Bringing home a kitten when you already have an adult cat

livvysmomNovember 25, 2006

On many cat sites I visit there are posts from people who decide to adopt a kitten when they already have a grown cat (10 years old in some cases). It seems that many times this causes a huge amount of stress and hostility in the current resident adult cat. It can even permanently change the adult cat's personality (cause them to hide more). The perplexed owner then asks for advise on how to get the existing cat to accept the new kitten.

Often I wonder if the owner is not being selfish. Perhaps they are just bored with the cat they have or saw a fuzzy cute kitten that they couldn't resist. They often say they want their existing cat to have a "friend" -- but the adult cat hardly thinks of the newcomer (especially a kitten) as a friend. Either way, it seems unlikely that the two will ever become buddies. Now I know there are probably exceptions but the posts are read about are from the people who need help.

Knowing how territorial cats are, do you think bringing home a kitten when you have an adult or senior kitty at home is fair? I am thinking especially of cats who have lived 10+ years without another cat around.

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livvysmom - For years when we have gotten a new addition it has always been a kitten. It works for us. Its like when a human couple think of adopting or fostering. It is always recommended to try for a child younger than your natural children.

We have just done added a new cat this past summer. I have 2 adult neutered inside/outside males. On is really outside (all the time), other hugs the door, goes out to potty and hunt and then back in for some dry food that was on the dryer.

When we added the third he was a shelter (probably feral). For more than a week the door hugger didn't go outside. Now remember, I took the requisite precautions that one does when adding a cat. The kitten was cordoned off from all of the othre pets, 2 cats, 3 lg. dogs by a gate in my daughter's room. He had his own litter, food, bedding and toys. This way, the others could smell and explore the kitten without being able to get at him or chase him. This was especially important for us because Louie was somewhat feral and hid under my daughter's bed every time anyone came into the room with the exception of my daughter.

The door hugger laid on a bureau in the hallway outside of my daughter's room. If we approached him, touched him, talked to him or even walked by him, he spit, hissed, tried to scratch us. When the kitten would jump the gate and try to play with him, he would freak and run down the steps to the doorway and want to go out. He was so angry. We were calling him the fat angry queen. (he's a little overweight and neutered, I know not PC, but still very funny). It is very important to keep your wits and sense of humor during this time.

After a couple of weeks of worrying it wouldn't work out, they worked it out on their own. You will notice I didn't mention the 3 cat. He had no reaction except to hiss at the kitten. No agression at all.

As I write this post, the two in question are running around chasing one another PLAYING. The oldest is out for the day. Sometimes they will settle down and all three will be lying together on my bed.

I am not saying an older cat won't work, it probably would be the same scenario. I've just never done it, so I won't comment. But I have done the add the kitten and it works out just fine if you keep you patience and sense of humor.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2006 at 9:01AM
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When my ex and I got married, she had a black angora that she'd raised from a kitten and was, at that time, 16 years old. She was starting to really show her age, and would lay around, almost as if she were just waiting to move on into the next life. My ex, as you suggested, thought it would be a good idea to get her a playmate, and so, went out and bought a 6 week old kitten. For the first two days, the kitten seemed petrified. But as time went on, he'd come out, and sniff the older cat, who seemed extremely patient with him, and before we knew it, the two would lay down together, play together, you'd see the two of them chasing each other thru the house-- that little kitten brought my ex's older cat back to life!! it was like she was 10 years younger again! She was 16 when we brought that kitten home, and she lived to the ripe old age of 22. The only bad part was when she died. That "kitten" was lost without her, and went into a depression for about a month or so.

I can see where what you've described could happen. But it's not so in all cases. Just like humans, cats are individuals, with their own tastes, likes, and dislikes. Some are just more social than others.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2006 at 12:25PM
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LOL, Bill I was going to post almost the exact same thing. I've heard numerous stories of kittens or puppies bringing older pets "back to life."

So, Livvysmom, no I don't think it's selfish or unfair. Like labmomma posted, you need to take all the requisite precautions, keep a sense of humor and be patient.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2006 at 1:13PM
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When we brought home two kittens rescued from a very bad home our over twelve year old cat never took to them at all.

It was a disaster. She had lived with other cats before we got her (she was my in laws and they were going to euthanize her because they were retiring and heading off in a motor home so we took her) We did not think there would be a problem. Her personality did not change but she started spraying in the house, we thought it was the kittens but it wasn't, that was apparant after she died several years later.

We tried everything. To the day she died she hated them. We still feel guilty about it.

We just decided to keep a young cat whose owners moved away and left him. He had been hanging around the neighborhood for over six months and seemed to get along fine with our now 12 year old cats, he came in the house occasionally. We had him neutered, vaccinated etc. We thought everything would be fine, they were totally fine in the garden. Even the neighbors remarked that our cats, the male in particular had adopted him.

