It is an exciting and also nerve-wracking decision to make to add a second (or third) cat to your household. Will the new kitten (or cat) like the existing cat? Will the existing cat accept the introduction of a new friend? Will they fight? Will they become friends? How long will it take?
This has been something I experienced when I decided it was time to bring in a new kitten. I had adopted Jemima, along with her brother Harley from the RSPCA Mid-Lincolnshire and Lincoln Branch in May 2018 (they were two of the original Wetherspoons kittens). I was originally only looking for one kitten but when I saw that they were inseparable and constantly playing I knew I had to have them both (I tried to resist…..i couldn’t, it was inevitable I would go home with two!) I brought them home in May 2018, and they played together, fought, slept curled up with/on each other. They were adorable!! But the unthinkable happened in December 2019 and I lost Harley very suddenly due to a heart condition. I was heart-broken, but I came to realise Jemima was as well – she missed her playmate.
I started to think about whether it would be the right thing to adopt another kitten – a friend for Jemima. I didn’t want to wait too long in case she got too used to being alone, but as luck would have it, the decision was taken out of my hands when we went into lockdown in March 2020. I was all of a sudden working from home on a permanent basis, which obviously meant I now had lots of time to spend with Jemima (my work colleagues got to know her well, as she did love to make an appearance on Teams at every opportunity). As the pandemic progressed, working habits changed, and whilst I was still going to be home based for around half my work time, I started going back to the office from May 2021. I then started to notice a peculiar thing – Jemima seemed a little sad and I would find her sitting in front of my French doors at night, just staring at her reflection! (well that’s what I told myself anyway!) I started to wonder – was Jemima lonely in those days when I was in the office? She slept a lot, we had lots of cuddles, she was eating fine, but she just seemed a little down. I started to think maybe she needed a friend, a kitten, someone to keep her company. This was obviously completely selfless – I wasn’t falling head over heels for the kittens being advertised on the RSPCA Mid-Lincolnshire and Lincoln Facebook page at all!
So, as this is a “Tail of two kitties”, I obviously took the plunge and decided to go and meet the “X-men kittens”. After the adoption process, and deciding that Rogue would be the one who would be a good companion for Jemima and I, I arranged a date to bring Rogue home. And now onto the second part of the story!
When Jemima met Rogue
So, the day came – I had a new cat carrier, I’d bought kitten dishes and toys, and kitten sized litter tray (a big mistake as Rogue very quickly outgrew that!), and I’d set up a room on the third floor of my house to be Rogue’s temporary safe space for the next couple of weeks. While I’d always considered Jemima to be quite a laid-back cat, I wasn’t completely sure how she would react and thought a separate room for Rogue might help them both acclimatise to each other.
I travelled to collect Rogue and brought her home (with a lot of very loud meowing – despite being told she hadn’t ‘found’ her voice yet!) brought her in, Jemima came running to greet me and threw herself on the floor to roll over and then – she got a whiff of this little squeaky thing in a cat carrier – and the laid back feline disappeared in an instant. There was hissing and growling (she’d never done that before) and then she ran off! Obviously disgusted by the fact that her human had thought it was acceptable to bring another, albeit tiny, kitten into HER house (obviously it’s the cats house, and I just pay the mortgage!).
I panicked, what had I done? Would Jemima ever forgive me? Would they ever get along?
I got Rogue settled in her “safe room” on the top floor of my house, she seemed oblivious to the hate being directed at her from Jemima’s direction and was much more interested in trying knock over every single thing in her room, and eating her food before it had even left the packet (anyone who’s ever had a kitten will know just how ferociously they eat!)
For a few days after I brought Rogue home, Jemima seemed to avoid coming all the way to the top of the stairs – she knew there was something behind that door and she didn’t like it! Eventually she got braver (or just curious) and made it to the landing, and upon seeing a shadow move under the door promptly hissed at it! Oh dear. This is not going well!
Rogue was unaffected by this hostility and continued being the adorable, crazily energetic ball of fluff that kittens are. She was also very nosey and was intrigued by the thing behind the door that kept growling and hissing, and she tried to get out of her safe room at every opportunity! Well, one Saturday evening, a week after I brought her home, she managed this (she’s a very quick little thing!), and Jemima was loitering in the spare room staring suspiciously at the door. Cue instant hissing when Rogue got out (from Jemima – Rogue was just thrilled to have more space to run around), I was concerned that Jemima might attack Rogue, but something strange happened (don’t get me wrong, there was A LOT of hissing). At the sight of Rogue racing around like a crazy thing, Jemima crouched down and did that bum wriggle (you know when they want to pounce on a toy) and then watched as Rogue raced around and then she chased her! Now Rogue, although little, was a very feisty kitten and she wasn’t going to be scared by this, so she turned the tables on Jemima and chased her. Jemima seemed to like this and they spent a good hour or so chasing each other around the house. I thought this was a positive sign and the chasing was definitely playful behaviour!
