In the beginning and once upon a time, we were cat rookies. We just adopted cats and shoved them (lovingly and gently of course) into the house with the rest of the fan-dam-ily. Kuhie was crudely integrated into the home-sweet-home this way; but then again, we had one roaming queen – Bella – at this point. So, they just got on with it.
But the more cats you add, at the different stages of their lives, to one property and limited space, the more complex things get. Now, I already know some people will tell you they just put their cats together and they were happy and love each other – good for them! This is often the exception to the rule – and why play Russian kitty roulette, when you can take it slow and get the best results?
When life “gifted” us with the bottle-feeders, Munchkin and Cheeky, we knew with their size and vulnerability we had to keep them separate from the household and Kuh, until they were much older.
For the first two to three months, we kept them lovingly-sequestered in my room – giving them all the TLC there. We then slowly introduced the two fluffballs to Kuh, under our close supervision. Once we were happy with his reaction (don’t get me wrong he wasn’t excited like a kitty on catnip or anything to see Munnie or Cheeky), we let them roam the house freely, while we were home. And eventually we let them freely roam the house when we went out.
The little twins used Mr Kuhie’s back as a launch pad but worst-case scenario he would hiss, protest and move on…so we did something right. But the twits, I mean twins being introduced to one adult cat is a walk in the kitty park, compared to introducing a brand-new kitten into a household of adults. And in our case, one Maine Coon baby into a household with one tom and two queens.
Somehow, we realised with Munnie and Cheeky there needed to be an integration process. Call it fur-mommy intuition or what not; but we did it on instinct. With Lulubelle – we decided to consult a true specialist, an expert and trusted source … the GOOGLE MACHINE! And then we did what most people with a research background would do – we carefully read various sources and then thought – okay, let’s do it our way (integrating it all).
Now that you have context, here is how we integrated a kitten (Lulubelle) into a household of fabulous felines (Kuh, Munchkin, and Cheeky).
Stage 1: Prep and Acquire Kitten – Lock and Load
We got a kitten much to my initial protest (now Luls is my baby!); I didn’t want another cat because I knew the integration process is killer. But, I was thankfully overruled. Any meow, my first step in the integrating a kitten process is: acquire a baby fur ball of the feline variety (aka. get a kitten).
Lock and Load
By the time kitty is headed towards your home, you should have a safe room (with a door), a new litter box with fresh litter in (keep the door closed or the adult cats will help themselves); at least one stainless steel bowl for dry food, one for wet food and one for water; kitten-friendly toys and two fluffy blankies. You should have catnip on standby (not for kitten). Now it’s time to bring, kitten home. Please read 7 Things I learnt from Three-Week Old Kittens, for more info about kittens and how to make a space safe for them.
Location, Location, Location!
Try and select a room that isn’t your adult kitties’ absolute favourite; but isn’t also the horrible room no one goes to; like the basement or the room under the stairs – this isn’t Catty Potter. You need a room you will spend enough time with kitten but also, one you can slip out to give your golden oldies some TLC. NOTHING – breaks my heart more than people that ditch their cat at a shelter in their twilight years because they got a kitten; especially because the older cat “acted aggressively” towards the kitten. And yet – I see it way too often on all the shelter groups on Facebook. I wonder how those people would feel if they were put in a cage and thrown away when they are old and vulnerable. But this is why integrating your kitten is necessary and something close to my heart …
In Transit to Delivery …
ANYWAY … you have acquired a kitten…in a secure carrier take the kitten to the room and close the door; open the carrier and allow the kitten to come out in their own time. The carrier or a box is something handy to leave in the room – as cats find small spaces comforting (hence, the love for boxes). Settle the kitten – play with him or her and feed kitty nice treats. Show kitty the toilet, one of the comfy blankies and what have you. Basically – give them the grand kitty tour.
Then once your new fur-baby is settled, excuse yourself (slip out); take the other comfy blankie, spray loads of catnip on it and encourage the adult cats to sleep, lie, snack and play on the blanket. Basically – get their scent on it.