Unfortunately, now that he is ours officially and in the house 85% of the time or more, our female is majorly stressed out and he has started attacking her. He is a little more than a year old, the owners told me he was nine months right before they moved. He stalks her and keeps her from moving freely throughout the rather small (2 bedroom) house.

I'm feeling horrible, she has medical problems and may not be with us much longer anyway (cardiomyopathy) she does not deserve to have so much stress. We spent over $300 getting him tested, vaccinated, neutered, microchipped etc and are attached to him too.

I do know someone who bought a puppy for their old dog when their other old dog died and it was a fabuous thing and added years to his life for sure.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2006 at 2:59PM
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I have a 9months old cat named Pilchard hes been very spoiled with attention , now i find myself looking after a 5 week old kitten and hand rearing him because the mother cat as died and my friend as had to field the kittens out to be reared as she cannot hand rear them all so i bring the kitten home and my 9mth old cat goes crazy hissing spitting growling and the kitten isnt even near him , i have to spend time with the new kitten because im feeding him , what can i do help anyone :(

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 8:28AM
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I found myself "mother" to a 4 wk old female kitten that was "recused" from an animal testing lab. At first, I thought my old male cat would kill her. He tried so we separated them for awhile. It took some time, but he eventually "adopted" her, spent hours grooming her and he became much more active chasing her around the house. She like to cuddle with him and he would become anyoyed at times, but I think it did him some good to be more active.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 1:30PM
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My last two cats lived to be 21 and 22 years old, respectively. I grew up with them, and we were a very animal-loving household, so they put up with new kittens on multiple occasions. "My cat" wasn't a huge fan of other cats, but wasn't at all stressed by them, as long as her people were around. The one that lived to be 22 played with new kittens (I fostered kittens from the Humane Society and got my mom into it), and he was also not at all stressed by kittens. The one that lived to be 22 was honestly "refreshed" by new kittens and ran around like a lunatic with them until a tumor under his tongue finally did him in. The other one couldn't have cared less about other cats/kittens, as she really was just obsessed with "her person".

My current cats are 1yo and 10yo, so they're pretty disparate in age, but they adore one another (when they aren't having "snit fits"). It really does just depend on the cat. The aforementioned 22yo loved new kittens and was thrilled to have new playmates. The one who lived to be 21 wasn't thrilled with them, but really wasn't stressed by them, either. She just ignored everything/everyone but "her human". My 10yo cat is perfectly happy with her younger companion.

I have owned and known cats that really would not be okay with a new cat, younger or not. It really just depends on the cat in question.

If you have a cat used to living alone, you have to be prepared for him/her rejecting a new pet. It's sad, because we are obviously already fond of our new pets, but you can't dump the old pets, and it's silly to try to force a situation that will never work. However, some animals will throw a fit for a while and eventually get over it. Hopefully, a pet-owner will be aware of what's what. If their pet is really, truly stressed beyond recovery, yes, it's irresponsible to force a new addition. However, there's usually a period of time that might be stressful whenever introducing new cats, and it shouldn't be confused with a cat that simply demands to be an "only cat" in a household.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2008 at 1:23AM
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we brought home our 'first' pet cat (putting quotes on that because we've taken in several strays before that were given to new homes) and went against the very widely preached 'don't bring a sick cat home from a shelter' mantra. we were so happy we did, we adore our two year old Alvin. about, say, 10 months ago we decided Alvin could do for a playmate, since we spend at least seven hours a day out and he is a religiously indoor cat. so we brought home Simon, who was the loudest, akwardest, most abrasive annoying (and i mean that in an affectionate way! trust me ;) ) kitten we found. the woman said that he was one of the cats that underwent the personality test and had shown signs of being a good companion. he was 5 months old. we thought he was just loud because he was lonely. (HA) so we brought him home, and sort of jumped the gun when we introduced them. silly us, instead of waiting and introducing them in a well trafficked 'neutral' part of the house after a few days, we let Simon out right away and let Alvin come in. all went well at first, but we could see Alvin was quick to loose patience.

fastfoward 10 months. at some points, we thought they would never become 'friends.' now, there is still some fighting with growling, but most of it is provoked by Alvin and they curl up next to eachother all the time. they do wrestle and Alvin puts the whoop on him, even though Simon is easily 1.5x his weight.

