Cat Grudge Match
July 13, 2009 2:08 PM   Subscribe

After 3 months of trying to merge our cats into one household, should we just let our cats fight it out? Nothing else seems to have worked to peaceably introduce my cat into my husband's two cat home. Or should we wait until we move into our new home?

I posted previously looking for insights into introducing my cat and problems we have been experiencing here. Nothing has worked other than to keep them separated.**

But we can't live with cat wrangling forever (I am having a baby in 2 months). My husband said we should just allow them to "work it out" and that my cat will find places to hide/escape/etc. Does this work? Will my smaller cat be traumatized or hurt (she seems fine immediately after these fights, emotionally and physically, so long as they are separated again). Has anyone just let them work it out on their own?

One side note...his cats definitely know my cat is in the house because she has been in all of the rooms (we rotate them) and we have had numerous supervised interactions. I think it might be a territory thing. Should we wait until we move into our new home 3 months from now where his cats don't feel so territorial?

How the heck do people have multi-cat households? Please help.

**I have now also tried Feliway for almost a month, but one of my husband's cats (female) always attacks my much smaller female cat. We can't tell, but his male cat seems interested and runs after my cat but doesn't seem as mean about it...more curiosity. My cat just runs away. I have also put bells on his cats to warn my cat of their presence and to hide.
posted by murrey to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
While you may need to manage the dogs, I think you do need to just let them "fight it out." They're trying to establish hierarchy, and they can't do it if someone keeps interfering. As long as no one is getting hurt - serious cuts or actual bites, rather than the occasional nick - it's perfectly normal.

I would suspect they're also reacting to your stress level - if you can chill out about it, they'll chill out.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:31 PM on July 13, 2009

I have two young large male cats & a small older female (who also has the misfortune of being declawed, while the others have their claws). I inherited the female from my cousin a few years ago, the older male is my husband's, & the younger male we brought into the household together. The female cat HATES the boys, & they live to annoy her. I was very uncomfortable with introducing everyone, but ultimately, they worked it out after a few months. In our case, sometimes the boys chase or bite her, but the majority of the time, there's an uneasy truce that involves mostly hissing.

Unfortunately, that's not always the case. We recently tried to integrate a younger female into the household (a neighborhood stray we adopted over the winter), but she was just too aggressive & we ultimately had to rehome her because I was afraid she'd continue to attack the others. It was a different kind of fighting than I'd encountered before -- really mean & violent -- no doubt because she was a stray.

I guess this is a long-winded way of saying that whether they'll work it out depends on the individual cats & how aggressive they're being. If it's just chasing/biting/hissing without serious injury, I'd let them fight it out. They may not EVER like each other, but it's likely that they'll at least get used to each other.
posted by oh really at 2:38 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Can your smaller cat defend itself? One of my parents' cats (admittedly still pretty much a kitten at the time) LOST AN EYE because one of the other cats didn't want to play nice.

So if you do need to let them fight it out it needs to be supervised.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:40 PM on July 13, 2009

Yes, just let them fight it out. We can't understand the weird hierarchy of cats, which they seem to work out among themselves, sometimes several times on a daily basis--but apparently they are none the worse for it.

I introduced a black, 4-year old female cat, Fancy, into my household which at the time consisted of two orange 6-month old male kittens, Colby and Cheddar. The boys were in the same cage in the shelter, though one is a Main coon and the other clearly has Siamese in him.

Cheddar is afraid of everything, and used to follow Colby everywhere. He still worries when he can't find Colby sometimes and squeaks anxiously until Colby comes around. So, okay, Colby is the Alpha Male. Except Cheddar will sit on him, bite the scruff of his neck and groom him as if Colby is his kitten, and Colby obviously hates this but submits to Cheddar, who is huge.

Then Fancy comes along, and Cheddar, the huge scaredy cat, growls and hisses at her, but keeps his distance, while scrappy little Colby fights her openly. Fancy keeps calm, goes ninja and somehow keeps her distance, and earned their grudging respect.

Now, it's a year later, and they alternate between three patterns:

Fancy and Cheddar are best pals, Colby does his own thing.
Colby and Cheddar gang up on Fancy and chase her mercilessly through the house.
Colby and Cheddar vie for Fancy's attention and take turns grooming her.
posted by misha at 2:50 PM on July 13, 2009

St. Alia: The smaller cat has her claws and can usually get away from the other cats -- I guess these are defense mechanisms but...

Oh Really: The fights that have accidentally happened when we have inadvertantly left a door open are REALLY loud when they get into it but I usually only catch the tail end (pun intended) of the fights as my cat runs away. It sounds really mean and violent but I have never seen any injuries.
posted by murrey at 2:51 PM on July 13, 2009

I know what you mean -- the way I could tell that Porch Kitty (the stray) was meaner than the others was that her fights were the only ones that results in clumps of fur flying through the house & genuinely upset cats, plus her stance was very aggressive.