Stage 2: Stuck in the Middle with You
Continue living your life, keeping the kitten safely tucked away for the next week. Make sure you give all parties a whole lot of love and attention. Make sure they play, sleep and lie on their respective blankies – getting maximum feline scent on the blankets. The cats will by now all know something is up. They see you sneaking in and out of that room. They may even try squeeze in with you.
The Way to a Cats Heart …
After a week, swap the blankies… allow the kitten to smell and play on your cats’ blankie. And present the kitten blanket to your cats. If they don’t show aggressive behaviour (such as hissing, clawing and puffing of fur) when smelling the blanket, you are a step closer to your goal. Spray catnip on the kitten blanket and allow the household to really get to know the scent of the newcomer. If the cats act aggressively towards the blanket and smell – you will have to delay and repeat the process until the behaviour subsides.
The Door Trick
If no grumpy behaviour was detected – you can start feeding the cats side-by-side through the door. Put nice wet food for the cats outside the safe room and do the same for the kitten inside the room. If all goes well, you can place a kibble or treat on the floor (no bowl) as close to the door as possible – carefully watching the behaviour of the furry felines. Do this for a week and again swap blankets after week two.
If the cats look content into week three – you can try the feeding technique with the door a millimetre ajar (with you holding the handle). And then, a centimetre ajar and then after several days – one-and-a-half centimetres ajar (again with you holding the handle). If the cats look curious but aren’t showing signs such as: flicking or puffing tails, arching backs or attempted biting; then you can advance to week four of the integration plan. If at any stage the cats seem uncertain, fearful or aggressive take it back a week.
Stage 3: The Final Countdown
You have swapped the blankies a few times and did the feeding-door step. Now, it’s time to have a supervised visit. In our case, Munchkin broke into the room and then panicked because Lulubelle chased her all around the room like an overeager toddler. I found Munchkin with eyes the size of saucepans on my metre-high windowsill and Lulubelle trying to get up. Munnie was relieved that I had come to the rescue. So, after the month, Munchkin introduced herself. I am telling this story just to demonstrate that even with the best of intentions mistakes can happen.
Anyway, try introducing your kitten to the household of cats one member at a time. We also removed Lulubelle from the room and allowed all the cats to come have a good sniff around the room she’d been living in; and took Lulu on the tour of the house. We then put the cats one-by-one on the floor with Luls and saw how they reacted. The cats were uncertain, and some did hiss and puff a bit; but didn’t aggressively move towards Lulu. She didn’t give a flying feline, which is very much her personality. She takes on cats twice her size. She has sorted out a neighbourhood bully cat and doesn’t take a squiff look or haughty glare from the other cats.
But anyway … we continued – the supervised visits and then during the day would place Lulubelle in her kitty safe space. After the two months, we stopped keeping her separate all together.
Within this period, we found Lulubelle lying on top of Munchkin and Munchkin lovingly grooming her – like a doting mother would. Success!
Don’t get me wrong – kittens are rude. Lulubelle has chased, playfully ambushed and attacked, pounced on and irritated her older brother and sisters. But at least – the response is a hiss, sometimes a swot – but never a full-on cat brawl (like they all do with stranger cats).
Follow these three stages and I can guarantee – meow-rrific and fur-tastic results!
Interesting Observations and Top Tips
At the start of the process we assumed Munchkin would struggle the most with accepting Lulu. She ate/eats the most, acts like a princess and well, looks more like a diva queen than a mommy. Our money was on Cheeky being mommy of the year. How wrong we were! Cheeky tolerates Lully but Munchkin cherishes, loves and licks Lully – except if Lully bothers her while she is eating. She doesn’t tolerate that – girl has got her priorities straight! But the point is, cats will surprise you with their behaviour; never assume because they are the house darling that they won’t be vicious with a kitten. Or equally, be fearful to bring a kitten into your home with your resident Voldemort or Bellatrix.
Give both the kitten and the other cats – lots of love and attention during the process. It’s very stressful for cats to have their environment change. We should try make the process a secure and loving one.
If you are worried because your cats hate each other and you didn’t know about integration; don’t worry you can do this process with cats at any point. So deep kitty breath and you can do it.
If you are patient with your fur-babies, your cats won’t only tolerate each other – they’ll love each other.
“A meow massages the heart.”