how to get older cats to accept kitten
Questions About Cats

How to Introduce a Kitten to an Older Cat

Domesticated cats are creatures of habit and routine. Your senior cat will like things exactly as they have been for years and will fear change. This means that introducing an elderly cat to a kitten can be problematic. Kittens can be a little too noisy and boisterous for an older cat’s tastes.

The introduction of a senior cat to a kitten must be done gradually. Keep the two cats separate and allow them to learn each other’s scent through objects. Next, feed the cats simultaneously while separated by a barrier. Finally, allow the two cats to make full contact.

Some senior cats will be instinctively gentle with kittens. The mature cat understands that it is dealing with a youngster. This understanding will only go so far, though. Take all necessary steps to slowly and safely introduce a kitten to your older cat.

Do Kittens and Older Cats Get Along?

There will always be challenges associated with bringing a new cat into an established territory. Cats are solitary by nature, and sharing doesn’t come naturally. Bringing a new feline into the home can be challenging.

If you’re looking to introduce a kitten to a senior cat, these challenges can be magnified. The relationship can work, but don’t just throw the cats together and hope that they’ll get along.

Introducing a Kitten to a Senior Cat

The introduction will take time, effort, and patience. It’s best to attempt this when you will be at home for a few days without interruption.

You will need to go out of your way to keep both cats stress-free and calm. If you do this right, your senior cat and kitten may be able to live together.

Early Scent Introduction

Before you bring a kitten home, you will visit it. Once you are certain you are adopting the kitten, ask for something to take home. A blanket the kitten has slept on is ideal.

This is to introduce the scent of the kitten to your home. This will give your existing cat the chance to acknowledge and recognize this scent. Give your existing cat a week or two to get used to the kitten’s scent. This will make it less of a shock when the kitten arrives.

Don’t rub the blanket in your cat’s face. Leave it lying around somewhere and allow the cat to discover it organically. The cat’s reaction will give you an idea of how it will respond to the kitten.

Some cats will immediately become distressed by the scent. Your cat may eliminate on the blanket, eradicating this intrusive smell. In this instance, you’ll need to manage the introduction particularly carefully. Your cat is unlikely to willingly accept a new arrival.

Other cats will be indifferent, or even intrigued. This is a positive sign. It is forging a connection between the two cats before they even meet. Your cat will be more tolerant of the kitten, as it already has a degree of familiarity.

Preparing for Kitten Adoption

As Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice confirms, preparation is essential when introducing a new pet to a cat. Cats are innately fearful of change. The more work you complete ahead of an introduction, the better it will go.

Clear out a room that your kitten will be based in for a while. Don’t make this a huge, empty shell. This will intimidate the kitten. Just remove any potential hazards, leaving plenty of hiding places. Do your best to clean. The room should not smell like your existing cat.

You will also need to do some shopping to prepare for your new kitten. Head to a pet store and pick up the following:

  • Food and water bowls
  • A bed and blankets
  • A litter tray and litter
  • A cat tree
  • Toys and games

Bring some familiar things items along with you. Recognizable smells will help the kitten settle faster. As the kitten will be restricted to one room for a while, it will need stimulation.

Do not recycle old bowls, toys or litter trays from your existing cat. You may think you’re doing a nice thing by ‘upgrading’ your cat’s things and buying replacements. In reality, you’ll upset both animals.

The kitten will be intimidated by the smell of an existing cat. The senior cat will wonder where its familiar stuff went. If it finds the kitten using these things, the senior cat will think it is being replaced. This will provoke stress and anxiety.

When to Bring the Kitten Home

Kittens are usually ready to leave their mother at eight weeks. By now, the kitten will be weaned and eating solid food. Never bring home a kitten before this point. The kitten will expect your senior cat to nurse it.

Time spent with littermates also socializes a kitten. Kittens and senior cats will have different energy levels. Even the most mild-mannered older cat will eventually snap at a kitten that lacks social skills.

You must also ensure that your kitten’s health has been taken care of. Kittens and senior cats both have limited immunity. They could make each other sick. Ensure the kitten is protected against fleas and worms. Ask if the kitten has started its vaccination program yet. If not, keep the kitten far away from your senior cat.

According to Veterinary Record, unvaccinated kittens can be prone to feline panleukopenia virus, aka FPV. This condition is sometimes known as feline distemper. Sharing this condition could be fatal to both cats. If necessary, get your senior cat a vaccine booster.

Introducing a Kitten to the Home

You cannot immediately allow a kitten to interact with your senior cat. Your existing cat will consider the new arrival of an infiltrator and territorial rival. At best, it will become stressed and anxious, which is dangerous for older cats. More likely, it will attack the kitten on sight.

Keep the kitten secured to one room for at least a few days. This will help the kitten adjust to its new home, one step at a time. Spend time with the kitten so it feels safe and secure. Quickly and efficiently establish routines surrounding food and play.

