Original Cat meeting New Kitten
August 12, 2010 10:36 AM   Subscribe

Cat adjusting to new kitten: what's the next step for us to ensure they learn to get along? We've taken some basic steps already.

Nickel is going to turn 4 later this year, and we adopted a 4-month-old kitten last Tuesday to keep her company. (Because he looks like our first cat! Plus, holy crap - he's an adorable hunter-destroyer that turns into a lapcat the moment you pick him up.) I wish we had pictures, and I know I'm committing a crime by not having some.

He's been staying in our office room this whole time, comfortably spoiled with kitten things and blocked off by two baby gates now instead of a closed door. When Nickel doesn't have to acknowledge his presence, she doesn't. Life goes on as usual, and once she runs past his door to our bedroom to cuddle at night, it's like she's the only one in the house. We added a second litterbox for her far away from the kitten that she's been happily using, so no revenge accidents either.

But we'd like them to get used to each other more, and we're not sure what the best next step is. Nickel switches between slight hissing, low growling, and apprehensive staring at the creature, with that occasional chittering thing cats do. She started curiously inching closer to the baby gates, too. But he just wants to play! Pounce! Roll! And this chases her away.

Yesterday we switched them around - let the kitten explore the rest of the apartment for 5 minutes, with Nickel quietly sniffing around his room. That's the extent of our progress. What else should we be trying? Should we be waiting for all signs of hissing/growling to stop before moving further? We don't want to mess up and accidentally undo whatever getting used to each other has happened so far. What sort of timeline do you guys suggest?
posted by Tequila Mockingbird to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Keep on with the switching room, it's a really good idea to get them used to each others scent. You can also rub down each cat with a towel and then cross rub them. Another good idea is to feed them stinky food on each side of the baby gate, first with a fair amount of distance between them then closer and closer so that they associate seeing the other cat with getting jummy food. Sounds like that Nickel is still very skittish about the new one. Keep up what you are doing, it might take a long time for Nickel to adjust. It's not unheard of that this can take weeks so just take it slow and don't expect this to happen overnight.
posted by Ferrari328 at 10:46 AM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

It wouldn't hurt (except your wallet, I suppose) to try the Feliway diffuser that liketitanic recommends. I used one when I introduced my 1.5-year-old (male) cat to a new (female) kitten a few years ago, and there was a little bit of hissing and posturing, but, I shit you not, I caught him happily trying to nurse her one afternoon shortly after they were introduced. It was a little creepy, actually.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:01 AM on August 12, 2010

I definitely should have added that we already have the Feliway diffusers, covering the entire place. Sorry!
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 11:04 AM on August 12, 2010

It all sounds very natural. I'd just be very chill, sweet and mellow with both of them, giving the elder just a tad more *respect* and make it known that he was, in fact there first - going to point of feeding him first - but not going overboard - just enough to get the message across to him that he is your first (born) and therefore special. The kitten needs re-assurance and some protection from over-zealous territorial hissing and smacking, you have to be firm in setting down the law of the land - with no's. Just firm, steady NO's - as in this household there will be none of that. Then I'd introduce some fun-time engaging both of them - keep it short and sweet. Make sure they have separate beds, space, dishes, litter boxes. Add some Rescue Remedy in their water dishes - couple of drops to even out the vibes. Gentle music instead of heavy rock or rap - because you don't want to add more jostle to their nerves right now - and trust - it does make a difference.

It'll take up to 3 months for the adjustment to be made fully. You are the ring-mistress/master for now till then. Good luck and have fun.
posted by watercarrier at 11:35 AM on August 12, 2010

I'll be watching this thread, since I'm six days into a cat introduction of my own, but I wanted to chime in and say that some hissing and growling is normal when cats are meeting. Don't be too discouraged by it, but don't disregard it either.

As for our cats: Long story short, we've already let high-strung new cat (NC) explore the apartment while mellow established cat (EC) hangs out nearby, even though her hissing hadn't stopped completely before we let her out of her isolation room. NC only hisses when EC gets too close, but she's already very used to his scent (we swapped the cats' brushes before they met) and is clearly just a little scared by the strange cat invading her space.

