Integrating Kittens with Cats, Page 2

Introducing Young Kittens to Adult Cats, Page 2
by Margaret Schill

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  • 1)Isolation: Isolate the new cat completely for a few days.
  • 2) Scent Familiarization: Scent familiarization with items, such as towels rubbed on each cat, then left in the area of the other cat.
  • 3) Room Swapping: Switching the cats' places for a while every day, with no physical contact.

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4) Visual Familiarization: Seeing each other with no physical contact, such as from a slightly cracked opened door or with one of the cats in a carrier or cage for a few minutes only.

5) Developing Positive Associations: Start developing positive associations with no physical contact, such as by feeding the cats on opposite sides of a door when cracked opened and even when it is shut.

6) Short Supervised Visits: Brief, highly supervised visits paired with food or treats.

7)Separation at Signs of Hostilities: Separate the cats at signs of hostilities, or great fear. Learn cat body language to tell when a problem is starting.

8) Longer, Carefully Supervised Visits: Mingling under very careful supervision for up to a few hours, before total separation again. Adjust the length of time depending upon whether there are any signs of hostilities or stress, but no matter how well things seem, do not yet permit 24/7 free mingling.

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  • 9) Limited Free Mingling: Free mingling without moderate supervision.
  • 10) Free Mingling Full Time: The cats are let together freely all the time when all the above steps have gone well but NOT when the people are not home. You ought not have total full-time 24 hour free mingling of young kittens (under 5 months) and adult cats for safety of the young kitten.

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Visual Familiarization

Adult cat upset about seeing caged kitten.

Visual familiarization starts with just allowing short views of one another, with no chance of physical contact. The cats will likely have spent time sniffing the bottom of the door that has been separating them. If the adult cat is hissing and/or growling without even having seen the kitten, only allow a few seconds of peeps at each other with no possible way for physical interaction. This can be done by cracking the door just an inch, and no more, as a kitten's head is smaller than it seems under the fur.

Or, you can put the kitten in a carrier and bring it out of the safe room for just a few seconds for the adult cat(s) to briefly see. When it seems that the older cat is a bit more used to the idea of the kitten, at least not growling at the door to the kitten’s room without even seeing the kitten, start the face-to-face barrier introductions by putting the kitten in a carrier or cage and placing it in the area the older cat has access to for the older cat to approach and look and sniff.

Kitten having a turn checking out contained adult cat.

Keep this of short duration initially, perhaps 10 minutes or even only 5, as the kitten or adult cat may be very frightened and you don't want either to be stressed. Plus, you never know when the kitten might need to use the litter box.

At other times, put the adult cat in a carrier for a few minutes, so the kitten can take a turn coming as close as he dares to. This also allows the older cat to see how the kitten acts. Kittens seem quite alien to adult cats that have never seen a kitten before. Kittens more differently than adult cats so an adult cat may need some time observing the kitten in action to figure out just what that kitten is.

If either cat gets very upset, put the kitten back behind the closed doors of his safe room (or take the carrier contained cat out the room the kitten is in.) You don't want either the kitten or the adult cat to pair the other in their minds with something threatening or unpleasant. Try again the next day.

Some adult cats take a long time to get used to any new cat, so if the adult cat has acted very upset at seeing the contained kitten or while being contained with the kitten free, hold off on further face-to-face barrier introductions until the older cat has calmed down a bit about the new intruder. Stay on the "Scent Familiarization" and "Room Swapping" steps a bit longer, then after a few days try barrier meetings again.

Your older cat may avoid you too for a while, being all out of sorts, and may even hiss at you, since you will have the kitten’s scent on you. Let him/her have some space to come to terms with the change in his/her life.This can take a few days to a few weeks even. You may feel impatient for the kitten and cat to get used to each other, but trying to force things will NOT make them accept each other. The adult cat needs as much time as it personally needs, even if that happens to be many days, or even weeks. Spending more time on these early stages, and going by how the adult cat reacts, (not how you want it to act), will actually wind up with the entire process working out better and sooner overall to get to the point of safe free mingling.

Developing Positive Associations Paired with Treats

Do not allow any free access to the tiny kitten at all, until the big cat can come around the carrier contained kitten without hissing and/or growling. Use tasty canned food or highly desired treats to help the introductions while the kitten is still safely contained. Feed the big cat as close to the kitten contained carrier as he/she will stand without hissing, and with being able to eat happily. This may turn out to be eight or more feet away from the kitten at first. That is fine. Some adult cats won't even go into the same room the kitten is in at first! Do not force an adult cat to be in the same room as a the kitten. Sooner or later, the adult cat will feel comfortable enough to come into the same room on it's own.

Move the food bowl, (or snack pile on the floor) closer bit by bit, day by day, until the adult cat can eat very normally without signs of stress or upset, with the kitten nearby (still in his carrier). The intent is to associate the kitten with good, safe things.The kitten gets fed at this same time, of course, so he associates good things with the big cat. It is not necessary to try to get the adult cat to eat inches from the kitten, but your goal is for the adult cat to be able to eat calmly at least four or five feet from the kitten.

