Cat vs cat in new enviroment for both
April 12, 2009 11:26 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I each have a cat. We're moving in together. Help?

My boyfriend and I are moving to a brand-new apartment in a month and a half. Fat Cat does not like other cats. Sage does not like other cats. They have never met each other.

Some background:

Fat Cat is a large, declawed, female cat. She's an overeater with anxiety problems and likes to poo on my boyfriend's "places" when he goes away. (Don't get me wrong, I love her.) We think maybe she was starved as a kitten. Several years ago, two little barn cats were previously introduced to her home. She would chase them down and bash them in the head with her front paws, but no one ended up being rehomed. She has been living without other cats for years now.

Sage is at least part Maine Coon, but she is a small cat (between 7-8 lbs). She has all her claws. When I adopted her, she had been living with another cat in her previous home and had tolerated him. Then my roommate got a very jolly large male cat who wanted to play, whom Sage ended up ignoring because he was so much larger than she was. We moved to a different apartment, where there was an older female cat, but since that one almost never left her room they only interacted briefly, and no physical harm was done. Sage has been living without other cats for almost a year.

I am most concerned about Fat Cat's transition into the new apartment. Sage doesn't have a problem with adjusting to new places, going into the carrier for the vet, etc. She wants to be dominant but she's not psychotically aggressive. Fat Cat is very sweet to her humans, but she's almost twice as large as Sage and they are both scrappy. I worry that if they do get into a fight, one of them could get seriously injured. I'm also concerned that Fat Cat will have a hard time adjusting to a new place, much less a new place and a new cat.

I tried searching on Google for this but it's hard to pick out advice on introducing two cats in a brand-new home where no one has claimed territory. How do we even let them claim territory if we want to keep them separated? The apartment is pretty big so once things are settled they should have plenty of space. But when I tried searching Google, all I found online was someone asking the same question.

I assume that Fat Cat will emerge the victor, but how can we introduce them to each other in a brand new environment and minimize the damage? Thanks in advance.
posted by lovebird to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I did not do this, but i have read that you should keep them separated when moving in. Does Fat Cat or Sage have a favorite piece of furniture or a blanket that s/he has laid claim to? If so introduce the opposite cat to that piece so they can get acquainted with each others smells. See how they handle it, and give them a few days. Maybe also let them take turns roaming the new apartment, checking things out. After which I would let them meet.

This may not be the best advice, but at least introducing them to each other through their "belongings" they will be able to not only chill out but realize there is another cat in the house.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 12:00 PM on April 12, 2009

Best answer: I've done this before with excellent results. Your cats are going to be fine and will probably become friends. Here are some tricks I learned:

Feeding: to get the cats used to each other, feed them in separate rooms, separated by a closed door. Place the food bowels directly on either side of the closed door so that they can hear and, more importantly, smell each other while they eat.

To help Fat Cat: Get boyfriend's smell all over Sage before bringing her into the new apartment. Also, let Fat Cat move first, by a whole day or more if you can.

If possible, try to transfer Sage's smell to boyfriend's house before the move and vice versa.

Most likely, the cats will avoid each other completely while they adjust to the new apartment.

Go ahead and let them hiss and stalk each other, if they must. It's how they figure out who's in charge and you'll just make Fat Cat more neurotic if you try to closet her away.

One bit of warning based on personal experience: It sounds like you're more worried about Fat Cat than Sage, but keep in mind that Maine Coons have HUGE teeth. It sounds like Sage is not a dominant cat, so you'll probably be fine but . . . .I spent one Christmas Eve at the emergency vet because my mom's Maine Coon took a chunk out of a lesser cat's bottom. It's not a meanness thing - it's more of a "use what you got" thing. Maine Coons are terribly sweet cats.
posted by dchrssyr at 12:03 PM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

I introduced a new cat to my home recently. I had two elderly females and I introduced a male "kitten", a cage-raised nine-month old neutered male; he had lived in a tiny cage for six months before I adopted him. This isn't exactly your situation, since my girls had been living in our apartment before the boy was brought in.

When I brought him home, I kept him in a bedroom by himself for several days. I'd go in, spend time with him, then come out and spend time with the girls. By the time he was finally given free rein in the rest of the house, the girls 'knew' his scent and pretty much ignored him. For his part, he was fairly submissive whenever a girl looked at him which helped them get used to him.

I'd recommend doing something similar. Perhaps have separate bedrooms for the first couple of days (you and your cat in one bedroom; your boyfriend and his in the other), then open up the apartment to the cats at the same time, for short periods each day. As the days go by, extend the length of time the cats are allowed in the rest of the apartment and around each other. On preview: WWW's "taking turns" is a good idea, too.

