Kitten and How to Formalize a Great Friendship
Introducing a new cat; or kitten; to a household with an established feline can be a problem. The outcome of the introduction can be almost impossible to predict; as every cat is different. Some will love the new cat on sight (uncommon but it does happen); while others loath and despise the newcomer (much more common but usually transient). There are two approaches to introducing a new individual.
If you’ve gone through the experience before or are very familiar with cat behavior; you may feel quite comfortable about “letting them get on with it”. If you’re new to multiple cat ownership; you may want to consider a more textbook approach; as outlined below. If you’ve never seen your cat’s reaction to someone else on their patch it can be an extremely alarming experience; growls, hisses as well as wails capable of raising the dead are pretty much the norm.
Am I best to get a kitten or a cat?
In many respects a kitten; is more likely to be accepted than an adult. They pose less of a threat partly because of size. Partly because of their flexibility. They adapt to the requirements of the new house and cat. A mature cat will have an established personality. He/she may be more inclined to confront another cat.
Many people wonder whether they should introduce a same sex kitten as the established cat. To be honest it really doesn’t matter – the kitten is effectively “neutral” until its sex hormones kick in at puberty.
Should I hold either of the cats when I introduce them?
Not unless you want to end up covered in scratches! Cats don’t respond well to being forced into situations. A badly handled introduction can have disastrous as well as long-lasting effects on household harmony. Accepting a newcomer is a gradual process.
So how do I introduce the newcomer?
There are two important aspects of cat behavior that hold the key to success: scent communication and the natural instinct to flee in the face of danger. It’s often a good idea to have the kitten/cat in a separate room from the resident for the first day or so, where it is out of visual contact but the scent can filter throughout the house. When it comes to the first face-to-face meeting, protection is the name of the game.
Cats have a strong sense of self preservation, and their first response in threatening situations is to run. If a small kitten runs, most adults will give chase, the result being a terrified kitten crammed into a small, inaccessible corner with a confused adult cat trying to get at it, all the time being yelled at by distraught owners. All this can permanently destroy any hopes of integration, and yet it can be avoided with the use of an indoor pen.
What should the pen be like?
The kitten/cat should be provided with all their home comforts inside the pen (food, water, bedding, toys and litter-tray). The pen should give good all-round visibility to avoid the resident cat creeping up behind the kitten/cat as well as launching an ambush.
The advantages of the pen are threefold: It blocks the newcomer’s escape route and gives him/her the opportunity to quietly observe the goings on. It prevents the resident cat from giving chase. Both cats are given the chance to see and smell each other without any threat of forced social interaction or fear of attack.
Where can I get a pen?
You need to visit pet houses or website and find a nice pen; where you can keep your new pet. Alternatively, you could build one yourself. All you have to do is to find the best resource which can guide you into building one. There are a lot of resources on the internet which can be of much help.
How long should I keep the kitten/cat in the pen?
Cats/kittens should not be left in the pen for excessive periods of time; short frequent spells of introduction are usually the most beneficial. In between times, the two cats can be left in separate rooms; where owners can give each of them individual attention. If the resident cat has access to outdoors; it is worth allowing the kitten/cat free access throughout the house. Especially when alone to spread his/her scent in the household.
If this isn’t possible, then the pen should be moved from room to room over a period of a week. In some cases, it may be sensible for the kitten/cat; as well as a resident cat; to take it in turns to be in the pen; so that the kitten/cat learns to cope without the protection of the bars.
Is there anything else I can do to help introductions?
You can further help by using a positive signal which indicates that the other cat is no threat. Food is invariably the most positive event in a cat’s life. The act of feeding will induce relaxation and help in the process of integration. The cats should be fed near to each other, with the pen still in use for one of them, until both cats are happy to eat their food in close proximity.
You should watch very closely at all times for any signs of anxiety. But once the cats seem happy with each other; the pen can be dispensed with. It’s essential that you are present at all times during the first face-to-face encounter but remember that premature intervention and excessive reassurance of the newcomer can be counterproductive. Always provide escape routes; as well as safe havens for both cats in case things become too hot to handle.
The resident cat is used to a certain level of attention, affection and has routines. All of these should be adhered to. It’s important that more is made of the resident at this stage to offset any feelings of insecurity. The newcomer will accept your behavior to it as perfectly normal. So don’t be tempted to make more of it at this stage.
How long does it usually take for cats to accept each other?
About three weeks of controlled introductions is usually sufficient time for cats to tolerate each other. But if problems persist after this period it’s essential to face up to the fact that the resident may never be particularly happy having to share. Also, that the newcomer may always live in fear; and never fully develop his/her own character.
In some situations it may be fairer all round to revert to the original set-up. When taking on a new kitten/cat, give them enough time to allow integration. But always give yourself the option of returning the cat if things don’t work out at home.
Recent Developments on Pet Friendship
‘Felifriend’ a product based on synthetic cat scent hormone can be used to help provide a calming reassuring smell. The product is applied directly to the newcomer in an attempt to make him or her smell friendly and familiar. Feliway Diffuser is also proving to be useful to help to provide a “relaxed cat” atmosphere. A plug in device provides a slow release of cat pheromone into the environment. The products are available from the clinic or from pet houses.
Prepare ahead. Buy all you’ll need before the new cat/kitten arrives. Remember to progress at the speed dictated by the newcomer. Be sure to make plenty of fuss of your established cat. Allow the resident cat to investigate under close supervision. Don’t try to force a meeting between the two. In between short introductions; allow the kitten/new cat time to explore a new room on his/her own. This spreads the newcomer’s scent, indicating to the existing cat that he/she is now a permanent part of the surroundings.