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Introducing your new kitten to your current cats

Our feline friends can be very territorial and may not immediately welcome a new an unfamiliar cat into their environment as readily as dogs might. Getting the introduction right and taking extra time if necessary to carry it out could make a huge difference to their perceptions of each other and will hopefully results in a long-lasting friendship.  We hope that these tips will help.


  1. Tips for choosing a new kitten/adult cat

Did you know that cats are naturally solitary animals? Ideally when introducing a new cat, they should be smaller in size, of the opposite sex and have similar activity levels to your existing cat. Try to get an idea of your new kitty’s personality before it arrives in its new home - you will probably be able to sense this by watching them while they’re still with their feline brothers and sisters. Your new bundle of joy may be very lively when playing, or may sit back and watch all the antics going on.

  1. Preparation before the kitten arrives

Ensure that both cats’ vaccinations are up to date and that they have been dewormed and de-flead before the introduction.

When the big day comes and you bring your kitten home, it’s important to keep both cats separate for a while so that they can adjust to each other’s scent. A good way to do this is to confine the new cat to a single room. Ideally, pick a room that your resident cat does not use much and that you do not need constant access too, perhaps a spare bedroom or study. Your new kitty will need their own new toys, bed, litter box and food bowls, so make sure you’re prepared. Consider buying one of the FELIWAY products that sends odourless "happy and calming" messages via pheromones that can help your new and existing cat feel comfortable, secure, and relaxed. 


Extra tip: It is always a good idea, if possible, to try and obtain some bedding from your new cat before you bring it home so that you can gauge your resident cat’s reaction to the new cat’s scent as early as possible.


  1. Acclimatisation


Give the new cat plenty of time to become accustomed to the routines of the new home and the people that live within it, and to allow your new cat’s scent to become part of its room. This acclimatisation period could vary from several days to a week or two. Signs that your new cat is comfortable with its new environment include:

  • Friendly behaviours when you enter the room such as approach, rubbing around your legs, chirruping, purring and meowing
  • Resting on its side with belly exposed and rolling over
  • Playing with its toys
  • Facial rubbing on furniture, corners of walls and other items in its room
  • Normal eating, drinking, grooming and toileting behaviours



  1. Introduce your cat by smell first

Scent is one of the most valuable communication tools used by cats. Encourage your senior cat to spend time in a separate room while you introduce your new kitten to the new surroundings. Your new kitty will quickly pick up on the smells around the house and know there’s another feline in residence. You can then swap them around, allowing the senior cat to wander around and, in turn, smell the new kitten’s scent. Remember to calmly praise and reward both cats while they are learning that there’s a "new kid on the block."

  1. Let them see each other

Step two of your cats’ introduction is visual contact. Before letting your furry friends loose in a room together, separate them by a screen, baby gate or a gap in the door. Allow them to meet each other gently - when comfortable with each other, they will sniff noses or rub against the door. This is your cue to let them meet face to face.

  1. Support a calm, patient introduction

When your pets are ready to meet face to face, always be as calm and patient as possible. Remember that your resident cat needs to learn to share their territory and accept the new kitten. Older cats may also be less tolerant, so introductions should be very short initially before gradually increasing their time together.

  1. Positive rewards

Don’t be surprised if your kitties don’t accept each other straight away. These things take time. To encourage bonding, you can use treats and encourage play when they act calmly and seem happy in each other’s company. Be sure to pet and praise your senior cat more often at this stage. Reassure them that this new family member brings positive things.

  1. Watch how your pets react

Your new kitten might be very skittish and want to hide, or confident and want to explore, regardless of what the resident cat thinks of them. Always keep an eye both cat’s body language. There may just be some hissing at first, but be ready to step in if they look like they might start to fight.

Even after your pets seem comfortable with each other, continue to keep an eye on them - there’s no guarantee that your cats will bond immediately. Watch for signs of stress and anxiety - decreased appetite, hiding for long periods of time, vocalizing, hostile actions like resource guarding. Any unusual traits that continue for more than a few days may need to be investigated further. (for more information on cat body language go to ).

Senior cats might react by sleeping in unusual places or not eating and drinking normally. Make sure your cat can access their litter box easily and that their normal exit routes are always available. It’s also important to check that your older cat’s eating and drinking habits have not changed - senior cats are prone to dehydration, and with a new feline friend joining their territory, they may not drink as regularly as before. If you are at all concerned about your cat, it’s wise to consider speaking to your vet.

  1. Ensure plenty of resources and stick to their routines

As a rule of thumb, you should have one resource item per cat plus one extra. Resource items include litter trays, water bowls, food bowls, sleeping areas as well as exit/entry points.

Cats like routine. Help your resident cat through this transition by keeping to their usual schedule for play time, feeding time and sleep time. Keeping to the same routine will help your new kitty settle in, and minimise the stress of change for your resident cat.

We hope that these tips will help to ensure many happy purring moments in your home!


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North Canterbury Veterinary Clinics operates four clinics throughout the Hurunui region.