Catfilter: a tale of three cats brought together. Help us improve this situation!
March 23, 2012 1:13 PM   Subscribe

2 cats meet 1 cat. Ms. Alchemist and I moved in together last year, and our cats are not loving it. If they could just coexist peacefully without hissing and growling and peeing on things, we would be very happy. Help us improve this situation!

Ms. Alchemist has a cat. Cat A is female and neutered. She is from a shelter, and is approximately 8 years old. Ms. Alchemist got her 4 years ago from a friend, and lived alone with cat A for 3 years. Cat A is solitary, cautious around strangers, and only a little social.

I have two cats. Cat B is female and neutered. Cat C is male and neutered. I got them together from a shelter; they are approximately 5 years old. I lived alone with cat B and cat C for 3 years. Cat B is nervous but social, and cat C is extremely social and very curious.

In March 2011, we decide to move in together. We find a new apartment, so neither cats have to live in another's well-established territory. Cat A quickly decides that the bedroom is her territory, and stays/hides there all the time. Cats B and C settle in nicely in the rest of the apartment. Cats B and C have a litter box in a separate room that they use without problems; after one accident cat A gets her own litter box and food in the bedroom.

Time passes: cat A spends 90% of her time in the bedroom. She slowly ventures out in the living room, and more or less accepts cat B. She does not like cat C, who is curious and "in your face" and will run after her when she runs from him. There is thankfully no fighting beyond hissing, growling, running away, and chasing. At this point, we feel that the cat situation has reached a bearable plateau, and hope that cat A will become more social in time.

Cat C often uses cat A's litter box, and cat B does too, if less often. Cats B and C sometimes eat from cat A's food but primarily eat their own in a separate room. Cat A never uses the other litter box, and never eats food outside the bedroom.

This January, cat A pees on the bed twice within a week's time. We realise that something is definitely not right. We put a hook on the bedroom door, thinking that cat A's litter box is the issue - so cat A can look out of the bedroom but cat B and C cannot come in. Cat A goes back to peeing only in the litter box. Cat A is now primarily alone in the bedroom, even though we go in several times a day to pet her and play with her. We notice that cat A becomes more social at night when we go to bed (not extremely social but noticeably more so). We wedge a folded drying rack in the bedroom door as a makeshift gate. The cats can look at each other but cannot get through.

And here we are now. What on earth can we do to improve this situation? We realise that the cats will probably never love each other enough to sleep in one big pile but if they could just coexist peacefully without hissing and growling and peeing on things, we would be very happy. Any advice is appreciated! We have tried Feliway before without major results but are willing to try again.

We should add that giving one or more cats back to a shelter is not an option for us, and neither (this should go without saying) is putting one or more to sleep.
posted by alchemist to Pets & Animals (14 answers total)
Have you tried Feliway?
posted by runningwithscissors at 1:22 PM on March 23, 2012

Came in to recommend Feliway too, but I must insist that you post pictures of the kitties in question.
posted by Specklet at 1:26 PM on March 23, 2012

3rding Feliway.
posted by The otter lady at 1:35 PM on March 23, 2012

Come in to nth the recommendations to try Feliway. I'd put at least one diffuser in Cat A's bedroom, though adding more around the house would only help. I would also talk to your vet, anti anxiety drugs might help the cat feel not so nervous.

Does your house have lots of nice hiding spots around for the cats to hide, even something as simple as cardboard boxes with holes in the front might make a timid cat feel less timid about leaving the bedroom. You can pick up second hand child gates with a plastic mesh around at garage sales and the like, if you are going to have to go with the blocked door, making it easier on yourselves.
posted by wwax at 1:53 PM on March 23, 2012

Did you go full force on Feliway? We did, and it worked. What that meant was that in our 1400 square foot space we used 2 diffusers x 3 months, refilling both each month. (And leaving them plugged in full time.) At the end of that time our cats, who were ready to murder each other before Feliway, were madly in love and they remain so today.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:56 PM on March 23, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the input. As mentioned above we have tried Feliway without major success. What specific tips have worked for you? Near the food? Near the sleeping places? One in each room?

For those interested: pic album here.
posted by alchemist at 2:02 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

One in each room. Also expect it to take 2-3 months before you know. It's not an overnight fix so when you say you tried it... I'm wondering if you tried it for as long as you should have.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:12 PM on March 23, 2012

Your vet can prescribe an antidepressant, which could provide her with just the bump she needs to get through the experience of moving and being around strange cats. Feliway works got a lot of cats from what I hear, but it didn't work do magically for me. I'd say it's worth trying. If it doesn't work, talk to your vet about medication.
posted by thelastcamel at 2:36 PM on March 23, 2012

Sorry, trying, to type on my phone, with predictably crummy results. Missed the fact that you've already tried Feliway.
posted by thelastcamel at 2:37 PM on March 23, 2012

More litter boxes -- with 3 cats, you'd do best with 4 boxes.

Continue keeping Timid Cat mostly in her own room for a while, and do the scent-exchange routine -- trading favorite bedding and toys among the cats so they get very used to associating the other cats' scents with good things.

Create lots of safe hiding places, especially up high. Make sure a few spots like the top of the fridge are accessible, so anytime Timid Cat feels threatened, she can go somewhere that feels safe.

Create a situation where Timid Cat is safe in her room, but can see out, and you can reach in. Get a favorite toy and some treats and play with all 3 cats right by the door -- social cats outside, Timid Cat safe inside. Maybe you could have their food bowls near the door, so the goodness of food-time is associated with proximity of the other cats.

Cats are much more trainable than most people realize. When the Very Social Cat is relentlessly chasing Timid Cat, intervene. Say "no" firmly, directed at the chaser, then pick the chaser up and put it in the bathroom or something. They are smart enough to understand this. This will reassure the Timid Cat that you've got her back, and (maybe) teach Social Cat to knock it off when you say "no."

Allow enough time for all this to work. It took in excess of a year for the hissing and growling between my two to turn into mutual affection. Cats make friends slowly.
posted by Corvid at 2:44 PM on March 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Get a big cat tree. My 2 cats never go along, but cat A hung out high in the cat tree and cat B hung out in the window cat seat. The twains seldom met and all was well.
posted by Mittenz at 6:01 PM on March 23, 2012

I found the only measurable effect of Feliway is that it gives me asthma, which I don't otherwise have at all.
posted by w0mbat at 6:02 PM on March 23, 2012

What Corvid said. If you want a longer version, I found Cat vs. Cat. helpful.
posted by Lettuce_Leaves at 6:16 PM on March 23, 2012

Response by poster: About the litter boxes: right now, cats B and C share a litter box robot that cleans itself after each use. Thanks to your suggestions we are now discussing buying a second robot and putting in the bedroom, so cat A can get used to it while she's alone. That way, if (when!) it becomes possible to open the bedroom door permanently, it won't matter as much if the other cats use it, because it will clean itself. What do you think?

About the Feliway: we definitely did not try Feliway for as long as we should have. We are now planning a two-dispenser setup for 3 months placing them strategically around the apt. We will still use the gate on the bedroom door though for a while. We also like the idea of placing food bowls closer to the gate to get them all closer together.

Have any of you used catnip for integration purposes?
posted by alchemist at 2:32 AM on March 24, 2012

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