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Cat Depression After New Kitten: What Owners Should Know

Are you worried your existing cat is depressed after bringing home a new kitten? We understand that this can happen and talk about the signs and symptoms your cat may have. Learn all about how to help a cat who is depressed after a new kitten in our guide.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: January 5, 2023 | 21 min read

Cat annoyed with kitten crawling on its head in the grass

Bringing home a new kitten is a wonderful and fun time that is full of happy moments and great memories. While welcoming home a new purr baby is a wonderful time of excitement, not everyone may be as excited. Feline owners who are bringing a new kitty into a home where there are already one or more cats might not experience the cute kitten bliss for which they were hoping to see. Cats can get a little tricky when it comes to bringing new felines into the mix. Your once sweet, docile old kitty might suddenly become a feisty aggressive animal or become completely withdrawn, even turning away food and favorite treats. This can be an incredibly concerning time for feline owners.

Of course, no pet parent wants to make the pet they already have upset, feel unloved, or displaced by bringing in a new animal. Bringing a tiny kitten into a home that already has a well-established cat population is not easy, and owners need to be prepared that the process will take some time for both cats to adjust.

It can be devastating to pet owners if their beloved pet seems depressed after they bring home a new furry playmate. Even if the new kitty was adopted because owners want to give Fluffy a playmate, sometimes it might seem like your old kitty doesn’t like your new fur baby. We take a look at why this happens, discuss if cats get depressed when a new kitten comes home, and talk about what owners can do to help their pets through this process.

Cat Depression After New Kitten

Owners who have established cats may have visions of their old kitty and a new baby fuzz ball getting along immediately as fast friends. There is hope that the older kitty will take the kitten under their wing and show them the ropes. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Introducing a new feline into the dynamic will shift things, and your older kitty might not be as quick to warm up to a new fur baby as you might like.

If you look at things from your cat’s perspective, of course, they are going to be stressed out when a new fuzzy baby feline comes home. Unfortunately, they will not understand what is happening beforehand, so a new feline entering the household will undoubtedly seem like a shock to them. Introducing felines is a very sensitive situation and must be handled in an appropriate way, so there is no aggression that develops between the two. Getting off on the wrong paw can set up owners for a lot of stress and a lot of fights.

Your kitty will likely develop some jealousy towards a new kitten and will feel threatened by them because suddenly, someone else will also be getting attention, cuddles, treats, and more. Your older cat may feel left out and might find their place in the family threatened. This can lead them to develop depression, which, if not dealt with, can become a very serious problem affecting their physical and mental health.

Felines who have already established their place in the household can feel put off when a new animal moves in due to their scent. Your cat’s home is their domain and territory, and they are constantly releasing pheromones and marking the space in the home as theirs. A kitten will do the same thing, which can cause your older kitty to feel like someone is threatening their territory.

Just like us humans who suddenly find ourselves lacking in attention, your older cat can get depressed because they feel like they may no longer be the most important in your book. Kittens require a lot of work and attention, and they are undoubtedly adorable. This means that they will become the center of attention, which may cause your older pets to feel left out. When Fluffy suddenly is not getting as much love and attention as they are used to and sees a different cat sitting on your lap, eating from their food bowl, or playing with their favorite toy, it can inspire feelings of jealousy, aggression, depression, and start to impact your cat’s mental state and behavior.

Signs of Cat Depression After New Kitten

Depressed cat looking out a rainy window
Make sure to observe them closely after a new kitty comes home to see how they are adjusting.

There are some signs to look out for if you suspect your cat is suffering from depression. Along with taking steps for a proper, safe, and less stressful introduction, owners should be on the lookout for common indications of depression.