so it sort of depends, i think.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 8:28PM
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Me and my boyfriend got a new 8week old kitten on monday and we introduced him to our other 10year old cat Sylvester on Wednesday night.
He seemed ok(ish) untill Sprokket (the kitten) started to eat his food. At this point Sylvester crawled away with his belly to the ground to the kitchen door.
I reassured him and kept petting him whilst moving sprokket away from his bowl. He never attacked the kitten but did his at me once as i went to stroke him.
Sylvester spent the night inside the house and when i let him out next morning he seemed fine. As i was petting and stroking him to let him know that he is number one cat still (he was purring and lapping up the fuss).

unfortunately after i let him outside on thursday morning we haven't seen him since. He quite often goes out for days on end, but he's an elderly cat now (10years) and the nights are freezing cold. We're all worried sick that he might have done a runner. the kitten is now kept upstairs in mine and my boyfriends room.
is there a high chance that he may have run off? i could never forgive myself if he has done

    Bookmark   November 1, 2008 at 9:10AM
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my husband and i would love to welcome another cat/kitten into out home. we would be adopting from a shelter. the question is the cat i have now i joke saying he is my child, but the truth is i love him more then anything. we both work full time and go to school. jynxy the cat i have now just turned 7 and i think that having a "sibbling" would be good for him. my husband and i say to people that its the cats house we just live there he truley is the cemter of our attention. i am nervouse that jynxy might either be stand offish or truley love the new addition. i have read a lot about the subject and my next step is going our vet and speaking with her and also going to the shelter and speaking with the staff about the issue.

jynxy is our life he has gotten us through some good and bad times and i dont want to do anything that will hurt him. i dont want him to feel left out or unloved.

please help us with this very important and life changing event. we are open to all and any advise anyone might have

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 12:15AM
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I have been fostering kittens for several years and my cats always take to them. My three cats always groom the kittens and take them under wing.

My oldest cat recently adopted one of the foster kittens which is how we came to have three cats. It really just depends on the personality of the cat and if they are raised socially. Most cats are eventually very welcoming of new kittens.

At our shelter we always recommend a gradual meeting between them. They will hiss and growl at first but if the relationship is not forced, I would say 95% of the time, the new relationship works.

Maybe shut the new kitten into a room with food and water and a litter box for a day or two and then begin to slowly let the kitten roam the house.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 8:50AM
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Ok so me and my boyfriend have recently gotten our own place, 3 years ago we were given a cat from his grandmother. Recently we were offered a kitten from a friend, and our cat always seemed playful, and motherly, so I figured this was a great idea so then she can take the kitten in as her own, seeing as how she never had her own litter... Well I've never had to introduce cats before and well let's just say it didn't go as planned, our cat had hissed and started making some weird demonic sounds, and I felt that she was going to attack the kitten (which is only 8 weeks old) so we have been watching them since. Our cat will get about 3 feet from the kitten and start making weird noises, and hissing, I feel as though I have absolutely no clue what I'm doing, so any advice will be Great!!!! I plan on keeping them seperated during the night!!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 7:51PM
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I live on a farm and have two farm cats, Zippy being about 12 years old (female) and Cuddles (Zippy's nephew who is a neutered male) who is about 8 years old.

Today my dad brought home two new kittens from another farm, as we need to keep a cycle of cats to help keep down rats and other pests. Zippy and Cuddles are the friendliest cats I have ever known and we haven't yet introduced them to the kittens.

We are keeping the kittens in an old chicken run with straw, litter trays and food. We will introduce them to each other once the kittens have become friendlier towards us and will introduce them slowly.

Being a farm cat and a male, I am slightly concerned that Cuddles will not warm to the kittens, but I will post again once the kittens have met the two adult cats incase someone else is in this situation.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2011 at 3:29PM
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I already have a two year old female cat. She was once introduced to a dog and hid away. But now we are desperate for a little kitten. Is it best to have a girl and a boy? Or to girls?

