I remember clearly when my cat Mitsey, was a rambunctious kitten, ruffling my old family cat Stripes feathers. As Stripe stood looking behind the couch Mitsey had run behind, he was completely unaware that Mitsey already came around, and was right behind him, sniffing his rear end! I found it funny, but also sad. I began to think that there would inevitably come a time when my Mitsey would be the elderly cat, and have her own physical issues.
Things certainly came full circle when we adopted Diesel, around Mitseys 15th birthday. While I was happy to have rescued Diesel, I could’n’t help but feel a sense of guilt. Though Mitsey was older, she would still have outbursts, of random kittenish dashing around. Once Diesel came into the picture, not only did she stop, she became withdrawn for a while.
Even once she eventually came around, she stopped with her playful outbursts. I thought that having a spunky kitten would have been a welcome playmate. Though she was energetic, she was a little voluptuous, and possibly had a bit of arthritis. Diesel would see Mitsey dash, and jump on her, in his attempt to have fun. Immediately, Mitsey would stop, and became increasingly inactive, I believe to avoid the unwanted attention.
While I’m pro adoption/rescue/foster, I believe there should be every attempt made to keep your older cat happy, comfortable, and empowered, in the life they’ve grown to love. Wishing I hadn’t been so neglectfull in thinking I could just throw Mitsey and Diesel together, I want to share simple actions you can take, if you have an older cat, and are considering adopting a kitten.
While it’s inspiring to see online stories of cats who’ve happily taken on mothering roles to kittens, it’s outside of the norm. Cats are generally territorial, and not thrilled to roll out the red carpet, for a new companion.
A cat’s sense of smell is its most important form of communication. When bringing a new kitty home, one of the best things you can do, is make your cats sense of smell work for you. A few days to a week before you bring your new kitten home, you can begin moving the kitten’s items, such as food and water bowls, toys, blanket or bed, into your home. Your older cat will have the chance to get familiar with the kitten’s scent, before the kitten even gets there.
Before the kitten comes home, you’ll certainly want to make sure that both cats are in good health. Respiratory diseases are common in kittens. Making sure your kitten is free of communicable diseases, and that your older kitty is up to date on any vaccines, will keep everyone safe.
Planning ahead to bring your kitten home when you, or someone you trust to help with the process is available, is a great idea. It can take days or a couple of weeks before both cats coexist out together. Once the kitten is home, put him/her in a temporary room with a door, like the bathroom. Your two cats will be able to smell and to some degree, see each other. occasionally let them hang out/ swap spaces.
According to Bluecross.org, this separation period is the best time to do what’s called “scent swapping”. Stroke each cat without washing your hands to mix scents, and swap bedding regularly. Also gather scent from the new cat’s head and cheeks by gently stroking with a soft cloth and dabbing this around your home and furniture to mix with your existing cats scent.
After a few days, or at your comfort, you can let the kitten explore your home, as you supervise. Allow your older cat to react, without forcing interaction between the two. Your older cat may decide to run off, or perhaps hiss and swat at the kitten. This is normal, and is safe to allow, as long as that’s as far as it goes. Your older cat is simply establishing himself as the dominant cat.
Attempting to help, not force interaction between them is a good idea. You can do this by playing with them and a toy at the same time. Be sure that you pay extra attention to your older cat after playing with the kitten. Extra affection, and treats can also be a positive reinforcement for your older cat, when he/she interacts with the kitten. If your cats regress, you can take them back to the initial separation stage for a bit longer, and repeat the process.
I greatly appreciate anyone who has the heart to bring in a sweet kitty, that’s in need of a loving home. I think there is something truly special about those of us, who open our homes and hearts to these precious babies. If you have an older cat, you should be able to bring a kitten into your family, with a little planning and empathy. Few things break my heart like elderly pets, who get pushed aside, for a younger pet. Their loyalty is with you, and yours should be with them as well!