How to introduce a kitten to a multi-cat household?

Elizabeth from LA asked our team:

Hello Jimmie!

I have three cats already and decided to adopt one more kitten next month. Being an experienced cat owner, I still believe that I was just lucky enough for all my cats to live in peace. I want to find out how select and introduce a kitten to cats, and how to acclimate him?

  • Are there certain cats that get on better than others?
  • What is the best way to handle one cat that becomes aggressive?
  • What is the best way to handle one cat who feels threatened?
  • If one cat becomes ill, how can you prevent the other cats from becoming infected?
  • What is the difference between a multi-cat household and hoarding?

Thanks!
Best, Liz

Are there certain cats that get on better than others? What is the worst combination of cats?

Some pet owners believe cats are solitary creatures, but I can say from a professional perspective that it’s not so. Felines are social animals who love interacting with other species, though some disagreements happen when they try to team up with the own one.

The best combination is kittens of the same litter: They play together, stimulating each other physically and mentally. As for kittens from different litters, one rule’s to consider: the younger, the better. (Take youngsters before they are seven weeks old.)

Adult felines better get along with cats of younger age and the opposite sex. The worst combination would be two adult cats of the same sex, females in particular. Two males are more likely to become friends, especially if they are easy-going by nature.

What is the best way to handle one cat that becomes aggressive?

First off, figure out a reason for aggression. The most common ones are fear, lack of socialization (if a cat lived alone in the early life stage, but you decided to adopt another feline), and the battle for territory. But if a few cats did pretty well, and then their behavior patterns suddenly changed, it could be a sign of health issues. Take an aggressive cat to a vet so that a specialist could rule out underlying medical causes.

Depending on a reason for aggression, ways to manage it differ. If it’s play aggression, consider loud claps or spray cats with a water gun. If it’s maternity aggression or battles between two male cats, neuter them. If it’s inter-cat hostility or territorial aggression, reduce their competition: provide identical bowls, beds, and separate litter boxes in different areas of your home.

What is the best way to handle one cat who feels threatened?

Here go the signals that a cat feels frightened or threatened: she hides or runs away, freezes in place, refuses to use a litter box, or attacks human or other cats. To prevent and handle such behavior, please make sure to slowly introduce her to the fearful situation and provide more hiding spots and perches so that a cat could space herself out more comfortably.

You might also need to re-introduce cats if they have no luck making a hitch of it. A behavioral specialist will help choose the best strategy for every individual case.

If one cat becomes ill, how can you prevent the other cats from becoming infected?

Most would recommend keeping them in separate rooms and disinfect yourself after visiting the “sick” one. It makes sense, as feline urine and saliva are contagious.

But the problem is that most cat diseases have an incubation period, which means a feline can be already infected for some time before she starts being sick. It makes it very likely that other cats are infected too, so the separation becomes useless. According to expert recommendations, regular check-ups in vets and boosting cats’ immune systems with prescribed vitamins will be the best option.

What is the difference between a multi-cat household and hoarding?

Hoarding isn’t about the number of cats in the household but behavior toward them. It’s a mental disorder, defining by keeping too many cats (more than seems reasonable) without the ability to care for them but denying this inability at the same time.

According to the 2016 report by BBC, the average cat hoarder keeps between 15 and 20 cats though the worst cases were the households with 40-50 felines.

The inability to provide due care and attention to cats but continue “collecting” them anyway distinguishes a hoarder from a multi-cat owner.


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