Kitten Meet Kitten: How to handle kittten introductions?

photo by Anne Hars

I’m leaving behind the gloomy chicken news of the last couple days to announce that we’ve been suckered blessed yet again by our neighbor Anne with a locally grown sustainable kitten. We are now officially “cat people.”

Everyone, meet Trout, a bouncy brown tabby boy with white boots.

We’ve had Trout for a couple of day and are trying to convince Phoebe (our older kitten) that this is not, in fact, the worst thing that has ever happened in the world. While in actuality, in her little 5 month old head, it probably is the worst thing that has ever happened.

So Trout is living in Erik’s office/guest room and I’m trying to introduce them bit by bit. I read the internet things that said he’d have to stay in the office for a whole week before Phoebe could even set eyes on him, but I don’t have the patience for that. So I’ve already hosted limited interactions. They go like this:
 
PHOEBE: Mwwwwrrrrraaaahhhhh. Hiiiiisssssssssss.

TROUT: WTF lady? Let’s play! Look at this tennis ball! Woohee!

PHOEBE: Mwwwrraaaaahhhhhhhh

Basically she’s fascinated by him, yet terrified at the same time. At first I thought it was all about territory, but she bolts and hides if he starts toddling her direction. And sadly, he has no common sense or social skills, so quite often wants to run up to her. My job as cat hostess (because really, what else do I have to do?) is to keep him entertained so she can watch him from a safe distance. Then, when even observation is too much, I whisk him away.

We’d be very interested if anyone has any tips.  Like I said, I’ve read what seems to be the standard procedure of the extremely slow introduction–separate spaces, wiping their scents on each other, exchanging rooms, etc. We’re doing that stuff already–in our half-assed way.

I’d be particularly grateful for some kind of “Kitten Make Friends” magick spell that I could invoke over their tiny stubborn heads. Anyone got one of those, lemme know.

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36 Comments

  1. Give it time! I think the male-female pairing can work out great, once they sort things out.

    The biggest problem we had was litterbox ambushes – our younger (male) kitten was so terrified that he stayed on a window sill for 24 hours, even using the bathroom on the sill!

    Now they sleep curled up together.

  2. Supposedly holding the scruff of a cat’s neck (like a mother cat carries it’s kittens) releases calming hormones. I know of one cat rescue group that would socialize feral cats by wrapping them in a towel, placing the cat on their lap and just holding the scruff of their neck periodically. According to them it worked wonders, and when I’ve tried it on my own cats, occasionally it seemed calm them down. Perhaps some variation on this could be adopted for Phoebe? Of course, it could all be hearsay and wishful thinking. . .

  3. All above comments are awesome. Also try catnip as they have more time together. It can be a “reward” for being in the same area. Works excellent with older cats. Not so sure about kittens as I’ve not had a kitten in 13 years but keep getting the “we are moving and can’t keep him” cats. 4, 8, 5 years old etc. etc.

  4. My boyfriend and I, along with our three cats, recently moved into my parent’s house, who have two cats. It has been about 4 months and they still aren’t quite acclimated to each other. Of course, we didn’t do it the smart way and only kept them separate for a few days before we started introducing them. After a small scuffle that drew blood we had to let them out of their rooms in separate shifts. Now we’re as close to normal as we seem to be able to get it, except for my parent’s cat Padme that just wants to be left alone (which seems to make our cats want to annoy her more). I’ve heard that feeding them together in the same room can help, but we haven’t been able to do it.
    Really I don’t have any advice, except Hang In There!

  5. Try Feliway spray, make sure they have separate litter boxes and food areas (at least at first), as well as some time apart. I introduced a kitten to my 2 year old cat, and it was slow going at first – I had to lock the kitten in the bathroom when I left the house – but they love each other now. A 5 month old cat should be faster to adapt.

