Some cats take to new kittens right away. Others will need a lot of time to get used to the newcomer or may never adjust to a new cat in the house. A lot of this is going to depend on how old and well-socialized your cat is when it's introduced to your new family member.
While cat behavior can be difficult to understand at times, looking to their wild relatives can give some insight as to why cats sometimes can't coexist. And yet, there are steps you can take to help your cat accept a new kitten.
Why Do Cats Not Get Along?
Domesticated house cats are closely related to wild cats, even more so to feral cats. While there are a number of differences, they still have some similar characteristics and instincts, including how they coexist with other cats.
Wild felines, such as bobcats, lynx, and servals, are typically solitary animals. They are rarely seen, naturally secretive, and nocturnal. During the day, they hide in dens and they come out at night to hunt for food alone.
Feral cats also hunt and sleep alone. However, they may form a colony led by a queen cat if food is being provided to them by humans. The dominant queen will mate with feral tomcats who do not live with the group and produce litters of kittens. The other cats in the group, including kittens as they mature, are submissive to the queen. They don't stay around long if they are not or unsuccessfully try to challenge the queen.
This social hierarchy is different than that of the average house cat. That's because house cats are domesticated, usually spayed and neutered, often not well socialized with other cats, and live in a very isolated environment away from other cats. This can present a problem when you want to bring a new kitten or cat into the family.
Sometimes, giving your cat time to adjust to a new kitten is what is needed. But if your cat was not well socialized before the age of three, it may be very difficult for them to get along with a new kitten. In reality, some cats are better off being the only cat in a home. Others may not like one kitten but take to another one based on their personalities.
How to Get Cats to Accept a Kitten
When you bring a new cat home, it's important to slowly introduce them to your cat. Whether you've done that or not, if the cats still aren't getting along, there are a few things you can do.
Make sure the kitten has its own food and water bowls that are not in the same location as your cats' bowls. Feed them in separate areas so your cat does not become territorial towards its own food and your kitten gets a chance to eat. If you need to, feed one of the cats in a separate room and close the door.
Get the feather wand or another interactive toy out and allow both cats to play together. An older cat may be standoffish at first, but it's hard for most cats to avoid the temptation of a stringy toy when they see it. This can help your cat know that the newcomer enjoys the same things, so is not as threatening as they may think.
Provide separate sleeping areas for both your cats. Do not try to give your cats’ old beds or condos to the new kitten. Your older cat has already established possession of those and will not take kindly to a kitten using them without their permission.
Provide your older cat with areas outside the kittens' reach where only they can go. A high perch, for instance, can be a good place to observe the kitten for a while. Also, these places can be a good retreat when the cat needs to get away from an aggressive or annoying kitten.
Make sure you have one more litter box than you have cats. This means if you have two cats, you should have three litter boxes. There should be no direct line of sight between the boxes in case both your older cat and new kitten are in different boxes at the same time.
Sprays, wipes, and diffusers containing special feline pheromones can be purchased and should be utilized as long as necessary. These pheromones help cats feel relaxed and safe and may benefit both the new kitten and your older cat during the introduction phase.
Pet your new kitten and, at the same time, allow your older cat to smell you while giving them their favorite treats. This will help teach your cat that the smell of the new kitten is not a bad thing. Over time, they may start to associate the smell of the kitten with treats, making it a positive scent.
The same can be done for times when the kitten is in the same room as your cat and you see them interacting nicely.
If you are unable to monitor your cat and kitten and you are worried about one hurting the other, make sure they are safely separated. A bathroom with a litter box, bed, and bowl of water can be where one of the cats stays when you are away at work or asleep at night. This is especially helpful for kittens who won't leave your older cat alone.
Keep Things Calm
Sometimes unusual things that scare a cat will cause them to show displaced aggression on a new kitten. Cats are creatures of habit, so don’t opt to make major household changes while introducing the new kitten. This includes things such as renovating the kitchen, ripping up carpet, or having a party where you set off fireworks in the backyard.
Don’t Allow Fights
While they may want to, do not allow your cat to do anything more than hiss and swat at the kitten. If you are concerned a fight is about to happen, distract the cats with a loud clap of your hands or use a water squirt bottle.