It can take some adult cats many days to feel fine about eating near the caged kitten, even many feet away. You can't rush this so be patient. This process should be done along with the above Visual Familiarization step, once the adult cat can tolerate seeing the kitten for more than a few seconds.

Short Supervised Visits

Kitten Seamus and adult cat Galen fine about eating treats next to each other.

You can gauge when actual barrier free face-to-face interactions may be safe by how the older cat responds to the caged kitten. Hissing and growling would not be good signs. Curious interest is a good sign. Total ignoring is ok too.

When the previous step of pairing food or treats with one of the cats caged is going well, the next step is to have the kitten out of the carrier, when both are being fed that tasty canned food or most desired treat. Except this time, move the food bowls somewhat far apart again.Cats understand barriers, so while they may come to be perfectly happy having the contained kitten in view, once it is out of the carrier, they may react differently, especially when the kitten trots on over to them, which it probably will.So be sure to have the food bowls, or treats set on the floor, far apart again when first letting the kitten out of the carrier to eat in view of the older cat.

Kneel down and lean your body over the kitten, to shelter it from any possible harm, as the cats eat.Let the big cat come to sniff the kitten, with you still hovering over him, at the ready to snatch up the kitten in case the big cat acts aggressive.This can take many days again before the big cat can eat calmly nearby with the kitten now out of the cage.As things seem to be going well, once again, move the food bowls closer day by day, until you get to the time when they can all eat happily at least a few feet apart from the other. Do not expect the adult cat to want to eat side by side with the kitten. Protection of the kitten is of extreme importance. Older cats can and will sometimes hurt kittens and can be unpredictable and fast when stressed, or if the adult cat has food aggression issues.

Adult Simon accepting kitten Franny as dinner companion after many days.

When all the above has gone well, start not hovering over the kitten at canned food meal times. Usually, cats who can eat happily side-by-side or a short distance apart, will get along ok, with perhaps some tensions from time-to-time. Allow some “after dinner” mingling, with you on constant watch.

At this stage, the kitten will likely try to engage the older cat in play fighting, which is something kittens LOVE to do.Many adult cats do not like that, and some take it as being attacked.Even if the adult cat understands the kitten is just playing, it can be extremely annoying and irritating to the adult cat as kittens are persistent.

Let things go two or three minutes, unless the adult cat is being too aggressive.The adult cat hissing and swatting at the kitten is fine and normal, as that is how the adult cat tells the kitten to cut it out.But when either cat is seeming stressed and very upset, separate them for a very long while.You do not want the adult cat to develop strong negative feelings about the kitten due to being pestered almost all the time.And of course, you don't want the kitten to get hurt by overly rough treatment by an adult cat who has no more patience.

Separation at Signs of Hostilities

This is not actually a next step in a sequence of steps.It will have been something you needed to do from the start, when the cats are only up to peeping at each other from a cracked opened door, and continue to do all along until the cats are up to peaceful free mingling all the time.

However, since by now the cats are up to the point of brief mingling, it is necessary to realize what the signs of aggression are so you can tell when to intervene, or not.Some tips have already been discussed in above sections, such as to separate the cats when there is a lot of hissing, growling, or any yowling at all.Some hissing is ok, but not prolonged hissing, as that cat is getting extremely stressed, which is what you don't want to have happen.

Aggressive, stalking pose of cat ,with flattened back ears, head slightly tilted down, and eyes narrowed.

You need to understand and "read" cat body language and postures,along with vocalizations, so you can separate the cats before an attack might occur, or when one cat is stressed or afraid, even if the other cat is not sending out attack messages. Cats actually say more with their body language than they do with sounds. A quiet cat "just sitting there looking" at another cat, might in fact, be sending out an "I likely will attack you" staring message to the other cat. Things to watch for are ear, tail, body and eye positions. An upset cat will flatten down it's ears, and narrow his eyes. A tail lashing back and forth in a cat means the cat is upset.

Below are links with details about cat body language and communication that you should read.Some have photographs showing the various body signals written about.Do note, however, that the mock play fight poses of little kittens looks like the poses of an adult cat meaning to fight.What you see in a 10 week old kitten is not alarming, but that same pose in an adult cat IS, so you would get the little kitten to safety if the adult cat makes serious fighting body language postures to a little kitten.

"Cats and their Tails" (

Longer, Carefully Supervised Visits

Adult cat trying to escape from "pesty" kitten.

When a great many times of short supervised visits go well, you can start allowing longer supervised access between the cats. But still do not allow full mingling or unsupervised mingling. You need to have many days of observing the cat with the kitten to determine when it may be safe to let them together unsupervised.

During this time, your job will be to help teach the kitten to use toys instead of the adult cat to play fight with, since it can't go well in a tussle between a tiny kitten and an adult cat due to the extreme size and strength differences. Not to mention that most adult cats don't want to play fight, so to them, they are being harassed by the kitten.