Clingy

You may notice your purr baby becoming extremely clingy, which, especially after a new animal comes into the home, can be a sign of depression. Your cat might want to be with you all the time, sticking very close, if not sitting on top of you. They can become very pushy with this clinginess, jumping up on a table while eating, insisting they be with you everywhere, even in the bathroom. Your cat might start to rub up against you, asking for cuddles excessively, and can even headbutt you or start swatting at or licking your face. They will do everything they can to get and keep your attention and will not want to stray too far from your side.

Withdrawn

Instead of becoming very clingy, some cats will go in the opposite direction and become extremely withdrawn. Your old girl may hide in unusual places for hours. They might even stay hidden through mealtimes. Kitties may find new hiding spots that are especially tricky to get to and spend a lot of time out of sight. This is likely because they are upset at the intrusion or may be scared of the new arrival. Your kitty hiding and refusing to come out and interact after a new kitty arrives can be a big indicator that they might be suffering from depression.

Appetite Shift

Changes in your fur baby’s appetite are also a good indication that something is off. This can go both ways. Some cats will start to overeat and seem to seek food all the time, possibly as a way of getting and keeping your attention. Other cats will become even more withdrawn and may start losing interest in food or refusing to eat at all. They may even turn their noses up at their favorite treats or specially-made meals. In some cases, felines will even decline to drink the water due to stress and depression. Kitties who do not eat and refuse water can become very sick and dehydrated very quickly. Just a couple of days without food or water can put them in a state where their life is in danger.

If you notice your cat refusing to eat after a full 24 hours, it is absolutely time to get in touch with your vet. They can help rule out any underlying medical conditions, as well as help guide you through how to help your purr baby adjust. Felines can become dehydrated very quickly, so make sure your pet has plenty of bowls of water and food set out. It is a good idea to put a couple of extra small bowls out strategically throughout the house so that your kitty can access them even if they do not want to come into the main room or area where everyone else, and the new kitten, is hanging out.

Litter Box Issues

Changes in litter box behavior are a key indicator that a kitty is experiencing depression. Your perfectly potty-trained feline friend might suddenly start peeing outside the litter box and may even start to become fairly aggressive about it. This spraying behavior is an indicator that they are trying to mark their territory. They want to make sure their house smells like them and not a different kitty. You may notice that your older pet has taken to spraying near where the kitten is or may even try to take over the new kitty’s litter box.

Spraying is usually something that is most common in unneutered male felines. However, both males and females who have been fixed can start to exhibit this behavior if they feel threatened or depressed after a new pet arrives. It is important to pay attention to this behavior because even if you only see it once, it is likely your pet is doing it when you are not looking, and in places you are not aware of. This can very quickly become a stinky, destructive problem, and you will need to take steps to stop this, as well as repair any damage to your home.

You will want to keep your cats from sharing the litter box. Make sure to have at least one litter box per cat and put them in separate places so each one can have their privacy, as well as knowing that that is their bathroom area. Making them share the same litter box can cause aggression and may push your established kitty into an even further agitated state.

Changes To Sleep

You may notice that your existing cat is sleeping more than usual. Felines do sleep a lot, on average, between 10 to 16 hours a day, so sometimes it may be hard to pick up on a kitty who sleeps more than normal. However, it will likely be fairly obvious after a new kitten is home if the older cat retreats to a quiet corner and goes to sleep. This is likely their way of escaping the stress of the situation and is definitely a symptom of feline depression.

If you notice that your pet seems lethargic, very weak, limp, and uninterested in food and water, you will want to take her to the vet. Though these can sometimes be signs of depression, they are also indicators of more serious underlying health conditions. Do not brush these off as a kitty being depressed; it is always better to contact your veterinarian. Felines with low energy and who seem down for just a couple of days may be trying to hide symptoms of illness or injury rather than exhibiting depression.

A call to the vet is most of the time free and can help you get a better understanding of what is going on with your kitty. Additionally, your vet will know the right questions to ask and can give you advice on the next steps, including having your pet come in for an exam.

