Earlier this week I enjoyed watching our kitten Molly and Charlie (our older cat) scamper around and play in the garden together. It dawned on me how lucky we are. I watch them chase each other in play and then lie down together for a rest and it’s like they have been together forever.
It’s always a risk rehoming a rescue cat or kitten as you don’t exactly know what you will get. Then there is the challenge of introducing and integrating your new cat or kitten with your existing cat or pet and wondering how they will get on. Especially with cats being so independent there is a chance that your original cat could up sticks and move in with another family!
I wanted to share with you some of the steps we took when considering bringing home a new cat and how we went about introducing them as I think this has a lot to do with how well they now get on and have adapted to each other.
Three years ago we adopted two rescue kittens Charlie and Lola. They were not from the same litter but we were keen to have a male and female pair. Charlie was the hunter yet more timid and subservient of the two cats. Lola was brave and forceful but a real homely lap cat. However, last summer we sadly lost Lola in an accident and Charlie has been alone ever since. We were all heartbroken and even Charlie felt the loss and we noticed he started to stay at home more as he has lost his playmate.
Over several months we watched him grow in confidence and find his new role as single top cat in the family. He relished it but being a young male cat he was out hunting a lot and not interested in the finer things in life such as being picked up, cuddled and kissed! ☺
Our house was definitely lacking another female! We agonised over what to do. We all desperately wanted another female cat but not at the expense of pushing Charlie out or making him miserable. We toyed with the pros and cons of getting a kitten versus a slightly older cat. Either way we knew we were going to rehome another rescue cat as all my cats have been rescue cats and I couldn’t imagine doing anything but.
Once that decision is made you cannot wait to meet the new arrival! I have always been of the belief the right cat ‘finds’ me. So no matter how hard I looked, it was just a waiting game. I still had to make endless phone calls, trawling through various sites seeing who was on the rehoming list and evaluating who would be the most suitable companion for Charlie. After phoning around and discussing my needs with various cat charities we all concluded that given Charlie’s age and temperament he would be most suited to a kitten. There were resounding cheers from my family as they had been gunning for a kitten from the start. I was less keen as I knew what lay ahead – months of keeping indoors, litter training, not to scratch the furniture training, not to jump on the kitchen worktop training, then being spayed, stitches, more indoors, different dietary needs… the list goes on! BUT.. it was best for Charlie and I was not about to see him pushed out or upset so needs must!
The lovely ladies at Marjorie Nash Cat Rescue (whom we rescued Charlie and Lola from) had put me in touch with one of their fosterers as kittens were due any week! I was in regular contact with Di and bless her for saving her only female kitten for me. It was a long eight weeks waiting for her to be weaned but finally on 7th February we went to see her and brought her home.
You arrive home. You have one tiny 8-week-old weaned kitten in a cat carrier. She has just been taken away from her siblings and everything she knows as safe and endured her first ever car journey. She is scared. Under no circumstances would I just let the kitten out of the carrier into a strange home and let her face ‘the other’ cat. That is not an introduction.
What we did was set up my XL comfortable pet crate with a bed, some food and water, a litter tray, some toys and lots of soft blankets and towels. We put her blanket and toy the fosterer let us take as it had her mother’s smell on it. We took her carefully out of her carrier talking and reassuring her the whole time and popped her into her new temporary setting. The XL pet crate was positioned in our lounge, which is the heart of our home and has access to the whole of the ground floor. From here she could slowly and safely get used to the sounds and smells of our home and more importantly Charlie could observe and get used to the newest family member on his terms.
We felt it was very important for both cats to have our attention but separately at first. When Molly was safely in her crate eating or sleeping then we would make a big fuss of Charlie and always praise him when he came into the room or showed an interest in Molly. Likewise when Charlie was out and about or in another room, then we would close all the doors and let Molly out as often as possible to run around. Not only to expend energy but to allow her to slowly familiarise herself with us and her surroundings. We continued to do this until both cats were totally accepting and happy in each other’s company.
At some point you have to let both cats interact. My advice is to start with really short bursts and keep it positive and never leave them unsupervised. Read both cats and pick a moment when both are calm and happy ie after they have both eaten. I kept all the doors closed so that Charlie, being the timid one, couldn’t run and hide, preventing Molly from escaping to find Charlie. I would always allow Charlie to leave the room when he’d had enough and again praise both cats.
Initially Molly was safely kept in her XL comfortable crate at night or for short periods when we were not around. Charlie would be allowed in the same room as Molly so they could continue to bond safely in our absence.
As they both seemed to be getting on we were able to increase the amount of time they spent together. After a short while Molly was getting braver and was keen to explore the rest of the house. It wasn’t long before we allowed them both to be out together in the house day and night although we were totally guided by both cats to when to do this.
Try not to rush and force them to be together before they are ready. Kittens are naturally active and playful and the other cat might not welcome such a friendly approach. Allow your cats the time to get to know each other in their own time whilst providing a safe and loving environment.
So this was our approach to integrating our loving new kitten Molly into our existing family structure and ensuring Charlie’s best interests were met. I hope you found some of these tips useful and you too find new found friendship in your happy feline home!