Cat Adaptation
January 19, 2005 1:52 PM   Subscribe

So, I got a new cat (a male, approx. 6 mos. old, not fixed yet). He and my other cat (also male, about 8 mos. old, was fixed about a month ago) were finally introduced after spending three days on opposite sides of a closed door, and they've been rolling around and fighting like crazy. (MI)

Occasionally they take breaks and chill out about three feet apart on the floor, and sometimes they even touch noses and lick each other in a very cute way. I've been watching to make sure they don't hurt each other, and they seem to be having fun, but I can't be sure that the older cat just doesn't want to kill the younger one. Will they be OK if I leave them alone? Is it possible that they're never going to get along?
posted by cilantro to Pets & Animals (22 answers total)
I had a similar situation with my 5 year old male cat and my eight month old male mini dachshund (they were of comparable size; if anything the cat outweighed the dog). It was really unnerving, but neither ever appeared to injure the other, and the cat had plenty of escape options.

However, we never left them along together (the dog was always crated when we left). I'd worry a bit that the roughhousing--even if playful in intention--might lead to an accidental injury. Can you confine them to different floors when you have to leave them alone?
posted by handful of rain at 2:00 PM on January 19, 2005

This sounds like ordinary rough and tumble play to me. Our kittens (7 mos old now, boy and girl) do this and it can look pretty violent at times, but it's all good fun. Generally one will yell at the other to let him know if a line has been crossed. They still cuddle together, too. Yours are probably doing it more now than they will in the future due to the novelty of having a new game to play. Now, with two males some dominance behavior might come into the equation so take that into account (particularly since one of them hasn't been snipped yet).
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 2:01 PM on January 19, 2005

While the "never gonna get along" is possible, I think they're just sorting out who's the boss at the moment. Older cat pulls age-card, younger cat pulls "I've been here all my life" card, and it may take a while before they sort out out. Let them sleep in diefferent rooms so they have a sense of territory which is theirs alone at night and keep watching.
posted by dabitch at 2:01 PM on January 19, 2005

They'll work it out. They're just fighting for dominance. One will win. They will occasionally spat. All will be well.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:03 PM on January 19, 2005

Will they be OK? probably, kittens are very injury proof (to kitten on kitten violence). Will they hate each other forever, not likely. Will one of them wound the other? maybe. They're kittens, so they're supposed to be terrorizing each other in the name of fun. If not each other, then your ankles; I would think both you and they are happier this way. I would only worry if you see one being chased away from the food or the catbox, or if you see blood more than once. If it gets too loud or the bullying gets too one-sided, separate them for a good naptime and things will rebalance. Try to be incredibly fair about food and attention for the next few months. Watch out though, just when things get sweet and loving they'll join forces and gang up on you. Kittens are devious that way.
posted by dness2 at 2:06 PM on January 19, 2005

I second the being very conscious about being fair between them. The established cat will be very, very upset if its parent starts "not loving" it. Generally they will work it out on their own -- our two have been together since birth, and they still wrestle, skid all over the floor, bite, yowl, and chase one another. Then they nap together, or hold one another down for baths. All shall be well.
posted by Medieval Maven at 2:16 PM on January 19, 2005

Sorry I misread, I thought one was 6 years old.. and that is a different story. This is just boy-kittens being boy-kittens. But be very very fair with love and attention.
posted by dabitch at 2:20 PM on January 19, 2005

One cat and one dog. They're about the same size. Had them for years and the dog will still walk over and gnaw on the cats head. The cat is so used to it by now that it doesn't even flinch anymore and it just leaves a trail of slobber on the cat's head with no damage. If the cat is in the mood, it'll roughhouse with the dog. No problems at all, I wouldn't worry about it if I were you, but just monitor it at first to be sure.
posted by Arch Stanton at 2:28 PM on January 19, 2005

What you describe is totally normal, and it's a good sign that they can approach each other for friendlies. Some yowling and hissing is always normal for a few weeks upon new introductions.