  6. 40 years of cat experience speaking here (our current count is 5): Do Nothing – let them work it out. Just be equally loving with them both and they’ll be mutually chasing each other and bouncing off the walls like lunatics within a few weeks – hide your breakables! :)

  7. I have twenty years cat experience with my own cats, plus a childhood with cats. I don’t think there’s any surefire way to make two cats brought into a household at different times like each other. But I agree with Zafra that they will eventually work it out for themselves. Even if they don’t ever become friends, they’ll come to their own arrangement. But letting them smell each other before coming face to face is a good strategy for alleviating panic in a nervous cat.

    I previously had two cats, acquired four years apart. They were buddies only for the briefest moment while the younger one was still a kitten. Then the younger concluded (with some justification) that the older was Mr. Ruineverything. She hated him for the rest of his life (13+ years). To avoid a repeat of this experience we got our two new cats simultaneously, so that neither of them felt their territory was being infringed by an interloper. This strategy worked beautifully, but in just over a year one cat was killed by a car. We’ll be in your shoes again if we decide to get another.

  8. what a beautiful kitten! Get him an agent! Phoebe is sure to fall for him. Meow! I second Zafra on this issue. Since they are both kittens they will work it out. Older cats are another issue.

  9. We brought home a 4 year old female with a bad history of abuse and neglect to our 2 year old female who wanted to love everyone and everything- and had a total disaster on our hands. Our apartment was so small though that we didn’t really even bother with the separate rooms. We let Luna (lover) just follow Ollie (fighter) around and get swatted and hissed at until she learned to keep her distance. They’ve been together about a year and a half now and will probably never be snugglers- but they do love each other and mostly only play fight any more.

    It’s totally different with kittens as they aren’t so good at just fending for themselves- but they’re more likely to warm up to each other quickly and truly bond since they’re young and opposite genders (I’ve been told a million times that two females don’t do well together).

    Lots of catnip, playtime in the same room, and attention attention attention!

  10. I agree with Zafra completely, 100%. They will be best friends very soon. Don’t try to rush it. Rushing it and forced socialization will only make the experience more traumatic for Phoebe (and yourselves).

    Also, very sorry to hear about your chickens. We’re on week three of raising 20 of them. Checking butts and cleaning their little home is getting old; can’t wait until they are old enough to be outside. We are putting a lock on our hen-pen today to decrease chances of visitors giving them diseases. Let us know if you come to conclusions about what they had…

  11. aww, congrats on the new addition!! I have had cats my entire life, and I find that just leaving them to it (breaking up any obvious fights, of course) usually sorts itself out in 2-3 weeks. In particular, I love the stage where they will begin playing with each other, and then suddenly remember that they are supposed to be mortal enemies, and one will hiss and run away. They’ll get there, they just need time. bribing them with fun new toys doesn’t hurt, either. one of my cats loves balled up candy wrappers, the other a tightly crumpled ball of paper. fun times!

  12. I agree with Zafra (and your self-proclaimed half-assed tendencies!). I have had a long history of cats, new cats, old cats, etc and in my experience 2 months seems to be the magic settling in period. At that point they’ll either be licking each other lovingly, or simply tolerating one another. I have never done anything more than give it time. No one suffered too much :) Good luck!

  13. I agree with Zafra. Too much interaction may disturb their pecking order instints.
    I say give extra attention to Cat One while Cat Two explores a bit. That way One knows that you still give her top rank! ;)

  14. Update:

    Thanks for all the reassurance, first of all.

    This last hour I think we’ve had a breakthrough. It’s hair raising for me, but I think they might actually be having fun. In a perverse, deadly cat-sort of way. I was just letting them interact freely in a highly supervised manner–ready to step in. And I think Phoebe is now more intrigued with him than horrified by him. So he’ll rush her, she’ll swat, he’ll run, and she’ll chase. They have the entire house in which to disperse (all 900 sq. feet) but they insist on interacting, following each other around. It must be lurv. Very frenemies.

    I just broke it up for a time out because I thought P. was getting a little too predatory/wound-up. Trout is now complaining from the bedroom, and I do believe Phoebe is listening at the door.

