For pet owners, integrating new animals into the household can be a tricky situation. While every person’s experience is different, cats can have a harder time learning to live with each other when one comes in as a kitten after the other. Introducing a kitten into any household is a step-by-step process—whether there are other cats or not—so here is what pet owners should do to make sure their new kitten feels right at home sooner rather than later.
Households with No Pets
Luckily, for people who are becoming cat owners for the first time, bringing a kitten home is a simple matter. More often than not, the kitten moves right in, and you spend all your time bonding with and spoiling him for the next ten years. At the same time, a new home will be strange for the kitten at first, and he’ll likely need ample time to adjust. Depending on the cat’s background—fostering program alone, shelter with littermates in a cage—the kitten will need plenty of patience and love as well as the opportunity to be alone if necessary.
A pet owner’s ability to provide for the kitten’s needs will ease his fears regarding his strange new surroundings. You should set up a little private area with food, a litter box, and a bed for the kitten—this can be an entire “safe” room or a corner screened off from the rest of one room.
Households with Other Pets
If a household has other cats or even dogs, the integration process is completely different for new kittens. To begin, new kittens should be separated from other animals until they have been cleared by a vet for disease and parasites. Wild kittens could have fleas, ear mites, or even be infected or carry FeLV or FIV. Shelter kittens often have upper respiratory infections (URIs), such as Bordetella (or kennel cough), but even breeder kittens can have URIs since their incubation period can be three to four weeks.
Until their vet confirmation, keep new kittens in separated “safe” rooms with food, water, a litter box, and a bed. Once they have been cleared, open the “safe room” door slightly to let other animals sniff and look at them. Rub a towel on the kitten, imparting a scent, and then set the towel where the other animals sleep to get them accustomed to the kitten’s smell. Do the same thing by giving the kitten a blanket or towel with the other animals’ scent.
After the Safe Room
After a few days, pet owners can try putting their kittens into a carrier to let the other animals come up and sniff them. There will likely be instinctive hissing and growling, but the kitten should be safe. If one of the other pets continues to act aggressive, be patient and try to provide occasions for the kitten and other pets to share fun activities (keep some gauze and Manuka honey on hand if things get too out of hand.)
Within the next week or two, they should all calm down and start getting along fine. It’s important not to rush anything and to provide both parties plenty of attention in the meantime. It shouldn’t be long before the new kitten is part of the bunch as if he were always there.
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