Tips and Advice For Bringing a New Cat Into a Household With Existing Cats

by Deb at 5:50 AM • Caturday Adventures, Kizmet54 Comments

By now, most of you know that we have a new feline family member, little Kizmet that I got from a Pet Supermarket adoption, and the pressing question of the day is “how is he getting along with the other cats?” Well, truth be told, I have no idea because he has not met them yet and that is the subject of today’s post – how to properly introduce a new cat or kitten into a household with one or more cats already settled in it.

Since I had not anticipated leaving Pet Supermarket with a kitten, I was unprepared for Kizmet's arrival. Here he is in my office where he is spending his time until he can meet the other cats. You will quickly note I did not have time to vacuum the rug.

When you make the very serious decision to adopt a new pet, in this case, a kitten, you envision all sorts of playful hi-jinks and shenanigans with your existing cat (in my case, seven) who will welcome the new feline mate with open paws and it is so tempting to want them to meet right away. What you normally get is a long and sometimes traumatic period of anger issues, territorial issues, jealousy issues – in a nutshell – a lot of hissing, fur flying, growling, territory marking, and a host of other behavioral issues from your residing felines who are typically NOT HAPPY at all that you have invaded their delicate social dynamic just because your eyes bonded and you fell head over heels in love with your newest furry bundle of joy.

So, first and foremost, it is extremely important for the well-being of all, including the sanity of any residing humans, that the introduction is done gradually and that you don’t led a kitten to a lion’s den, so to speak. Kizmet is extremely well adjusted and bold in the office where we are keeping him, but just imagine seven gargantuan Goliath’s to one tiny and innocent little David. Hardly a fair fight! The cats are already on edge – poking at the office door and jumping several feet in the air when Kizmet’s paw pokes out from underneath and when they finally meet face to face, it is bound to be unsettling for all.

This is Kizmet at the vet's office for his first checkup. He was such a good boy and everyone fell in love with him!

It is also imperative that you ensure the physical health of all involved. In my case, even though Kizmet came with papers documenting all of his shots and boosters and was neutered and micro chipped, that does not necessarily mean he has a clean bill of health. ALWAYS, no matter what the circumstances, regardless of the cat or kitten’s age, regardless of whether you found him on the streets, got him from a breeder, a shelter, or pet adoption center, or even if you are not bringing him into an existing cat household, please bring the cat to the vet for a checkup. Cats in a shelter environment, in particular, are quite prone to many contagious viruses, typically upper respiratory in nature, and you certainly do not want to infect your other cats.

I tried to make Kizmet's stay in the office as enjoyable as possible. Here he is getting some fresh air with the window open. I am also getting him on the Ellen bandwagon early so that maybe he can help get me on her show!

Despite the temptation, even if your new kitty seems to look fine, it is recommended you keep the kitten in sequester for two weeks to make certain all is well. Make sure you have a separate litter box and food dish that the other cats are not sharing and wash your hands any time after handling your new kitty so as to avoid any potential germs being passed to your other cats. I have even changed my clothing the first week after handling Kizmet before I interacted with my other cats just to be extra cautious. Kizmet did go to the vet the day after I got him and the good news – his stool sample came back negative. He did have a respiratory infection which he is taking medication for and undue stress can aggravate the virus, so it is best to let it run its full course. 

Once you feel safe with the health issues, you need to slowly introduce the cats to one another and I do not plan on having all seven cats meet Kizmet at once. I will first rub a towel on Kizmet to let the other cats smell to get accustomed to his scent so that it is more familiar to them. I will then put them into a spare bedroom and let Kizmet explore a larger area of the house without fear of the other cats attacking him. When the other cats do get introduced to him, I will try to do it slowly, letting him meet one or two at a time so he is not bullied and overwhelmed. This process will take quite a while and once I feel confident that he can defend himself and is comfortable, the integration process will be complete.

I felt bad that Kizmet had to be stuck in the office all day and night, so I tried to encourage as much play time with him as possible. Despite that I brought him tons of kitty toys, his favorite toy, bar none, is a wadded up piece of paper that he would play fetch with for hours!

