Getting a new kitten is extremely exciting.
However, many of us fail to realize how distressing introducing a new animal into the family can be for the cat you already have. This is especially true if you have just one other cat that has been used to living alone for the majority of its life.
Too many times families will notice signs of depression after getting a kitten in their old cat. They feel like their territory has been invaded which manifests as your older cat becoming more withdrawn, hissing at the new arrival, and even physical changes such as weight loss due to a loss of appetite.
In this article, I look at the signs of depression after a new kitten is welcomed to the family. Keeping an eye out for these signs can ensure you get your cat the help it needs if it is struggling. I’ll also talk about how to successfully introduce your two cats so that it goes as smoothly as possible.
Why is My Cat Depressed Because of New Kittens?
I want to start by talking about why your old cat will get depressed because of a new kitten. Aren’t they excited like you are? Won’t they be pleased that they have a new friend to play with?
Unfortunately, cats don’t see the situation quite as you do! Cats are territorial creatures and use pheromones to mark your home as “theirs”. This makes them feel safe and comforted. They know that they belong here and that this is their home. A new kitten will have unique-smelling pheromones that your cat doesn’t like. Therefore, they feel like their space is being invaded and taken from them.
In addition to this, they don’t know who this new kitten is. Can they trust them or not? In the beginning, your cat is still trying to figure this out for themselves. You might see your cat hissing at new kittens as a warning to back off or to see how they respond. Their new presence makes your cat feel on edge and can trigger depression.
Finally, your cat might be depressed as suddenly they are not the sole focus of your attention. Your new kitten is probably receiving a lot more love and attention than your old cat is. Sadly your old cat will notice this and they feel the lack of love they’re used to. This can further cause depression as your old cat doesn’t just feel like it’s losing its home – it feels like it’s losing you too!
What are the Signs of Depression After a New Kitten?
Some cats will respond well to there being a new kitten in their home. However, some cats will not and will become depressed. This is usually the case with senior cats which have been used to having exclusive ownership of your house and 100% of your affection their whole life.
You will easily be able to notice if your cat is suffering from depression after a new kitten enters the family as their behavior will change. Below are just a few of the signs that indicate they’re feeling low.
1. Withdrawn or Clingy Behavior
My cat follows me everywhere when she feels depressed, and this is often the case if you have a new kitten in your home. Your cat is after your love and attention which is now being divided between the two of them. Besides, as the person they love the most, they will want to be around you when they are feeling down to seek reassurance.
On the other hand, some cats will become withdrawn rather than clingy. Just as humans that suffer from depression may become socially withdrawn, the same is true for cats. They give up on having fun and lose interest in socializing completely. As such, if your cat is hiding and acting weird this can be an indication they’re depressed.
2. Excessive Scratching
Cats love scratching surfaces to file their claws and keep them sharp. This behavior is also a part of territorial marking. When cats scratch an object, pheromones are released from their paw pads onto the object. This helps mark the confines of their territory and makes your cat feel at ease.
It follows that stressed and depressed cats tend to scratch surfaces and objects more excessively. They are wanting to reclaim what is theirs and are trying to release the negativity that is building up inside them. Therefore, if you see your old cat scratching a lot more after you bring a new kitten home, it is another sign they’re struggling with the transition and could be depressed.
3. Appetite Changes
Do you notice changes in your old cat’s appetite after bringing your new kitten home? This can be another sign your cat is feeling unhappy. In some cases, cats will eat more food than usual as a form of comfort. This is comparable to how some humans comfort eat when feeling in a low mental state.
In other instances, your cat might lose its appetite altogether. They will stop eating their favorite treats and show no excitement when you put their dinner down each day. It is important to note that a cat not eating or drinking for three days can reach a life-threatening state. If your cat doesn’t eat or drink anything within 24 hours you should speak to your vet immediately.
4. Sleeping More Than Usual
It is well-known that cats love to sleep. In fact, our furry friends spend around 12 to 16 hours every day getting some shuteye. However, sleeping excessively is another sign of a depressed cat. If you notice your cat sleeping more than usual when you bring your new kitten home, you can be pretty certain that their arrival is the trigger.
Is your cat suddenly lethargic and weak? While oversleeping is a sign of depression, weakness and lethargy are usually signs of a greater underlying medical condition. You should take your cat to the vet as soon as possible so they can receive an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
5. Overgrooming or Undergrooming
Changes in normal grooming behaviors can also be indicative of depression and anxiety in cats. Cats usually love keeping themselves clean. However, many unhappy cats will stop grooming altogether as their depression means they lose interest in activities they previously enjoyed. This will make their fur coats look unkempt and matted.
Conversely, some depressed cats bite their nails and overgroom. This is a way for them to deal with the stress – they’re using grooming as a form of comfort. Where cats overgroom they may start to suffer from hair loss as the repetitive cleaning damages the hair follicles. If you see your cat throwing up hairballs daily this could also be a sign they’re grooming and ingesting more hair than usual.
6. Bathroom Accidents
Bathroom accidents are common in depressed felines. They may start to urinate outside their litter box despite being litter trained. This is because their urine contains pheromones and so peeing around your home helps to spread their scent and reestablish their territory. This helps them feel calmer and happier.
