Kitten and cat first time introductions are crucial to get right. In other words, they form the bedrock of a feline love story (friendship or romance) or of a lifelong rivalry.
And for a cat lifelong is anything from 10-15 years. That’s a potential 15 years with two cute felines turned rival gangsters living under one (your) roof.
Another way to put this is, don’t bother with short cuts when it comes to integrating your kitten into your already-furry household.
If you already have a cat and are planning to incorporate a new kitten into its kingdom you need a plan. Look no further, here’s your kitten and cat introduction plan 101.
Kitten and cat introduction – no contact
Cats are territorial, which is why it’s important to keep them in separate rooms (or dens) at first. You want to create a soft landing for your new kitten without threatening your other cat’s sense of security.
Do this by giving your new kitten their own fresh things to imprint their smell on. This can include blankets, toys and most definitely new feeding bowls and their own litter box. This way they’ll have a safe zone they can mark with their scent.
Move your cats around the house as you settle in your newbie, always maintaining them in separate rooms. This way your new kitty can smell your other cat and vice versa. They just can’t see or touch each other, which prevents confrontation.
What you’re doing is introducing your cats via their strongest sense – their smell. This is because a cat’s sense of smell is 9-16 stronger than ours!
Smell contact (close-up)
Next step is all about food. Food is a basic necessity, which is why it’s a cornerstone to kitty cat introductions. Introducing your cats to each other’s scent around food will create positive reinforcement for both. Do this by feeding them on each side of a closed door.
Start off with some distance between the door and each feline’s food. Follow your instinct with on this; you may start with a meter away on either side. Gradually bring the bowls closer and closer to the door with each feeding time.
Eating time is a positive experience for cats, much like it is for people. When you take time out to eat with friends, colleagues, or family, it’s significant because it’s a time to bond. Same goes for cats.
Without ever having seen each other, your kitten and cat are already getting to know one another. Moreover, they’re doing it with food. As a result, they’re already overcoming their sense of territorial rivalry over this precious resource, AKA pet food.
Find out what to feed your new kitten and more in 5 things new kitten parents need to know.
Now that you’ve reached the border in this eating regime, i.e., the closed door, it’s time for visual contact. You can do this with a make-shift fence (some people use a roll-out wire fence), netting, or a screen door.
You might feel that a screen door is a major investment. Just remember having your cats get along is a lifetime investment, so find a solution that suits your DIY skills and/or your budget.
Since we’re only creating a temporary barrier and only in one doorway, you may even be able to create a barrier using netting.
Whatever you choose the pared-down barrier must still be able to keep them apart, while providing full visual contact.
This step is important because your cats already know each other by scent, but this is their chance to visually imprint. Know that it will probably result in some staring contests that would make even El Mariachi look away. Don’t despair. Yes, they’re sizing each other up, but as long as they can only look it’s fine.
Houston, we have contact
After all your hard efforts, you’re now at the last stage – removing the barrier. You’ve lovingly gone through the first three stages of no contact, smell contact, and visual contact. This will have laid the groundwork for letting your cats have actual physical contact.
Don’t try to bring them closer, just observe them as you would a nature documentary. However, unlike a nature documentary, you can and must intervene if either cat moves to create a debacle. If this happens, here are three ways you can safely break up a cat fight.
If you feel like the vibes aren’t good, (i.e.: they’re doing the staring contest El Mariachi thing) keep contact short. It’s better to repeat the exercise as many times as you (or your cats) need to than getting impatient and upending all your hard work.
Although your feline besties may circle each other and may even seem standoffish, this is normal. Having already met through their primary senses, they’re just doing their due diligence.
Once they make contact they may play. They may sniff each other, then turn a blind eye staring off into the middle distance – this is good. Or they might just start cleaning themselves – also good.
The important thing is that you’ve given your kitties a lifelong friend. And you laid the groundwork to make it a good friendship.
If you’re still deciding on a new kitten, read all about the friendliest cat breeds for your household.
Kitten and cat senses
Remember to microchip and vaccinate your new kitten to protect them against all the pests and hazards out there. Vet visits, medication, microchipping, and more are all part of our cat insurance plans.
And because you already have a cat, you’ll get our multiple pet discount. Meow!
Kitten and cat forever friends – over to you
Are you a new kitten-parent-to-be? If so, we’re very excited for you and your current cat to welcome the new member of the household. Tell us what happens in the comments below.