A sweet kitten like this can touch our heart and draw out our nurturing instincts.  In these moments we can easily find ourselves wanting to welcome a new kitten (or cat) into our home.  However, the animals already living with us may not be so enthusiastic.

How can we introduce a new member of the family in a way that is easy and harmonious for everybody. Human and animal?

Recently I have had several requests to help out with new cats or kittens coming into the home. There is much we can do to make the process a joyous one. I want to share with you the experiences of the animals themselves, as they have expressed them to me. I have found that there is an essential ‘truth’ to their experience when they need to adjust to a new member of the family.

The easiest way to ensure a harmonious journey is to involve your current animal family members in the process, right from the start.

1. Begin by finding out how they feel about the idea in principle

The ideal time to start involving them is when you first have the idea of getting a new cat. The perfect place to start is to ask them how they feel about a new animal coming to live with you. Don’t give them the impression that they have the ultimate say in whether this happens or not! Instead, ask them in a way that draws out their feelings, rather than asking their permission.

If you get the impression that they are happy about the idea, then great! Now you can let them know more about your plans. Let them know which animal you are considering and the time scale for them to arrive.

Franz’s story: I was asked to speak to Franz, a very adventurous cat who lived alone with his person. Franz and his person were very close and had a lot of adventures together, but his person felt that he would benefit from cat-company, especially as she worked irregular hours. She didn’t like him being alone so much.

2. Share more about your plans

If you feel that they are reluctant, you could try being more specific. They may say ‘no’ to the general idea, but can have a different response if you are more specific. Try asking them how they feel about a particular species, breed, gender or age of animal. As you offer the different options, see if you can pick up on their feeling response to those.

Franz’s person was considering getting two kittens – a brother and sister. When I asked how he felt about this, he wasn’t keen on the idea of two. He said it felt like two against one. However he said was open to the idea of just one new kitten. I then saw an image of Franz ‘mentoring’ a male kitten and sharing his favourite places to explore. It felt like something Franz would really enjoy. This helped his person to make a decision, knowing that it was one that Franz was happy with. After giving the idea some more thought she decided to get only the male kitten.

3. Tell them the time scale

Once you have decided upon which animal will be coming into the home and when, it helps the existing residents to know when to expect them to arrive. They don’t understand calendar time, so let them know in terms of how many days (‘sleeps’) until the new resident arrives.

4. Find out how they’d prefer to meet the new arrival

Ask how they would like to be introduced to the new cat/kitten – immediately or in a phased way. You cannot predict what they may say here! This will be very specific to each of the current residents. Some have told me that they would like their person to hold the new arrival while they look at them and smell them. Others have said they would like the new arrival to be kept out of their way until they are ready to meet them. Often they will express a need to be reassured that their person won’t forget about them and shower all their affection onto the new animal.

In Franz’s case I told him the date that the new kitten would arrive. I also told him that the kitten would initially be kept in a separate part of the house as he got used to his new home. He also wanted to be reassured that he would still get one-on-one time with his person.

5. Ask if there is anything else they need to make the process go smoothly

You might find that your current resident is happy for the new arrival to simply arrive and immediately become part of their routine. Alternatively, they may have a preference for how the new cat comes into the home. This can happen where the existing cat is concerned about being ‘usurped’ by the new arrival.

Simply acknowledge their concerns, listen to their requests, and then do what you can to accommodate them. Do make sure you do what is realistic. Again it is important that you don’t allow the existing cat to set the rules. But do your best to meet their needs in a way that respects their concerns, while remaining realistic and grounded. There is no point starting a new routine that a) makes the existing cat into a diva, and b) that cannot be maintained!

In Franz’s case his person decided to let the new kitten have some time adjusting to his new home. She fed them in separate parts of the house for a few weeks. Over time she gradually introduced them to one another, by opening the dividing door a tiny crack. Every so often the door would be opened a bit wider and wider, until eventually they were feeding alongside one another with just a wire gate between them.

When the time came for them to be fully integrated, roaming the house freely together, it happened quickly and smoothly.

6. Make adjustments and changes as needed

If you find that unexpected dissension or undesired interaction between the animals occurs. If so, ask again what each of them needs.

You may find at this point that you need to talk to them about their behaviour: explaining how it is affecting the other animal (and you!), and asking them to change it. Do this by expressing the desired behaviour in the positive (eg instead of saying “don’t scratch”, say “pat them with your closed paw” – removing the word ‘don’t’).

Like all kittens, the new kitten was very energetic and rambunctious. Franz wasn’t overly impressed with this behaviour. When I checked in with him about this, he told me that it wasn’t what he had expected. He had been looking forward to a teenager that he could go on adventures with; not an annoying over-enthusiastic kitten!

I communicated with the kitten and asked him to keep his distance from Franz. I reassured him that Franz likes him (which he did) and I explained that older cats prefer to be slower and quieter. This helped the kitten to understand Franz’s needs and his reaction to the kitten’s attempts to play. The kitten changed immediately and quietened down when he was around Franz. Now the two of them go on adventures together, with Franz quietly ‘supervising’ the climbing adventures of the kitten.

7. Finally, try to share your love equally between your new family members

As with children, we may have a secret favourite! But the best way to a happy and harmonious household is for everyone to feel equally important in your affections. Your existing animals will be able to adapt to having less time with you, as long as they feel just as loved by you as they always were.

You can use these steps for the introduction of any new animal into your home. It will work just as well for dogs, birds, rabbits. The idea is to involve the other animals in the process, give them as much information as possible. This helps them understand what is happening and to prepare for it. Much easier than having to adapt to a sudden unexpected change!

I’d love to hear your experiences in this area. Please also ask any questions in the comments section.

My introductory level trainings will give you the ability to ask questions clearly in a way that the animal understands. You will also learn to understand the animal’s responses. Details and dates of upcoming trainings are in the Workshops section.