting & did not want to hurt the kitten.

The kitten was being quite bold & kept trying to grab the older cat’s tail. Neither of them seemed aggressive throughout the entire meeting. After both of them looked tired out, I separated them & my older cat is laying beside me, while my kitten is in the living room.

I will try this again tomorrow for a slightly longer period of time & hopefully it’ll turn out as well as it did today. Thank you once again for the advice.
 

ArtNJ

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My pleasure! Keep in mind its not terrible if the older cat does play fairly rough and the kitten gives a squeal and runs away. 2-3 is an in between age, and you may or may not get that some. If you do, its OK. Play biting the neck is a form of play, and if the kitten squeals that means its feeling like a head noogie given by big brother to little. Not such a big deal.
 

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As long as the kitten doesn't start to act afraid of your resident cat, and comes back for more play, you should be good! If she starts to run away from her, or cowers, then you know the interaction is not as favorable as it looks. I only say this could happen given the size difference. A full grown cat can sometimes be a bit much for such a little one! Hope things keep going the way they seem to be now!
 
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catsunemiku

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As long as the kitten doesn't start to act afraid of your resident cat, and comes back for more play, you should be good! If she starts to run away from her, or cowers, then you know the interaction is not as favorable as it looks. I only say this could happen given the size difference. A full grown cat can sometimes be a bit much for such a little one! Hope things keep going the way they seem to be now!
I wanted to give another update on the situation because I think their relationship is progressing incredibly well.

I gradually increased the time they spent together every day since the last update & eventually let them spend most of the day together while I’m awake and home & separate them at night while I’m sleeping. I don’t feel confident in leaving them unsupervised just yet.

They play constantly & it seems to be mutual. They’ll take turns chasing each other & mock fight a lot. My older cat will take breaks if my kitten seems overwhelmed.

They’ve both been trying to eat out of the other’s food bowls. I also put the older cat’s food bowl in a place out of reach for the kitten, so that she can eat properly. She’s also been eating a lot more than when I first got the kitten. I hope that them eating from each other’s food bowl or sometimes even the same one is a testament to them feeling comfortable enough to do so.

Something that has been worrying me lately is how the kitten is treating the older cat. She seems to not fear the older cat at all, which is really good, but she’ll play with her a bit too aggressively sometimes. Like for instance, my older cat will be sleeping & the kitten will run up to her, wrap herself around the older cat’s neck & bite her ears. The older cat hasn’t hissed at her at all in these instances. She doesn’t yowl or sound like she’s in pain, she’ll give off more of an annoyed meow.

I’ve been playing with my kitten for a few hours a day to mitigate her aggressive play directed at my older cat, but it doesn’t seem to change anything. Should I increase the amount of time I play with her? Would it be best to separate them in moments like that? They haven’t hurt each other yet, but I’m fearful of my older cat feeling uncomfortable & either of them being in pain.

Thank you all once again for the incredibly helpful advice. This is my first time having multiple cats & I cannot express my gratitude enough for all the help you’ve all provided.
 

FeebysOwner

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Good to hear that things are going well for the most part. My only issue with the two of them is the size difference due to the kitten's age. But, your other cat seems to be responding to the kitten's aggressive play in a manner that shows she knows the kitten is still small. That may change some as the kitten gets bigger and your other cat may end up trying to teach her some manners with some swatting and hissing. So, don't be surprised if that happens down the road.

In the meantime, you can always use distraction as a means of getting the kitten to stop bugging your cat. Kickeroo toys seem to be a good choice for this - you toss the kickeroo toy to the kitten and see if she will go after it instead of your cat. You can also move her a bit away from your other cat and hand the kickeroo to her if need be. Other types of toys may work just as well.
 

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A kitten jumping all over an older cat is 100% totally normal. Its not any sort of problem, unless the older cat thinks it is. Since your older cat is pretty chill about it, no reason to worry about it. Keep playing with the kitten, but don't think its your job to protect the older cat from the annoying kitten.
 
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