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How to Introduce a Kitten to Your Cat at Home

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Q: I just got married. My husband has a cat, Harry, which is great because my own sweet cat, Miranda, recently passed away. I would like to get a kitten because Harry likes my husband best, and, to be honest, I'd like a cat who prefers my company. What's the best way to keep Harry happy when a new kitty arrives? — via e-mail

A: If you take over feeding Harry and also dedicate time to playing with him, you'll probably rise on his list of priorities. You may even top your husband in Harry's affection. You never know!

That said, I'm real believer in "the more the merrier," so I think you should still add a cat. Living with more than one cat doesn't have to be contentious. The trick to domestic harmony for felines is to introduce — or reintroduce — them slowly and carefully. You might also ask your veterinarian about a product that mimics the scent of feline pheromones and makes many cats feel more relaxed in stressful circumstances.

Put in the Prep Work

Prepare a room for your new kitten with food and water bowls, a litterbox and scratching post for each animal. This room will be your new pet's home turf while Harry gets used to him.

Take your new kitten to your veterinarian first to be checked for parasites such as ear mites and contagious diseases such as feline leukemia. When you're sure your new pet is healthy, let the introductions begin.

Quarantine the Kitty

Bring the kitten home in a carrier and set him in the room you've prepared. Let your resident cat discover the caged baby, and don't be discouraged by any initial hisses. When the new cat is alone in the room, close the door and let him out of the carrier. If he doesn't want to leave the carrier at first, let him be. Just leave the carrier door open and the kitten alone.

Make the Introductions — and Get Out of the Way

Maintain each cat separately for a week or so — with lots of love and play for both — and then, on a day when you're around to observe, leave the door to the new cat's room open. Above all: Don't force them together. Territory negotiations between cats can be drawn-out and delicate, and you must let them work it out on their own. Ignore the hisses and glares.

Since your husband's cat got used to having you around, it's a pretty good bet he'll adjust to a kitten, too. If you decide to adopt an adult instead of a kitten, the introductions may be a little more difficult. But with patience, going from a one-cat home to a two-cat home usually works out in the end.

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