After a day or two, allow the kitten to explore the house. Make sure your existing cat is otherwise engaged at this point. Enclose the senior cat behind closed doors. Better yet, ask somebody else to play with the cat in the yard or elsewhere.

This will allow your kitten to build confidence. Equally importantly, it will learn the scent of your existing cat. The kitten will then understand that another feline lives in the home. This will prevent it from becoming too frightened when they cross paths.

Meeting Your Senior Cat’s Needs

Your existing cat will notice that a kitten is living in the house. It will hear and smell the kitten. It will also notice the kitten’s scent on your clothes.

This may send your cat into a tailspin. Your cat may become anxious and stressed, convinced that it is being replaced. You must ensure that you keep your senior cat calm during this adjustment period.

The key to this is maintaining as many familiar routines as possible. Keep feeding your cat at the same time as you ordinarily would. Play with your cat twice a day, providing one-on-one attention. Talk to your cat, grooming and petting it whenever asked.

If your cat thinks that you prefer the kitten, it may mistreat the new arrival. Psychological Reports stated that cats can feel jealous. If the two cats are to get along, both must feel equally valued by owners.

Introducing the Cats to Each Other

Eventually, you can introduce the two cats to each other. This should be done by sight initially. Do not allow the cats to physically interact just yet.

Start small. Place either cat at the end of a long corridor and let them see each other. Gently restrain both cats. The idea is to allow the cats to acknowledge each other’s presence. This way, they can link a physical appearance to a now-established scent.

There may be some hissing and growling at this early stage. This is to be expected. The senior cat, in particular, will be posturing. The cat is warning the kitten to stay out of its territory. This is why the cats should not yet get too close.

Once the hissing stage passes, it suggests that cats are growing used to each other’s presence. They are still not ready to be put together, though. Mutual trust needs to be built first.

older cat attacking new kitten

Sharing Mealtimes

In order to build this trust, the two cats will need to associate each other with a pleasurable activity. Dinner is the highlight of a cat’s day. This is the ideal way to introduce the two cats face-to-face.

Set up a baby gate or a similar barrier somewhere in your home. Place the two cats on either side of this barrier. This way, they can see and scent each other clearly. If the senior cat grows aggressive, it will be unable to harm the kitten.

Provide both cats with their favorite meal, keeping them on either side of the barrier. This dinner date can be key to building a relationship. It shows your existing cat that the kitten is not direct competition for food. This is the first step to the older cat accepting the kitten.

Once both cats have finished eating, offer treats and praise both cats heavily. Return each cat to its respective territory in the home. Repeat this step at least 3-4 times before allowing the cats to physically interact.

Cat and Kitten Interaction

Eventually, you are going to need to let the cats meet formally. Once the cats have shared a number of meals, you can remove the barrier.

Let the cats approach each other and take a step back. Offer both cats a treat. If you can, ask somebody else to be with you at this stage. This should be somebody that both cats trust. If the cats need to be separated due to fighting, you may need help.

It is critical that this first face-to-face meeting is a positive experience. A bad first impression can lead to cats holding a grudge for life. Pick your moment carefully.

The best time is after both cats are fed and have been played with. This means that neither cat will be too energetic. Do not introduce to a kitten to an exhausted senior cat, though. If the older cat is tired, it will be in no mood for a playful kitten.

Pick a neutral setting for this meeting. The room that you choose should not smell strongly of either cat. Ensure there are no potential disturbances, such as loud noises. If either cat grows skittish, it may provoke a skirmish. Ensure one or both cats have a clear escape route.

The kitten will likely want to play with the senior cat. This may involve wrestling and playfighting. It can sometimes be difficult to tell this apart from a genuine fight. This table will help you tell the difference.

Mostly silentCats will hiss, growl and yowl
Ears pointed upward or forwardEars pinned back against the head
Claws sheathedClaws unsheathed
Remaining in close proximityOne cat attempting to escape
Alternating the role of ‘aggressor’One cat always seems to be on top
Fur and tail neutralFur and tail puffed up to look larger
Gentle nibblesHard bites designed to inflict pain

If the two cats are fighting, separate them. Take each cat to a separate territory. Focus on settling the cats down with petting and reassurance. You can try again the next day. It may take a few meetings before the cats accept each other.

Older Cat and Kitten Getting Along

The hopeful endgame is that the two cats will get along. Do not pin hopes on the cats becoming firm friends immediately. Simply co-existing is good enough to start with. If the senior cat does not attack the kitten, consider this a victory.

Watch the cats carefully for at least a couple of weeks. Do not let the kitten spend too much time aggravating the senior cat. Give both cats time apart to cool off. Ensure that both your cats feel equally valued.

If you manage the introduction correctly, your senior cat and kitten will live harmoniously. Remember to take your time. If you rush the introduction, you risk permanently damaging the relationship. A slow and gradual establishment of boundaries is far likelier to bear results.