Getting hissy with strange cats is a NORMAL cat behavior. In the wild, the feline that’s too friendly with a weird interloper risks getting eaten. Cats identify safe people (or other pets) by their familiar smell. A fresh-from-the-shelter a new pet that hasn’t been kitty-groomed by the group with licks and cheek rubs might as well be Frankenstein-Cat.
The sight, sound, and smell of a strange cat pushes kitty buttons to extreme. But blocking one sense (sight of each other for example) reduces arousal. That helps enormously during cat-to-cat intros, which is one reason my must-do list includes initially separating the cats. That also allows your older cat to maintain run of the house and ownership of all the prime kitty real estate.
Shut The Door
Confine the new kitten in a single “safe room” so the resident cat understands only part of his territory has been invaded. Young kittens that haven’t a clue anyway won’t care. But if they’re the least shy, being sequestered offers a safe, soothing retreat with a litter box, food and water bowls, toys, scratch post and other kitty paraphernalia. Being the “new kid” can be stressful for shrinking violet kittens so build the baby’s confidence with a room of his or her own before the whisker-to-whisker meeting.
Keep the solid door closed for at least a week before risking a face-to-face. Watch for your resident cat’s reaction. Hisses are normal. Trust me on this! It may take more than three weeks before those growly-sounds fade.
See, if you try to intro them too soon and the fur flies, the cats will remember that AWFUL-NASTY-TURRIBLE-DEVIL and bring a bad c’attitude to future meetings. It’s better to take it slow and avoid having the kitties practice bad behavior. They’ll have a lifetime together so what’s a delay of a few days or weeks?
Feed the cats on opposite sides of the door, to associate each other’s smell with good things. After each cat has had a meal, switch out the plates temporarily so that they can sniff the bowls and become even more familiar with each other. It’s even better when a bit of food is left, because that helps the cats identify good stuff—food—with the other animal.
Try some playtime on opposite sides of the door, too. Have another family member deal with the kitten while you (or whoever your aging kitty ADORES THE MOST) interacts with the resident feline. Catnip could be helpful–sure, get the old guy drunk. If he sniffs the kitten and gets a bit of a buzz, that could be a very positive association.
Sniffing and paw pats underneath the door are positive signs. The cats should “know” each other by scent before they ever set eyes on each other. Expect normal posturing, fluffed fur and hissing and when that begins to fade, you’re ready for the next step.
Swap out the cats after a few days. That gives the old cat a chance to get up close and personal sniffing where the
devil new cat has been. And it allows the newly adopted baby to scope out the environment.Kitties have no interest in meeting new people or pets unless they feel comfortable with their environment.
Reduce any potential kitty controversy by creating a house of plenty. Your home should have so much good-kitty-stuff that there’s no need for the kitten and old cat to argue over it.
Place multiple litter boxes and feeding stations in different locations so that one cat can’t own and “guard” the facilities. Increase territory with cat trees, shelves to lounge, tunnels and boxes to hide, and toys galore. It doesn’t have to break the bank, either. Cheap thrills like empty paper bags or wads of paper serve as irresistible toys that often appeal more than the high dollar versions. Cardboard boxes, a cleared shelf on the bookcase, or a soft blanket under a lamp really get the purr-motor rumbling.
Nose-To-Nose At Last
Once the BIG DAY arrives, just open the “safe room” door, stand back, and let the cat’s meet. Supervise, of course, but don’t force interaction. You can feed them on opposite sides of the room or play interactive games at a distance to smooth this first meeting. The cats may ignore each other for hours or days and that’s fine, too.
A bit of posturing with hisses, cautionary swats and other snark-icity is to be expected. Do stop the interactions if growls start rumbling. You may want to replace the closed door with a baby gate so the cats can sniff and meet through the safety of a barrier but still be segregated. Until you’re sure the old cat won’t mangle the baby, or the baby won’t terrorize the oldster, supervise or keep the new kitten segregated when you can’t. It can be love at first sight, or may take weeks or months to accept somebody new into the family.
For all you new kitten adopters out there–conCATulations! You’ll find many more kitten-specific tips in my Complete Kitten Care book.
This month as a special “thank you” to all my furry-fantastic-followers, I’ll give away a paw-tographed copy of Complete Care for Your Aging Cat and Complete Care for Your Aging Dog. To get in the running, simply post a comment in the blog about your special pet (old fogey or not) and I’ll draw two names at the end of the month. You can use these award-winning updated books as a resource for yourself or wrap up for a pet-friendly holiday gift to a fur-loving friend. And as an EXTRA-special incentive–and to encourage all of y’all to mentor each other and spread the blogging/twitter/Facebook love–the two winners get to name one purr-son who gives them wags of support and deserves a book, too!
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