Scratching More

Cats who are depressed can start to become a little destructive, and this can manifest in the form of them starting to scratch more excessively than before. All felines scratch, this is a common behavior, and most pet owners will have a scratching post, tower, or pad to help when they need to do this. However, a cat that is depressed after a new animal is welcomed home can start to mark their territory by scratching in different areas. You may suddenly notice your favorite furniture has snags or scratches upon it. This is because scratching is sometimes a feline’s way of re-establishing dominance and territory in a house, as well as getting your attention.

Vocalization

After bringing home a new kitten, you may notice your once quiet cat suddenly becoming very vocal and opinionated. Sometimes they might start hissing at you, other people, other pets, and especially the kitten. You may start to notice some growling and snarling mixed in with their regular meows. Or your kitty might suddenly decide to follow you around, chattering at you nonstop, to let her opinion be known that they do not appreciate this new little fluff ball that is suddenly taking over.

Sometimes felines who are normally highly vocal can seem to go quiet after a new pet comes home, which also indicates they could be suffering from stress or depression. Always pay attention to changes in your cat’s vocalization, sometimes, they are trying to get our attention for a very specific matter, or other times it is their way of letting the world know they are upset. Either way, your kitty is letting you know they need your attention, and as owners, you need to find a way to give it to them.

Over And Under Self Grooming

Cats are incredibly skilled self-groomers and are very good at keeping their coats in tip-top shape. While owners certainly do help them with regular brushing and combing, purr babies self-groom every day. A feline that is depressed might stop self-grooming, and after a few days, you will start to notice its coat becoming mottled, tangled, stringy, and matted. Their fur can start to look a little duller, and they will not have any interest in keeping themselves clean.

Other felines will go in a different direction and may start to excessively groom. You may notice your pet starting to lick themselves a lot as a way of self-comfort. This is not behavior that should go on for very long as they can develop hairballs and can cause damage to their hair and skin by excessively licking the same spots. Swallowing more hair than ordinary will start to cause digestive issues and stomach upset and can affect their appetite.

Another thing that happens is that some kitties will start to bite their nails or excessively lick and chew on their paws. This is not something that is safe for them, and owners will want to take steps to prevent them from doing this. You can try mittens or feline nail covers as a way of preventing them from gnawing at their own paws.

How To Help Cat With Depression

Sad black cat lounging on armrest of sofa
If your cat is showing signs of depression, here are some tips to help them cope.

It is important that your cat knows she is still your top priority. She will need reassurance that despite the new addition to the family, life is still good, and things are not going to change. Along with making sure that your cat’s basic needs of food, water, grooming, shelter, and toys are met, you will need to take some bigger steps to make sure she knows you are there to help her.

  1. It is essential to have one-on-one playtime that is specifically for you and your older kitty. This should be her special time and done somewhere where there are no signs of the new arrival that will set your cat off. Keep in mind that your kitty is likely depressed because they are sad. They have lost your attention, feel neglected, and are unsure of what is going on. You must reassure them that everything is okay. The best way you can do that is to spend time with your cat. Make sure to have regular sessions of one-on-one play with them every day.
  2. Make sure to provide plenty of mental and physical stimulation for your cat. Keep her toys out of reach of the new arrival, and you can offer her some new toys as well. Interactive options like puzzle feeders are a good choice because they will keep her occupied for a while. Additionally, making sure she has plenty of room for exercise, installing cat wall steps or a hammock bed so she can retreat to a high perch, or looking into treadmill wheels so she can run off some of that excess anxious energy and angst are some great options. These are also places and toys that are not safe for the new purr baby to use yet, so your cat will feel special knowing these are just for her.
  3. Provide your cat with multiple safe hiding spots throughout the house. Make sure they are comfortable and have plenty of access to space, food, water, and their favorite toys. Make sure the kitten is settled in his spot and cannot get into your older pet’s domain. Your cat needs to know that they have a safe place to retreat to that is not going to be interrupted or impacted by the new arrival.
  4. Try to keep your cat’s life as normal and on schedule as possible. Do not change her feeding times or her food. Ensure she has access to her bed, water, toys, safe places, and comfort items.

