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Should I Let My Cat Hit My Kitten?

If you have noticed that your cat has hit your kitten, you may be wondering if you should just let this happen…

Should I let my cat hit my kitten?

If your cat is not scratching the kitten and their bites are not piercing the skin, then it’s best to leave it alone and simply stay within view to supervise them.

Cats are very territorial, so the addition of the new kitten is going to result in the older cat ‘laying down the law’ to let the newcomer know who is boss. This sometimes includes quick bites, which look bad, but if you examine the kitten, you should see that the bites only pinched them – but have not pierced skin.

As rough as it looks, it’s best to simply play things out. Once the adult cat feels that they have properly established their dominance, the swatting will likely turn to groom and they might even take the little kitten under their wing and teach them some ‘cat basics’.

Why do cats hit kittens?

An orange and brown cats in a cardboard box.

An orange and brown cat in a cardboard box.

Kittens are little balls of energy, so sometimes older cats slap them just to get them to back off! More often, however, this slapping is just a way to establish dominance and is meant to remind the new kitten that the older cat is the one in charge.

Your cat could just as easily swat the kitten with their claws out and it’s important to note that they are not doing this.

If you see any flattening of the ears, especially accompanied with screeching then you should separate them – as these are signs of genuine hostile intent – but beyond this, a little ‘kitten Slappin’’ is unfortunately just part and parcel of establishing the household hierarchy.

Is it normal for a cat to slap a kitten?

Yes, this is completely normal, and slapping can mean a few different things. For instance, if the older cat wants to initiate a play session, then they might slap the kitten and quickly move away as an invitation for the kitten to ‘come and do something about it!’.

If the older cat isn’t feeling well, then that same slap might mean ‘leave me alone’, while slapping and pressing down the kitten’s head are a way to show the dominance of the household. Remember that your cat has claws and they don’t feel the need to use them, so as uncomfortable as those slaps look, they aren’t so bad.

How do I know if my cat is hurting my kitten?

You want to look for signs of overt hostility. A cat that intends violence will typically flatten their ears, accompanied by growling, hissing, and potentially even screeching. Their tails will usually wave back and forth very quickly and their teeth will be on what looks like a permanent display.

Check your kitten for scratches and bites after separating them and invest in a plastic crate for reintroducing the pair. You can take the cat and kitten’s bedding and swap it out, so that can get used to each other’s scents, and then reintroduce them with the bars of the crate between your cat and kitten.

After that, when your cat relaxes a little, then they can certainly have some time together without the crate, just be close to giving them treats and playful attention so that the adult starts to associate fun and nice memories with them, you, and the new kitten.

How can I prevent my cat from hitting my kitten?

Other than separating them, getting your cat to stop slapping the kitten is quite difficult. The best that you can do is say ‘no’ and show your cat a treat when they are about to slap the kitten and if your cat comes over and takes the treat instead, then you can praise them and repeat.

Don’t always use treats – that’s too many calories – but alternate by calling your cat over to defuse the situation and rewarding them with a little petting and attention.

It takes time, but remember that some slaps are still going to happen – your adult cat is trying to teach the kitten who is in charge, and slapping is considered a ‘tried and true’ feline method for doing this.

Should I discipline my cat for hitting my kitten?

No, you should not discipline your cat for slapping the kitten. If they are hurting the little one (not the kitten’s pride, but rather physical scratches or skin-breaking bites) then you’ll need to separate them and carefully reintroduce them.

If the slaps aren’t hurting the kitten, however, then it’s best to leave it alone. They’ll sort it out.

Should I let my cat and kitten fight?

Two cats fighting outdoors.

Two cats fighting outdoors.

Invest in a small squirt gun for the introduction process and ONLY use it to separate the cat and kitten if they fight. In most cases, the older cat is simply going to hiss, swat, and generally ‘lord over’ the kitten as a way to say that they are in charge.

With a squirt gun, if the two fight, then you have a means to stop them in their tracks so that you may separate them effectively from one another so that you can check the kitten to see if they are okay and plan a reintroduction strategy.

The squirt gun should ONLY be used to stop a fight, not as a disciplinary option or a teaching tool, and it’s only recommended as a means to safely stop the fight, because if you just jump in and separate them then you’ll likely get bitten or clawed for your troubles.

Don’t let them fight, but the swatting, hissing, and posturing are fine – as long as no one is getting hurt.

Will my cat hurt my kitten?

It is possible. Cats are solitary and aside from being very territorial, a cat that has been living alone with you for a long time might easily become jealous or overly threatened by the fuzzy newcomer you’ve brought into the house.

As such, it’s recommended that before the two even meet, you swap out their bedding so that they can learn each other’s scents. After a night of this, put the kitten in a crate and introduce them. This will let them smell each other directly and the crate will keep the kitten safe.

Once you see that the older cat isn’t showing overt signs of hostility, such as flattening their ears or screeching, then you can try a supervised visit between the two without the crate. Be on hand to watch every moment and have some treats with you and some string or other toys.

This can help to make the meeting more pleasant. Just be sure to give the majority of your attention to the older cat, so that they don’t feel like they are being replaced, and with a little luck, your older cat will quickly adjust to the fuzzy little newcomer.

Is my cat being playful or aggressive?

The easiest way to tell is going to be your cat’s body language. For instance, a slow wagging of the tail and a tense posture, as if about to spring, is more of a playful mentality being exhibited by your cat.

On the other hand, if they lay back their ears and fully display their teeth, with quick, sharp tail wags then watch out – your cat means to hurt someone. Screeching is another definite aggression response and once you’ve heard it, you’ll know. Your cat’s vocalization range is all over the place and UGLY.

If you hear it and there is another animal in the room, you’ll need to diffuse the situation with treats and attention, or better yet, separate them and prepare a slow introduction strategy over the next few days or weeks.

How long does it take for a cat to accept a new kitten?

Acceptance of a new kitten can happen immediately, take days or even months. It all depends on your cat. If you’ve lived alone together for a few years, then it might be a very long process indeed.

The best thing that you can do is take it slowly and make sure that all interaction is supervised until you are sure the kitten will be safe. Start by taking bedding from the cat and kitten and putting it in the other’s spot, so that they can get a whiff of each other’s scents in advance.

After that, introduce them to the kitten safe in a crate and see if your cat is overly hostile or simply curious.

If it’s the latter, then you can try supervising a little play with your cat, the kitten, and you, just include lots of treats and give the most attention to the senior cat – that way they’re less likely to feel that they are being replaced.

Be patient with the process and understand this – your cat may never make friends with the kitten. You can hope for more and your cat will learn to at least ‘put up’ with the kitten over time, but there are no guarantees about friendship. That’s something your senior cat and new kitten must decide on their own.

Lindsey Browlingdon