Is my kitten getting too much solitude?

alisandeAugust 13, 2011

In the past, whenever we acquired a new kitten we'd make sure we got another so they'd have a playmate. But I'm not in a position to do that anymore. Here's the situation:

As I posted earlier, a stray cat gave birth to three kittens in my ice house. I had the mother spayed, and found good homes for the calico and black kittens. The one I expected to be adopted first, an orange female, was not taken, and I decided to keep her. Peachy was the smallest of the three, and the bravest. She is frisky, funny, and fast!

I have two adult indoor cats. Pogo is four years old, and Annie (age unknown) is his mother. Pogo, almost all black, was a feral kitten. He is quite devoted to me, and is wonderfully laid back and affectionate in my presence. But he has retained some of his feral nervousness about new people and situations, as feral kittens often do.

Annie is a dark calico. When I removed her and her kittens from my neighbor's barn she was very friendly and sweet. I don't know whether she changed radically after the kittens were weaned, or if she suffered some brain damage from a liver problem she had around the same time, but she definitely doesn't act like she used to. She loves some people (especially strangers), but hates cats--including her son. The presence of the stray cat (a highly protective mother) on our porch has got her on edge all the time, and if they ever met for real I hate to think what the outcome would be.

My old procedure was to keep a kitten in my bedroom for two weeks, then gradually introduce him/her to the resident cats. But I never had a resident cat quite like Annie. I think it might be best to postpone introductions until the kitten is larger. Right now she's tiny at 9 or 10 weeks old.

So Peachy is upstairs zipping around my bedroom during the day. I go up to check on her and play with her several times, and lie down with her for at least a half hour. But it still seems like a lot of solitude for a young animal, especially since I'm out of the house three times a week for physical therapy. Should I be concerned? At night I have her in a dog carrier so I can sleep. It's outfitted with food, water, and a litter pan, and she doesn't complain about it, so I'm hoping that's okay, too.

Here's Peachy in motion:

and (momentarily) at rest:

Thanks for your advice!

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I have no advice. but that is the cutest kitten ever!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love the ear tufts!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 6:18PM
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I think you're wise to take introductions slow. Everyone always wants to rush the process. She's sooo much better hanging around in your room alone with visits than stuck in a shelter cage so don't feel guilty.

You might find that if you give her a bunch of activity before going to bed, she'll sleep right through the night cuddled next to you. You'd have to tire her out for that, though or she'll be pouncing all over you!!! That would give her a lot more people time.

Since you aren't in any hurry, when you think the time is right, let Pogo meet her first since he sounds like he's the easier of the two. If Peachy is already crate trained that might work in your favor. Pogo can come in the room and investigate/sniff, etc while Peachy is crated. Hopefully, if they can bond and play together than that's going to save poor Annie so much grief! No matter how big Peachy is, she's going to want to play with Annie! They'll have to work out the pecking order and they will. I have and older cat that doesn't get along with my 2 others. It really helps that the 2 others can play together. They do the Indy-500 through the house and the older one has some peace.

I think your new kitten is adorable! Babies are so much fun :)

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 9:56PM
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I know one thing with absolute certainty. The more exposure to others an animal has when young, the better off it is later on in life. Bring the kitten out in supervised visits with the other cats, First visit 1/2 an hour -you there the whole time, then gradually increase the amount of time spent. As someone who has had animals all my life, it often turns out those you are most worried about are often the ones that surprise you the most. Give the cats a chance, be there to intervene just in case. Good luck

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 10:55PM
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spedigrees z4VT

Cats are basically solitary animals, so I don't think there is such a thing as too much solitude for a cat. Greater problems arise when cats who don't like each other are forced to share the same space.

I have had solitary cats, including my current 18 yr old who outlived the two elder kitties with whom she was forced to share the house, as well as multiple cats over the course of my 60+ years. The solitary cats tended to have the best quality of life and seemed most secure. The multiple kitties maintained their separate territories within the house during their lifetimes, and hissy confrontations occurred whenever one cat infringed on another's territory.

If one prefers to have more than one cat, then related cats seem to do best, ie a mom and her offspring, or siblings.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 9:20AM
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Cats establish geographical territories that are theirs alone. Dogs establish packs and share territory. So I agree with spedigrees that you should not be concerned about your kitty living alone as long as she has an enriched environment (the photos show that she does!) and she has good quality time with you. Peaches is absolutely adorable btw, and I'm so glad you kept her!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 11:18AM
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Alisande, I was worrying that our Missy was going thru the same thing, at times she seems sad. Our difference from yours is that her mom and 'half siblings' (from a previous litter) are still outside so she sees them thru the windows and doors. She hangs with one of our boys, he tolerates her pretty well, allows her to sleep with him and plays with him until she bites too hard. We sort went thru this with Dude when he was a kitten, Tiffany was 19 and wanted nothing to do with him. He now treats Missy the same way.