I'd also recommend that each owner favor his or her own cat, showering that cat with loads of attention and treats and love, to prove to the cat that she comes first for that person and that her position hasn't changed relative to that owner.

The male's transition into my household wasn't completely smooth. When the boy and my youngest female started 'fighting' - he'd chase her and she'd scream and bat at him with her claws, I bought a diffuser oil called Feliway. Feliway comes in a spray as well as a diffuser; the spray can be used on items you don't want the cat to soil. Its purpose is to calm cats down, stop them from urinating/defecating in inappropriate places, etc.

It was working - the two of them seemed to get along much better; I noticed that their 'fighting' took on more of a playful tone - the girl would still scream, but if the boy stopped chasing, she'd chase him. I say "was" - after I had the oldest girl put down last week, tensions in the house have been a little high and now the boy is showing up with minor cuts on his face. Grief comes in many forms.

Good luck with the move!
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 12:07 PM on April 12, 2009

Here's a good detailed explanation of the steps in involved. You may have looked at this and rejected it, but I don't see why it would be any harder to do this where both cats are going to a new place; it may be easier because neither has the territory staked out. Other tips here. BTW there are some answers on the question you linked, but I like the maxshouse approach I linked to. Keeping them separated and introducing one sense at a time is the way to go.
posted by beagle at 12:09 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

When we've had to do this we just washed both cats at the same time. They sit there looking wet and miserable licking themselves dry, sniff tentatively at one another, realise they smell the same, then off they go. From then on, we brush them both with the same brush.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:30 PM on April 12, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, I took an awesome Easter Sunday nap and woke up to all these answers already. Thanks, guys!

wocka wocka wocka: Introducing by smell and taking turns letting them out sound like good ideas. Thank you. :)

dchrssyr: I'm also worried about my little sweetie's fighting power. I'm assuming they can each do a fair bit of damage. I just know that Sage takes moving in her stride and Fat Cat gets stressed out over every kitty thing (new litter, boyfriend gone for a day, no discernible reason to humans) so it's going to take a lot more for her to adjust. I also think Sage is going to back down when they first meet - but I will definitely make sure both cats do not get injured should it come to that.

Question for you/anyone: How far in advance should I begin introducing the cats' smells to each other? Since I have a whole month and a half, should I start now, or wait until closer to the date?

Another question: I'm happy to move Fat Cat in first, but can you expand on your reasons for that? Is it just because she's more sensitive and it will give her time to adjust to one new thing at a time?

LOLAttorney2009: Thanks for sharing your experience in introducing your cats. I agree with you that taking turns letting them out sounds like a good idea, as does spending lots of time with our own cats in respective bedrooms. I've heard good things about Feliway too.

beagle: Thanks for the link to those hints, they both seem helpful. I had found the Max's House instructions and it seems to be the most sensible way to introduce them, but I was wondering how to apply those rules to this situation, where both cats are being introduced to a new apartment. I suppose I should just set them each up in a safe room and introduce them by smell, and then slowly in other ways, as described.

obiwanwasabi: Haha, that's pretty funny. I, however, am not going to attempt to bathe Fat Cat. ;-)

Thanks again!
posted by lovebird at 3:02 PM on April 12, 2009

Response by poster: Oh, another thing: We have to move all our furniture from our respective apartments into this new place as well. We were going to rent movers and have them do both places at the same time. My boyfriend can leave his place at any time (he lives with a good friend), but Sage and I have to be out of our current apartment on the first of the month. Is this going to involve moving all our furniture, then moving Fat Cat, then moving me and Sage to my boyfriend's old place, then moving us in?

Also, if we bring over Fat Cat first, should we give her free reign of the apartment until we bring Sage over? Just a preliminary scout out and then keep her in "her" room?

Thanks again!
posted by lovebird at 3:08 PM on April 12, 2009

Best answer: 1st: Remember that clawed vs declawed is a bigger advantage than size. My tiny little 7 pounder with claws used to terrorize my 15 pound cat with no claws.

2nd: dchrssyr gave great advice about the feeding on opposite sides of the door.

After my 7 pounder scratched the 15 pounder's eyeball, they had some serious issues to work through. We separated them completely and began to feed them on either side of the door. After a while, we cracked the door an inch and put their food bowls right by the opening. We kept that up for a week or so until they were used to it. Then we started giving them treats by dropping them right at the door opening in one little pile. We always made sure there were enough treats that they didn't have to compete for them. Eventually, we would feed them side by side with the door wide open. By this point they had pretty much completely forgotten the association with fighting. After only seeing one another when they got extra attention and dinner and treats, they seemed to look forward to seeing one another. The next step was to allow them to roam the house freely when we were home and when that didn't cause any conflict, we were finally able to return to a normal routine.

