Congratulations! You’ve adopted a kitten. Prepare to spend the next decade (or more!) soaking up the purrs from your new best friend. And, prepare for a week or so of work introducing your kitten to your resident cat.
Cats can be very territorial creatures, and your resident cat likely thinks of your home as her turf. The kitten you find adorable she might find threatening.
With planning and a bit of patience, you can introduce your cats gently and safely. The work you do now could set them up for a life-long friendship. Here’s how to get started.
Step 1: Create a Kitten Condo
Your kitten needs a planned introduction to your home. Pick a room with a door, plenty of sunlight, and few hazards. Some people use bathrooms as safe kitten spots. Others use spare bedrooms.
Any room you choose should include:
- Litter boxes.
- Cat beds.
- Soft materials (like towels).
Put everything in that room before you bring your kitten home, and shut the door. Let your resident cat get used to limited access to the room before the kitten appears.
Step 2: Set Up a Neutral Zone
You’ll be walking in and out of your kitten condo room several times over the next few days. If your adult cat is a door dasher, you could facilitate an unintended interruption while you’re trying to keep your kitten clean and fed.
If you can, set up a baby gate in the hallway leading to your kitten condo. Your cat may leap over that barrier in time, but you’ll have some warning if your cat is trying to go into the kitten’s space with you. And you can react accordingly.
Step 3: Put Your Kitten in the Condo
When your adoption is complete, bring your kitten into your home in the carrier you got from the shelter. When you’re standing inside your kitten’s room with the door closed, open the carrier to let the kitten out.
It’s very tempting to allow your new kitten full access to your entire home. But kittens appreciate navigating a new space slowly. They need to understand the layout, map the smells, and see all the sights. Giving them one room (without a potentially upset roommate) is the kindest thing you can do.
Step 4: Take Your Kitten for a Checkup
Don’t move forward with any kind of introduction until you get the all-clear from your veterinarian.
Kitten colds are common in shelter environments, and symptoms tend to flare when kittens are stressed. The move from the shelter to your home could be just enough to push a tiny kitten over the edge.
Ensure that your kitten is healthy and not showing signs of illness before you move to the next stage of your plan. If your kitten does have a cold, you may need a week (or longer) for symptoms to improve.
Step 5: Play Footsie
If your kitten is healthy and everyone seems calm and relaxed, take down the baby gate that creates a neutral zone outside the kitten condo. Your resident cat and your kitten may begin to sniff one another, and they may do a few toe taps too.
Watch these interactions for signs of aggression. If anyone seems upset, give the pair more time and put the gate back up.
Facilitate happy introductions by feeding your resident cat and your kitten on opposite sides of the door. Slowly, over the course of a few days, bring the bowls closer to the door.
To further facilitate introductions, swap cat beds between the two rooms. Both felines will have a good sense of what the other smells like.
Step 6: Let the Love Blossom
If your resident cat and your kitten are eating peacefully on either side of a closed door, and they’re playing together under the door from time to time, they could be ready for a face-to-face meeting.
Stay nearby when the two cats meet, and hand out treats liberally. If anyone grows aggressive or too upset, take a step or two back and try again in time.
It can be hard (and a little sad) to keep your cats separated for this long time period. But remember: The work you’re doing now could set you up for a peaceful household for years to come. It’s worth the wait!