With much enthusiasm and less hesitancy than I planned, I can now say I’m the mom to six animals! I have three dogs and three cats. Recently I adopted a new Siamese kitten named Leila. For months Matt and I had been wanting to add a kitten to the family. Why a kitten and not an adult cat? Well Sadie, our six year old Calico, was having some issues with anxiety from moving into our new home. While her anxiety did get better, Matt and I still felt like having a kitten to look after would help Sadie a lot. She’s a very motherly, nurturing cat. I was finally ready to bring another feline into the home after my loss of Edison in 2013.
Initially I had this idea of how introductions would go once I brought the kitten home. I thought I knew which animals would act certain ways but boy was I wrong. I was so. wrong.
I’m a fan of slow introductions when it comes to bringing new animals into your home. All of my dogs are mellow, but I wasn’t sure how McKenzie Rae would do. We adopted her a year ago but she still struggles with socialization. I’m never sure how she’s going to act.
The night I brought Leila home, I first introduced her to Wynston. I brought them both into our guest bedroom. Wynston is a great first introduction because he’s quiet and the complete opposite of crazy. I positively reinforced Leila for being brave with Wynston and gave Wynston treats for being well behaved with her. Success.
Next was Sadie. Sadie was the cat we brought Leila home for. Leila immediately took to Sadie and walked right up to her. Sadie, however, wanted nothing to do with it. She hissed a few times, fluffed up her tail and ran. Okay. Well. That was a fail.
The next day I kept Leila in our large guest bathroom with all of her necessities: litter, toys, food, water and blankets. I did this so she could calm down, eat in peace and get used to the smells and sounds. I would go into the bathroom to sit with her and play. Luckily she was eating and already getting settled in by the end of day one.
For day two I put a baby gate up at the bathroom door. For almost the entire day my three dogs sat outside the gate. Khloee cried a lot because she wanted to play with Leila so badly. McKenzie Rae surprisingly seemed uninterested until Leila would jump up on the bathroom counter and taunt the dogs from over the gate.
That evening I introduced Joey, my six year old disabled cat, to Leila. It was the easiest, funniest introduction I may ever witness between animals. I imagine it went something like this:
Leila: “Oh hey brother cat. You look fun. Wanna play??
Joey: “You…are tiny. A dweeb, perhaps. But you’re cool. I’m gonna go do other things now. See ya.”
Okay then. Best intro ever. After that, Joey would randomly walk up to Leila and touch noses, then be on his way.
Then we were back to Sadie. Sadie was still not having it. She wanted absolutely nothing to do with this fluffy Siamese kitten that was following her around. Sadie would hiss whenever Leila got within 10 feet of her then run away. This left me extremely disappointed. After all, the main reason I brought a kitten into the home was for Sadie.
Over the next few days, I’d let one dog at a time play with Leila in a confined area. I gave her lots of treats for interacting with the dogs and likewise I’d reward the dogs for playing gently. Praise and treats are always the answer.
Wynston is somewhat interested in Leila. McKenzie Rae could care less about her presence. Khloee follows Leila around like a groupie and cries. She just wants to play! Leila does take the invitation from time to time mainly in the form of hanging from Khloee’s ears and running after tennis balls with her.
Each day Sadie got a little closer to Leila and she’d hiss a little bit less. Every time she saw Leila without hissing, I’d give her a cat treat then pick her up to give her some love or sit on the floor to pet her. I keep treats on both sides of my house so they are always accessible for positive interactions.
Eleven days after Leila’s grand entrance into our family, Sadie no longer hisses at Leila. They most definitely aren’t best friends, but any progress is good. It’s important to reinforce good behavior with lots of treats and praise.
Main Tips for Introducing a Kitten to a House Full of Animals
- Remember that your kitten is small. Everything can be incredibly overwhelming, especially big animals.
- Give your kitten a safe haven and quiet place. Ours was the large guest bathroom for several days.
- Use positive reinforcement when your kitten displays brave behavior like coming out of hiding.
- Treat and praise your other animals for behaving appropriately around your kitten.
- Do not force introductions. If you have to do slow intros, one animal at a time, so be it. It’s better to take things slow to ensure the safety of all involved.
Items for Introducing a Kitten Into Your Home
- High quality kitten food and treats
- Ceramic food/water bowls
- Litter and a litter box
- Cat toys that can’t be swallowed
- Scratching post
- Cat bed
- Cat collar with a jingle bell
- A harness if you’d like to harness train (be sure to do so using positive reinforcement and never force your kitten if they are scared or uncomfortable)
If you are struggling to integrate your kitten into your home, seek out the help of your veterinarian or animal behaviorist. Remember that with patience and positive reinforcement, it’s possible to introduce a kitten into a house full of animals successfully. I’m glad that Sadie is no longer hissing at Leila or running from her, but the positive reinforcement training will continue in the meantime.
On a side note, I recently took Leila to PetSmart and my mom’s house. I’m working on getting her socialized and I want her to be comfortable in the car. I bring high value treats for these outings. I want Leila to associate treats with the car and other people. We’re working on it, but it takes time! I’d highly recommend at least getting your kitten used to the car – there’s nothing like a quiet cat when you have to travel to the vet or wherever 🙂
Do you have any experience with training a kitten?
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