August 24, 2011 8:19 AM   Subscribe

Katzenfilter: How can I make the second cat selection process easier on first cat?

Some kittens are coming over on Saturday (if we don't have a hurricane bearing down on us) for an overnight test run. The lady who fosters the kittens thought it would be best if my first cat spent the day with a couple of kittens to see if she gets along with any of them. I've asked about my cat here before, due to her aggressiveness. She can be very tense & spooky, but after the initial startling, she often returns to investigate, so I'm hoping she won't spend the whole time hiding under the bed. These kittens have been in a home with other cats & dogs, so the foster cat lady assures me they are relatively fearless.

One problem is that we really only have one suitable space in the house for litterboxes, so I don't think I can easily quarantine the cats. Also, I need to see how they react to each other, so I want all cats to have free access to the house, but I'm aware this may be extremely anxiety-provoking for first cat. Is it a Really Bad Idea to allow the kittens to roam free and mingle with my cat? I don't want to unnecessarily stress my cat if I can help it.

I'm planning on getting an extra litter box and some Feliway plug-ins today. Is there anything else I might need?

Proof of life.
posted by Kitty Stardust to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is it a Really Bad Idea to allow the kittens to roam free and mingle with my cat?

She sounds like she already has limited confidence in her territory, and bringing new cats into the house will make it worse. When I got a second cat, I ask a lot of knowledgeable people about the right type of cat to get based on the personality of my first. My first cat is rather antisocial to other animals, though she can be loving to us. The key things they said that would also apply here:
1) A kitten is a bad idea because a) kittens are very hyper and this can scare cat #1 and b) if cat #1 is aggressive, she could hurt the kitten.
2) It's better to get a male if you already have a female cat because two females will be more territorial.
3) Look for a very friendly cat #2 who will put up with cat #1's potential aggression/unfriendliness and still be willing to be friends.
4) Do NOT introduce them right away. The new cat needs to be quarantined for both of their sakes. It helps the new cat adjust and get a sense of his own territory, and allows cat #1 to not feel like their territory is being taken away. They also have the chance to get used to each other's scent before meeting, and this can help them acclimate to each other much better.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:31 AM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

The lady who fosters the kittens thought it would be best if my first cat spent the day with a couple of kittens to see if she gets along with any of them.

This is a spectacularly bad idea. Free roaming kittens (plural!!) in your cat's home will result in your cat freaking the fuck out and hating them with the burning passion of a thousand suns. Your cat is not going to be drawn to any of the kittens except to possibly want to bite their faces off.

This whole "see if they like each other" thing is nuts, your cat is not going to like any of them. You have to work slowly over time to convince her that she doesn't hate the new kitten, until they have formed an armed truce. It would be one thing if your cat wasn't already aggressive and didn't have territory and confidence issues, but she clearly does.

If you feel you must have the kittens over, they have to be kept in a separate room from your cat.
posted by crankylex at 8:57 AM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Cats need to be introduced to each other slowly and gradually, and you CANNOT just dump some kittens into the same house with an existing cat. This looks like a good guide, with some reasons why not. Also, search here on ask.mefi, there are several questions on this topic.

The process is not so simple that you can throw a couple kittens into a situation and see if your cat bonds with them. It just doesn't work like that. Pick the kitten you want, and introduce it to your cat slowly. They may become friends, they may merely tolerate each other, but only a few cases will they actively hate each other for all of eternity if introduced properly. If they are to end up life long enemies, only time will tell.

Surely you can find a corner of another room for a temporary second litter box for a kitten. Bathrooms are typically used for this purpose.
posted by cgg at 9:15 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

If your cat is leery of change and / or new things and animals, a stampeding herd of kittens is an unpleasant and abrupt way to introduce her to the idea of an additional cat in the house. It's frankly a little strange that someone with any experience fostering kittens would even suggest it.

DoubleLune's suggestions are excellent. Your best bet is probably not a kitten, but a friendly, easygoing, adult male cat, and to introduce them gradually over a couple of days.

- Friendly and easygoing for obvious (i hope) reasons: you need a chill newcomer to take the edge off the shock to your current cat, but one that will still be interested in being friends.

- Adult not only because for the most part they're a little less hyper and a little less aggressive in their need to "play," but also because with a kitten you never really know exactly what you're getting, personality-wise. A kitten that's super playful and active at 8 - 12 weeks may turn out to be a mellow lap cat by the time she's 1 year old. A mellow lap kitten may turn out to be a monster with no sense of boundaries or propriety. You really can't tell, and you really can't control it. With an adult cat, however, you know what you're getting personality-wise for the most part: a chill, easygoing 2-year-old is likely to be a chill, easygoing 3-year-old.