You will need to have lots of toys around in every room, especially small stuffed animals. Make the stuffed toy move around as if it is alive, and then let go very quickly when the kitten pounces on it! Kittens need to play fight and practice hunting prey- and they do it almost all the time they are awake.By having lots of small stuffed toys available, you can redirect the kitten to them when the kitten harasses the older cat, so that the older cat does not finally get too fed up.In addition, kitten-sized stuffed toys will allow the kitten to "win" the play fight, whereas the kitten can never have a chance to "win" against an adult cat.

Kitten Seamus playing with the Turbo Scratcher

Also get some "motion toys" that move when the kitten interacts with them.The Blitz Turbo Scratcher and The Incredible Motor Mouse are two great toys for older kittens and young cats to work off some energy.[Note: do not put the battery in the motor mouse.Let it be "cat powered".]You can easily distract a kitten from annoying an older cat simply by making the ball on the Turbo Scratcher, or the mouse in the Motor Mouse, go whizzing around.When the kitten notices the movement, it will come running. The Turbo Scratcher saved our adult cats from being pestered by two different kittens many times! It is a "must have" toy!

Even the most tolerant of adult cats will get upset and stressed by a kitten's non-stop attempts to use the adult cat as mock prey or a mock "enemy".Less tolerant adult cats might deal with the kitten's constant pestering too roughly, so you need to monitor all interactions very carefully at this stage, to assess how the adult cat responds to the kitten. The adult cats need and deserve breaks from the kitten no matter how they respond.

Kittens love to explore places. They also like a "hidy" place when they feel stressed. Get a cat tunnel for your kitten! The Zanies Tunnel of Fun is 9" in diameter and expands to 39 1/2" long.

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Read the details, with pictures, of the integration of a three month old kitten, Seamus, into our home with 5 adult cats at Each of our cats reacted differently, and took differing amounts of time to be able to tolerate Seamus' pesky (to them) little kitten ways.

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Young Kittens not Good Playmates for Adult Cats

If one is thinking of getting a young kitten as a companion for an adult cat, think again. Young kittens are in a very different life stage than adult cats, and have different needs, desires, energy levels and interests.

Sometimes one doesn't get a little kitten intentionally, such as finding an abandoned kitten. However, one does need to then realize the adult cats most often are not going to be happy about it, and realize that a tiny kitten is not a suitable as an intended companion or playmate for an adult cat at the time the kitten is still so tiny. The extreme size and strength difference alone clearly points that out in terms of ideas of playmates. An adult cat is HUGE compared to a tiny kitten so no way can they play wrestle together to the satisfaction of each of them. And, little kittens love to play wrestle.

If one has an adult cat and wants a little kitten, it is best to get two little kittens then. That way the two kittens can play with each other in the way little kittens do, and the adult cat won't get harassed constantly by a little kitten desperate for some play. Little kittens want to play all the time, and adult cats do not. Otherwise, with just one little kitten and an adult cat, you wind up with a frustrated little kitten and a frustrated adult cat.

Read more about why it is best to get two kittens:

PAWS Chicago: "Why Kittens and Young Cats Should be Adopted in Pairs"

Cat age comparisons

An 8 week old kitten is comparable to a 10 month old human (not counting that an 8 week old kitten can already walk, run and jump)

A 1 year-old cat is comparable to a 16 year-old human. A two year-old cat is comparable to a 25 year old human. A 5 year-old cat is comparable to a 38 year-old human. (age comparison from

When one considers this, one can hopefully realize a tiny kitten just is not a match as an intended companion and playmate right away to an adult cat in terms of life stage, not just considering disparate size and strength.

Litter box Needs

When you get an additional cat, you need another litter box. See a wide selection of litter boxes by clicking here.

Young kittens need a lower sided litter pan than older kittens and adult cats. Even though a kitten will outgrow the small box in a few months, it only costs approximately US$3.00, and, a young kitten does need a litter box it can easily get into!

Click here to read about litter box guidelines especially for homes with more than one cat.

Rain Treats!

Tempting treats served to the cats while they are in the same area will help develop positive associations with one another.

Kitty Kaviar is dried bonito filets, carved paper thin. Bonito is a fish in the tuna family. Many cats consider bonito flakes a very special treat! Bonito flakes helped with integrating the adult cats Simon and Galen with kitten Seamus.

One of Seamus' happiest days was when our order of many bags of bonito flakes arrived. He knew what was in those bags and couldn't wait:

Since we had a lot of cats loving bonito flakes, we bought it in large bags which were sold for humans to eat. The jars of Kitty Kaviar sold for cats didn't last long enough in our home!

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Halo Liv-a-Littles

Most cats love Halo Live-a-LittlesTreats. They are freeze dried pieces of chicken, salmon or beef. No fillers or additives. Healthy and delicious!

Cats and kittens getting to know one another

Seamus and Galen becoming friends

Adult Sumner grudgingly tolerating kitten Seamus snuggling.

Adult male cat Kikeli and kitten already friends. (photo courtesy of Alisha)

Jolie's glaring tolerance of kitten Seamus near her. Since he tended to jump on her back whenever she wasn't facing him, one can understand her stern look.