You may have heard that kittens get a “kitten pass” when introduced to other cats. Is that true? Yes and no – it depends on the personalities and past experiences of the cats and the kittens! Yes it is true that many times adult cats who might have had bad experiences or seem not to get along well with other adult cats they’ve met will be less upset when they first meet a kitten. Here are some reasons why based on my personal experience introducing foster kittens to adult foster cats (click here for our cat intro how-to), and also helping dozens of adopters introduce both new kittens and cats:
- Size. Kittens or cats that are smaller than the resident adult cat are perceived as less of a threat, even when they hiss or growl.
- Height. Adult cats can jump up on top of a table or chair and easily be higher than a kitten. That vertical hierarchy reassures the adult cat.
- Play. Kittens like other animal babies have a strong instinct to play. This means they will often make friendly playful overtures to an adult cat, once they’ve settled in to a new space.
- Short attention spans. Kittens can be hissing and poofing up at the adult cat (who’s sitting on a chair looking down his nose at them) but then… ohhh a feather toy! Must pounce! Distractions like games and food are a great tool to get kittens and cats to make positive associations about being in each others presence.
Often though a kitten is NOT the best choice of a companion for an adult cat. Kittens are full of energy and often still learning how hard to bite, scratch, and pounce. If you have a sedate adult or older cat, a kitten can be a year or two of torture — imagine a great-grandpahaving to be the full-time caretaker and playmate for a toddler, and you can imagine the stress and difficulty that would mean for the older party, and the frustration and boredom that would mean for the younger one. While it means your new cat won’t get a “kitten pass” taking the time to do a slow cat to cat introduction is well-worth the resulting harmony you’ll enjoy from making a good cat adoption match.