Some of the places you might find your cat peeing include high vantage points in your home or areas where your new kitten is spending a lot of time. Cats might revert to spraying too, something which is more common in unneutered males but can manifest in cats of any gender or neutered status.
7. Changes in Vocalizations
Vocal clues are one of the most obvious signs of depression after a new kitten. Many unhappy cats will be much more vocal than usual. The noises themselves will also change – rather than their regular meow you might hear low-pitched yowls and rumbles. Hissing at the new kitten is also common, and even purring can be a sign of sadness as cats often purr to comfort themselves.
On the other hand, some cats might become abnormally quiet when they are depressed. Generally, an unhappy cat will be the opposite of what they usually are. Highly vocal and chatty cats tend to become much quieter, whereas quiet cats will become much louder.
How Can I Help Cats with Depression?
If you notice any of these signs of depression, take your cat to the vet. Many of the symptoms cross over with other health conditions. Your vet will be able to rule these medical problems out and help you determine the cause of depression in your cat. If the symptoms started when you brought your new kitten home, you can be pretty sure that this is the cause.
There are then a few things you can then do at home to help lift your cat’s mood:
- Spend Time Together: One of the reasons your old cat won’t like your new kitten is jealousy. They are used to having all your time and attention and now they don’t have it! Therefore, make sure you are still spending quality time with your old cat. Show them attention every time you’re in the same room and make sure you stoke and cuddle your cat every day. Cats might be independent, but all animals require love.
- Play Together Daily: Depressed cats often start to lose interest in activities they love such as playing. It follows that one of the best things you can do is encourage play. Not only will this give them mental stimulation to help lift their mood, but will keep their bodies healthier as well. It will also help to prove to your old cat that you still love them. Invest in a range of different cat toys to provide the best entertainment possible.
- Offer Places to Hide: Depressed cats often become more withdrawn and search for somewhere to hide. Providing them with places to do so gives them a chance to take themselves away from a situation and calm down. This is even more important when bringing a new kitten home as your old cat will need some privacy. Having a secret place that is only theirs can help reduce the stress of territorial invasion.
If these tips don’t seem to be helping your old cat improve its mood, I suggest going back to the vet. Some cats will need more help adjusting to a new kitten than others, and that’s okay. Your vet might refer your cat to a behavioral specialist or offer treatment to help lift their mood.
How Do I Get My Cat to Accept a New Kitten?
One of the best ways to prevent your old cat from feeling depressed is to introduce your new kitten the right way. This requires some preparation, as well as perfecting their initial meeting and encouraging your cats to interact gradually in the days and weeks that follow. Here are my top tips on introducing a kitten and an older cat to cause the least upset possible!
1. Get Your Home Ready
You need to prepare your home ready for when kittens leave their mom and become your latest family member. You need to get a new litter tray, new food and water bowls, and new toys for the latest arrival. Not sure where kittens should sleep at night? They shouldn’t go in your bed or be left to roam, so you’ll need to sort out their sleeping arrangements as well.
It is important to purchase these new items ahead of time and prepare your house a few weeks early. This will give your old cat a chance to get used to these new items in your home. Cats can be sensitive to even the smallest changes in their environment. Therefore, getting them used to these small changes before the big surprise of a new pet can really help with the adjustment process.
2. Prepare Your Old Cat
You will also want to prepare your old cat for the new kitten’s arrival. You want to make sure their stress levels are kept to a minimum before the latest addition to your family joining. This means that they have more capacity to cope with any additional stress and are less likely to become depressed.
One idea is to use pheromones to help create a super calming environment. You can purchase calming cat collars, pheromone sprays, or diffusers. These are great as they’re 100% natural and safe for pets. Plus, as they only contain feline pheromones they won’t have any impact on you or other animals in your home.
You should also take your cat to the vet before adopting a kitten. This is just for a general checkup and to ensure their vaccination status is up to date. Kittens are vulnerable and more prone to illness. The last thing you want is your kitten getting sick and passing it to your old cat. This can cause their mental health to deteriorate even more.
3. Perfect the Introduction
Once your home and cat are prepared, it is time for the introduction itself. However, you don’t want to jump straight in. Initially, you should keep your new kitten and old cat completely separate. Have everything your kitten needs contained in one room and let this be their space, while your old cat has the rest of your home to roam.
Your old cat will still be able to sense the presence of a new animal in its home. You can even set the cat carrier you used to bring your kitten home in a room with your old cat. Allow them to sniff and explore this in their own time and get used to your new kitten’s scent.
You can then gradually get your old cat and kitten more used to each other. Feed your cats separate sides of the same door or perhaps swap their bedding over. Once both cats seem relaxed with this, you can let them in the same room with supervision. Gradually increase the time spent together. However, ensure there is always an escape route for your old cat in case they get too overwhelmed.
4. Encourage Time Together
Once your cats have stopped hissing at each other and seem more content in each other’s company, you can let them explore your home freely. Never force the two cats to be together. They need to adjust to one another at their own pace and establish a new hierarchy naturally.