Good luck!
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 4:07 PM on April 12, 2009

Years ago, when I adopted a new kitten and had to take him home to meet my very temperamental, older cat, the vet suggested (among other things), the following:

When ready to put them in the same room together, put one kitty (we chose the kitten first) in the locked carrier, in the middle of the room and let the other kitty have free reign. There will be hissing and carrying on, but both kitties are safe from each other.

Then, after things settle down, reverse it and put the other kitty in the carrier and let the previously locked-up kitty have free reign.

Repeat until the fuss dies down.

I do not have very much experience introducing cats to each other, but this seemed to work very well for us. Good luck!
posted by ainsley at 4:22 PM on April 12, 2009

Best answer: I don't think it's necessary to start introducing the cats to each other's smells now but it certainly wouldn't hurt anything. Give it at least 10 days before Fat Cat moves.

IMO, Fat Cat should move in first and have free reign because she's the anxious one and the one more likely to be dominant. Sage will be more submissive if she feels it's Fat Cat's territory when she gets there. Also, I would not introduce Fat Cat to her own room. She's going to get more neurotic if you closet her or make her a bedroom kitty. I'd let Fat Cat roam and give Sage her own room until they get used to each other. But I recommend against working toward having the cats have their own areas of the house as a final result. Happy cats get to roam around, they're nomadic by nature and a happy cat can adjust fairly easily to a new situation.

In regards to your time frame for moving, this is what I'd do:

Step One: You and Boyfriend move belongings into new apartment.

Step Two: Fat Cat is introduced to new apartment filled with familiar furnishings.

Step Three: 48 hours after Fat Cat's arrival, Sage is introduced.

This means that you'll have to find someone to look after Sage for two or three days, or you'll have to travel back and forth to your (or boyfriend's) old place to look after her. You describe Sage as a pretty well adjusted cat. She'll be fine while you and boyfriend move and help Fat Cat adjust.

(I've totally had a "Fat Cat." Her name was Angel and she was neurotic as heck, but damn cute.)
posted by dchrssyr at 5:16 PM on April 12, 2009

There will be some unpleasantries for a few days after they're introduced to each other. Once they've figure out the pecking order things should calm down. The bits above about gradual introduction are great, but be ready for some power struggle. (We have a Maine Coon. Sweet guy, but at the vet, under breed they've got him listed as "Pot Roast." It's very fitting.) Also, do some research on using butter on the paws for introducing kitties to a new home. The butter picks up the scents of the house as the cat walks around, and kitty will be licking his paws, which will help him get acclimated to the new surroundings.
posted by azpenguin at 5:58 PM on April 12, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone!

dchryssyr: Thanks again! Luckily both our apartments & new one are very close to each other, so I'll probably just stay at the boyfriend's old apartment with Sage for a few days. It's nice to have some structured advice - I just want to try to give them the best introduction possible.

azpenguin: All the uses I've found for putting butter on cats' paws is for outdoor cats so that they spend time at their new place before they go out and are therefore more likely to remember where it is. And it's also refuted here. Thanks for the words to the wise on being realistic about this. I know it can take cats a very long time to adjust to each other, but they're in their forever homes and we're committed to making it work. :)
posted by lovebird at 6:11 PM on April 12, 2009

They will almost certainly learn eventually to at least tolerate each other. The only time I've seen cats fail to eventually learn to tolerate each other is when at least one of the cats can come and go from the house as they please, giving them the option to just not hang around much anymore (or go find a new home). Of course, when you move to a new home, it's always a good idea to keep your cats inside until they are comfortable with the new location or they may try to find their way back to the old home.
posted by ErWenn at 7:14 PM on April 12, 2009

Response by poster: Hi, everyone. Sage and I have moved to my boyfriend's apartment until we all move in June. I kept her in our bedroom for about a week and there wasn't too much aggression through the door (Fat Cat is not the brightest cat). My boyfriend is away for the week, so since I had more free time for supervision and it seemed that the first step had gone well, I let Sage out a few days ago. There was a fair amount of hissing and growling, but there was no charging or fighting, which I thought was a good sign.

I ended up leaving them under the supervision of a roommate yesterday afternoon and unexpectedly got detained elsewhere until late at night. This morning, the roommate just told me that Sage had a fur-flying fight with Fat Cat while I was gone. Fat Cat was so scared that she peed and pooped on the floor, and now won't come out from under the roommate's bed.

I know we're going to have to start over. Just wanted to give an update. Any advice appreciated, of course.
posted by lovebird at 10:59 AM on April 26, 2009

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