how to get older cats to accept kitten
Questions About Cats

How to Introduce a Kitten to an Older Cat

Senior cats and kittens are not always an easy combination. They may both be felines, but sometimes these animals feel like two different species. While older cats wind down and enjoy a quiet life, kittens are irrepressible bundles of energy. The introduction must be managed carefully.

How should a kitten be introduced to an older cat? Keep the felines separate, and then let them grow familiar with each other’s scents from a distance. This reduces the potential for territorial battles. Once this has been done, let the cats see each other visually from a distance. Place the cats together for a short, supervised playtime.

You will need patience when introducing a kitten to a senior cat. Possibly more patience than the older feline will be willing to display. Over time, you can build a strong bond between both pets.

Can Kittens and Senior Cats Live Together?

As your cat starts to show their age, it’s only natural to start thinking ahead. As much as you hate to admit it, your pet is not going to be around forever. Replacing a cat immediately after they die is always a bad idea, though. With that in mind, why not adopt a kitten now?

This dynamic between older and younger cats can work. You may even find that both felines become friends immediately. This is not unheard of.

What’s more likely, however, is that these pets will require a gradual introduction. As such territorial animals, dropping two cats together and hoping for the best rarely ends well.

Before wondering how you introduce a kitten to your senior cat, question whether you should. To help with this decision, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your older cat get along well with other felines?
  • Is your existing cat tolerant of having their routine disrupted?
  • Do you have time to devote one-on-one attention to both cats, independent of each other?
  • Do you have enough space in your home to give each cat their own territory?

If you answered no to any of these questions, reconsider bringing a kitten into your home. It’s a big commitment, and it could upset your existing pet. You could damage the bond you have so carefully cultivated.

If you are happy that you can take on the responsibility, it’s time to consider your cat’s feelings. Even the most placid housecat can become a territorial whirling dervish if they feel threatened.

As VCA Hospitals explains, some of the considerations with pairing a kitten with an older cat include temperament and energy levels. If your cat is aggressive, snarling at neighborhood pets from your yard, they won’t welcome a kitten.

If your cat is placid, they’re more likely to share their space. Just be careful not to adopt a kitten that’s too boisterous, though. They may run roughshod over your existing cat, growing up to bully them. This will cause no end of stress for your pet.

Energy levels are also critical. Kittens are full of beans, and seem never to grow tired. You may think this will keep your senior cat young, but they’ll struggle to keep up. This could lead to frustration, and fighting between the felines.

Try to find a kitten that’s comparatively docile to pair with your senior citizen. At least, as docile as kittens tend to be. Also, be prepared to meet a lot of their demand for attention. It’s unfair and unrealistic to expect your existing cat to do this.

Assess all the criteria, and decide if your home can accommodate a kitten. If so, you then need to think about how you’ll introduce them to your existing pet.

How to Introduce a Kitten to a Senior Cat

Eventually, you’ll have to introduce your senior cat to their new housemate. This should be a very gradual process, and one that is broken down into three stages:

  1. Introduction by Scent
  2. Introduction by Sight
  3. Physical Interaction

Before you start this process, you should assign two parts of the house to the cats. Each pet will be able to make this area their territory. If you have spare bedrooms, these are ideal. If not, consider a bathroom, laundry room or other utility room.

Set the kitten up with their own bed, toys, litter tray, scratching post, food, and water. You can use your existing cat’s familiar materials. What’s important, however, is that neither cat roams.

my cat doesn't like my new kitten

This may cause distress for your existing pet, so be prepared to soothe them. These two felines must be slowly and gradually introduced, so your existing cat learns how to share territory.

Once you have the two zones set up, you can begin the process of introducing the cats.

1) Getting Your Cat Used to a Kitten’s Scent

The first step to bringing a second cat into a home is adapting each animal to the other’s scent. Your existing pet will immediately smell another cat in their territory. This means that you’ll have to manage the introductions very carefully.

Give each cat time to settle into their zone, then switch them around. Again, this may distress your existing cat – you keep changing their routine.

However, they will quickly grow distracted in their new environment. Both cats will sniff around, learning the other cat’s scent. The previous occupant will likely have marked everything in the room. This will leave plenty of scope for investigation.

You can also introduce ‘live’ scents to each cat. Rub a towel against their cheek, then leave the towel with the other feline. You will have noticed that your cat rubs their cheeks against objects of interest, including other cats.

As Pet Happy explains, this is because doing so releases pleasure pheromones. If each cat gets a scent of these, it will create a positive association with the face-to-face meeting.

2) Introducing the Two Cats By Sight

You will not be able to keep the cats apart for too long. They’ll smell, and probably hear, each other. This will make them increasingly curious to meet. However, you can’t just drop them both into a playpen. You have to take the introductions slowly.

The best way to do this is through a long corridor. Have a cat each end, and give them both a treat. It’s very important to create a positive association.

Let both cats have a good sniff of the air, and each other. It’s best not to let them interact directly just yet. However, if you have a pet grate, this is the perfect solution.

Set up the grate, so the two cats can look at each other in the eye without touching. This way, there is an element of protection if one feline turns aggressive. If you are able, give each cat their dinner while they’re in proximity – still separated by the grate.

This is another, significant positive association with the other cat present. Once they’re done, separate the cats and return them to their individual rooms.

You should attempt this process at least three times before allowing the cats to interact. If either shows any sign of aggression, cancel the meeting and try again later.

