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 compatible. They may both be felines, but sometimes these animals feel like two completely different species. While older cats wind down and enjoy a quiet life, kittens are irrepressible bundles of energy. The introduction must be managed carefully.

  1. Keep the felines separate and let them grow familiar with each other’s scents from a distance. This reduces the potential for territorial battles.
  2. Let the two cats see each other from a distance.
  3. Place the cats together for a short, supervised playtime.

You’ll need to be very patient when introducing a kitten to a senior cat. They’ll need to gradually adjust to each other so that older cat doesn’t feel like he’s being replaced by the new kitten.

Can Kittens and Senior Cats Live Together?

As your cat starts to show his 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 another cat dies 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 find that both felines become friends immediately. It happens. What’s more likely is that these pets will require a gradual introduction. As such territorial animals, dropping two new cats together rarely ends well.

Before wondering how you introduce a kitten to your senior cat, you need to determine if you should. To help with this decision, you should consider these questions:

  • Does your older cat get along well with other felines?
  • Will the senior cat tolerate having his routine disrupted?
  • Do you have time to devote one-on-one attention to two cats, independent of each other?
  • Do you have enough space in your home to give each cat his 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 cultivated.

If you’re sure that you can take on the responsibility, it’s time to consider your cat’s feelings. Even the most placid housecat can become territorial if he feels threatened.

As VCA Hospitals explains, the considerations when pairing a kitten with an older cat include temperament and energy levels. If your cat is feisty and aggressive, he won’t welcome a kitten.

If your cat is placid, he’s more likely to share his space with another cat. Just be careful not to adopt a kitten that’s too boisterous. It may bully your cat, causing no end of stress for your pet.

Kittens are full of energy and seem never to grow tired. You may think this will keep your senior cat young, but he’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.

How to Introduce a Kitten to a Senior Cat

Eventually, you’ll have to introduce your senior cat to his 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 two 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 utility room.

Set the kitten up with his own bed, toys, litter tray, scratching post, food, and water. You can use your existing cat’s familiar materials. What’s important 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 gradually introduced so your older cat learns how to share his territory.

Once you have the two zones set up, you can begin the process of introducing the two 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 senior cat will immediately smell another cat in his territory.

Give each cat time to settle into their zones and then switch them around. Again, this may distress the senior cat as you keep changing his routine.

However, he will quickly become distracted in his 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 his cheeks against objects of interest, including other cats.

As Pet Happy explains, this is because doing so releases pheromones. If each cat gets a scent of these pheromones, it will create a positive association in readiness for 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. But you can’t just drop them both into a playpen.

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

Let both cats have a good sniff of the air, and each other. It’s advisable not to let them interact directly just yet. However, if you have a pet grate, this is the ideal 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. They should still be separated by the grate.

This is another 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. There is no benefit to rushing the introduction.

3) Allowing the Two Cats to Interact

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. The cats are ready to start fighting if the need arises.
  • Biting that’s intended to hurt. Kittens, in particular, bite as part of the play. This should be a nip though, followed by an apology if he goes 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 is continually pursuing them.

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

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

You can try again, and should. However, it may take several attempts at introduction before your older cat accepts the new kitten.

Should I Feed My Kitten and Older Cat Together?

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

You should also feed your two cats in different bowls and 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. One thing that you can do is offer both cats treats together.

In doing this, you will continually reinforce positive associations. This is crucial for your older cat. He’ll start to realize that, whenever the kitten is around, that he gets a treat. This will significantly improve his willingness to share a home with a kitten.

Should I Play with My Kitten and Older Cat Together?

Play with your two cats separately. This is partly because you don’t want your senior cat to feel left out. He needs to know that he’ll still get the same amount of one-on-one attention from you.

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

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 have huge bursts of energy before falling fast asleep. Senior cats are 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, though.

This natural behavior usually doesn’t stop until the kitten matures, at around 12 months. You cannot expect your senior 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 by playing with it regularly.

The more tired out they are, the more likely they are to be docile around your senior cat. This will greatly boost the 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 of his attention, treats, and favorite sleeping spots.

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

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 include:

  • Eliminating outside the litter box
  • Uncharacteristic aggression
  • Verbalizing more than usual
  • Hiding away

This is your cat trying to get your attention. Remember, any attention is good to a cat that feels neglected, even scolding.

It will be tough for him to adapt to sharing his home with a kitten. Given enough time, he will usually tolerate his younger housemate. In some cases, he’ll even learn to love him.

Kittens and older cats will take 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. Take the process slowly, and always take the feelings of both felines into consideration.