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Dear Pammy, Cat cannot handle kitten

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A reader asks:

I have an 8 year old cat who I think is a Beta (the dog cat) and have just introduced a kitten who I really think is an Alpha cat(the monkey cat). The 8 year old has lived with other cats before but he was the youngest and that was about 3 years ago. He hisses and growls even when I cuddle him and reassure him he continues to hiss when the kitten is around. It has been 2 months and its not getting any better. At the start the kitten tried to mount and bite my older cat but that has since stopped and he is now just sniffing and licking his older brother. Im hoping this is normal but I my older boy has never been this aggressive apart from when he has been in territory fights with other cats and Im in fear that it will never stop.
Any advise would be appreciated 🙂

Dear Readers,

Someone here knows what they are doing. In this case, that would be the kitten.

As humans, we must remember that our cat might not have the same reactions to things as we do. We see kittens as adorable bits of of sheer awesome.

Handful of Adorable (tiny kitten cupped in human hand)

Our cats… might not. If our cat is less than thrilled with the “new toy we got them” here’s some thoughts that might help:

kitten tolerance

All cats start out solidly social. There’s no such thing as a litter of kittens who don’t get along. Social intolerance is something which usually happens to a cat.

Our Professional Kitten Wrangler, Reverend Jim, sees kittens the way his humans do. When we get a new kitten, he quivers all over with sheer delight. He cannot wait to cuddle with them, clean their heads, and teach them the ropes. But if Reverend Jim is on one end of the kitten enjoyment spectrum, right along with his humans, there is that other end of kitten tolerance.

Our present cat might see them as annoying little beanheads with no manners. If we have a cat with less than stellar social skills and experience, or a shy, Gamma cat type personality, or a strong innate dignity, or all of these qualities; they will see a kitten as disastrous.

I just want to look out the window without getting my tail pounced on! I want to take a nap without worrying about someone tackling my head! And they are always pretending to rip my belly out, and I hate that!

My cat James Bond combined a Gamma/Beta cusp personality with great personal dignity, so kittens were not his favorite thing in the world. But even in his old age, James had incredible Presence.

This superpower would allow him to give one stern look to a kitten and ward them off as though he had a force field going. I vividly remember him zapping Reverend Jim with it during RJ’s kittenhood. One time RJ had planned a spectacular pounce, but James made him reconsider his landing spot. He actually corrected in mid-air, such was the power of James Bond’s disapproval.

But even James Bond could not do this in his sleep. So when we had kittens, he would find hiding places to nap in. I would help out, by never revealing his hiding places to those darn kittens.

So when we have cat and kitten conflict, based on the older cat not wanting to play, and the kitten so much wanting to play, we can try to craft the experience for the older cat in a way that makes it less objectionable.

cat signals

We need to know what the cat means when they hiss at the new kitten. If it goes no further, it is a warning. (If it slides right into a growl the cat is feeling threatened.) But just hissing puts the kitten on notice that the older cat is just not in the mood. Now, or ever!

What I read from this particular situation is that the adult cat had social experience, but now he is rusty. And the energy difference between an 8 year old and a kitten is pretty considerable, no matter the age of the kitten. Our then 7 year old RJ took to baby Mithrandir, but RJ is kitten-oriented and doesn’t fuss too much about dignity. When it comes to kittens, he has a role to play.

This adult cat needs a role regarding his kitten which will suit his personality.

Many of my cats enjoyed the Mentor role. We tell our cat, “That silly kitten. He doesn’t know which end is up! Would you show him how things are done?”

He needs encouragement to remember how he used to be, when he was social. “Oh, remember how you enjoyed being buddies with So-and-so? I wanted you to have another buddy.”

We have play time because of the kitten, treat time with the kitten, happy singing of songs and so much fun because of the kitten. It is a form of psychology. We have to sell the kitten.

He might have been settling into a happy, low-key life before the kitten turned up. There are advantages to having a companion, but it is obviously not occurring to him on its own. He needs help realizing what an opportunity the kitten is offering.

no downgrade

Since our reluctant cat is losing things, let’s acknowledge the loss, and take steps to give it back.

Find times to keep the kitten in their own space, with plenty of toys and cuddling with us, while our cat can take a nap in peace. Give our cat the space to miss the little beanhead.

If the kitten asks the cat for play, it’s time for us to get out the wand toy. Encourage our cat to watch That Silly Fool play. It might spark nostalgia, too.

Enforce manners by making sure the kitten doesn’t steal food, block litter box access, or hog our cat’s favorite spots. Some of this older cat grumpiness might be earned.

Give our cat lots of love and attention, and explain to him that there enough love for everyone. This always draws the kitten like a magnet, but this is why we have two hands.

Our cat must learn we will continue to provide the environment of abundance.

Because while we reap the benefit of cuteness running about the place, and we can be confident the kitten will grow into an enjoyable addition to our home, our cat does not have this reassurance. The kitten is messing up his happy routines, he seems like a complete idiot, and they might not have the understanding that kittens grow and improve.

Like Olwyn, whose first reaction to three week old Tristan, a furry slug who could not walk very well, was “This one is broken! Why didn’t you get one that worked?”

So our cat needs us to be the Boss of Cat Town, until the kitten starts working for everyone.

    I must say, this is a situation that brings up my favorite cat saying:

    The solution to your cat problem is more cats.

    This situation can be easily solved by going into a true Cat Civilization with another kitten joining the home.

    Got here from a Link or Search?
    There’s more about multiple cats in The Way of Cats than the article you are reading now. See more posts on the MULTIPLE CAT ADVANTAGE.

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