Q: I’m adopting a 6-week-old kitten this weekend but I have two cats at home I’m worried about. What should I expect?
A: First, a question: Do you have a life? By which I mean, do you have to go to work every day, maintain a healthy social life, or run an active household? If you answered yes to any of these, you’re likely to feel a little overwhelmed should you decide to take in any new pet.
Don’t get me wrong, bringing home a new pet is a tremendously enjoyable, hugely rewarding and highly memorable time in any pet lover’s life. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it was stressful, too. Be they newborn kittens, breeder babies, juvenile foundlings or adult rescues, it’s clear that any newbie has the power to wreak havoc on even the most-organized household.
Here are some considerations:
Be sure your kitten has been tested for feline leukemia (FeLV), feline AIDS (FIV) and intestinal parasites. Also: Make sure you're not bringing home mites, fleas or ringworm (a fungal infection). These are all potentially transmissible, either by sharing bedding and food dishes or by biting, grooming and sidling up to one another.
They cry, they demand attention, they often need baths, they need all kinds of constant interaction, and they generally make you crazy for a while.
I hold fast to the belief that there’s an ideal number of cats that should inhabit any typical indoor space. That number is two. One is often too lonely, but two is just perfect (especially if they’re raised together as kittens). Adding any more is a gamble.
That’s because territoriality is a major stressor among cats. So it is that any time you bring home a new one, cats will typically quarrel.
Sometimes the stress is short-lived, but other times it’s a forever proposition that can lead to inappropriate elimination (usually urinating outside the litterbox), physical bullying or hiding behavior.
Adding or relocating boxes, diligently cleaning up stray urine, feeding in separate rooms, and possibly building an outdoor “catio” so they can have their own spaces all might be in order.
Introduce cats gradually. Allow the kitten to adjust in a separate room before supervised interactions. But know this: Regardless of what you do, permanent comity is never assured. But who can resist kittens?
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.