You’re contemplating adding a kitten to your multi-cat household, and the holidays are fast approaching. There’s plenty to think about with this scenario. How will your stable, tried-and-true household kitties adjust to the newcomer? Will the kitten get into trouble, especially with decorations, food, and unknown people thrown into the mix? Will you be able to handle all these variables and ensure a smooth transition for cats, kitten, and humans alike?
In my household, we are contemplating such a scenario. We may soon be adopting a tiny buff kitten. I have five loved housecats who all get along quite well. How can I best ensure that the introduction goes smoothly? What is the best way to do this with the least amount of stress involved for cats, kitten, and humans? If you’re facing the same questions, here are some tips to ensure security, not fear, for your new feline family member.
Preparing for a kitten is much like babyproofing a home. Take a close look at your surroundings. What could inadvertently fall on a kitten? Is the kitten too small to go up or down stairs without getting hurt? Could a nail sticking out of the wall cause an injury? Are there harmful products such as cleansers you’d not want your kitten to get into?
Look around your living space, and secure things that could fall. Reorganize if necessary. Think about places you want to keep the kitten out of, such as beneath a reclining chair.
Add in holiday factors. Are there decorations that might attract and be harmful to a kitten? Tinsel, ornaments, glittery plastic decorations, potpourri – all of these are potentially hazardous to a kitten’s health and safety. Plan to use baby gates or other barriers to prevent access.
Are there medical reasons that your kitten may need to be isolated from the cats in your house? Are fleas or potential feline leukemia an issue? Check with your veterinarian before bringing a kitten home. You don’t want to put the health of your current cats or your kitten at risk. If a quarantine room isn’t possible during the holidays because of guests or parties, consider waiting to bring the kitten into the family.
Easy Does It
I’ve always gone slowly with cat introductions. I start with the new adoptee in a separate room free of hazards and let the newbie get used to me and the surroundings. The cats get to know each other by scent before a face-to-face meeting. This period can take only a few days or a week or more.
I use my observations, intuition, and knowledge of my cats to determine how quickly to proceed. Depending on how well the newbie is adjusting, and on the personalities of the resident cats, I begin slow, supervised introductions. I’ve experimented with using cat carriers for introductions – putting the newbie in a carrier and letting the original housecats check him out. Or I might let the newbie have free run of a room and put my other cats in carriers to observe.
Sometimes you get lucky and introductions go smoothly and quickly. That happened once when I introduced an adult black cat into my household of several other cats. My orange male slipped into the isolation room to check out the newcomer. They bonded at first sight and immediately began grooming and snuggling.
Hint: If you’re trying to keep certain cats isolated and you have a busy houseful of company, make sure everyone knows which cats need to be in which areas.
Best Laid Plans
Do you have to travel over the holidays? Do you have a trusted cat sitter who can manage introductions and interactions? Even if you do, it might be best if you can change your plans and stay at home for a more tranquil holiday. With a brand-new introduction, it may pay to wait until you’ve returned to bring the new kitten home.
Some introductions take more time than others. Some take a lot of time. With patience, planning, and luck, though, your kitten will integrate smoothly into your household, and your older cats will mentor her and teach the skills of growing into cat-hood. Treasure this time: your kitten will only be a kitten once. It might be the best holiday you ever have.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.