The key is that we're handling the introduction very gradually with human supervision. When NC has been bothered too much, we isolate her and try again when she's ready to continue exploring (i.e., instead of hiding in her plush cat cube, she tries to escape the safe room when we open the door). I'm trying to avoid NC getting so bothered that she starts to show aggression toward EC (who is very sweet and curious, and stopped hissing at her after the first day)...I'm not sure how to explain it, but her hissing has clearly been of the "Leave me alone" variety and not "I'm getting ready to fight you." Her ears don't flatten as much as they did the first day, and her pupils aren't getting dilated anymore either. But I let her hiss as much as she wants; it's how she's working things out with new cat, and the hissing has been subsiding as time goes on. The growling tends to start when she's at the end of her rope, so when it gets really forceful I put her back in the safe room to make sure the situation doesn't escalate.

I don't know if we're introducing them in the absolute best way, but so far it's been working well to take gradual steps and separate the cats when one has had enough. As time goes on we'll be coddling NC less, since she and EC have to get used to each other sometime, but it's still too early to force them together.
posted by phatkitten at 11:42 AM on August 12, 2010

Our older cat (Bergamot) was not quite a year old and Maggie was 4 months and very sickly when we got her. We did the same separation thing you describe for 7 days. On the last couple of days of separation we would let them be together in the apartment for 5 minutes, then 10, 15 etc while closely supervised. They both also had access to safe places if they got really freaked out. There was some hissing from Bergamot the first few times (Maggie just wanted to play) but on the second day after about 25-30 minutes they were playing with each other and cleaning each other. So we decided that the separation could end. We separated them for a few days after the initial 7 when we went out just to be on the safe side.

Now they are best friends.
posted by sadtomato at 12:37 PM on August 12, 2010

One other thing, while they were separated we swapped toys and food dishes every once in a while too so they could get used to each others scent.
posted by sadtomato at 12:40 PM on August 12, 2010

check out Cat vs Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennett
posted by IndigoJones at 12:46 PM on August 12, 2010

Ah, Feliway. Ridonkulously expensive, but utterly worth it. When I moved my two cats up here, my new husband and I knew there would be a period of adjustment as his cat would have to get used to sharing a house with two new cats. The house was covered in Feliway, he installed a door with clear panes downstairs between the two world and we hoped for the best.

The cats were quite curious about each other in a hissy growly way between the door. But at least they could see each other. We let them do this for about a week, maybe two, and when my husband's cat and mine figured out that nobody was going anywhere, we let mine come upstairs into the house. No incidents occurred; of course, my hubby's cat was an indoor/outdoor guy back then so if he got irritated, he'd leave the house.

My advice? Keep doing what you're doing. Let them get used to each other and in about two weeks, you'll have begrudging roommates, if not best buddies.
posted by Kitteh at 1:12 PM on August 12, 2010

I started to do the slow introduction thing, but the kitten had other ideas and escaped his room every chance he got. So I spent a few days letting them hang out together, but putting the kitten back when he got too annoying to the older cat, and within another week they were snuggling. When the kitten wasn't being a total rotten bastard, that is. But by that time, the older cat had gotten the hang of disciplining him and making him leave her alone, so they'd worked out their differences.

The main problem was feeding - the older cat is possessive of her food bowl, and she also discovered she loved kitten food and gained a lot of weight quickly, until I hit on the idea of taking a big box, cutting a hole just large enough for the kitten to get in and out, and feeding him in it.

Kitten food box video

Two weeks into the process, they were doing this
But sometimes also this
posted by telophase at 1:50 PM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I figure an update would be nice: they're getting along great now! After we started to gradually let them in the same room together (and after some confused play-fighting), I woke up one night to see Nickel grooming the kitten on our bed. Success!

Here is the cuteness.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 8:49 AM on September 22, 2010

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