With that being said, you can encourage time spent together to speed the process along. Try playing with your old cat’s favorite toy to try and get both of them to play together. You can feed your cats at the same time and give them treats together as well. But remember, never force it!
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Cat depression after a new kitten becomes part of the family is common. Cats don’t respond well to change and can feel like their territory and favorite people are being taken from them. This manifests as behavioral changes. For example, depressed cats might show changes in their grooming habits, vocalizations, sleep schedule, and appetite.
If you think your cat is depressed, the tips in their article can help to make them feel happier again. If in doubt, speak to your vet. An old cat and a new kitten can get along well together, it just sometimes takes a little patience and time to get there.
I recently got a 5 month old kitten, and have 2 resident cats who have been together since they were little. The kitten wants to constantly play with both of them by jumping on them and chasing them constantly, and neither of them want anything to do with it. The kitten is also jealous and will come over to my resident cat while she’s laying on me and chase her away so she can lay down.
One of my cats hides constantly now .. while the other one seems depressed. She used to talk all the time… but has gotten real quiet and secluded. Neither one of them even want to play anymore because of the kitten.
I really don’t want to have to rehome the kitten, but if I can’t find a solution…. I may have to!
What was your solution?
Please tell me it’s gotten better, I’m dealing with this exact thing but with a 7 month old cat and my 6 yr old cat.
Hi will I read what was said my son brought me a kitten thinking that my older cat would get along with him and he didn’t ask me first Now my older cat will not come to me or even get on the bed like she always has so I’m trying to find a place for the kitten but haven’t had any luck and I’m unable to buy the diffuser you have I’m on social security and a small annuity Once I have paid rent I’m basically broke.
What was the solution to your promblem??
I just got a 5 month old cat and did all of the introducing but my 2 year old cat that we have had since he was a kitten, he has been sleeping well more than usual and I’m feeling really bad about it. If you have any tips on how I could make him feel better please say so
I adopted a cat 4 months ago. She is a princess ! And 4 days ago I adopted a kitten 11 weeks sold. My princess who is 2 years old looks like she is getting depressed. I’ll make a vet appointment for Tuesday 7/5/22. I’m worry! She is not hissing at the kitten but she is not eating and I doing all the things the things are mentioned here in this site. Any help pls. Dora
To everyone at that point when you realize you’ve made a terrible mistake: yes you have. But it’s fixable. I promise. As most things in life are. You’ll need patience and a commitment to work on things, but most of all you have to hold on to faith. This can be fixed!
I don’t know what your individual situation is, but if it helps, I’m at the same panic point. I have 3 older cats and a new 2 month old kitten. Everyone hates me. And I did the correct way to introduce, it just didn’t create any bonds (and I almost lost the love of the new baby!) So whether you did what everyone advises or found out what you should have done after it was too late–I repeat, it’s fixable!
1. You know your cats, you know what they crave and what they need. That’s got to be the biggest hurdle. If you don’t also have a good generalist understanding of how cats see the world, invest a few days doing some reading from cat behavioralists, preferably from several who have different views. You need some broad knowledge to apply to the specific personality of your cats.
2. Be the fly on the wall and observe what’s going on in your household, especially during dawn, dusk, noon and in the middle of the night. Each cat has its own rhythm and you need to know the times they are most tired and when they feel most vulnerable. Timing is often everything.
3. Be the support system. Draw up the master plan: this is what each cat needs, this is what they feel deprived of, this is when the deprivation feels the worst. Then start plugging in solutions at the most ideal times. The basics are play, love, safety, and ownership. The best times are based on the hardness of the task. Love is plugged in during regular and numerous times. Play when they are most awake/restless/moody. Safety is addressed at the low times. Ownership: read up on what Jackson Galaxy calls scent soakers.
4. Perception is everything. Some cats do best in “shared adversity” situations. Some are more accepting of things at the height of daily nap/sleepy time. The key is to provide a bonding situation with positive memories (love or food or both). Build up the positives and let time change your cats’ perceptions.
I’m at the “how the heck did I screw this up? I’m smarter than this, I know better!” stage right now. Always humbling, never pleasant. But when it comes to love, I know I got this. Work the program, let time do it’s thing, and hold on to faith. Love never comes back to you empty handed.
This made me feel so much better. My 6 yr old cat has always been a kitten at heart, always wanting to play with my roommates cats or my moms cat when I moved back home after college and they wanted absolutely nothing to do with him. So when I finally moved out, he was a solo cat for the first time in a way smaller living space so my dumb self thought it was the perfect time to get him the friend he always wanted, not realizing he was already going through a huge environment adjustment. He just seems so sad now and I’m exactly at the “I messed up stage” but I’m praying within the year they will be besties and he’ll be back to the kitten at heart bully he’s always been.
Rescued a 6 weeks old kitten and my senior cat that was the only pet is making himself sick and being very depressed. I will try the pherormons but please if you have any advise share. He looks at me like i broke his trust. SoS Help Me …. i did not choose i found this lil one crying and lost and sick and i took her home but i did not even know he could get so mad/depressed and kind of furious. Lol. How i calm this “old man down?”?