Even if your older dog or cat has lived peacefully with other animals in the house, there is no guarantee that he will welcome a new kitten with joy, or even tolerance.
Some benign older animals will readily accept any pet brought into the home. Usually, however, even the calmest dog or cat will be concerned at the appearance of a new kitten.
When you bring a new kitten into the home, your older dog or cat will need lots of extra attention. He needs to know that you still love him and that the newcomer is not a threat to his position in your household.
Your New Kitten’s Safe Zone
When you first bring your new kitten home, it is important to isolate her. Choose a room in neutral territory (not where your older pet likes to sleep). This will give you time to reassure the older pet, and will also protect the youngster from possible aggression.
Equip the kitten's room with a bed, scratching post, litter pan, food and water dishes, and toys. Put the kitten in the room and let her explore a bit while you are still with her. Then leave her alone for a short time so she can become comfortable in the new surroundings.
At first, the kitten may hide. Try to coax her out to comfort her. Don't try to push too fast, though. She will gradually become less timid with you.
How to Introduce Your Pets
Animals get to know each other by smell. Your older pet will spend a lot of time sniffing at the bottom of the door to the kitty's room. The kitten will do the same on the other side.
After a day or two, you should be able to determine the older pet's reaction to the kitten. A dog anxious to meet the kitten will scratch at the door and wag his tail, while a cat will purr and generally act curious or friendly. However, if your dog growls or barks at the door and your cat hisses and seems upset, it would be best to wait a few more days before attempting further interaction.
Introduce Your Kitten to Older Pets Slowly
When your older pet seems ready, introduce the pets by opening the door just wide enough so they can see and smell each other. Be certain that you stand close by to supervise. Depending on their reactions, gradually open the door wider for short periods of time until they become adjusted to looking at each other without becoming upset. This procedure may take several days, but it is usually successful.
The first time the two pets meet face to face should be short and, hopefully, calm. If the older pet is a dog, proper restraint, such as a leash, will prevent him from chasing and scaring the kitten.
Don't force the issue. Let the animals go as close, or stay as far away, as they want. Repeat short introductions as often as necessary, until the animals are able to stay comfortably in the same room, with supervision. Don't expect instant friendship—that takes time.
Making a Place for Everyone
Your older pet needs to be reassured that the newcomer will not take over his territory. If he has a favorite sleeping place, don't let the kitten sleep there. Provide the youngster with her own toys.
Animals are often possessive of their food and feeding dishes. Ideally, since the kitten should be eating her own kitten food, have her feeding dishes in a different room or area as long as possible.
Monitor mealtimes to prevent either animal from pushing the other away from its plate. Since kitten food is best for her first 12 months, it may be a good idea to continue feeding your kitten in a closed room for a while.
Although a premium-quality cat food formulated for all life stages will provide complete and balanced nutrition for both animals, if your adult cat tends to be overweight, she does not need the extra calories that a kitten food provides. In fact, if your cat is already eating a diet intended for weight loss or weight control, the kitten will not receive all the extra nutrition she requires for her growing body if they are sharing food bowls.
It is best to feed the pets the food formulated for their specific life stage.
Litter Box Sharing
Two or more cats in a household often do share a litter box, but many adult cats do not appreciate sharing with a kitten, at least until they are better adjusted.
Providing two litter boxes should help prevent your adult cat from starting to soil in inappropriate areas as an act of rebellion.
Friends, Friendly Enemies, or Foes?
It may take a year or more for your older pet and the kitten to become totally comfortable with each other. They may never become friends, but simply learn to tolerate each other.
Even if they remain standoffish, most pets appreciate another warm body in the house when their owners are not there. But usually over time, the majority of pets find a workable relationship, even if they are not best friends.
Before You Bring a Kitten Home
- Have the kitten examined by your veterinarian to be sure that she is healthy and free of parasites.
- Make certain that all your pets' vaccinations are current.
- Aggression is diminished if both animals are neutered or spayed (the kitten at an appropriate age).
After You Bring a Kitten Home
- Isolate the kitten when you first bring her home.
- Introduce the adult and kitten gradually.
- Protect the older pet's "territory" and rights.
- Provide separate food dishes, water bowls, toys, and litter pans.