Did you, or someone in your family, get a new kitten for the holidays? Do you have other cats at home? Here's some tips from cat owner Mary Beth Frezon, who just added a little kitty to her feline family.
Q- Mary Beth, please introduce us to your new kitten.
MB- My new kitten's name is Molly - she's now about 9 weeks old, she was about 6 weeks old when she was delivered by my co-worker Josh. His cat had four kittens and when he said there was an all black one in amongst the other tuxedo kittens I knew I had to meet her.
Q- How many cats do you have at home?
MB- Molly makes four, although it seems more like 3 honking big cats and a smidge. Deirdre is probably about 10, and the two brothers Archie and Erasmus are about 4. Collectively they're known as the three honking big cats - 3hbc.
Q- How did you introduce the kitten to the cats? How did they react?
MB- I left the newly cleaned and dusted empty carrier out for a few days beforehand and all the big cats wandered in and out and sniffed it all over. I took the carrier to work with me on the designated kitten-pick-up day. She rode home in it (with a little side trip to see my parents).
When I got home, for some reason I thought it would be interesting to take her out of the carrier and set down the empty carrier again. So I put Molly inside my sweater, went inside and let the big cats re-inspect the carrier. Many puzzled looks as they all crowded around it. They paid absolutely no attention to me or to the little black kitten head sticking out of my sweater.
After a few minutes of this, Molly started squirming around and hopped down to the floor. All the big cats came over for a closer look. She did her arched back, puffed out fur thing and without a hiss or growl, all the big cats were just gone. That's sort of the normal thing to happen - small kitten puffs up and maybe gives a little hiss and all the big cats vanish.
Q- What is the cutest/funniest thing about your new kitten?
MB- She was really well socialized and is quite affectionate, although I have to say she's a daredevil and rather fearless. The cutest thing she does is sort of this kitten-godzilla thing where she does a four-footed pounce move followed by walking towards them on her two back legs. They look at her like she's lost her little kitten mind.
Q- Do you have any tips for introducing a new cat to others?
MB- Despite the tales of cat aloofness, they're actually quite social beings. Every group of cats has a clear social structure once you get to know the members. It's important to let the cats adjust to a new member on their own and only take action if it looks like someone is really going to get hurt.
No amount of holding the kitten up to the big cats and saying "look! cute kitten" you should like her!" will help this process, and usually doing that just results in the big cat taking a whack at the little one which makes everyone unhappy. Especially me because I should know better!
After awhile the big cats think the kitten is a special kind of toy that never runs down and there may be some chasing or pretend batting back at the bold little thing. This is usually followed pretty quickly by ear-licking and butt sniffing and next thing you know they're curled up nearby each other.
Another way to introduce a new cat is to keep them in a room separately and let everyone sniff around the door. Screened porches are good for this too.
I always tell people to expect a few weeks of hissing until everyone settles back into place, but I've never had any real cat fights or injuries. (Photo to the left--the black blur you see is Molly, playing with Erasmus.)
The hardest part in all this is of course remaining a neutral human party, especially because there's this adorable new kitten looking for attention and a warm lap. I try to spend some extra time scritching and paying attention to all the big cats individually and as a group. Then I spend time with the new kitten by herself.
Thank you Mary Beth, and all the best to Dierdre, Archie, Erasmus, and little Molly!