Cat Personality Change After New Kitten

After welcoming an adorable new purr baby to the family, some owners have noticed that their older pet’s personality seems to change. A timid, docile kitty can suddenly be aggressive, loud, and demand attention. An outgoing, vocal animal might seem standoffish and hiss. Cats may suddenly seem very cautious, timid, or even territorial when they were not before.

Owners will be concerned not only for the immediate safety of both their pets and people in the house but can be upset or feel like they have made a mistake in bringing home a new pet that has caused their beloved feline to change her personality completely. The good news here is that most of the time, this personality change is temporary, and your purr baby will revert to her old, lovable self after adjusting to a new furry family member.

It is not likely that any changes to behavior or personality will be permanent. It can take several months to a year for an established kitty to fully adjust to having a new animal in the home. This will take work and effort on the part of the owner to make sure this is a smooth transition. The smoother the transition, the less impact will have on your personality and behavior.

Is My Cat Mad At Me For Getting A Kitten?

This is a common question that feline owners have. Many owners will wonder if their cat hates them or is mad at them when they bring home a new kitten. Your purr baby may very well be upset with you after all her world suddenly got invaded, and she might feel left out and neglected. It’s hard to say if felines can feel hate, but they can definitely be upset and feel depressed. The way you handle bringing home a new kitten, introducing them, and transitioning your home to handle both cats will impact how long your established feline will feel these negative emotions. The more you do to comfort and reassure your pet and how you facilitate the transition will all play a role.

Some felines may not show that they are upset as obviously as others. Of course, there are always those pets who will not have any problem with a baby kitty and will welcome them in easily. In fact, most will get over their stress quite quickly and will appreciate having a new playmate around as long as owners understand that most of the bad behavior around a new kitten is due to them feeling threatened or like they may lose the love and attention they are used to. This behavior is not because your kitty is mad. It is because they feel threatened and want to establish that they are still important to you.

It is also important to understand that your cat will warm up to a new kitten gradually. This can take several months to a year for them to fully accept the change. As long as you are loving, attentive, and there for them, your cat should adjust well and will likely bond closely with their new playmate.

How To Get My Cat To Like New Kitten

Getting an established cat to like a new baby kitty is a challenge and a big concern for feline owners who want more than one kitty. Owners must take careful steps to ensure the transition and introduction go well. This is important for both cats and four owners because owners do not want to feel rejected by either cat, and neither kitty should feel like they are unwelcome or being pushed out of their home. It is a delicate process, but when done the right way, everyone will be happy, healthy, and enjoy life.

Steps To Take When Bringing Home A New Kitten

Maine Coon cat Bengal Mix kitten
Preparation for a new baby kitty should start well before that sweet fur baby comes home.

The first step is to make sure that you have all the basic supplies you will need to support your purr baby. They will need to have their own food and water bowls, their own litter box, toys, beds, blankets, treats, and food.

Once you have all your supplies in hand, set up a nice little space specifically for your kitten. Ideally, this will be somewhere where they can be contained, with no hazards or other harmful objects around. You should also take the time to baby-proof your house. Make sure to close up small openings into scary spaces and close off access to anywhere you do not want the kitten to go. You should purchase an air purifier to keep the air clean and should work to create as calm an environment as possible.

Make sure your older cat feels comfortable and happy in the days leading up to the kitten coming home. They will likely sense that something is going on and might start to show signs of stress even before the new arrival is around. Kitties will notice when new toys, beds, and cat crates come in the door. They are inquisitive creatures and love to inspect after a good shopping trip. So, they will likely have an idea that something is afoot.

Before bringing any two cats together, it is best to ensure the older cat and kitten are healthy. If possible, have them examined by veterinarians and make sure all immunizations are up to date. The last thing you want is for your new pet to get sick as soon as they get home or your older cat suddenly falls under the weather because new germs were introduced into their environment.

