Can you successfully introduce cats to each other BEFORE they move in together?
July 25, 2011 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Can you successfully introduce cats to each other BEFORE they move in together?

After a bad roommate situation, my cat and I temporarily moved into my boyfriend's apartment while he's been working out of town for the summer. Now that August is approaching, I'll be needing to move out, and my bf's friend and old roommate has a room - in the same building - that I could rent out once I move out. Which would be a great solution in that it would be an easy move, it would save me considerable money, and I know him well enough to not worry about a repeat of my last roommate mess.

However, the proposed roomie (PR) has two cats of his own, and we aren't sure if they would get along at all. (My cat is male; the other cats are female.) I had been thinking of doing it the way I keep reading about, like here, where you do it gradually, and the cats know the other cat is there but don't see him yet. But PR wants me to bring my cat over so he can see how his cats react and see if it seems like a feasible co-existence before I move my stuff in.

My concern is that if I just bring my cat over and let him loose in the apartment, there goes any chance of them getting along, but I do understand PR's concern about having me move in and then have the cats not work out. So I'm trying to think of how to approximate cat introduction best practices in my situation. Since we live in the same building, I can go over multiple times easily, but I'm drawing a blank of a specific strategy. (If it helps, PR's apartment is a 3 bedroom - his bedroom, the room I would be staying in, and a spare room/storage room - and he keeps the litter box for his cats in the bathroom.) Any ideas?
posted by Neely O'Hara to Pets & Animals (11 answers total)
I think the fact that your PR has two cats, rather than one, makes the possibility of them getting along more likely. What are their temperaments like? Has your cat had a history of knowing other cats, or has he been more isolated?

I did the "getting to know you" thing between my husband's cat and my cat before we were married. Both were female, and both had lived fairly peacefully with other cats before (my cat's companion had died a couple years before, and my husband's cat's companion had been left with his ex-wife). When I started staying at my husband's apartment on weekends, I brought my cat along. The first time I introduced them, my cat trotted out of her carrier and seemed delighted to see my husband's cat. She walked up trustingly--and got a BIG hiss. She backed up and looked shocked and gave a "well, f*** you too!" hiss. We both soothed our respective cats and then left them to their own devices. They seemed inclined to leave each other alone and we didn't have to run any interference.

I did this several more times until we moved in together, and they weren't cozy but got along fine. We never seemed to have any turf issues, and they coexisted comfortably until my cat died three years later. His cat did seem to grieve somewhat afterwards.
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:15 PM on July 25, 2011

Honestly, I wouldn't bother doing this. The cats are going to spit, hiss, and bat each other a little when you move in- but then they'll be fine! However, this display during your introductory phase may only serve to make your potential roommate nervous and cancel the deal.
posted by Eicats at 2:23 PM on July 25, 2011

I agree, letting them loose together right off will just tell you that strange cats fight like cats. No matter what they're like on day 1, they'll establish some sort of existance by a couple of months from now, that does not involve daily bloodshed, but there's no telling what this pecking order will be. Basically your best bet is to establish whether any of these three cats is seriously opposed to other cats in general.

Go over and spend the evening hanging out at his place. Bring your cat, put her into the room you'd be staying in (or the storage room, if there's a current roommate) and close the door. Watch a movie in the living room, pretend nothing interesting is happening. Have the cats spent a while sniffing at the door? Have they been howling and spitting at the door? If you want to leave her there overnight, do that. Basically read up on cat introduction techniques, and do a couple of rounds of it, but don't push your luck and let both cats loose in the same room on the first visit.

The fastest I've ever introduced two cats to each other was in just one night, but those were exceptional circumstances involving the mellowest cat on the planet made over-clingy-lovey by a road trip, visiting a multi-cat household that had just added kittens 6 months previous, so high on the flexibility. In this best-case scenario, there was hissing, stand-offs, chasing around the house, and some yowling, but no jumping/attacking, and some amount of coexistance at opposite ends of the same room.

