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Whisker Wednesday: Pet ‘Net & Cat Intros

Tímon að hugsa um systur sína

Adoption love...a beautiful thing! (photo courtesy of Maria Magnus)

Yes, it’s time for the 4th Annual Pet ‘Net Event, yee-haw! And this year we’re re-visiting the first topic, and a fav of one and all–PET ADOPTIONS!

Pet ‘Net 2011 joins pet bloggers (including me!) all across the country to spread the furry word on November 16 about the many advantages of pet adoption. There are even ways you can donate and help promote all adoptions.

Since November is also National Adopted A Senior Pet Month, I’ve already blogged aboutpuppy-to-senior-dog-adoptions at my Puppies Site. That means today’s Woof Wednesday blog has been hijacked by the kitties. Mee-wow!

Kitten to Old Fogey Cat Intros

Cat lovers often decide to adopt a new pet without consulting the old-fogey feline. Maybe you’ve recently lost a beloved old cat and believe the surviving feline is lonely, or perhaps you worry that the singleton kitty is bored without companionship.

Maybe. Or maybe not.

Here’s the deal–would you want to have a funny-smelling stranger come into your home, sleep in your bed, eat from your place, poop in your toilet (without flushing!) and go cheek-to-cheek with your beloved? Proper intros work wonders to smooth the hissy fits.

Kittens Don’t Count

Well, they do, but not so much in terms of social standing. Your senior citizen kitty already “owns” your pillow, the top of the TV, the litter box and food bowl–and your heart. A kitten due to age won’t challenge the older cat’s authority nearly as much as an in-her-prime adult feline. So when thinking about adopting a new furry wonder, a baby cat won’t be as big of a threat or challenge to your resident feline’s status quo.


Shelter kittens smell like...well, shelters.

Stranger Danger

Getting hissy with strange cats is a NORMAL cat behavior. In the wild, the feline that’s too friendly with a weird interloper risks getting eaten. Cats identify safe people (or other pets) by their familiar smell. A fresh-from-the-shelter a new pet that hasn’t been kitty-groomed by the group with licks and cheek rubs might as well be Frankenstein-Cat.

Tolerate THIS!

The sight, sound, and smell of a strange cat pushes kitty buttons to extreme. But blocking one sense (sight of each other for example) reduces arousal. That helps enormously during cat-to-cat intros, which is one reason my must-do list includes initially separating the cats. That also allows your older cat to maintain run of the house and ownership of all the prime kitty real estate.

Shut The Door

Confine the new kitten in a single “safe room” so the resident cat understands only part of his territory has been invaded. Young kittens that haven’t a clue anyway won’t care. But if they’re the least shy, being sequestered offers a safe, soothing retreat with a litter box, food and water bowls, toys, scratch post and other kitty paraphernalia. Being the “new kid” can be stressful for shrinking violet kittens so build the baby’s confidence with a room of his or her own before the whisker-to-whisker meeting.

Keep the solid door closed for at least a week before risking a face-to-face. Watch for your resident cat’s reaction. Hisses are normal. Trust me on this! It may take more than three weeks before those growly-sounds fade.

See, if you try to intro them too soon and the fur flies, the cats will remember that AWFUL-NASTY-TURRIBLE-DEVIL and bring a bad c’attitude to future meetings. It’s better to take it slow and avoid having the kitties practice bad behavior. They’ll have a lifetime together so what’s a delay of a few days or weeks?

Feed the cats on opposite sides of the door, to associate each other’s smell with good things. After each cat has had a meal, switch out the plates temporarily so that they can sniff the bowls and become even more familiar with each other. It’s even better when a bit of food is left, because that helps the cats identify good stuff—food—with the other animal.

Try some playtime on opposite sides of the door, too. Have another family member deal with the kitten while you (or whoever your aging kitty ADORES THE MOST) interacts with the resident feline. Catnip could be helpful–sure, get the old guy drunk. If he sniffs the kitten and gets a bit of a buzz, that could be a very positive association.