  15. The fact that they are both young will ensure they will do fine together, although I find usually the older cat will start acting more “grown up” once a younger one is on the scene. But when all the humans are busy doing other things, or traveling, they will be good company for each other. Getting a second cat was both the humane and the smart thing to do.

  16. I’m with Zafra. They’ll work it out. It may not be amicable — they may divvy up the house and hiss at each other forever — but they’ll come to some sort of deal. (My current two hate all other cats in general and I operate a demilitarized zone. It happens, but that’s unusual.)

    If they are playing and chasing after only 2 days, I think that’s a good omen.

  17. I’ll weigh in one more time for 2 reasons – one to agree with many that putting older adult cats together can be much harder, and combining 2 established cat households like Lauren talks about can be awful. Also to reiterate my opinion that you should not interfere with Phoebe and Trout even when you think she’s getting too “predatory”. That’s how cats play, and Trout will learn about boundaries if he gets a good wallop from Phoebe now and then – that’s how they’ll come to get along. The only time in as long as I can remember that I didn’t take my own advice was recently, when our alpha-cat Drito (who is convinced he should be the only cat and is openly and viciously hostile to all intruders) came home to find our newish kitten Bambusa brazenly lounging in Drito’s “spot”. My mama instincts kicked in for some reason and I rushed to grab Bambusa out of harms way, but as fate would have it (it was like a reprimand to me for micro-managing), Bambusa’s claws got stuck in the blanket and not only did I not get him out of the way, I ended up effectively holding him in place while Drito landed a series of particularly nasty punches right to Bambusa’s little face. Bambusa ended up with a squinty, teary eye and I felt like the worst cat-mother ever. If I’d left well enough alone, Drito would have let him have one good swat and Bambusa would have gotten out of there on his own, lesson learned. When you lock Trout in the bedroom, he thinks he’s being punished. No need for that – let them be. Good luck and enjoy the entertainment – way better than tv! :)

  18. Okay Zafra, I’m opening up the door.

    I have to admit I’d been spooked by that incredibly rigorous, long lasting, control freak system of integration that I read about on the ASPCA site and others. They actually say no kitten under 16 wks should ever be left alone with an adult cat!

    I like anarchy more. So, let the games begin!

  19. The ASPCA is trippin’. :) Two warnings I forgot to mention before, if I may: 1) there will be the occasional blood-curdling scream. This is not a cry for you to step in and help, but rather a warning to the other cat that their play-fighting has gone too far. Take a swig of home brew and let it be. 2) don’t be surprised if Trout ends up being the dominant one, even though he’s the little intruder at the moment and it should rightly be the other way around – cats are shockingly regressive when it comes to sexual politics, and no amount of egalitarian interference from humans changes that. Cheers!

  20. I am not a cat person. Well, I am not an animal person AT all. But, I have been intrigued with all the people ploys. We have always had cats–growing up and as the mother of a household. We just got cats and watched them wallop each other and hiss. No one got hurt, but the kittens learned to stay out of the older cat’s way. You can tell the real screams of agony. We stepped in then.

    But, the older cat always knew it was in trouble and left quickly before anyone had to rescue the kitten. Mama cats wallop and box their own kittens to stop them from nursing when they wean them. That is how kittens and cats learn. When someone held the kitten and walked with it or petted it, the kitten was much less likely to bother the older cat. All the kitten wants is a warm friend, warmth, and attention.

    I had a friend who crated his growing cat often! But, that was so the half-grown cat would not jump on him when he ate or during the night. The cat did learn appropriate behavior. It did not seem like punishment to me.

  21. UPDATE 2:

    Tough love is going very well. It was scary intense for a while, but now they’re genuinely, recognizably playing. Phoebe is still making that horrid noise, but they seem happy running around in circles. Cat integration accomplished!

    @Zafra: I do expect Trout will be dominant. Phoebe looks huge next to him now, but she’s a small cat, and I don’t think she’s going to get a lot bigger. He, meanwhile, has huge paws. And more importantly–a huge attitude.

