Behaviour & training

How to make sure your kitten and cat become besties

Date updated: 30 11 2017

You’re about to introduce your tiny new kitten to your big resident cat. Ever thought about what could go wrong? You want this to be the start of a beautiful friendship, but life isn’t always that simple.

Some cats will become besties right from the get-go. For others though, they can be a bit territorial, and if your new buddy’s invading their space they won’t be happy.

Even with the most docile of breeds, you never know for sure how they’ll react. And it only takes one of the pair to get spooked for the whole relationship to turn sour - before it’s even started.

That said, there’s plenty you can do to maximise the chances of a happy outcome. From laying the groundwork to that crucial first meeting and beyond, here’s how to get it right…

Picking your kitten with a happy home in mind

If you have several kittens from a litter to choose from, always factor in your existing buddy when making your choice. If they’re on the docile side, it’s probably best to steer away from the overly boisterous kitten who thinks they’re a tiger.

Prepping your home for the new arrival

A slow and gentle intro is key. That way, your resident cat won’t feel like they’re under attack - and your new buddy won’t be terrified of their territorial big brother or sister. Make sure you’ve got enough time to kick off the process properly; picking up the kitten on a Friday and leaving the weekend clear is a good idea.

Pick a room to bring the kitten to once they arrives. For the first day or so, make this their room and don’t let the other cat in. It makes sense if this is a room they don’t  bother with too much anyway, or they’ll get curious about what you’re hiding away in there.

Having a kitten pen in the room can also help you, giving a safe and reassuring space for the kitten to play and feel comfortable in their new home. Your new buddy should have their own litter tray along with food, water and a few toys.


Arrival: mix those scents

They’re not going to have a face-to-face just yet. Let them get used to each other’s scent first.

Have lots of towels, old cloths or bedding at the ready. The idea is to mix the scents by rubbing them over the fur of both cats. Next, put a couple of scent-mingled rags next to the cat’s feeding bowl, and another couple next to the feeding bowl in the kitten’s pen.

Carry this on for a couple of days. What’s happening? Well, hopefully now your two besties are gradually getting used to each other without having even met yet. The scent rags are placed next to the feeding bowl so they associate this new smell with a positive experience. Simples!

Love at first sight

By about day three, it’s time for a first visual interaction. Leave the door of kitten’s room open for a while. They’re still safe inside the pen, but it’s all part of the initial familiarisation process.

First proper meeting

Maybe a day later, you’re ready for the big one - it’s time to meet face to face. Bring your cat into the kitten's room and let them get to know each other.

Here’s the type of behaviour and reaction you’d expect to see…

  • A lot of staring while they’re sussing each other out.
  • Posturing. It’s natural that they’re going to be on their guard.

As they start to relax, grab a toy and encourage them both to play. You’ll probably see some cautious paw-to-paw contact and up-close sniffing.

Keep this first session short and sweet so you don’t overwhelm them. A few hours later, try it again for a bit longer. The next day you can try bringing the kitten out of their room to see how they get on together. Physical, non-aggressive contact, sniffing, maybe even some mutual grooming, these are all signs of a budding friendship in the making.

Cat introduction warning signs

Of course, things don’t always go totally to plan. Even if they made a solid start, unsupervised contact isn’t a good idea for at least the first month (your new buddy won’t be able to defend themselves if it all turns sour).  

Watch out for the big no-no’s…

  • Either cat flattening their ears
  • Growling
  • Spitting
  • Full-on clawing

These are the signs that it’s time to take a step back. Once again, separate them, give them more time to get used to each other’s scent and set up some more carefully supervised play sessions.

It might take weeks. It could take months. But this little-by-little approach is one of the best ways of teaching your two besties how to get along! While most cats will get used to newcomers eventually, some cats are just not cut out to be friends - so getting a new kitten should be a well thought out decision, not an impulse buy!