Sniffing and paw pats underneath the door are positive signs. The cats should “know” each other by scent before they ever set eyes on each other. Expect normal posturing, fluffed fur and hissing and when that begins to fade, you’re ready for the next step.

Trading Spaces

Swap out the cats after a few days. That gives the old cat a chance to get up close and personal sniffing where the devil new cat has been. And it allows the newly adopted baby to scope out the environment.Kitties have no interest in meeting new people or pets unless they feel comfortable with their environment.

Reduce any potential kitty controversy by creating a house of plenty. Your home should have so much good-kitty-stuff that there’s no need for the kitten and old cat to argue over it.

Place multiple litter boxes and feeding stations in different locations so that one cat can’t own and “guard” the facilities. Increase territory with cat trees, shelves to lounge, tunnels and boxes to hide, and toys galore. It doesn’t have to break the bank, either. Cheap thrills like empty paper bags or wads of paper serve as irresistible toys that often appeal more than the high dollar versions. Cardboard boxes, a cleared shelf on the bookcase, or a soft blanket under a lamp really get the purr-motor rumbling.

Nose-To-Nose At Last

Once the BIG DAY arrives, just open the “safe room” door, stand back, and let the cat’s meet. Supervise, of course, but don’t force interaction. You can feed them on opposite sides of the room or play interactive games at a distance to smooth this first meeting. The cats may ignore each other for hours or days and that’s fine, too.

A bit of posturing with hisses, cautionary swats and other snark-icity is to be expected. Do stop the interactions if growls start rumbling. You may want to replace the closed door with a baby gate so the cats can sniff and meet through the safety of a barrier but still be segregated. Until you’re sure the old cat won’t mangle the baby, or the baby won’t terrorize the oldster, supervise or keep the new kitten segregated when you can’t. It can be love at first sight, or may take weeks or months to accept somebody new into the family.

For all you new kitten adopters out there–conCATulations! You’ll find many more kitten-specific tips in my Complete Kitten Care book.


This month as a special “thank you” to all my furry-fantastic-followers, I’ll give away a paw-tographed copy of Complete Care for Your Aging Cat and Complete Care for Your Aging Dog. To get in the running, simply post a comment in the blog about your special pet (old fogey or not) and I’ll draw two names at the end of the month. You can use these award-winning updated books as a resource for yourself or wrap up for a pet-friendly holiday gift to a fur-loving friend. And as an EXTRA-special incentive–and to encourage all of y’all to mentor each other and spread the blogging/twitter/Facebook love–the two winners get to name one purr-son who gives them wags of support and deserves a book, too!

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting. We’ve become a great community including those in the #MyWANA social network twibe hosted by the awesome @KristenLambTX.  So I’m stealing borrowing Kristen’s methods and creating my own hashtag. Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

About amyshojai

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant (dogs/cats), award winning author of 30+ pet care titles and thrillers, and spokesperson to the pet industry.

29 responses »

  1. A-ha, says the Grasshopper….I begin to understand why friends’ kitty adoptions have not always gone well!

    • *s* Jenny, some folks just drop the kitties in together and expect them to “work it out.” And sometimes it DOES work out–but too often, the fur flies.

      • For whatever reason my parents have usually had that kind of luck. But it seems easier when you’re introducing cat to colony of cats, since we had a family group before the strays started getting dropped. LOL Newbie starts at the bottom of the totem pole but is tolerated. Only one who took a long time to get fully accepted is Splat (so named because she first showed up by splatting her face against the front window every night), but I can’t blame the other cats… she’s CRAZY.

        • Hi Karyl, it’s not unusual for kitties that try to join colonies to be shunned for a time. Even if they AREN’T crazy like Splat. (love that name!)