I decided that now they had met face to face (nose to nose) I would start bringing Rogue out of the safe space for more house time for Jemima to get used to her. I was feeding them separately still at this point. Jemima stopped hissing at Rogue’s shadow, and only hissed at her in person (so to speak). They continued to play with each other (on Jemima’s terms of course) and if I felt that Jemima was starting to be overwhelmed by Rogue’s presence I would put her back in her safe space (she had toys/food/a bed/litter tray…it was a little self-contained pen). After a couple of weeks, they were doing better, Jemima started eating Rogue’s food, Rogue was eating Jemima’s food, there was still hissing and growling, but it seemed to be more when Jemima was surprised by Rogue or if she was getting too close. They continued to play. I decided that it was time for Rogue to not need time outs in her safe space anymore, but I continued to put her in there at bedtime to give Jemima a bit of space so she wasn’t overwhelmed. I used Feliway to help them get along (I’m not sure if it worked, or if it was just time that helped). I started feeding them together, and there were no issues with that, Jemima was quite content to eat while Rogue was eating from the dish next to her. I decided that if they were happy eating together, they were probably starting to get along!
After a few weeks of Rogue “sleeping” in her safe room at night, I thought I would experiment with leaving her to roam the house overnight with Jemima. I was a tiny bit concerned. Would fur be flying in the middle of the night? Would Jemima fall out with me again for taking away her quite nights? Well, I wasn’t woken by Rogue and Jemima fighting – they seemed quiet, Jemima was starting to adjust Rogue’s presence. In fact she sometimes just looked quite bemused at this little fluffy ball of energy racing backwards and forwards around the living room/house! As the nights seemed to be going well, I finally decided it was time to pack up Rogue’s little safe space ‘house’, and she was fully integrated!
This didn’t mean it was plain sailing from this point – Jemima would still hiss at Rogue frequently (usually when she was getting in her space and it was breakfast/tea time). Rogue has always been very affectionate, and I think she just wanted to be friends with Jemima. Jemima is more cautious! But they continued to play fight, sometimes it’s a little boop on the nose, sometimes one of them will full on launch themselves on the other! But I’ve become less concerned about this as I realise they are actually play fighting, some cats do enjoy play fighting (and I do remember Jemima and Harley used to playfight a lot as they got older), and it’s usually quite equal with whether its Rogue attacking Jemima or Jemima attacking Rogue. They switch it around! Its quite funny to watch when they’re sat staring at each other and I can see Rogue gingerly lifting her paw trying to decide whether to boop Jemima on the head, with Jemima looking at her with an expression that says, ‘don’t even try it’.
I’ve had Rogue for just over a year now, and whilst they are not best friends yet, I’m not sure if they ever will be. Jemima is now fairly unphased by Rogue’s presence, they eat very happily, they will even both curl up close to me and they will both sleep on my bed overnight (not next to each other of course!) and when there is a noise outside, they both dash to the top of the stairs and sit next to each other ready to protect the house! There is the occasional hiss from Jemima now, usually because Rogue has overstepped the mark slightly and spooked Jemima. I think the hiss is more of a warning from Jemima to just back off a bit.
So, in conclusion, if you are thinking of introducing a new kitten to your household – it is a big decision, and truthfully there is no way to know how your existing cat will react. There needs to be an acceptance that it will take weeks or even months for two (or more) cats to get used to each other. Cats are very independent, but I think they also need to be reassured that they are not being replaced. My advice would be to make sure you have a separate room for the new kitten/cat to live in for a week or so, let the existing cat investigate from the other side of the door. If they sniff and don’t hiss, give them fuss, reinforce any good behaviour. When they meet the new kitten, if they hiss/growl, don’t tell them off. They are just trying to establish if this new creature is a threat. Give them lots of fuss, let the new kitten see you give them lots of fuss. If your existing cat seems to be getting stressed/overwhelmed, give the kitten a timeout (maybe go and play with them in their room – don’t make them feel like they are being punished). Make sure you give your existing cat lots of fuss when the new kitten isn’t around, and encourage them to play when the new kitten is out and about. It can be stressful, but they will either become best friends, learn to tolerate each other and happily co-exist, or they will forever hate each other (but maybe they like having a nemesis?) But don’t give up!
I originally said that I wanted another kitten to give Jemima a companion, do I think I did the right thing? Absolutely! Yes, there has been a lot of hissing/growling etc, but Jemima’s personality has changed and I don’t think she looks sad anymore. We still have a lot of cuddles, she eats better now, but also she’s a lot more playful, she’s lost weight (before Rogue, the vet told me she was getting chonky!) as she’s more active. When they go outside they chase each other around – she used to just sit in one place, she seems more alert. She’s very contented. They both are.
Adopting Rogue was definitely the right decision, and I’m so glad I have her, and I’m so happy to see the effect she’s had on Jemima as well.
Now do I think I could introduce a third…