    Bookmark   August 21, 2011 at 3:26PM
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Personally I do not think it is "selfish" or "unfair" to get a wee kitten when you already have cats, unless, of course, you don't care how your current cats will handle it. I just got a new male kitten yesterday and I already have three cats: the oldest who is male and 5; the middle one (for lack of a better age description) who is female and 4; and the youngest who is female and 3. While they are currently going through a rough patch - none of them are getting on with each other, always hissing and making a growling noise in the back of their throats. Thankfully, that's normal. The middle one has always been the dominate and is hissing at the other two, and the youngest is doing likewise. The oldest on the other hand isn't hissing at them anymore, he only hisses at the kitten, whenever he visits my room. The oldest is doing the best, he's scared of the kitten though, he's always been a big scaredy cat, and the youngest visited twice and gave the kitten a wee gentle paw when he was asleep. The middle one has visited once, which is great for her since she's the brat and I have no doubt she will be the last to take to him. I can't wait for the beginning to be over, I don't doubt that they'll get along in the end. The oldest has been through this twice, so he'll be the best with it. The middle one will be the worst, but she accepted the youngest so I think she'll be able to do so again. The youngest I thought would be quite bad along with the middle one, since she never went through a new kitten arriving, but she still acts like a baby herself and seems to want to be able to get along with the kitten. The oldest hides after he hisses, he really seems to want to just accept the kitten but can't stop his natural reactions to him. It's so annoying that cats can't understand what humans say, all we can really do is show them we love them just as much as ever and that a new cat/kitten won't change that.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 1:13PM
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My husband and I recently brought home a 3-month old female kitten as a companion for our 2 year old male. (Male is neutered, and kitten is scheduled to be spayed.) The initial introduction went pretty much how we expected (hissing, growling, adult cat batting at the kitten) but we didn't keep the kitten completely isolated. Whenever either of us were home, the kitten would go into the pet carrier, and set on the floor for the older cat to "explore." Once he stopped hissing at the kitten, after about 2 days, then we'd allow the kitten to come out and play, while we closed the adult cat in the kitten's "safe room." They had a chance to get used to each other's scents in a calm, low-stress environment. At night we would switch their cat beds so that they could learn to equate the other cat's smell with calm and comfort.
After 5 days, we started letting them roam around together (closely supervised). There was a small bit of posturing, hissing, growling, and pawing, but the claws never came out, and the big cat always backed off if the kitten acted like it was being hurt (which it never was... Drama queen...) By 7 days, the big cat had adopted the kitten. He grooms her for hours, and sometimes when we give him a treat, he nudges it at the kitten. They play rough, and it still worries me a little when the kitten cries out, but after a minute or two they're cuddled up together inside one of their cat beds.
I don't think that there's a magic "way" to introduce cats to each other, nor do I think there's anything wrong with bringing home a new kitten when you already have an older pet. I don't think that it's "selfish" to want to give your love to more than one pet. The best way to introduce new and old pets to one another is to expect a little friction, be prepared for it, and use your good judgement. You'll quickly learn which behaviors to watch out for, and which ones are simply a part of the introduction process. We now have two *VERY* happy and loving kitties, and the only advice that we followed, the only instructions that we stuck to, were our own.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 7:42PM
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I have a 13 year old cat, who has lived with other cats before and dogs, they have all since died. A few years ago we got another dog, which she accepted quite quickly. My cat is very possessive of me, as her person, she sleeps on my bed, I am basically her sole care giver.

Now I may have to take on a 6 week old feral kitten, due to medical reasons, and due to which it is unable to be returned to its mother. Would my current cat accept this new addition, I have no concerns regarding the dogs but I am cautios with my cat.

I don't want to cause her any undue stress either as she has heart troubles. If she may not or does not accept the new kitten, I will have to find a new home for the kitten as my cat is first and foremost in the house, even above the family dogs.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 8:13PM
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I need help about this, my adult flame is just a year and a bit old (about three months) and I've just bring home a female 2 month old feral. My cat hisses at her, and we've only had her just under a week. Well, my cat used to hiss at her, sort of. This feral is lovely, and wants to be friends. Me and my dad almost got them to be, and they touched noses. My kittens getting bolder, pouncing flames tail. Flame is such a good cat, he didn't even hiss! I just need to know if this is close or not to them being buddies for life. Thanks!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 2:26AM
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I have a 10 year old male cat (Abraham) and got a little female kitten (Mabel) about 3 months ago. It was definitely rough at first, especially because I live in a tiny apartment and couldn't do much to keep them separated except to keep Mabel in the bathroom while I was away. It is going much better now- Mabel does annoy Abraham by her playful jumpy ways, but she'll calm down soon enough and she is about to be spayed, which means I can let her outside and give her some new outlets for her energy.

Something to think about when getting a kitten while you already have an older cat is that the kitten can expose your older cat to sickness. I didn't realize it until a couple weeks after I got her- but Mabel came with ringworm, and gave it to Abraham. They are both on medication now and much better- but it really added insult to injury for poor Abraham. 1st I brought home this tiny menace, and on top of that she gave him this disgusting skin disease.

It is going much better now that a few months have passed- they curl up and take naps together and Abraham is pretty good about letting the kitten know when she has crossed a line. He isn't too rough with her and I don't worry about him hurting her. Most cats will work it out with each other over time- just make sure your older kitty doesn't feel neglected and still gets lots of cuddles. Kittens have a way of stealing the spotlight. :) Be patient with the situation and most kitties will eventually find their balance with one another. Even if they don't become friends, they'll at least learn to give one another some room.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 9:49PM
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