I adopted a mixed breed, domestic shorthaired kitten in February whom I named Hannah. I just brought home a second kitten, 3 months old, whom I named Grom. I’ve written about my Hannah being a “busy kitty,” but last month I decided that Hannah needed a friend and that I wanted a second kitten. I laughed at myself when I decided that “she needed a friend,” because my advice to owners is that you should never get another cat for that reason.
Hannah is very playful, has some attitude, and needs a lot of attention and stimulation. When I’ve brought her to work with me, she has been interested in other cats and hasn’t seemed scared – but I have heard a few hisses. She likes to follow my clinic cat, Zack, around, and fortunately he has been very tolerant of her. I thought that bringing in a younger kitten was the easiest way to get her to adjust to another cat in “her home.” A very calm and friendly orange male kitten was found by a client, and I thought his personality would mesh well with Hannah’s.
The most important part of having more than one cat in a home is the introduction period. It is unrealistic to think that cats are going to magically love one another, and it is unfair to the resident cat to be forced to immediately share her space without having time to work into it.
There are set steps that make up a proper introduction period for cats. If these steps aren’t followed, there is a high risk that the cats won’t properly acclimate to one another and that aggression and other behavior problems will develop. I frequently counsel clients about how to get their cats to live peacefully together in a home. It is very common that one cat bullies another, one cat constantly hides, and/or someone has inappropriate elimination around the house. Once one or more of these behavior patterns starts, it’s possible but hard to change.
The first night I brought Grom home, I set up a bathroom where he could stay with his own bowls and litter box. I gave him toys, spent time with him in the room, and played with him. Hannah was very curious and hung around outside the bathroom door. I made sure that I came out and gave her attention, too, and let her smell the carrier that I had used for Grom.
The next day, I put Grom in a carrier and brought him into an area where Hannah could see him. He meowed and wanted to get out, and Hannah stalked around the carrier watching him. I gave her treats and let her check him out. Later that day I reversed the roles and put Hannah in a carrier in “Grom’s” bathroom. She wanted to get out but didn’t seem too upset about being in a small area with the new kitten. I was happy with how things were progressing.
By the second night, I started supervised visits with the cats. I brought Grom into a room that Hannah likes to hang out in and kept the door shut. He boldly (or naively) approached Hannah to play and she hissed and batted him a bit. She seemed upset but wasn’t being aggressive toward him. I repeated this exposure several times but did not leave them unattended. Grom slept separately from Hannah.
On the third day, I left them out together in a room but did not continually supervise them. Hannah started being more dominant and assertive with Grom. They played very roughly, rolling around and vocalizing a bit. When I interrupted and separated them, Hannah seemed a little upset, and Grom tried to go after her flicking tail. Neither cat seemed to want to escape up on the elevated cat benches.
Over the next week, the cats were kept together and had frequent episodes of very rough play. Each would be given “individual time” to interact with me and my husband. They slept in the same room but pretty far apart from one another. I couldn’t tell whether Grom was smart or stupid since it seemed like he kept antagonizing Hannah to play roughly.
By week four they were sleeping curled up together, and Hannah was grooming Grom like he was her own kitten. They weren’t spending as much time engaged in rough play. Hannah didn’t seem as obsessed with following Grom’s every move, and they sincerely seemed to like hanging out together.
very happy and having fun. Rough play is part of their lives, but Grom seems to be initiating it. It will be interesting to see what happens when he is bigger than Hannah.
My goal as a feline specialist is to be sure that cats are happy and healthy in their homes and that their owners enjoy them. The last thing I want is for cats to be relinquished because they don’t get along. My own cats tolerated each other within a few days, but sometimes it takes weeks for cats to get to this point. Mature cats typically need more time than kittens to adjust to each other. It took several weeks until I could truly say that Hannah and Grom enjoyed hanging out with each other.
My personal and professional experiences have taught me that you shouldn’t cut any corners when introducing new cats to one another. Don’t move onto the next introduction step until you are comfortable with how the cats are doing. If you rush things initially, any time you save is far less than what you will spend if you have to deal with behavior problems.
Kittens are adorable and hard to resist, but they need to be acclimated to a new home carefully, particularly if you have another cat or cats already
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