Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I have three questions for you. The first is about my new 4-5 month-old rescue kitten. She cries to be held ALL THE TIME! We don’t mind loving her, but we can’t be expected to just hold her all the time. What should we do? Next: The same kitten has a sneeze — no other symptoms of anything, great appetite for food and water, no runny nose or eyes. Any ideas? Third, my adult cat (4 years old) is still hissing a lot at the kitten and no longer sociable unless we have her by herself with us. She won’t even come in the room with the kitten is there. They’ve been together for about 2 weeks now. Help!
Siouxsie: Well, Jamie, we think questions 1 and 3 are related. Your new kitten is very needy and you’ve been responding to that by giving her as much attention as you possibly can. Therefore, your older cat, in addition to being somewhat traumatized by a new arrival, is jealous of all the attention the younger one is getting.
Thomas: The good news is that you don’t have to give the kitten away to get the older cat to feel better. But it is going to take some work on your part to make sure that the two cats start to get along.
Dahlia: To help your older cat feel less jealous and insecure, you might have to re-introduce the kitten into the household. This takes time and effort, but it could really be a great icebreaker for both of them.
Siouxsie: This might also help the new kitten to feel less overwhelmed, and that may cause her to feel less needy.
Thomas: Basically, the way to introduce a new cat into the household is to put the new cat in her own room with all the supplies she needs (and some fun cat toys). Let her get used to her room, and let the older cat get used to the new cat’s smells in the house. Then, introduce the cats by having some supervised play time, where you play with both of them using a “thing on a string” type toy. Once the two cats begin associating good times with being together, it will help both of them learn to enjoy one another’s company.
Siouxsie: The best thing you can do to help your older cat is to make sure you give her at least as much love and attention as you give the kitten. That way she’ll feel she’s still an important part of your family and that she hasn’t been relegated to outcast status by the new, cute kitten.
Thomas: Another thing you need to understand is that it’s hard for us cats to deal with major changes like introduction of another cat or a move to another location. Both of your kitties are dealing with very stressful situations right now. But don’t worry, it really is a good thing that you rescued another cat and brought her into your home. You just need to help both of them cope with the stress.
Dahlia: There are a couple of products we’ve used and found very helpful in stressful situations. One is a feline pheromone product called Comfort Zone (or Feliway, depending on where you get it). What it does is to release “happy cat” pheromones into the environment, which helps cats to relax and feel less stressed out. It comes in a plug-in diffuser and a spray; we’d recommend the diffuser for your situation. You can get Comfort Zone at vets’ offices, pet stores, and online outlets.
Siouxsie: We’ve also used Bach Rescue Remedy to good effect. This is a flower essence that you can find at health food and natural product stores in the US, and it’s available in drugstores as well in the UK. Because Rescue Remedy is preserved in an alcohol base, do not try to give it to the cats by mouth; they won’t like it!
Thomas: When Mama gives us Rescue Remedy, she puts a drop of it on her finger and rubs it into the fur on the top of our heads, as if she’s petting us. Rescue Remedy helps us to cope with physical and emotional trauma or stress, and it really works well.
Dahlia: So, Jamie, we think a reintroduction, synchronized playtime, and possibly the addition of Comfort Zone and Rescue Remedy will help both of your kitties adjust to their new situation.
Siouxsie: As for your kitten’s sneezing, it could be that she’s sensitive to something in her environment — litterbox dust, strong fragrances (such as litterbox deodorizers and certain laundry detergents or air fresheners), smoke, or just dustbunnies under the couch. Kittens are very close to the floor and it’s easy for them to get a nose-full of dust.
Thomas: It could also be that she picked up a “kitty cold” at the shelter.
Dahlia: We wouldn’t worry about it too much unless her nose gets really congested or she starts having symptoms in her eyes. If the mucus she produces turns yellow or green, that’s a sign that her infection is severe and that should warrant a trip to the vet. Also, if your kitten stops eating, that’s a big problem — severe congestion can cause cats to stop eating because our appetites are triggered by our sense of smell, and if we can’t smell our food we won’t want to eat it.
Siouxsie: We’d suggest you try to eliminate any strong fragrances or excess dust in your home. This could help to reduce or stop your kitty’s sneezing.
Thomas: Good luck, Jamie. Please let us know how things turn out.
Dahlia: We’re sure your tale of two kitties will have a happy ending if you just do a little extra work to make it so.