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Introducing kittens.

Species: Cat
Breed: Domestic
Age: Less than 3 mon
Hi Dr. Marie,

My name is Lauren, and I'm from Australia - I hope I haven't woken you!! What a fantastic service you offer by the way!

My partner and I have a 19 week old female domestic kitten, Cookie, who normally is very friendly and playful (however at that age where she's testing the boundaries!). Two days ago we brought home a very placid little 9 week old domestic male, Boji, to become her playmate, as we work full time.
I spoke with one of the nurses at our local vet initially and she suggested to allow them a few hours to adjust to the smells and sounds of eachother before letting them meet. We did so, and then brought them both out to meet one another. Boji was very curious and quite clearly wanted Cookie to like him but she was not happy at all. Ever since, she has hissed, growled and scratched at him whenever she gets the chance. We have allowed them to have supervised time together a few times a day. Cookie almost appears to be frightened of him - he simply sits there and she takes a swipe and backs right off (as though he had hurt her!). Occassionally, they will sit perhaps a foot from eachother and stare, then Cookie tries to swipe him again. What can I do to help them to get along? I know it may not necessary happen but I desparately want them to be friends!

Thanks,

Lauren


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hi Lauren!

Congrats on your two new kitties!

In almost every case like this the cats do learn to get along with each other. In some cases they actually do become wonderful friends, and in other cases they simply tolerate each other. However, it's quite rare for two kittens to end up hating each other for life!

Here is what I recommend when I have a client who is introducing a new cat to the house:

I usually recommend keeping the new arrival in a separate room like a bedroom for several days. Go into the room and spend time with him often. But, don't let Cookie see him for a few days.

This will let Cookie have a chance to get used to the fact that a cat is in the house, but she doesn't have to have the stress of facing him right away.

Then, after a few days, bring Boji out in a carrier and put the carrier in the middle of a big room. Let Cookie sniff all around the carrier. If there is a big show of aggression, then we need to go back to keeping Boji in his room for a couple more days. Eventually though, you will see that when you bring the carrier out Cookie either ignores Boji or will act like she wants to play with him.

When this happens, let Boji out of the cage, but make sure that you are there to supervise. If for some reason Cookie is aggressive again, then go back to the previous step.

This routine works in almost every situation. It usually takes less than 2 weeks to work.

I hope that helps!

And by the way, you never need to worry about waking me! If I am not available, I turn my online status to off and the option for an instant response question is not available.

Dr. Marie.



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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Hi Dr. Marie,

That sounds like a great idea, my only concern is that I have already had them out together over the past two days! How do you recommend I go about this given that they have already met?

I have had them separate ever since yesterday evening, and this morning brought them out into the living area one at a time so there were no issues. Once I put Boji away, and brought Cookie out, she was unhappy with me and swiped my hand. She then sat at the door where Boji stays and continued to hiss and carry on. It doesn't last long, she usually comes over to me when I'm preparing food, but should I be concerned about this?

Thanks again,

Lauren


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

No worries, I'd just start over from the beginning. You'll likely find that Cookie is sniffing a lot at the door of Boji, but keep them separated for a few days before they see each other.

I know Cookie is mad at you right now, but it is very unlikely to last long. She's acting like a teenager who isn't happy with her lot in life right now. But she'll get over it soon!



Customer reply:

That sounds good then, I will have a go at that! And you're right, she is acting like an unhappy teenager! Hopefully they will become good little playmates soon!

Thank you so much for your help and I'm sure I'll speak to you again one day soon,

Lauren


Customer reply:

Hello again Dr Marie,

Just a bit of an update on our little ones! We have followed all of your advice - for the past 3 days Boji has been kept out of sight of Cookie and the only real 'contact' they have had is under the laundry door. Today we decided to bring Boji out in the carrier - Cookie responded quite well. She simply sniffed at first, no growling or hissing, and then began to play with Boji through the cage door. She appeared to be quite enjoying this and did not seem threatened. Boji was also playing back - swiping in reponse. We did this a few times throughout the day and decided to let Boji out of the cage. Cookie was eager to pounce and swipe in what seemed to be a fairly playful manner, however Boji was far more subdued. He almost now seems scared of her! She will pounce or swipe and he will cry and not fight back very much. Is there any way we can make him more confident? Also, how can we tell if this playing is play fighting or just fighting?

Thanks again for your assistance,

Lauren


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

It sounds like things are going exactly as they should.

I doubt that you will have to do much to make the little guy more confident. He should get more and more used to things over the next week.

One thing that you could look into though is a product called Feliway which is a feline pheromone which helps cats to feel less stressed in an anxiety producing situation.



Customer reply:

We are one step ahead of you with that one - we bought a Feliway diffuser 3 days ago which has been great. Boji still seems frightened of Cookie, whenever we open the carrier door he comes out a little and runs back inside when Cookie comes over! Are we best to keep putting him back in the carrier or does he need to be encouraged to be out and about with Cookie? Is there a way that we can tell whether the 'playing' is aggressive or playful?

Thanks again :)


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

You're very welcome!

I think that as long as things don't seem to be getting too heated I would just let them mingle.

It's hard to tell whether cats are playing rough or being really aggressive. If there is growling I'd call this aggressive. Or, if the claws are out and causing wounds then this is aggression. If this is happening then I would still keep them separated for a while.



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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

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