Cat Behavior: Forget Timetables

Over the weekend, I stopped by a local cats only rescue to drop off some donations.

While there, a young man came in with a cat behavior question.  He and his girlfriend recently adopted a kitten and the resident cat (about 3 years old) was not embracing the new arrival. The adoption happened a few days earlier, and the man wondered if the resident cat would ever welcome the kitten.

The rescue volunteer paused for a moment, then advised it may take more time.  Definitely!  Experienced cat owners realize it takes time: weeks, possibly even months, for a resident cat to accept another cat into the home.

In this case, the resident cat was female, the kitten male, which should help with the adjustment.  Cats usually are also more accepting of kittens vs. adult cats.

cat behavior

Don’t Rush The Introduction

It’s important to realize cats don’t work on a timetable. Don’t give up if things aren’t as friendly as you’d like within a few days.  When introducing a new cat into a home with a resident feline, it must be a very gradual process in order to be successful.

The new cat should have a separate space complete with food/water and litter box, with no access for the resident cat.  If possible, put the new cat into a carrier, or set up an area where the cats can get a sense of the other’s scent, but not have direct contact.  Gradually increase the time the two cats are in the same area, until they appear more comfortable with each other.

Do not leave the cats unattended during the introduction process. Secure the new cat’s area.  Otherwise, the cats may attack each other, and that’s best avoided if at all possible.

Realize Every Cat Is Different

Every cat is different, and if the resident cat is shy, the process can take a very long time.  My cat Marty, after several months, is now beginning to interact with his new dog siblings.  I was discouraged many times, but I didn’t give up.  I’ve been working with the dogs to respect Marty and his boundaries, and to approach him slowly, and Marty is reacting well to the changes in their behavior.

When talking to people not experienced in cat behavior, I sometimes put the situation in human terms.  Here’s an example: You’ve lived in your house a few years, doing things on your schedule with the house to yourself. Suddenly someone you don’t know moves in unannounced, would you totally adjust in a few days?  Mmm, I’m thinking probably not!

Patience, my friends, patience!


Written by Karen


Karen is Publisher of Fully Feline. She also owns a pet care business in Overland Park, KS called Joy of Living.