-Male because, as DoubleLune notes, 2 female cats just don't get along as well. Two neutered males will generally get along just fine. A neutered male and neutered female will also usually do great together. Two females, though? Neutered or not, the fur is likely to fly. You know how people use the phrase "cat fight" to describe two women fighting? Yeah, that's why.

Admittedly my advice is based on anecdata rather than hard science, but I feel qualified to provide it because I'm working with a pretty large sample size. Not only do we have three cats of our own, but we have fostered dozens if not hundreds of kittens and their mamas over the years, all of whom have interacted to some degree or other with our existing adult cats, so I've witnessed and managed an awful lot of feline introductions.
posted by dersins at 9:19 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

It has taken, at times, months to introduce new cats into our already catted household. The method this person is suggestion is exactly the wrong thing to do.

My advice:

If your cat is already not very social, what is your thinking in subjecting existing cat to this trauma?

If you insist on bringing in a new cat, but have no way to slowly introduce it to the other cats, then you need to consider if you're putting your "cute kitty" needs in front of the quality of life for both the old and new cats.

bottom line, wait until you have an abode that would facilitate the introduction of a new cat... don't do it now.

or, what everyone else said.
posted by tomswift at 9:59 AM on August 24, 2011

Cats are not dogs--they do not make fast friends. If you're going to get a second cat, find the one that suits you best, then start the slow and tasking process of introducing said cat to Hoshi. I guarantee you that Hoshi will not like anyone you bring to the house in your proposed manner.
posted by litnerd at 10:30 AM on August 24, 2011

What everyone else said + get a male cat. Female cats are jerks.
posted by desjardins at 11:51 AM on August 24, 2011

I adopted (from my parents, who were moving out of state) an older cat a few months after adopting three kittens. It has been about a year and a half now since these four felines started living together, and I can still see signs of the older one continuing to "settle in". Seriously. Cats do NOT make good first impressions on each other, except possibly in vanishingly rare cases of uncommon temperament.

Is the lady fostering the kittens a first-timer? Because what she is suggesting is not only liable to be stressful for all involved, but is also spectacularly unlikely to result in any useful data whatsoever. Most likely your older cat will freak out / hide / hiss, while the kittens will scatter, cower, etc. And that sort of initial meeting should not be used as a basis for any sort of relationship-potential evaluation, as they could all still become best friends eventually. It just isn't liable to happen overnight, let alone within the first few minutes of meeting!

Oh and quarantining new cats isn't really a negotiable affair, or at least, it shouldn't be. You don't have to keep a litterbox in the quarantine zone forever, but you absolutely positively SHOULD NOT. EVER. expect an "established" cat to spontaneously start sharing a box with newcomers. That's pretty much a recipe for floorpooping, or worse, as the feline parties involved battle for the most intimate of territories.
posted by aecorwin at 11:58 AM on August 24, 2011

Cat Vs Cat. Somebody in a previous thread recommended this and oh my God it's been invaluable. (The author also has a facebook page and twitter account.) Even with a slooooooow quarantined introduction, our resident cat went on a hunger strike (which can quickly turn into a fatal liver disease) for two days in protest. We had to coax him into eating 1 tbsp/day of something to keep his liver from deteriorating (vet's advice). They hadn't even met face to face yet. He was freaking out just at Intruder Cat's smell. Luckily he started eating normally, but it's been three weeks and we're still keeping an anxious eye on Resident Cat's food intake as they negotiate having to live together.

messybeast advice is good and detailed, too.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:01 PM on August 24, 2011

Thanks for the tips. The foster cat lady has been doing this for some time, but maybe her experiences of bringing more cats into a multi-animal arrangement are different. Mr. Stardust helped me work out some spaces for more litterboxes, so I think we'll be pretty well set on that front. I plan on talking to the foster cat lady today & telling her I think it would be better if I met the cats first before she brought any over. Also going to tell her we've decided an adult cat might be a better match.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:52 AM on August 25, 2011

Yeah, what the lady is proposing goes against everything I've heard.

We had a skittish/aggressive cat that we wanted to get a companion for. We did all the recommended stuff (put him around a blanket that the new kitty had slept on to get him used to the smells, etc.). He was still very scared of, or hissed at, the new kitty (though she's about 1/4 his size) for about 6 weeks. And as the new kitty wanted to sleep in the main bed, I had to sleep with the older one in the guest room for a few weeks as well to keep them separate.

But then there's slow acceptance and now they're best friends. So, I don't think initial meetings will tell you anything, but my sense was that any two cats will eventually become friends after living together, sharing the same food, spaces, etc. (they just accept that they're part of the same pack).
posted by Jon44 at 6:16 AM on August 26, 2011

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