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

by Deb at 5:50 AM • 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!!

Loved this article? Share it with your friends!
spread the love!

Click to join the conversation

  1. Ingrid King says:

    I can see why Kizmet stole your heart! What a cutie! And this is a great article. Even though in (very few) cases, instant introductions just magically work, in most cases, it can’t be stressed enough how important going slowly is.The video is just precious!

  2. Marg says:

    He is so darn handsome and cute too. I just love his face. One thing I would suggest when you start the introduction of Kizmet to the others is to make sure Kizmet can get back into his safe place. That room is his safe haven. He will need somewhere to hide possibly.

    Hope it all goes well. My feeling is that it will be fine.Take care.

  3. We’ve just gone through the introduction phase here with Raz. One of the reasons we picked a smaller/younger kitty was to make the Birman girls feel more comfortable with him. We spent a lot of time with him in his “safe” room and the girls checking him out under the door. I also traded rooms so they could get used to each other’s smells. The “meet and greet” went pretty well with only some minor hissing. Ellie pretty much accepted him from the beginning, Allie took a bit longer. I think the fact that the two girls are pretty laid back made a huge difference in the transition. Today is 2 weeks since Raz came and it seems like he’s always been part of the family. The transition took longer when we brought in foster cats but they were older, larger cats.

    Kizmet is soooo cute!!!

    The Florida Furkids

  4. Hiya Kizmet!
    My human thinks you’re super cute (hmpf). You sure showed that paper ball who was the boss.
    Hope you can play with your new family soon too!

  5. Very good info on how to introduce a new kitty, both from a health and emotional standpoint. I think doing it as you describe helps ensure the best transition for the resident cats…kittens are resilient and will ‘forgive’ you the isolation time (although Kismet has it made in your office with you and that paper ball to play with) and by the time the rest of the kitties actually meet him, he will be over his cold and they will be familiar with his scent and presence. Good job, Deb and I look forward to the stories ahead!

  6. Rosemary says:

    Excellent advice for anyone introducing anew cat!

    Kizmet gets a 10 on the adorable scale!

  7. Wendy S. says:

    Oh my gosh, Kizmet IS so adorable…What a funny boy to fetch like that. My cats would look at me like I was crazy. Really great advice about introducing kitties to each other. Comes the day, I know I’ll need to remember this. But not for a long time.Kizmet reminds me of the Cheshire Cat from “Alice in Wonderland”

  8. Aah I can’t wait to meet him!

    • Deb says:

      Christine… it seems the only time we meet now, is out of state!! Maybe you can come by during Christmas week – all the kids will be visiting and would love to see you!

  9. Cheryl says:

    The vid is totally adorable. Kizzy’s back end skidding out from under him when he reaches the paper ball is LOL funny. His paws are HUGE. Slightly unnervingly huge, really. He’s going to be one big hunka, hunka fuzzy lovin’ when he’s full-grown (more to enjoy, I say).

    • Deb says:

      Sigh… I fear you are right, Cheryl! Since we do not know his parents, I can only guess his breed, which appears to be part Maine Coon – his hind legs are huge and the rest of his body has not grown into them yet! Sometimes he looks like a Bobcat or Lynx and I can only imagine how big he will be!

  10. OMG, don’t tell my boys, but I’m in love with Kizmet!

  11. He is gorgeous! I love to see cats carrying their toys around. When Eric was young, he used to play fetch and drop the paper in my hand when he brought it back. Now if I throw anything, he looks at me as much as to say, “If you want it then you go fetch it.”

    • Deb says:

      That is so funny, Eric and Flynn. Our oldest cat, Jazz, has been a fetcher since he was a kitten and still loves to play. The others, well, they look at me like I am from Mars when I throw the paper to them!

  12. Connie Marie says:

    I fell in love also, from the 1st picture! The upper respitory infection is very very common when coming to a new home, please wait till your cats don’t jump when his foot sticks out under the door. They will soon be interested in that foot.
    Switching items with their scent both ways is great! The 1st time we brought 2 cats home from the shelter and then put their blanket in the living room our original 8 jumped like it burnt their feet for 2 weeks! Don’t get discouraged, it can take well over 3 months to start intrductions. Keep switching blankets so tthe scent is fresh. It’ll be fine

    • Deb says:

      Oh goodness, Connie – I am not discouraged! I have been introducing animals to one another for as long as I can remember! Trust me, when you can get Zee & Zoey’s book, I tell all about my life with my parade of animals!! xoxo

  13. Michelle S says:

    Seriously, I am in LOVE!!!! If you lived nearby, I might be tempted to catnap Kizmet! 🙂 Really great post too! People don’t always think about changing clothes (shoes too) and washing hands before going back and forth between the new and existing cats. While an upper respiratory infection isn’t fun, it isn’t the worse thing that can be transmitted. Panleukopenia, a deadly virus, is said to have an incubation period of up to 14 days, but a virus can’t use a calender, so give or take a few days or a week. I always tell people to make certain that their cats are up to date on all of their vaccinations prior to bringing home a new cat or kitten. I’m definitely not one to over vaccinate, but I’ve seen Panleukopenia first hand while fostering, and it was horrific with a high death rate.

    Enough gloom and doom! I think that you’re doing a fantastic job! I go one step further and rub a hand towel on each and every cat near their scent glands (over and over) so that every cat’s scent is on each of them. After the URI is cleared, of course! I did that with a Mama cat that had previously rejected a newborn that I wanted her to take care of, but just a few days later, the towel trick worked with yet another newborn and she took fabulous care of him.

    • Deb says:

      Michelle – great comments and advice. I feel it is important to share these types of posts so that people realize what they need to be aware of. Sometimes the adoption centers don’t give you the type of advice you really need.

  14. sue brandes says:

    Congrats on your new furbaby. He is so handsome.

  15. Brian says:

    That was a terrific and useful post! That little one is so cute, we’re still smiling just seeing his pics!

  16. Excellent post! And Kismet is adorable! Good luck with introducing Kismet to the others. It’s always best to take it slow and easy to have a successful introduction!

    Island Cats’ mom

  17. Kizmet is a heartbreaker!! Eight cats, I could not imagine. My house is full at three, lol. Good post, and I hope that when they all meet, everyone welcomes the newcomer with an open paw.

  18. Deb, Kismet looks so sweet, I can see why this adoption had to happen.

    I love that you are sharing so much about about the introduction process, and all the best tips you know, because you are so right: adding new cats is no simple thing and we all need to find ways to make it easier so we can bring more of these little love & joy buddies into our homes.

    Even though I’ve learned a lot of this from behaviorists, I notice i still have some trepidation. Hearing first-hand stories from people like you helps me feel more ready myself. I look forward to more updates. Thank you.

    • Deb says:

      Liz – I really appreciate your response and understand your trepidation. Sometimes the best help does come from first-hand advice and I am glad my journey with Kizmet and my other cats is helping you out! I have been introducing animals to one another in my life more years than I can count! Bottom line for me, any initial stress is worth it in the long run for the love and companionship you get by adopting a pet!

  19. Fisher says:

    That face. That fabulous face! And how many cats will return their catch so you can throw it again. Awesome video!

  20. CATachresis says:

    What an informative post! Kizmet is a sweetie, but can’t see the video on ipad, so will have to come back later! xx

    • Deb says:

      CATachresis – I would watch that video privately, because Austin is going to be none to pleased with what Kizmet can do and will surely let you know in no uncertain terms that he will not be fetching any paper balls for you any time soon!