Introducing Cat To New Kitten

Bengal cat and a bengal-siam mix kitten cuddling on a white blanket
It is not usually a good idea to just bring a new kitten into the house and present it to your old cat right away.

Once you have set your house up and have all the supplies, and have established that both felines are healthy, it is time to bring your new kitty home and stage a very careful introduction between the two. In reality, you will want to keep the animals separated at first.

  1. It is best to keep the new arrival in a room with a door that separates them from the rest of the house. You and other family members can go to see the kitten in the room while your older pet is allowed to roam her usual territory. Make sure to stock the kitten room with everything you will need for a few days. You can choose to take your kitten outside with you but should only do so when the coast is clear of the other cat. Additionally, because your kitten will be tiny, these ventures outside should not be on a leash, but you can easily carry them outside to get a little fresh air.
  2. Once your kitten is established and settled into his room, your older pet will know he is there. She will smell him as soon as he comes in the door and will be very curious. Your kitten will stay in the room these first few days while your older kitty gets used to the smell and pheromones. Your kitten will also start to smell and notice the presence of another animal. You can allow a kitten’s blanket or bed to be in the room with your older pet so they can get used to the smell. Conversely, you can put one of your older kitty’s blankets or items in with the kitten so that they get a closer experience with that specific smell.
  3. Once the felines have gotten used to each other’s scents, you can start some slow introductions. They should still be separated but can sniff each other through the door, a screen, or even a baby gate. Make sure there is still some barrier between them but allow them to see and smell each other in the open. This is an excellent time to keep your eye out for any signs of aggression or other signals that things may get out of hand.
  4. How long this introduction will take depends on both the older cat and the kitten. Remember, this is your established cat’s home and territory. The kitten is an invader in that space, so your older kitty will set the tone for how quickly this introduction will go. After a few days, they should be used to the sight and smell of each other, and you can allow them to be together in the same room for a short time. Of course, they should always be supervised when together, as curiosity can turn into aggression very quickly.
  5. Sometimes introductions will have to happen multiple times, but eventually, older cats and younger kitties should start to develop a tolerance and even a liking for each other.
  6. Always feed a kitten and an older cat in different areas. They should not be fed in the same room or side by side. Each animal should have their own place where they are fed with their unique food and water dishes. Additionally, your older pet and kitten should not be eating the same food, so along with avoiding aggression, this practice will make sure they are getting the right nutrition.
  7. Along with separate eating areas, cats should have separate sleeping areas as well as their own litter boxes. Each cat should know that they have a safe place to go to. Do not try to give a kitten your older pet’s used toys or supplies. This is sure to upset her and may even be the cause of aggression. All things that you give to the kitten should be brand new. Otherwise, your cat will feel like her things are being taken away.
  8. Give your older cat a nice spot to perch and observe the new arrival. They will likely not be afraid, aggressive, or angry more than they are curious. Once your purr baby has decided for herself that the kitten is okay, things will go much smoother. Allowing her a good vantage point to observe this new little buddy is very helpful.
  9. Never leave the two kitties unsupervised together. If you must leave home, they should be separated securely in crates or separate rooms.
  10. Do not change your older cat’s schedule, food, or anything major. Try to stick to normal activities and routines as much as possible. If things get disrupted, she may blame the kitten and become aggressive toward them.
  11. Pheromone diffusers are recommended by many to help alleviate feline anxiety and can be a great tool when bringing home a kitten. Pheromone diffusers work somewhat like air fresheners. They plug into the wall and have cartridges. These cartridges diffuse a pheromone blend that can help calm felines down. Some cartridges will contain a calming blend, while others will contain multi-cat pheromone solutions. The multi-cat pheromone solution works in the same way as a mother feline’s pheromones do with their kittens. Both help to reduce stress and conflict, and tension in homes with more than one kitty.
  12. The most important thing to remember is to be patient. Do not rush the introduction or force them to be together until they are fully comfortable. It will be a lot of work and may present a challenge at times, but that is simply another part of responsible feline ownership. Getting a new pet is fun, but your older pet needs to know they still have your heart and attention and that their comfortable way of life is not being threatened. If you are concerned about your cat’s mental or physical health after a new fur baby comes home, it is important to contact your veterinarian right away. They can help you work through the situation and refer you to a trainer or animal behaviorist if needed. Remember that the vet is not just there for emergencies. They are there to help you and your pet work through different situations in a healthy way.

