How Can I Help My Kittens To Get On?

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.

Defensive and hostile kitten

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

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.

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How Can I Help My Kittens To Get On? — 8 Comments

  1. Aaron was far too young to leave his mother, whoever sold him to Miss C at 5 weeks old wants reporting if there was no good reason! Khali at 10 weeks is at a very playful stage but Aaron is too young to play rough with an older kitten.
    Miss C will have to keep them seperate until Aaron is at least a month older and mneanwhile she must spend time with him, she must divide her time between the 2 kittens, playing with them.
    When Aaron has grown a bit she then needs to start swapping them over, put Khali in the room Aaron was in and let Aaron have the freedom of the house for a while. Then swap them back, if she does this a few times every day they will learn each other’s scent and hopefully get along together when they meet again.
    We have 2 cats who were not litter mates, Walter was 8 weeks old when we rescued him and Jozef came along a fortnight later, he was only 6 weeks as his young mother had no milk and wasn’t coping with her babies either.
    They got along straight away, played a bit rough at times but we made sure little Jo didn’t get hurt by bigger Walt.
    11 years later they still play at times together although more often with one of us. They both have and always have had their own private space, in each bedroom a cat basket on top of the wardrobe and each of them respect the other’s need for privacy when he’s in it.
    So yes it could work out well for Miss C given time and patience.

    • Excellent, thanks Ruth. I forgot about the point you made namely a kitten should not be weaned too early and 5 weeks is too early. It can cause mental health problems. You have been through a very similar experience with Josef and Walter. It is noticeable that your two got on straight away. For me this reinforces my belief that cats have very definite preferences like people.

  2. Forgot to mention Jozef was a little toughie having come from a litter of 7 and a houseful of cats and kittens of all ages. Had he been vulnerable like Aaron we’d have kept him and Walter apart until he grew a bit more, but poor Walter wasn’t much bigger than Jo as he was undernourished, so they were on equal terms really despite the month’s difference in their ages.

  3. Hi Michael,

    Ruth is right – 5 weeks old is too young to be separated from the mother.

    I don’t think a kitten should be separated from the mother until at least 8 weeks. Some kittens need their mom for 10 weeks. The Siamese kittens need their mother for 12 weeks.

    As Ruth also pointed out, 5 weeks is too young for serious roughhousing though they’ll still do some lighter wrestling at that age. That would be a problem for the younger kitten but I don’t see that as a problem for the older kitten.

    Ideally, you’d want kittens from the same litter. But it’s not necessary.

    Then as you pointed out, there will be an adjustment period as there is with almost all cats. After a time, they could become good friends.

    Then again, as you pointed out, it’s possible that the older kitten doesn’t like the other one. I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion this early though. It’s also a possibility that the older kitten has a slight territorial issue but it can’t be too strong since she just arrived as well. That should clear up soon, hopefully.

    Sure, you could bring the kitten back but I wouldn’t. They’re both young and should adjust fine over a fairly short period of time.

    They should be kept somewhat separated for a time – at least a few days or a week – and gradually introduced under supervision.

    Marc’s suggestion of distractions is a good one. I do that when introducing a new cat and it works well.

    Considering their young age and short time in the house, it’s a simple and minor matter, really – nothing to worry too much about.

    Though it could remain frosty, I’d be surprised if it did for any other reason than they decide they don’t like each other. As with any two cats, compatibility is always in question.

    =^..^= Hairless Cat Girl =^..^=

  4. 5 weeks is too young. 10 weeks is even a little young in my opinion. They are however both so young that I am surprised they don’t get along. Even between litters and ages kittens get along as if they are siblings. My two kittens are a month or so apart in age from 2 different litters but are like sisters and have grown up together learning and playing with each other. Its unusual for a 10 week old cat to be like that. I would say the older cat is insecure – way too much so and needs playtime and help to feel better.

    As for the 5 week old kitten – well the poor thing is very young. If it must be this way then its about getting him to feel OK and be safe around Kali – but the job at hand is with Kali, not Aaron in my opinion. Aaron is a baby. So Kali needs to play a lot to feel better and acquainted with her new home and caretaker and little brother. That’s all it is really. Being so young she needs to play, a lot, all day even.

    I think there is more to this story than what we read. A 10 week old kitten behaving territorially as if it were a 10 year old cat is not normal. Did Kali grow up without siblings? Was she bottle fed? What is her history and why doesn’t she act like a month younger kitten. Its totally off the books abnormal. Kittens love kittens. They accept each other til they are 4 or 5 or 6 months old without problems.

    My only suggestion is that Kali was found without a mother and bottle fed and was not around other kittens during her first couple months. Therefore being with another kitten or creature like herself is a bit of a shock. She will get over it, guaranteed. I totally agree with Michael. Get them to play together. Instinct will kick in and they will chase the feathered string toy – its guaranteed unless one of them is sick. Once they play together and the human it will change so quickly and they will become like brother and sister almost as if it never was like this in the first place. Kittens are amazing.

    There is something not right with Kali – what is it? Maybe if she is really edgy or insecure the human must play with her alone first so she gets comfy. Thats only if she feels so dodgy she is inhibited and wont play in the other kittens presence. But that would be some serious kitten psychological issues that would be very unusual and based on som serious previous or current experience that is not part of the known equation.

    • Your comment highlights in an indirect way the problems with buying kittens from what may have been a shop that sells animals rather than a breeder. We don’t know what goes on behind the scenes at high street shops that sell companion animals.

      There has been some early mismanagement of newborn kittens, it seems to me, on the basis of what you say. But the problem can be recovered. Marc, thanks for the insights and taking the time to comment.

  5. I agree with he others too that at 5 weeks the play must be supervised simply because of the size and strength difference. But the way I understood the article was that it was not at that stage yet where they get on fine – I understood that Kali has a problem with the little one which obviously makes physical contact a more dangerous thing because she might not be gentle if she doesnt like him – especially since even her idea of gentle is not gentle for him. The odd thing here is that they are not getting along in my opinion. There must be a reason for the fact.

  6. At 5 weeks a kitten should be play fighting with her litter mates and this litle love isn’t ready to take on an older bigger kitten yet.I agree she needs to be kept seperate for a while and Miss C to gently play with her as often as she can.Kittens are more fragile than some people think and my heart aches for any taken from their mother so young.

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