    Will keep that cold brew on hand.

  22. Sounds like things are already going swimmingly for you. To help out others with adult cat integration problems, I want to mention that if you have a cat that wants to hide you need to prevent that. Close the closet doors and seal off bedrooms and don’t let them hide. This way they are forced to integrate. Letting them hide just prolongs the process, perhaps indefinitely. If they what to get up on furniture or a window sill that is fine. They are watching from their perch and that helps them learn about the other cat with less stress.

  23. All the advice is good but the biggest issue is the fact that you hand raised the little female so she is lacking proper kitty skills, so she is going to take more time then normal to get used to the new kitty.

    Bottom line, if the new kitty is acting like a normal healhty active kitten, play with him, lots of feather toys and anything else that is interactive, and at some point your little female will get over her “huh” and will join in the playing, once you can get them playing together, then you can work towards getting them to like each other in the quiet moments as well.

  24. When we introduced our kitten to our cat, we placed treats on each side of the door so that they had to be close enough to smell each other if they (older cat) wanted a treat. It seemed to work great.

    The only problem we have is our kitten spent the first week or so self entertaining with our shoes in the office…now that she is grown, they are still her favorite toys!

  25. it’s just a matter of time. things were the same when we got our second cat. our first cat was a bit older though, he was about 2 and a half when we brought the little guy home at only 3 months. he wasn’t too impressed at first and sulked for a few weeks. he warmed up to the little guy eventually though and now they snuggle and groom each other when they think we aren’t looking

  26. I had two males for 14 years and the best way is let them work it out on their own with you in the room. They will work it out but it will take time. A kitten has so much energy that the older one will be put out for a while. Wish I have them now but nature took them from me at 14 and 16 years old. My mother do not like cats so I will have to wait until I can have them again.

  27. What a cutie! Mine has white mittens and boots. We are worried about this when we do finally get a dog but I think it will be fine. Most people that have cats and introduce one later eventually get along it just takes a little while.

  28. I have always had multiple cats growing up. As an adult, however, that hasn’t worked out. We did try to take a friend’s kitten when they moved. Our dog absolutely loved it. Our older cat did not. At first, I just figured that they would figure things out, but when the first cat started trembling when the other one walked across the far end of the room, I knew he had to go.

    Our current cat could get used to a kitten, even though she’s grown crotchety around other animals in the last year or so. However, now we have a dog that I think would be too rough around kittens, otherwise when I got my new puppy this summer, I would have gotten a kitten too. To me, that’s the ideal combo and I made sure my husband knew that I hadn’t given up on it, and was just making concessions for our current critters.

    Good luck! It sounds like things are going well.

  29. Doing nothing works best for me, with no bloodshed (ever!) and I have had multiple cats adopted at various ages/gender combinations my entire life. I like the suggestions of having separate feeding bowls and litter that can help- I have done that (especially having 2 water dishes as sometimes the new cat is afraid to use anything of the older cat if the older cat is possessive/terriritial about it). Many people don’t know you are supposed to have one litter box per cat, you don’t have to but it is good for them especially during introductory phases. I have 2 litter boxes for four cats due to lack of space for more and that works well for us and I use feline pine litter (not the scooping kind it was far too messy they tracked sawdust that was hard to clean up everywhere) and just clean out the poops 1-2x a day as needed. Please spay/neuter your cats (4-6 months is an ideal age)and encourage your neighbor to do the same with the Mother cat if she hasn’t already. There are far too many unwanted kittens and cats being euthanized in the shelters every day. Enjoy your beautiful kittens, they are so precious!!

  30. @Natalie: Thanks for asking! I should post an update. Kittens are getting along well. They’re not snuggling yet, but they roughhouse all day long. It started with chase games–Phoebe chased Trout. I knew things were improving when Trout chased Phoebe! Then the chasing became mutual. A few days later they graduated to wrestling. They’re definitely working out their boundaries, but seem happy with each other. I’m thinking snuggling must be next…

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