After my 16-year-old cat died, I introduced a new 5-year-old cat to my remaining 16-year-old cat who had only known the one other cat (aside from her mom and littermate) her whole life (indoor-only cats). The old lady never came to like the new cat (who is about 1.5 times her size and prefers to be dominant), even after a year, but they coexist. They ignore each other, walk around each other if they have to be in the same space, sit next to me on the couch or bed with a few inches separating them. If circumstances force them to be closer than about 4 inches apart (that seems to be the distance that breaches the you-don't-exist barrier), there is crouching and that low rumbling growling and sometimes even hissing/chasing. But even that dies down after the old lady has made her point and the young dude has gone "enough already" and walked off.

I'm kind of bummed that they will never be friends, but they've got the politics worked out so that's the best I could hope for.
posted by matildaben at 2:41 PM on January 19, 2005

I think your kittens will be fine. If they're being friendly at all - you say they sniff and groom each other? - then the fighting is most likely just play. Give it a few weeks or a month and then if the fighting still looks too real you can worry about it again.

And I know this isn't an answer (and I just decried chatty non-answers in AskMe) but I hope you'll forgive me: 1.5 MB MPEG of massively cute cat-fight.
posted by nicwolff at 2:47 PM on January 19, 2005

The only problem we've had is one cat has much longer and sharper claws than the other. A simple swat from the long-clawed one sometimes delivered more than she intended and the short-clawed one, who is the dominant one, would then really go after the long-clawed one. The solution is trimming their claws regularly. We do it often enough that, although they talk about it, they don't really mind getting them trimmed. You might want to try it--they'll be less likely to injure each other, less likely to hurt you if you need to pill them, etc., and less likely to hurt your vet. I really prefer this type of clippers with the red handles--you can see what you're doing and they don't splinter the claw.
posted by lobakgo at 3:17 PM on January 19, 2005

My cats have known each other since they were both kittens and for the most part they tolerate each other. That is, they don't mind sharing the same house and human but wouldn't seem to mind if the other one ran away.

About once a year they get in a knock down drag out fight. Usually it is when the little one finally gets pissed off at the big one for pushing her weight around. Once I actually separated them for a day and when the door opened they acted like the spat never happened.

You'll be able to tell when the cats are play fighting or really fighting.
posted by birdherder at 3:53 PM on January 19, 2005

This could well end up fine, but same-sex, similar-age pairings of dogs or cats is always a much more risky situation for long-term peace than opposite-sex pairings and/or those with a wide age gap (I personally will never again own same-sex, similar-age pets of any species except rodents, after having lived with two dogs who had to be kept separate at all times). I would certainly consider separating them when you are not present for the time being, not least because play fighting can turn to real fighting in the blink of an eye in many cases.

I definitely agree with keeping the claws trimmed (I think this is just sensible caretaking anyway - untrimmed claws can do YOU a lot of damage, intentional or otherwise). Make it a rewarding experience (do one claw, feed a treat, do another claw, feed a treat, for a while, gradually work up to doing one foot, then feeding a treat, until you can simply do all four feet and then give a treat).
posted by biscotti at 4:31 PM on January 19, 2005

I don't have anything new to say, but thought I'd comment anyway. If they aren't growling or hissing at each other, they are just doing some friendly wrestling. That being said, I wouldn't leave them alone together until I'm confident they're not going to rip each others' ears off. I would also recommend getting the 6 month old fixed ASAP - he's already more than old enough to get fixed.

I have three cats, all female. One is 11 years old, one is almost five and one is almost four. We've had all of them since they were kittens. We introduced the four year old with the eleven year old when the four year old was a kitten and they've never had a fight. They mostly ignore each other, but if they do interact, it's always very friendly. When my husband (then boyfriend) moved in with me, he brought his cat, the five year old. This was still when the four year old was a kitten and the five year old was just past kittenhood. They still wrestle each other several times a day and sometimes it will turn into a real fight, but they've always been able to sort it out on their own.

