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How to Introduce Your Kitten to Your Multi-Cat Home (Step-by-Step Guide)

Genevieve Dugal

By Genevieve Dugal

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

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The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Welcoming a new kitten into your home is a joyful and exciting event. However, if you have other cats who have reigned supreme in your home for several years, this new furry mini companion may be the most upsetting thing for them. So, how do you make sure that the adaptation is made in the smoothest way possible? Don’t worry. In this article, you will find all the do’s and don’ts to make it easier for your adult cats to adjust to your cute and fluffy new kitten.

Before The New Kitten Arrives

If you want to have two or more cats in your household, your best bet is to adopt them at the same time or adopt the second one as soon as possible. Acceptance will be better if there is not a big difference in age between the two cats. Indeed, an old cat will have a hard time putting up with the playfulness of a kitten. Playing, miming fight scenes are part of a kitten’s normal behavior, and the kitten will seek out its companion. So, the younger your first cat, the easier it will be to adapt to the novelty. It is estimated that before the age of four, a cat more readily accepts the arrival of a new kitten.

Rivalry Between Males

In general, cats of opposite sexes accept each other better, and cohabitation between females is generally quite good. Besides, sterilization tends to decrease conflicts. On the other hand, the rivalry between two males is always important. The males, even castrated, are indeed very territorial. One essential thing to consider is the personality of your two cats. The character of the new cat should “stick” as much as possible to that of the oldest.

two tabby kittens playing
Photo Credit: birgl, Pixabay

The 5 Steps to Introduce a New Kitten to Your Multi-Cat Home

1. Planning The Arrival of The New Kitten

The introduction of the new kitten should be carefully planned. First, you must consider that adopting a new kitten could put your existing pets’ health at risk if not done properly. Before bringing the kitten to your home, you should make sure it is not suffering from any infectious diseases that could be transmitted to your other pets. Get the kitten checked by a vet and check that your other cats’ vaccination schedules are up to date. The kitten should be quarantined, rechecked, and cleared by a vet before you introduce it to your cats. Make sure that Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus tests have been performed and that vaccinations and pest control treatments are up to date. This will reduce any potential health risks.

Most cats are not ready to accept a new family member; they need time to get used to the idea. Therefore, it is essential to have patience and not to rush things. That said, take note of our tips to introduce a new kitten to your multi-cat home!

vet giving kitten vaccine
Photo Credit: Ilike, Shutterstock

2. Isolate The Newcomer

Upon arrival, the new kitten should be isolated in a room, such as a bedroom, so that there is no possible eye contact with your other cats. Open his transport crate and let him explore his room in peace. Take this transport crate and leave it in the living room, within reach of the other cats in the house, so that they can explore and smell it. Watch their behavior: they may growl and hiss around the kitten’s carrier or simply approach it curiously and sniff it enthusiastically.  Leave the crate with your other cats until they no longer show interest. About an hour after you have locked the kitten in the room, you can go back there. Cats need to explore their surroundings before they can interact socially. Sit calmly and let him approach you without forcing contact. Come see him three or four times a day in his room.

3. Reassure Your Other Cats

The cats in the house may start to growl when you come back to them because you smell the “odd one out”. They will probably stand in front of the room where the kitten is and start sniffing the door. Do not proceed to the next step until the hostile reactions to the scent of the new kitten, door, and carrier cease. It is important to behave with your other cats in the usual way, giving them time and reassuring them. When you feel that your cats have become used to the newcomer’s existence, it’s time to move on to the next step, which is getting them to see each other but without physical contact.

hand petting cat
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Related Read: 10 Best Litter Boxes for Multiple Cats – Reviews & Top Picks

4. Prepare The First Face-To-Face

Finally, proceed to the fourth step when the cats seem relatively calm in the presence of the other, and the hissing and growling are minimal. Then, you can open the bedroom door, staying out of the way. If your cats start to fight, clap or yell in a way that scares them, but without trying to intervene by hugging a cat. The whole process can take from days to weeks or even longer. Do not be discouraged and be patient.

5. Identify Signs Of Anxiety

You will need to watch for signs of stress in your cats. For example, excessive grooming, vomiting after eating, or loss of appetite are signs of anxiety. It is important to provide separate bedding and eating areas to limit stress. Over time, they may declare a truce and even come closer (groom each other or even share rest areas).

tabby cat grooming its paw
Image Credit: Magui RF, Shutterstock

Signs That Your Cats Are Becoming Friends

You may find that your cats are friends if you observe the following behaviors:

  • Your cats purr close to each other.
  • Your cats sit and lie side by side.
  • Your cats groom and rub each other.
  • They have fun together without it escalating into conflict.
  • When they meet, their tails are held high, a sign of joy.
orange cat grooming another cat
Image Credit: Syed Ali, Unsplash

Signs That Your Cats Are Still Enemies

On the other hand, you can consider that your cats are enemies if you observe the following signs:
  • Your cats will hiss and spit on each other.
  • They watch each other from a distance and steadily.
  • Your cats try to avoid each other as much as possible.
  • Paw kicks are not uncommon, sometimes just to put some distance.
  • Games tend to escalate into conflict and brawl.
  • Chases are frequent.
It is also quite possible for cats to form clans in your house. Some can get along and support each other but cannot tolerate another group. Your home then becomes a vast territory divided into several small clans.

What You Must Not Do

Punish Your Cats

If your cats are arguing, don’t intervene by punishing them. Instead, you should take a few steps back and calmly separate them for a short period. Then, reintroduce them and take the opportunity to reinforce calm behavior by giving them treats while they are together. Make sure you feed each cat directly in the mouth or in a way that does not cause competition between them. Indeed, contrary to popular belief, punishing cats for arguing might actually encourage them to continue the conflict. Instead, use the magic of reinforcement to change their emotions and help them perceive each other as something more positive. Do not leave the cats together unsupervised for extended periods until you are sure they can get along peacefully. This can be achieved by gradually and patiently increasing the time they spend together while continuing to offer a treat for calm behavior.

Intervene Too Frequently

It is essential to let your cats go at their own pace. The sooner the negotiations are completed, the sooner calm will return. Excessive interference from you could delay the process. Make sure you keep an eye on their behavior and prevent heavy fights, injuries, or if one of the cats shows persistent signs of anxiety. If this happens, isolate your cats and contact your veterinarian or feline behaviorist for help.

Final Thoughts

In short, you need to remember four basics when introducing a new kitten to your multi-cat home. Cats are territorial animals and the rivalry between two males is greater. Isolating the new arrival is the first thing to do and the process of peaceful cohabitation can take a while.

Above all, you will need to be patient, attentive, and respectful of the needs of each of your felines! This is the key to a good cohabitation.

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Featured Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

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