          • Hehe yea, she’s just the only one who took that long to integrate with the barn kitties. Went smoother after Simba left. Simba absolutely HATED her. LOL (she didn’t move inside with me until she was about 8)

            Splat is a “special child”… goes beyond love biting and straight into all-out gnawing at random. Only cat I’ve ever known who doesn’t show any warning signs before she chomps… James and I call her the zombie kitty. My dad just calls her a pain. LOL She’d be a great cat if it weren’t for that whole trying to eat people thing. I wouldn’t trust falling asleep with her in the room. 😛

  2. Being in this exact situation currently this makes a great deal of sense. The baby gate is a great idea and we’ll be trying that out. Things have not gone so well with the fogey cat exploring, hissing and running to his sanctum after the kitten “explores” him in an overly familiar fashion. Our older guy hasn’t had much experience with other cats which I’m sure is part of the issue as well. The kitten seems fine with him, she just wants to play.

    Thanks for the awesome information, Amy. We’ll be trying these tips out 🙂

  3. Thank you for the informative post Amy. We have a gate in our habitat.

  4. Love it — tips for adding animals to the home are ALWAYS welcome. Thanks, Amy…

    • folks dont realise how difficult it can be to introduce pets into a previously pet free zone. When couples start living together it can be difficult if the pet is the third part of the relationship. All help is really useful. Thanks for your good blog.

  5. Great advice on how to make the transition MUCH more smooth. Love it Amy…

  6. Great advice! Thanks for sharing!

  7. I love your analogy about the stinky stranger coming into your home and sleeping on your bed! We often love our pets without understanding their needs. Great post.

  8. Full of great advice and information! Very well done- Thank you Amy!
    In kinship, Pia

  9. oops- sent wrong email address with last comment- signed up with correct one now- sorry!

  10. The only time Romeo ever hissed was when we brought Pugsley home! Luckily they are now best buds. We’ve considered getting a third cat and it sounds like a younger one might be the best option. Great info! Thanks, Amy!

  11. I sure wish I’d read this about 4 1/2 years ago. After moving to the country with 1 dog and 2 cats…who all got along fine, we wound up adopting another dog. Life was still fairly pleasant in my house. Enter 3 stray kittens over six month period (because I’m a sucker for a “Mom, PLEASE!”)…and we now have (and continue to have) one miserable older cat. She’ll tolerate two of them, but she and the ‘baby’ are mortal enemies. 😦

  12. Amy – this sheds so much light on our older cats’ behavior when we first brought our kitten home (she’s his kitten now too). Thank you for participating in Pet ‘Net!!

  13. I actually ended up blogging the entire process of introducing our cats when James moved in, since it can be such a stressful process putting up with all the hissing for what can be several months before they actually fully get along (and this was the first time in my life I’d ever seen it take more than a few days – good lord I wasn’t expecting Simba to make it such an ordeal). Series starts here: Of course, we ended up using a baby gate instead of closed room (except for the first hour or so to let Anubis calm down) – partly because they get MORE stressed when they’re shut out of someplace, and Anubis starts getting territorial if he can smell another cat but not see them. One of those occasions where you have to “break the rules” based on what you know about your own pet.

  14. Great information today, as always, thanks.

    My senior fids (furry kids) include…
    Megan, age 15 1/2, a large terrier-like mix, the sweetest, kindest, bravest, strongest girl I know. When she was 8 she had a Fibrocartilaginous Infarct. She was paralyzed from her mid-back through her back legs. With good vet care, home care, lots of love and therapy she recovered the use of her legs. Now that she’s older her legs give out on her often, they were never as strong after the Infarct, add to that her age, Hip Dysplasia and Arthritis, it’s understandable. My sweet girl just uses her strong front legs and strong will to get herself moving again. She’s my angel!!

    Wallace, age 17 1/2, is a gray tabby kitty. His namesake is William Wallace from Scotland portrayed in the movie, Braveheart. He is a braveheart!!

    Katie, age 17, is a long haired calico kitty. She is the definition of sweet purr-fection!!

    • Wow, Heather, you’ve got some lovely “fids” and must be doing a lot right for them to reach this mature age! And Braveheart is one of my fave movies (I’m Scottish descent *s*)

  15. Pingback: Blog Treasures 11-19 « Gene Lempp's Blog

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