Ok, now I just feel like the craziest cat lady ever, but seriously, you have no idea how much thought & time & energy we devoted to trying to get these cats to all get along!
posted by oh really at 3:04 PM on July 13, 2009

I have anecdotal evidence that buttering works.

That is to say, you smear butter onto the fur of the least popular cat, then put it in the room with the others and supervise them all. The other cats will delay fighting in order to lick the butter off, then once the butter is gone, you remove the formerly buttered cat. Then you repeat the process over several days. Eventually the bullying cats are broken of the "OMG MUST FIGHT" instinct and come to consider the newbie a positive addition to the household.

The downside of this method is that the cat onto whom you smear butter will never ever forgive you.
posted by the latin mouse at 3:21 PM on July 13, 2009 [58 favorites]

the_latin_mouse:That is the single most unexpected, hilarious thing I have ever read on the Internet. Bar none.
posted by Dmenet at 4:37 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

the_latin_mouse: If only this worked on coworkers.
posted by muirne81 at 4:48 PM on July 13, 2009 [5 favorites]

oh really could have been my house. An older female declawed who now has tow younger bros not declawed. One of the boys gets along (they don't fight and will occasionally actually lie down near each other) and the other does not. The does not one has a disease that make him uncoordinated and he falls a lot and I think he just scares the crap out of girl cat. They have learned to live together though. SHe lives at a higher level than him. She is on a table while he cannot get up on it due to his condition. SO she runs and jumps and he runs and falls over.

My point is that they may never be best buds, but they will come to some sort of an agreement or truce.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:55 PM on July 13, 2009

if you try the_latin_mouse's method, spray butter might work really well.
posted by lester at 6:09 PM on July 13, 2009

We've often introduced cats into the existing pack. We've five cats (stripes and Siamese...along with a husky that chases all of them!) now (we always do it in pairs, one of the older pairs has passed over into a better place). It always involves a bit of work for the felines to sort things out. It can take a while. It is unlikely that it will result in serious damage (but not impossible, as mentioned upstream).

Let them figure it out... make sure there are places for everyone to go (we keep the basement door open, they can go down there and find a million places to hide, they can go into the kids rooms (moved out) and hide out....

Eventually things settle down...

There can be some dramatic incidents... I remember a rolling ball of five hissing cats that was precipitated by all of them seeing the same bird outside... too much tension!

they will be ok... and, eventually, they'll find the balance...
posted by HuronBob at 6:19 PM on July 13, 2009

The suggestions to let them fight it out aren't bad, but may not work. I have one cat that I've had to introduce to four others over the last 8 years.

One she got along with immediately. One she fought with for a couple of days, then got along with. Another was a kitten, and they don't really count. The fourth... That one we had to give back since after months of trying to let them sort it out themselves it simply was not going to work.

So I'd say that in general it's not a bad idea. But know when to call it quits. Some cats just can't live together. (In their defense, there are a lot of people that can't live together.)
posted by krisak at 7:10 PM on July 13, 2009

I put Softpaws on my two cats and let them work it out on their own. It took a few weeks but they got over it.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:12 PM on July 13, 2009

When we brought home our second cat, our first cat wasn't having it at all. What worked for us was to seclude second cat in a bedroom with food, water, litter box - got her used to our house/smells/etc. We paid her lots of attention (she was neglected prior to us getting her), but it was without first cat.

After a few days, we put first cat in an upside down laundry basket and let second cat have room to explore. It allowed them to hiss/smell/paw at each other without really fighting. We then did the same with second cat.

After three days (we obviously only used the laundry basket technique for small increments of time and then put second cat back in the spare bedroom), they were thick as thieves.

Good luck!
posted by Twicketface at 9:50 AM on July 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

When we introduced a kitten to our one cat household we kept the cats separated for one week. (The kitten was kept in a bedroom.) We swapped bedding and food dishes and toys so they would get used to each others smells. Towards the end of the week we would open the bedroom door a tiny bit to let the cats see each other and sniff each other. That usually ended with the older cat hissing and swatting the kitten. After the week was up we let the kitten out supervised for an hour or so. They hissed and swatted a little, but calmed down enough that we were able to let the kitten out full time.

Our vet also told us to let the cats fight it out. Keep an eye on them if they are fighting but don't interfere until there is blood. You don't want to teach the cats that you will rescue the new one or they will just wait until you are gone to beat up on it.
posted by sadtomato at 4:34 PM on July 14, 2009

If anyone cares for a follow it is. The cats are living just fine together. The two females do not like each other, but are very good at staying out of each others' way.

I finally let them work it out but first put Soft Claws on my husband's more aggressive cat so that if she scratched, my cat wouldn't be hurt (my cat never scratched, but just ran away). There were screaming fits, but in the end they worked it out. I also think moving into our new home helped solidify their peaceful co-existence. Yes, they will occasionally scream at each other if they unexpectedly come across each other, but it is rare.

No cat was harmed in the making of their life together.
posted by murrey at 4:21 PM on July 2, 2010

I would have liked to hear about cat buttering, but it's good to hear things ended well.
posted by Dmenet at 2:17 PM on July 6, 2010

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