How to Acclimate a Kitten to an Old Cat

A kitten's energy may be annoying to an old cat.
i Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

Don’t be surprised if your old cat isn’t thrilled to see you walk in with a new kitten. He may be set in his ways and not have the time nor inclination to deal with a young whippersnapper. However, if you carefully acclimate the two, they will live in harmony.

Step 1

Isolate your new kitten for approximately five days prior to allowing him around your old cat. Having the kitten sleep in a crate and block off a part of the house for him to explore. This will give each time to get used to the presence of the other without forcing them to be together right away. Take the kitten to the veterinarian’s office during this time to make sure he doesn’t have an illness or parasite that could infect your older cat.

Step 2

Rub the kitten with a towel to absorb his scent and then put the towel near an area where the old cat frequents. Do the same with the older cat: rub him with a different towel and place it in the kitten’s living quarters. Keep performing this towel exchange daily until the old cat sniffs it with no reaction. If you observe him hissing or urinating on the kitten-scented towel, hold off on a face-to-face introduction until this is no longer the reaction.

Step 3

Begin feeding the older cat in the area where you keep the kitten. Do so while the kitten is safely in his crate. Place the food as close to the crate as possible without bringing it so close that the older cat hisses or swipes at the kitten. This is a good way to determine the older cat’s comfort zone around the kitten. Repeat this daily. Eventually, the older cat will be able to eat without being bothered by the kitten’s presence.

Step 4

Take the kitten out of the crate and allow him to go around the older cat for brief intervals a few times daily. However, don’t just plop them down in front of each other. Instead, feed them from different bowls at the same time, far apart but in the same room. An old cat can still move in a stealth manner if he wants to attack, so it’s vital to stay nearby and be ready to swoop in and pick up the kitten if necessary.

Step 5

Increase the time the kitten and older cat are around each other by taking cues from the older cat. Although you find the kitten's antics adorable, a senior cat does not feel like dealing with a pesky kitten for long periods of time. If the kitten attempts to wrestle the older cat, allow this interaction to a point, but if you observe the old cat giving the kitten a warning look or hiss, get the kitten out of harm's way immediately. Every old cat and kitten are different, but eventually the two will warm up to one another without incident. However, it may take a few days to a week, or longer.

the nest