When to break out the feliway
February 21, 2010 4:19 PM   Subscribe

How long should I expect a 4-year-old cat to hide when a 6-month-old kitten is introduced to her house?

Yesterday, our latest foster kitten (Alice) was placed in a house with a quiet 4-year-old cat (Zoey). Both cats are generally sweet-tempered and quiet. Alice seemed to like the new place just fine, but Zoey's been hiding.

When we (the kitten and I) visited last Wednesday, Zoey (I think) drew back from me, hissed at the carrier with Alice inside, and ran off, not to be seen for the rest of the 2-hour visit. According to her people, Zoey is usually fairly social, so this was unusual behavior.

A few days earlier, we'd sent over some things with Alice's scent. Maybe she recognized the scent?

This is a 30-day "trial adoption", and of course I feel bad for Zoey, suddenly having to share her territory with an unknown beast. How long should we wait before I show up over there with some Feliway?

Note: Zoey doesn't particularly like cat treats, or even fresh fish, so trying to tempt her out with food might not be very effective.

Note: this question isn't about the best way to introduce a new kitten; that's done, and I'll probably be more insistent about putting the kitten in a small isolated room next time.
posted by amtho to Pets & Animals (11 answers total)
Could be quite a while. The last cat that we brought home didn't start coming out regularly until maybe a month after we got him. He'd sneak out from underneath the bed after we ate dinner and hung out for a bit, but that was about it. We've had Charlie for almost a year now and he still runs away when strangers come into the house.

This is, however, the new cat I'm talking about, you're talking about the existing cat. I just answered with this to let you know that sometimes cats just hang out by themselves. For a long time. Don't worry too much, Zoey won't starve herself. If, after the 30-day trial adoption you're still not seeing Zoey, then I would worry. After all, that's what the trial is for!
posted by InsanePenguin at 4:32 PM on February 21, 2010

Response by poster: If Zoey hasn't come out by 30 days, we'll probably have to take Alice back from her adoptive home (we were fostering her for a rescue group), which would be soooo sad. Her new home is wonderful and perfect, for everybody except poor Zoey.
posted by amtho at 4:49 PM on February 21, 2010

It's only been a day? I think you have to be a little more patient. I'm sure Zoey will sneak out at night for food (or the owners can put it somewhere more easily accessible), but as long as she's eating and using the literrbox okay, I think this is a situation that requires at least a week or two of patience.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:00 PM on February 21, 2010

Response by poster: PhoBWanKenobi - So, I should start worrying in two weeks? That's really my question -- not, "Should I worry now," but "How long until we try plan B?"
posted by amtho at 5:44 PM on February 21, 2010

According to her people, Zoey is usually fairly social, so this was unusual behavior.

Actually it's pretty typical behavior. One day is not nearly long enough to even get a hint of the way these cats are going to get along. After one week you should see a little change, and after two weeks it should be getting better. I would say that if after three weeks it hasn't improved at all, then to call it quits. Also, the Feliway should have been used from the start.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:18 PM on February 21, 2010

I have an absurdly social cat, and when we brought a new kitten home, he was hesitant for at least a couple weeks. They frantically sniffed at each other through the door the whole first day, but as soon as I switched out the solid door with baby gates, the existing (absurdly social) cat was like, "woah, screw this."

The new kitten decided the existing cat was his mom and followed him around obsessively; the existing cat spent a lot of time running away from his new shadow. It probably took a couple weeks for the existing cat to get used to an intruder on his territory, and longer than that for him to decide he would be friends with the new kitten instead of just tolerating his existence.

Right now they're sleeping on top of each other.

IANAV, but I would definitely give it more time, and I'd look at whether it was the existing cat avoiding the new cat, or whether it was the existing cat avoiding everywhere the new cat had ever been. A cat avoiding a newcomer is pretty normal, but a cat giving up all its territory to a newcomer is a little more concerning and may be a more permanent problem that may suggest they won't co-exist well. Sometimes two cats will just divide the house up and neither will go in the other's area, ever.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:51 PM on February 21, 2010

When I brought my new cat home, it took about 4 days of hissing and fighting before relations were "normalised" with the existing cat. The new cat hid under the bed most of the time. I think give it a week, and if there is absolutely no change at that point, they may not be able to get along.
posted by dave99 at 8:38 PM on February 21, 2010

The last time I saw this happen, a few years ago, Existing Cat was a neurotic, weird kitty that wasn't very friendly. New Cat was fairly friendly and intelligent, although quite skittish around new people.

Well, Existing Cat absolutely hated the newcomer, to the point of hissing and yowling. But New Cat wasn't deterred in the least... she actually ended up wrestling with Existing Cat within an hour or two of meeting. She wasn't trying to hurt her, you could tell, he just wouldn't take 'no' for an answer. I'm not even sure it was dominance, because New Cat wasn't at all hissy or growly, and didn't seem exactly aggressive, she was just very insistent about physical contact with Existing Cat.

After a few days, Existing Cat tolerated New Cat, and after a few months they were inseparable.
posted by Malor at 10:51 PM on February 21, 2010

A few months ago my parents (who have a cat) looked after my aunt's cat while she was on holiday.

At first the cats didn't get on, but we figured after a few weeks they would be used to one another.

All I can say is it didn't happen in the two months we had both cats.
posted by Mike1024 at 12:39 AM on February 22, 2010

We have a multi-cat household, and the dynamics are fascinating. Slight elder kitty intimidates middle kitty who inexplicably intimidates/fascinates slightly younger foundling kitty, who has grown into a bruiser that intimidates elder kitty. I didn't even mention the dog.

It all depends upon the cats, and ultimately they'll work out some kind of system/territory/thing. We currently have two of the most "unfriendly with each other" cats I've ever seen (elder and foundling,) but they've settled into territories and behaviors that minimize conflict.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:24 PM on February 24, 2010

If you think Feliway will help, then get it now. There's really no benefit in letting the cats hiss and fight. I haven't used Feliway, but Mefis semi to think it's good product.

Anything you can do to short-cycle the hissing phase will make it more likely that the foster family can keep this cat.
posted by 26.2 at 6:27 PM on March 8, 2010

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