Introducing Your New Kitten
On: 1 December 2017
Tips on introducing a new cat to a household with pets already.
Story at a glance
Its absolutely vital that the introduction of new pets to current pets be very, very slowly. Animals, like people, are social creatures and while sometimes form best friends with other pets, can also become enemies. You cannot force friendship upon pets, however learning about your pet’s body language and doing things correctly gives them the best chance at life-long friendship.
It is vital that this be done slowly. The best results come with time and patience, as do most human relationships. Don’t expect your pets to be best friends immediately, instead learn to understand your pet’s body language so you can help the introduction be as smooth as possible.
Step One: Scent Swapping
Firstly, you need to scent swap. The involved using rags or towel to exchange the smells of your pets. Rub a small towel onto your new kitten and give it to your current pets. Chances are your pets already know of the new kitten’s presence, but being able to learn and be comfortable with their smell is the first step to success. Scent swapping should be a daily practice while your kitten is in their safe room, and should last about a week.
Step Two: Room Swapping
Secondly, try room swapping. Remove your kitten from her safe room in a carrier, and place her in a closed room. Remove any food bowls too. Allow this time for your current animals to explore the safe room. During this time, provide your pets with lots of verbal reinforcement. This will provide your pets with the opportunity to further understand the new pet whilst making it a positive experience.
When your kitten returns, they will be able to smell the other pets in that space. Watch to see their reaction to the smells. This is where it’s important to understand body language. If your kitten shows signs of fear, you may need to allow more time scent swapping before continuing with the room swapping. If the kitten seems apprehensive or curious, continue room swapping until you notice your kitten is no longer bothered. Room swapping should be done daily depending on the kitten’s reaction, slowly extending the lengths of time they are allowed to be in the room.
Step Three: Seeing one another
Thirdly, allowing them to see each other. This can be done through a baby gate, glass doors or more. Initially, you don’t want the pets to touch each other, so its best to use two layers of defense: place your kitten in a carrier, place the other pet on the other side of a glass door or baby gate. During this time, it’s vital that you reward both of your pets for behaving. If your pets are growling or hissing, you might need to go back to the room swapping stage. If your pets are showing signs of interest, reward them with treats. It’s recommended you even try feeding them like this at dinner or breakfast. Do this every day for a few days.
Step Four: Meeting with a barrier
Next, you want them to be meet each other with a barrier between them. A crate or baby gate is the best way to do this. Remember to restrict the new kitten, not your current pet (as this might make your current pet feel frustrated). Provide lots of verbal reinforcement to your pets. Remember you want to give your current pet MORE attention during this time so they don’t get jealous.
If either of your pets show signs of fear, anger or anxiety its important to slow things down and go back a step or two and try again. Do not force them together to try and become friends, as relationships need to be built over time.
Step Five: Remove the barrier
Eventually take away the barrier and hold supervised play sessions. Remove any food from the common areas, and provide your pets with lots of toys (new and old). It’s recommended to try to get both pets in a playful mood during this time, this will encourage them to play together whilst making it a fun, positive experience for both parties.
Remember it’s vital to encourage good behaviour, and if one pet becomes uneasy or too boisterous to remove the new kitten from the situation.