Bottom line - if the new roommate would see "they're hissing and spitting at each other and chasing around the house" as meaning that the cats are fundamentally incompatible, in a one-evening test, then there's no way this situation will work. Not because of the cats, but because of him. Cats don't adjust in one day, but you can at least tell what kind of start they'll get off to.
posted by aimedwander at 2:24 PM on July 25, 2011

Is the room available now? Could you do a "trial" move-in for a week or so, so that if things went completely to hell, you'd have some time to find other digs?

When introducing them make sure your cat has a separate litter box in his own space, that can be shut off from the other cats. I'd avoid having them spend all their time together right away, and when one of you is not in the house they should probably be segregated initially.

I added 2 rambunctious kittens to my 20-year-old Siamese's domain, the Siamese who hated all other felines (and many humans). It can work. The biggest thing you want to avoid is stress-related peeing. They will eventually all come to some sort of peace, but once that peeing has started, it's hard to break.
posted by cyndigo at 2:31 PM on July 25, 2011

Cat vs Cat: Keeping peace when you have more than one cat has a good section on introducing new cats together (Google Books preview). There is a lot of interesting bits about cat psychology in the book, but the short of it here is that 1) provide safe spaces for the cats, 2) wear a sock on your hand and rub one cats face, then bring that scented sock to the other cat (and vis-versa), then 3) introduce the cats in a new space. It seems that most of this chapter is online, so you can probably read more of the details for yourself.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:55 PM on July 25, 2011

One more thing: this will be a lot easier because all of the cats are keeping "their" person ... do not cuddle roommate's cats right away and vice versa. Ignoring each other's cats and focusing lots of love on your own will keep you from being seen as a faithless floozie minimize a lot of the jealousy/hierarchy issues.
posted by cyndigo at 3:03 PM on July 25, 2011

First time MeFite here. I don't think letting your cat loose as an introduction strategy before you move in will tell you much, as the posters above have said. The nice thing about the situation at the new place is that you have three rooms to work with, and you can use your own room or the spare room as a place where your cat can have some privacy if you close the door while they get used to each other. Definitely keep a separate litter box in your own room for your cat. Also, a vet friend of ours recommends using Feliway, which is some sort of cat calming pheromone, if there ends up being a lot of stress as they get used to each other. Finally, here is some advice from my favorite cat blog The Way of Cats on adding a new cat. Good luck!
posted by Numenius at 3:50 PM on July 25, 2011

I think you should bring your kitty over for a couple hours at a time - make it a gradual introduction. I watch my dad's annoying male cat who is smaller than my beautiful large feline and he has nasty and obnoxious temperament(he bites for no reason, out of the blue) and likes to mount her even though they're both fixed. Well, after a year of me watching his cat for about a week at a time every three months, the get along fine. its really strange. he annoys my beautiful princess but she definitely tolerates him to the point that when my dad keeps her at his house while i travel, those two sleep side by side on his bed. (they never do that when they're at my place) I think cats find their toleration point of each other - it takes time (just like humans!).
posted by dmbfan93 at 4:16 PM on July 25, 2011

FWIW, because I am a lazy person, I never quite manage to do the entire "keep cats separated and introduce them slowly" stuff, but they end up doing it themselves and it has never ended badly. All the cats I have ever done this were either kittens (<1>
I mean, it's smarter to introduce cats properly, but they will all have their own human, a room that is private from the other cat(s) and their own litter boxes. Things will work out okay.
posted by jeather at 7:20 PM on July 25, 2011

Nthing not to stress on this until you move in. 2 vs 1 means yours won't be a threat.

Of course, keep yours away from the stove :)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:51 PM on July 25, 2011

I was reminded that I never followed up on all the great advice! Happily, the new roommate decided to do some research on his own and came to the conclusion that it was best to wait to introduce the cats gradually, keeping them separated at first, once I move in. So kitty and I move in at the beginning of September, and hopefully following the suggested protocol will result in a harmonious household.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 12:22 PM on August 25, 2011

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