How Long Does It Take for a Cat to Accept a New Kitten?
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For many families, adopting a new kitten is great news. However, their first cat may beg to differ. They are often reluctant in accepting the new kitten as they are territorial and used to being the only child. This is why they may be upset with you and the new kitten.
So, how long does it take for a cat to accept a new kitten? In this AnimalWised article we're going to answer this question, as well as help you introduce a new cat to your cat at home. Continue reading to learn more!
How long does it take for my cat to accept a new kitten?
It can take up to a year for an adult cat to develop a friendship with a new cat. If your cat is younger, it can take from 3 weeks to a couple of months. This will depend on your cat's age and friendliness.
However, if you're having a hard time with them accepting the new kitten or cat, keep reading our article where we give you tips and tricks to help them develop a friendship.
Why does my cat not accept the new cat?
Cats are generally very conservative and territorial animals. They like to have a certain routine and control over their territory. This way they feel secure in their environment. These means that any change, no matter how small, can generate stress for them. This includes a change in furniture, moving to a new apartment, changing their schedules, etc.
With that being said, we can imagine the stress they must feel when we welcome a new kitten or cat into the household. They may perceive this new member as a threat to their peaceful lifestyle.
Cats that have been well socialised as kittens may not have this issue and may be able to socialise quicker with the new kitten. However, if your adult cat hasn't socialised with other animals from a young age, it may be more difficult for them to accept the new member of the family and the new reality in the household.
My cat hisses at the new kitty
If your cat isn't accepting of the new kitten they will manifest it through their body language by hissing and threatening body postures.
What to do if my cat hisses at the new cat?
Hissing is used as a warning, telling the other cat to stay away from them. So you don't need to be afraid, however, you do need to keep the kitten away from your other cat. If the kitten gets closer after your cat has hissed at them, they will either run away from the kitten or attack the kitten (however, this is the least common). This is why it's important to keep the kitten at a distance if your cat begins to hiss at them.
Make sure not to punish your cat for hissing as that can create behavioral issues. We also want to help them associate the new kitten with positive things, so punishing them can actually make things more difficult. If they continue to hiss or even attack the kitten, it's best to keep them in different rooms or areas. This way your cat feels secure in their territory and can go observe the kitten until they get used to them.
Other signs that your cat doesn't accept the new kitten
Aside from hissing, there are other behaviors that a cat may manifest when they're not accepting of a newcomer and are feeling stressed. These include:
- Long staring
- Not allowing them access to their food, litter box, bed, etc.
- Hides in corners, under furniture, etc.
- Excessive grooming, even to the point of irritated skin or hair loss.
- Decrease food intake or, in severe cases, stops eating.
- Marking territory with their urine.
- Irritable or angry moods.
Learn more on our article about stress in cats.
How to introduce a new kitten to your cat
Welcoming a new cat to your home should be a decision that is made in a conscious and responsible way, since it involves other members of your furry family and because caring for another cat will take more time and patience.
When adopting another pet, you'll have to think about your current cat and what could work best with their personality. For example, a young cat can get along well with a kitten. However, an elderly cat will have a harder time to do so even if they have had a good upbringing where they were well socialised from a young age.
Once you have thought about this and made the right decision, it's time to prepare the house for the kitten's arrival!
Prepare the arrival
Before receiving the new kitten in your home, you must adapt your home for their arrival. This way, your cat will perceive the changes and sense that something is going to change. This way, it's not an overnight change but more gradual.
To adapt your house, you'll need to add another bed and litter box for your new kitten, as well as a bowl for their food. You can also get some new toys. It's best to establish an area for your new kitten. You can do this by placing a baby fence around an area in the living room, or choosing a room where they will stay.
This will help your current cat not feel invaded. They will see that the kitten stays in their area and doesn't sneak up on them. Then, they can take their time to get used to their presence.
Learn more in our article about bringing a new kitten home.
Keep them separate
As we've said, keeping them separate will help make the transition and adaptation period easier on everyone. This is why, when first introducing a kitten to your cat at home, you should always keep them in separate areas where they can observe each other from afar.
Remember to also provide them with their own bed, litter box, bowl and toys. This will help keep the environment peaceful as they do not need to fight for territory or objects. They each have their own and they will understand that they neither one of them is a threat.
Before having them meet face to face, first introduce their odors to one another. You can do this by exchanging their toys one day. This way, they will smell each other's odors and recognize it.
You can also caress them after caressing the other cat. They will first sniff your hand and then accept the affection. Helping them associate the smell with a positive behavior.
Having them meet
Once they have recognized each other's odors, it's time for the next stage. For this stage, you will allow both cats to have eye contact, but not physical contact. At least, not yet. This stage is so they can meet in a peaceful way and see that neither is a threat. This is why we won't let them touch each other just yet.
You can do this by having one in a carrier or by having them meet in front of a glass door, window or baby fence. They will most likely stare at each other and sniff to recognize the odor. If you notice that either one is uncomfortable, it's best to end the session and try again another day until they are both comfortable.
Another great trick is to help them associate each other with a positive thing. Small treats and affection can help them in this way. Learn more in our article about introducing a new cat to the household.
Once they are both comfortable in each other's presence, it's time to move onto the next phase and allow them to also physically interact with each other. In this stage, both cats should be able to go back to their area, bed, etc. They should not feel pressured or cornered as they will get scared and may attack each other.
With time and patience they will get used to the new environment and the new member of the family! Want to learn more? Watch this Youtube video that explains how to introduce cats to new kittens.
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- Turner, D. (2013). The Domestic Cat: The Biology of its Behavior. 3rd ed. Cambridge University Press.
- Stella, J., Croney, C., Buffington, T. (2013). Effects of stressors on the behavior and physiology of domestic cats. Journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science. 143, 157-163