All in all, I think they are pretty resilient and will find ways to entertain themselves a lot of the time. But we play with her and play with them all together to encourage all of them to play together.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 6:53PM
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There's a big difference between the social needs of a young kitten and those of a mature cat. Whereas a mature cat may prefer a solitary territory and feline hierarchy, young kittens need to be raised around their own kind in order to promote healthy psychological and social development. I agree with Mazer. Peachy should be integrated into your household as quickly as possible, but it must be done safely to prevent injury in case Annie is dangerously physically aggressive toward her.

That said, I have found that very young kittens are surprisingly easy to integrate into my VERY multicat household. In fact, I am stunned at how tolerant even my most intolerant and aggressive adults have been toward young kittens, and just how much the kittens can get away with. It seems a kitten's cuteness factor works as well on adult cats as it does on us humans. It really is amazing how obnoxious a kitten can be and still not get pounded into dust by an adult.

If you really think Annie might go after Peachy in a dangerous manner, put a harness and leash on Annie during the first few introductions so that you can prevent any violent attacks against the baby. My guess, though, is that Annie won't do much more than issue verbal warnings and the occasional slap to teach Peachy proper boundaries, and that's exactly what Peachy needs to learn at this stage in her development.


    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 7:50PM
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Thanks for your input, everyone! Peachy's getting her shots tomorrow, and perhaps I'll make a move toward introductions after that. On Wednesday she'll have been in my bedroom for three weeks.

I forgot to mention that we've had one attempt at an introduction already. Holding Peachy, I let Pogo in my bedroom one day. He didn't see her at first, but then he did. He puffed up like a porcupine and hissed. Peachy reacted by flying out of my hands and onto the bed, inflicting five band-aids' worth of scratches to my fingers in the process. I scooped her back up and put her in the crate, then went to check on Pogo. I found him cowering in the corner, still puffed and terrified. Not an auspicious start!

Sweet idea to sleep with Peachy, but I'm not tempted to try. I had to get up at 3:45 a.m. today, and tried to nap with her this afternoon. Peachy loves to groom me (lick, lick), and I'm not all that crazy about it--especially since her favorite spot to lick is my ears! So I spent the entire "nap" time removing her from the vicinity of my head and unsuccessfully encouraging her to settle on my lap--or anywhere else. This is typical.

Also, I think I'm more allergic to her than I am to Pogo. (I'm a little allergic to Annie, too.) Twice now I've been awakened during the night by intense itching in my right eye. I wouldn't be surprised if one of her super-fine hairs is invisibly stuck in there.

Anyway, I appreciate everyone's ideas and support. I'll report back!


    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 8:08PM
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Don't underestimate the power of scent! If you aren't already, try swapping out items with each cats scent while you're waiting for the meet-and-greets. I'm still holding out hope Pogo will come around and play with Peachy but maybe Annie will surprise us!

Funny thing about scent. I brought my cat home from a vet trip (she was gone only about 2 hours) and her playmate didn't recognize her. This is the second time it's happened (so next time they are going together). Both times it took 2-3 days for the one that was home to get to know the other one again. We're talking hissing, growling and aggressive stances. They both get along, are in all day together, play, and usually where one is snooping the other is not far behind. They are buddies. They don't sleep together so the being apart for a couple of hours couldn't have made a difference. I'm attributing it all to scent.

Do let us know what approach you end up taking and how it's all working out!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 4:58PM
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Hi - I'm reporting back at last. We had a car accident in the family that put everything on hold for a couple of weeks, and then I went to work full-time for two weeks to help out the newspaper where I used to work. So Peachy was sequestered in my bedroom for quite some time.

When I first brought her downstairs, Pogo did a lot of hissing and bopping her with his paw. I think Peachy thought he was playing, but you could tell she wasn't sure. She didn't act afraid, just cautious. Annie the Mean, on the other hand, withdrew to the piano bench to observe.

As the days went on, Peachy spending a couple of hours at a time downstairs, Peachy's interaction with Pogo became less aggressive and more like play. She chases him sometimes, or sneaks up behind him to touch his tail, then jumps backward. (Kittens are so agile!) Pogo is still jealous (hissed BIG time when he was on my lap yesterday and she tried to join us) and seeks me out a lot, but I'm happy with the way things are going. Annie has come down from her perch and interacts more with Peachy--not in a friendly way, exactly, but at least she isn't attacking.

So I would say we're on the right path. I look forward to Peachy giving Pogo more exercise!

Thanks again for all your good advice and support.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 11:52AM
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