This, of course, is an abridged version – the process might miraculously happen quickly in days, or it might take weeks or months for them all to get along. Generally, even if they don’t 100% like one another, cats are able to coexist in a peaceful manner if there are plenty of high and low spots for each cat to claim as their own for napping and security. We have no shortage of kitty condos, beds, couches, chairs, etc. to keep all the cats happy and another way to encourage friendships between the cats and good behavior is to have the kitten  participate in the daily ritual of feeding time, treats, and interactive toys so that the cats associate Kizmet with good things and not negativity. Having plenty of clean litter boxes available is critical too – cats have a tendency to react to stress with bad litter habits and if you do not keep the litter clean  and give them lots of boxes to use, you are only contributing to a potential problem that can be very difficult to cure.

Kizmet and I spent some incredible time bonding - here he is, completely worn out, but wanting to be by my side as I do my blogging!

The other important thing, no matter how tempting it is to spend all your time with the new kitty, you must remember to give extra special bonding time with each individual existing cat in your home who might be feeling jealous or neglected. Keep their routines as normal as possible and remember that when they act out, they are doing it because that is how cats are wired and it does not mean they are bad cats. Eventually all of the effort acclimating the feline family to one another will be nothing but a distant memory….

Now, as a special Caturday bonus, I am thrilled to share this short video clip of Kizmet playing fetch with his beloved wadded ball of paper. Forewarning – what you are about to see is absolutely adorable!!

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  1. hmmm Deb, for some reason I feel like this post may be meant as a very subtle hint for someone….I just shared with Mark and as I write this he is watching Kizmet’s video. I’ll keep you posted.

    • Deb says:

      Toni – when Kizmet and I “found” one another, I did not even question the logic of it… hence the meaning of his name… fate. I just somehow felt he was supposed to come into my life for a reason. If he can be the poster kitty of success to help inspire other adoptions, then I know that is why – he is the messenger of hope to increase cat adoptions!! I’ll keep my paws crossed and can’t wait to hear the updates!

  2. meowmeowmans says:

    Oh! Deb, that video of Kizmet was SO adorable! He is really fast, and I love how he fetches that wadded up paper. :)

    Great tips on integrating a new cat into a home. We always take it slow here, and it has always (eventually) worked out. I sure wish more people would know to be patient with the process.\

    Have a great Sunday!

    • Deb says:

      Glad you enjoyed the video, meowmeowmans!! It is even more adorable to see in person!! I wish more people would know to be patient as well, then maybe there would be less cats brought to shelters for behavior issues…

  3. You realize I’ve had many sleepless nights already…this is causing me to think, rethink, and think some more! We may have to talk!

    Just LOVE sweet Kizmet. xo
    : ) Glogirly

    • Deb says:

      Muahhaahahahaha, Glogirly!! That was my intention all along and my evil plan has worked!! Just wait for my next post, you will soon be completely mine and helpless to stop yourself from adopting!!

  4. Oh totally SQUEE-worthy! (Are you working on Glogirly? Hrm….INTERESTING…!)

    Great advice on the clothes-changing. I do that every time I return from volunteering at Wayside. Some of those pesky illnesses are way to easy to transmit on clothing…!

    And yes, slow is key. Did you know it took 9 months before Ryker & Allie could coexist?

  5. Connie says:

    I adore everything about Kizmet.. how adorable he is, the care you took to consider your household and your life before adopting and now this post.

    Adding cats to a multiple cat household isn’t easy (says the woman with a cat on her shoulder purring in her ear and one nosing my thumb trying to get me to pat him), and I appreciate you taking the time to share your journey with everyone. Such great advice that I have nothing to offer :) Having had eight cats at one time before (I’m now at seven due to VAS) I can only read this and smile.

    • Deb says:

      Thanks Connie!! You are a kindred spirit like me – I feel like I have been doing this since I was a little girl (probably because I have) – so a lot of it is second nature to me, and some of it is information I have learned along the way! At my highest animal count, I had 4 dogs, 5 cats, a rabbit, and a frog all at the same time!! I always love hearing from you and your stories too!

  6. Hi Deb, Cokie’s mom Kristin, here. Cokie HATED me for a full 6 months before finally giving in and loving me again after I brought home his sweet Wynnie girl princess cat. It was hell on my relationship with Cokie (not Michael – he was fine. I was the betraying girlfriend). But it was worth it.

    • Deb says:

      Yeah, I understand, Kristen… Zoey is not too thrilled with me at the moment, but you are right… it will be worth it!!! Kizmet is such a doll and he already fills my heart with more love than I could have ever imagined!

  7. What a face that Kizmet has. Looks like trouble! MOL.

  8. Penelope says:

    He is furry talented! Mes would never ever play fetch! And he is sooo cute!
    Kisses
    Nellie