This is a fairly typical cat behavior problem. The question is based on a real situation.
The Cat Behavior Problem
Miss C bought a kitten two weeks ago. She is a female and she is 10 weeks of age. I’ll call her Kali. Miss C then buys another kitten about 10 day later. He is 5 weeks of age. I’ll call him Aaron.
When she takes the Aaron out of his large cage Kali consistently kicks him. Miss C has to step in and stop it. She feels that she has to keep them separated all the time in case Aaron gets hurt. She lets Kali go downstairs while she keeps Aaron upstairs in a single room. She is upset about doing this but sees no alternative.
Miss C thought kittens would get along after doing research on the internet. What can Miss C do to help her kittens get along?
My response is open to criticism. I don’t mind.
I would ask Miss C why she bought two kittens that were not related. It seems the first kitten, Khali, is defending territory and doesn’t want a new cat in. This is somewhat predictable if they were not raised together as newborns. Also she might have made her mind up that she dislikes Aaron.
It would have been better if Miss C had bought two siblings, a brother and sister. They would have got on as they would have been raised together by their mother (socialized to each other).
Selection Process – Preferences
It seems to me that is does not matter if cats are adults or kittens. They have preferences regarding associates and friends. In this instance they don’t get on that well. If Miss C wanted to buy cats from different families it might have been better if she had involved Khali in the selection process.
As shelters have a return a policy might it not have been better if Miss C had selected a kitten and put him with Khali? If they didn’t get on she could have taken the kitten back to the shelter. Would that work? I am not sure but I think cat owners should not assume that even young cats will automatically get along.
Play to Integrate
However, my guess is they will probably get along in time if they are placed together in a managed way. I would take a leaf out of Marc’s book. I think he would suggest that they are put together in a play situation. In other words Miss C plays with them while they are together. The play would be a distraction from Khali’s animosity towards Aaron and it would involve the two making contact and interacting.
Another possible way of getting the two together with a distracting element would be at feed time. Place two bowls not too far apart and feed them together. That might work and it would socialise Khali to Aaron. Although this suggestion is less good than the other.
Long Term Problems?
I think the key is to let Khali adjust in time but to facilitate that adjustment in the sort of ways that I have described. I have read differing accounts of how cats adjust over time. Sometimes cats learn to get along pretty well even if they were once hostile to each other. However, sometimes cats never get along. The atmosphere is for ever frosty. This can’t be a good thing for the household generally and I include the humans.
If indoor cats dislike each other it can result in stress, particularly in a more submissive cat. That can lead to health problems. You can see the potential for long term problems with Khali and Aaron. Although things might be fine in a month or two. We don’t know the full emotional effect upon a cat or cats that are forced to live with each other indoors all their lives when they are not really content in each other’s company. However, most times it appears that cats adapt well and find a way to live in harmony. A certain of space is no doubt required.