Can Mother Cats Get Depressed?

Yes, mother cats and pregnant ones can experience depression and postpartum depression. Just like humans, having a baby and being pregnant take a huge toll on a feline’s mental and physical health. After giving birth to kittens, your cat may become depressed, have a poor appetite, and feel run down. In some cases, Mama kitties can become so overwhelmed they may not nurse their kittens or may be unable to produce enough milk. Some mother cats will just seem uninterested in caring for their kittens.

If you are the owner of an expectant mother kitty or one who has just given birth and you notice your cat is not eating, seems lethargic, or is showing signs of depression or stress, get in touch with your veterinarian right away. Your pet may need some extra care and support right now. Additionally, the stress of trying to nurse and care for kittens may be overwhelming, and owners will have to support her. There are plenty of kitten formula and milk substitutes, and your vet can help you determine the right one depending on how old the kittens are.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does my cat hate the new kitten?

Most of the time, your cat will not hate a new kitten. They will likely feel a little threatened and somewhat surprised by a new pet showing up unexpectedly. It can take a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months for older felines to fully accept and welcome a new fur baby. This is normal, and even if your cat is showing signs of aggression towards a kitten, it is not usually because they hate them. Most often, this is a sign of jealousy and feeling threatened by a new animal’s presence in their home.

Is my cat jealous of the kitten?

Yes, your older cat is 100% jealous of your new kitten. Just like a new baby, this little fur ball will get a ton of attention. Everyone will be excited, and there will be a bunch of new toys and fun things, all of which your older kitty will not be a part of. Of course, they will feel some jealousy and insecurity. It is essential that you give your cat lots of regular love and attention, plenty of one-on-one playtimes, and constant reassurance that they are still important.

Can cats take medication like antidepressants for depression?

Yes, felines can take antidepressants. If other methods have not worked, sometimes felines may need medication. You will need to take your pet to the vet for an exam and have an honest conversation about their behavior and your concerns. There are a few different options for tricyclic antidepressants that will help balance brain chemicals, reduce anxiety, help with behavior, alleviate fear, and help your purr baby return to normal. Pets taking this kind of medication are more common than you think.

Felines can suffer from OCD, anxiety, stress, depression, aggression, and more, and sometimes need a little help working through that. Never give your pet any kind of human medication. Always discuss first with your veterinarian what they should take. While some human medications may be safe for cats, it is always best to acquire these under their own prescription name from a licensed veterinarian. They can help talk you through dosage, what to look for, and how to support your pet while they are on this medication.

Final Thoughts

As much as we love our purr babies and work to give them the best lives, sometimes they can develop health concerns like depression. Depression in felines is relatively common after bringing home a new kitten. The sudden behavior change can be alarming to owners and make them question if bringing home a new pet is the right move. Owners should always take the time to prepare themselves, their homes, and their older kitties for the arrival of a new purr baby.

Remember to be patient with your older pet and understand that this new kitty can feel like an invasion or intrusion on their life. Your cat may feel scared, left out, stressed, and jealous, which can turn into depression. It is essential to monitor your cat closely when bringing home a new kitten, provide them with lots of love and reassurance, and seek out veterinary help for their depression if your efforts are not working.

Kitten on back in bed being tickled

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