Q: I just saved a kitten, maybe about 3 months old, from a household that kept it locked in a bathroom. Kids there may have been rough on it too, whiskers have been cut. The kitten bites randomly and is extremely violent. My other cats are a year older and gentle, calm lap cats. I have been pulling the more aggressive kitten away from the docile cats when they hiss and growl but I wonder how I can integrate them so we can live in peace. – Angelica
The kitten needs a lot of play and positive, gentle attention. Most often how we play with kitties can leave them pent (See How to Play with Your Cat). Play-aggression and biting in kittens is normal. Often people handle it inappropriately by blowing on the kitten’s face, scruffing kittens, hitting them on their noses, or squirting them. This usually causes kittens and older cats to lash out, or pounce and attack, then run away, but without retraction of claws, or it causes them to bite much harder than necessary.
It will be important to feed your cats and kitten together, while keeping your cats at a comfortable distance from the kitten, so that they develop a positive association with the kitten. Pair really yummy and special food with the kitten. Kittens love to eat and should always have access to food. Introduce them or allow moderate access to each other when the kitten is sleepy or resting. Most kitties hunt (play), eat, and then sleep or nap. Play with the kitties, especially your kitten, when your cats are aware of each other or prior to an introduction. Then feed your cats together. The kitten will most likely focus on the food, and then take a nap.
It will be important to interrupt and redirect any cat from staring, stalking and chasing another cat. You should do this in a positive way and before the victim kitty feels the need to hiss, swat or retreat. When you are not there to supervise, you will want to separate the kitties. But, rotate territories and areas the new kitten stays, so that a communal odor is established and so that rooms are shared. You may also want to introduce kitties to each other one at a time, so that introductions can be more manageable and are not so overwhelming.
You can plug in Feliway (Comfort Zone) in areas the kitten stays or in rooms where cats pass each other, or have access to each other. Just be sure Feliway is not plugged in over or near a litter pan or over a food or water bowl.
Q: My 14 week old female kitten has lived with us for 6 weeks, but appears to be at least 50% untameable wild cat (have had cats all my life & believe as a rescue kitty she has not had early enough habituation with humans). My 2 middle aged male cats cannot stand the sight of her & one of them has practically moved out – they are usually sociable, but she literally hurls herself at them, desperate for feline interaction, & they feel & respond as if they are being attacked (when rarely she snuggles or licks, they tolerate it). Would love help on integrating them all harmoniously please. – Sandra
A: Kittens need a lot of play and naturally want to socialize with other cats. It’s important that she is played with prior to introducing her to the other kitties and that they are then fed together (from different bowls or plates, and a distance where they are all comfortable). You did not mention if you can pick her up and carry her or if she is affectionate with people. I am assuming the sociability in the cats you refer to are with human members of the family. Introducing a new cat to a household can be challenging, especially when it is a young cat or kitten who craves social interaction and engagement, and older cats who are settled in their ways.
Adding vertical territory, such as cat trees, window perches, and/or providing access to counters or dressers, can help. Invite your older cats into rooms and place them on higher surfaces. Reward them and give them attention when you do so. This may provide a safe area for your cats when your kitten is present. It will be important to interrupt and redirect staring, stalking and chasing by your kitten, before chasing occurs, or before any of your older cats retreat. You can do this by positively redirecting or distracting your kitten, or by repositioning her (Pick her up and place her down so that she faces away from or in the opposite direction of your kitties, but keep her in the same room. You may have to do this multiple times, but it works).
Copyright © Alana Stevenson 2013
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Alana Stevenson can be contacted through her website www.AlanaStevenson.com. She provides consultations by phone and Skype.