Now the five year old and eleven year old have never gotten along well at all. They try to ignore each other at all costs, but if they do cross paths a lot of hissing and growling and sometimes claws are involved.

My five year old cat also has a nibble taken out of her ear. We're unsure which of the other two cats did this to her, but other than that and a few nose scratches every now and then, everyone mostly gets along fine.
posted by lynda at 4:55 PM on January 19, 2005

I had Cyril for a year and a half, and when I brought little Dignan home. All hell broke loose.

Cyril was *not* happy one bit. He hissed, swatted and did everything he possibly could to show Dignan he did *not* like him. Dignan, on the other hand, was a just a tiny furball and though for sure that Cyril wanted to play with him.

The first few days I was worried, and as Dignan was a very, very tiny kitten, I kept him locked in the bathroom while I was at work as I was sure that Cyril would try to kill him.

Turns out all my worrying was useless. About a week later, Cyril sorta chilled out and they have been lifelong friends ever since. They don't play-fight as rough as they used too, but to this day Cyril is defiantly the king of the house still.
posted by punkrockrat at 6:02 PM on January 19, 2005

I agree with a poster above that the key signal to look for is hissing and growling. We got our litter-brother-and-sister pair as 10-week-olds, I think, and they fought all day every day for about six months. They would then, and still do, fall asleep together. During this time they hissed at one another maybe thrice. (Even while one was continuously rabbit-kicking the other in the face!) I don't know if it's important, but there didn't seem to be any bias about who was more likely to be chasing whom.

This playfighting is actually extremely desirable behavior, as you want your cats to know that claws hurt, and not to use them as a general rule. Also, of course, it's extremely entertaining once you're sure that no damage is being done. I wish they still did it *sigh*.
posted by Aknaton at 6:35 PM on January 19, 2005

What you describe sounds to me like playing (which looks and sounds a lot like fighting). Cats can do absolutely viscious-looking things to each other, perform amazing acrobatic moves, sneak attacks, body slams, etc. It's all very entertaining to witness, and it's natural kitty behavior. If there's no hissing and no broken skin, you're probably OK.
posted by DuoJet at 4:10 AM on January 20, 2005

We have 3 cats (!). They all fight, occasionally one gets scratched, but they all get along fine.

One thing you should do, if you haven't already, is get a second set of food/water bowls and a second litter pan. As noted above, this is the thing they are most likely to get seriously territorial over.
posted by mkultra at 7:52 AM on January 20, 2005

We are going through the same experience with our three month-old female kitten and our eight month old male kitten. Even after a month together, they still tumble and play-fight, but there has been no hissing or growling. After a couple of weeks we found we could leave them together with peace of mind.
posted by kickerofelves at 9:25 AM on January 20, 2005

I have two 5 year-old males and totally agree that if they aren't hissing and grumbling at one another then they're just playing. My two play pretty rough and I used to think that they were doing it to try and hurt the other until I foolishly got a rat terrier puppy and watched how they behaved it with it. It was pretty clear then that they were trying to hurt the puppy. If they sit and bat at one another, they're just playing. If they run at the other taking swipes with every step, they're mad.
posted by ttrendel at 10:39 AM on January 20, 2005

According to this thorough introduction guide, it takes waaay longer than 3 days. The normal is 6 to 12 weeks. Also see "Tom meet Geri". The first problem I see is that they are both males. Not the best combination. When I was researching getting a companion for my cat, I was told by everyone that a male cat will accept a female much more easily. I'd say that yours need more time apart, and a more gradual introduction that includes a screen or something on the bathroom door so you can crack it open, opening it very gradually.

But, no one else seems to agree with me and my experience is with a very willful cat.
posted by scazza at 2:05 PM on January 20, 2005

Oh and as for the play fighting, my 2 cats from when I was growing up (both males) fought together throughout their entire lives, meaning it's completely normal if no blood is drawn. They used to scream and scream at each other, which can be painful whith a Siamese and a Himalayan. They tolerated each other, sleeping together and cleaning each other.
posted by scazza at 2:09 PM on January 20, 2005

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