There is no benefit to rushing the introduction. If you feel that the cats are ready, however, you can eventually supervise a playtime between them.

3) Allowing the Two Cats to Interact

Physical interaction is the final step, but arguably the most important of all. It will quickly become clear whether these cats are ready to share the same space. Be on high alert for any warning signs of aggressive body language. These could include:

  • Hissing and growling. Cats at play are more likely to meow or squeak.
  • Ears pinned back against the head. This is a universal sign that your cat is in fighting mode.
  • Unsheathed claws.
  • Biting designed to hurt. Kittens, in particular, bite as part of the play. This should be a nip though, followed by an apology if they go too far.
  • Constant fighting, with no breaks. Play fights usually pause, allowing the cats to switch roles between aggressor and prey.
  • One cat is attempting to walk away, but the other continually pursuing them. All cat play should be a two-way street.

There is a fine line between play fighting and real fighting. Remember, however, your senior cat will be less interested in play than the kitten. They are likely to go along with it for a short term, but grow impatient quickly. This can lead to aggression and biting.

If you notice any signs of hostility between the cats, separate them at once. Return them to their respective rooms, and check both for any signs of injury. If there are no wounds, let both cats cool off for a while.

You can try again, and should. However, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It may take several attempts at introduction before your existing cat accepts the new kitten. You’ll have to be calm and patient throughout, ensuring that both pets have their needs met.

Should I Feed My Kitten and Older Cat Together?

Senior cats and kittens have very different nutritional needs. This means that they should be fed different foods, appropriate to their life stage.

You should also feed your two cats in different bowls, in different locations. They will still be coming to terms with sharing their space. If they are expected to use the same bowl, both cats will associate the scent with the other. This may leave them intimidated, and refusing to eat.

One thing that you can do, however, is offering both cats treats together. Assuming the treat in question is appropriate for both ages, naturally.

In doing this, you will continually reinforce positive associations. This is especially important for your older cat. They’ll start to realize that, whenever the kitten is around, they get a treat. This will significantly boost their willingness to share their home.

Should I Play with My Kitten and Older Cat Together?

It’s best to play with your two cats under separate cover. This is partly so that your senior cat does not feel left out. They need to know that they’ll still get their one-on-one attention from you.

In addition, however, the play styles and exercise needs of the two cats will differ wildly. Your senior cat will grow exhausted long before your kitten.

It’s critical that you establish a routine for your kitten. Stick with the routine that you have in place for your senior cat. They have enough disruption to deal with. Ensuring that your kitten knows when their needs will be met is equally important, though.

older cat attacking new kitten

You also have to remember that your kitten will want to play a lot. You may want to consider asking a friend or family member to share the burden.

Both of these cats will sleep a lot. Kittens will use up huge bursts of energy, then fall fast asleep. Senior cats are generally more docile, and tire easier. This means that you should easily find time to spend with each cat. This way, neither feline will feel that the other is taking priority.

If the two cats want to play with each other, that’s great. However, supervise this closely. Just because the two felines get along once, it doesn’t mean they have bonded for life.

Your existing cat can quickly become resentful of this infiltrator. Don’t leave your two cats alone together until you are certain that they’ll peacefully co-exist.

My Kitten Keeps Biting My Older Cat

Kittens bite as part of their play. Young cats explore the world with their mouths, and test how hard they can bite. Fellow kittens will yelp when bitten too hard. Your older cat may not be so gracious.

For everybody’s safety, you should direct your kitten’s nipping behavior away from your cat. You won’t necessarily be able to stop your kitten from biting.

This natural behavior usually doesn’t stop until the kitten matures, at around 12 months. You cannot expect your cat to be an organic teething toy until this stage.

Provide your kitten with plenty of toys to take out their biting instinct on. You should also distract, and exhaust, your kitten with plenty of playtime.

The more tired out they are, the more likely they are to be docile around your senior cat. This will greatly boost their chances of a harmonious relationship.

My Older Cat Acts Weird Since I Got a Kitten

Many elderly cats consider kittens to be intruders in their home. Worse still, this interloper is stealing all their attention, treats and favorite sleeping spots.

If your older cat feels like they are being usurped, they won’t like it one bit. They may withdraw, and become depressed, or they may take it out on the kitten.

This is why it’s so important to keep your existing pet in their routine. Make sure your older cat still receives the same amount of play and attention. Anyone can get swept up in a kitten-shaped whirlwind, but your older pet still has needs.

It’s also common for cats to show signs of jealousy. According to Pet Helpful, warning signs of this include:

  • Eliminating outside the litter box
  • Uncharacteristic aggression – toward you and other humans, or the kitten
  • Verbalizing more than usual
  • Hiding away, becoming aloof and standoffish

This is your cat basically trying to get your attention. Remember, any attention is good to a cat that feels neglected – even scolding. Be patient with your existing cat.

It will be tough for them to adapt to sharing their home with a kitten. Given enough time, however, they will tolerate their younger housemate. In some cases, they’ll even learn to love them.

Kittens and older cats will take a little time to adapt to one another. In many respects, that’s hardly surprising. In cat terms, two or three generations can separate these two felines. Provided neither are naturally aggressive, however, the dynamic can eventually work out.

It’s vital that the introductions are not rushed. Convincing any two cats to live together without conflict is a challenge. The differences in energy and temperament beta ween kitten and senior cats only magnify this difficulty.

Take the process slowly, and always take the feelings of both felines into consideration. A little short-term inconvenience is a small price to pay for a contented multi-cat household.