Although we've been following the standard advice of slow introductions, our new 14 week kitten and 2 year old cat seem to have fallen into a pattern that we're concerned will negatively impact whether or not they ever get along at all! Additionally, we have time constraints and the longer we keep them separated, the more miserable the kitten seems to be.
2 years ago I got a kitten named Ellen Ripley (Ripley for short). I got her through a rescue program but she has always had a home: her mother was the one rescued while pregnant. She's about two now and is a very sweet and affectionate cat (though sometimes a bit needy). She loves settling in laps, always greets me at the door, and has never been aggressive or used her claws with people. She gets nervous and hides around most new new people but always warms up to them with enough time.
A few weeks ago my boyfriend who lives with me decided to get a kitten. We brought an 11 week old kitten home from the shelter and named him Rasputin (Raz for short). Not a whole lot of history was known about him at the shelter (though I did notice that all of the whiskers around his face were cut short and no one could explain why). He's very friendly and extremely energetic for long periods of time until he gets tired and plops himself down near you or on you to catnap.
We did some research before bringing home the new kitten about slow introductions. Raz went straight into our guest bedroom and has his own food and litterbox there (as well as TONS of kitty toys!). Once they got used to each other's smell, we started cracking the door to let Ripley and Raz see each other. At first Ripley would hiss and growl and run away, to the point where she wouldn't even approach the door. After a while (and lots of treats and wet food incentives) she was fine with the door so we started allowing short (and then longer) periods of supervised play.
This is where we seem to have gotten stuck. Sometimes it seems as though they are just playing - Ripley will chase Raz, Raz will run and hide but then "attack", they'll swat at each other, Raz will run away again and Ripley will stalk and "attack". They do all of this without noise and seemingly without claws.
At other times, it seems like bullying - Ripley will stalk Raz to some corner and growl, he'll be startled and squeak and run some other place, and she'll stalk him there and growl, until Raz gets fed up and "attacks" but chickens out when she growls again. Occasionally she'll hiss during these interactions and more recently they'll actually "fight" and there'll be some yowling-type noises. We have a water bottle on hand to interrupt aggressiveness but the "fights" are too short to break up and we're worried about creating negative associations in the cats for each other.
They're not hurting each other from what I can tell, but I know that early interactions matter a lot in getting cats to eventually get along. I'm not expecting things to be perfect yet, I just want to know when is a good time to interfere and when we should just leave the cats alone. I'm also just concerned that it seems to be a pattern and a cycle... the more he play attacks her, the more apt she seems to be to start bullying, and the more she bullies, the more he seems to get nervous and try to make her back down (and always fails). The whole situation is rather stressful and at times I'm worried we have begun to react too quickly to what seems to be negative behavior to us.
To make matters more complicated, Raz mews miserably whenever we leave him in the guest room alone, and both my boyfriend and I have full time jobs AND go to school many evenings. We've been trying to let him out as often as we can and spend time playing with both cats, but the quicker we can keep them both in the same area together, the happier we'll all be. We are torn between trying to rush the introduction process so Raz isn't stuck in the guest room all the time, and keeping it slow and measured to ensure that they do eventually get along.
So the guidance I'm looking for is this:
1) When should we interfere if the cats aren't getting along?
2) HOW should we interfere (spraying water, separating the cats, playing with them, etc)?
3) Is it worse for Raz to be alone for most hours of the day, or for the cats to have more and more time together before they might be ready for it?
4) Does anyone know why Raz might have had short whiskers and if they grow back? (I did notice one long one that got short after we brought him home so I'm concerned that it's self inflicted.)
Additional Info: Both cats are fixed. We got Raz about 3 weeks ago. Pictures of both cats if you're curious... Ripley
. Both seem healthy and haven't been engaging in any stress behavior like spraying or middening. We pay lots of attention to both cats whenever we are home to make sure the older cat doesn't feel jealous, and we often give them wet food while they're out together which sometimes helps temporarily. We also just purchased a Feliway diffuser a few days ago but haven't seen any results yet.