Is there any chance of getting an only cat to accept other kitties??
November 12, 2015 7:33 PM   Subscribe

MeFites, have you ever been able to turn a decidedly only cat into an at-least-tolerant-of-other-cats cat?

I adopted Feliner of Rage from a friend seven years ago. Friend gave up the cat because she was miserable and cranky after friend adopted a second, then a third cat. Feliner and I bonded really quickly and I adore the hell out of her. She has no time for anyone except me, only grudgingly accepting scritches on the head from my brother.

I (among other people) been asked to take on a pair of year-old sibling kitties who will otherwise be put down this weekend and would love to, but I would hate to repeat Feliner's last experience, especially since she's about to turn 14 and who knows how much time she's got left? She's still plenty feisty but has two chronic conditions (diabetes and hyperthyroidism), so I spend a lot of time tending to her.

Other details possibly worthy of mention:
Feliner is constantly hungry due to her conditions
The kitties are a boy/girl pair
My apartment is spacious by NYC standards (about 900 sq. ft.)

How many of these are dealbreakers? Is she just too old and set in her ways to tolerate young cats? My hope was that maybe the siblings would stay a bonded pair while Feliner and I could stay tight.

If this is a lost cause, I'd rather know now before making an ill-fated promise. I'd feel incredibly guilty, but I have to prioritize my old girl.
posted by Recliner of Rage to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd be pretty surprised if this weren't going to be quite fraught for quite a while.

Can you have the kittens around for a visit, keep them in another room from the resident, and see how mental she gets?
posted by pompomtom at 7:42 PM on November 12, 2015

Could you take them on as a temporary thing to make sure they aren't put down and just see how it goes? I have a cranky old lady cat who accepted a new cat relatively easily. My partner had a similar situation and they are doing fine together, but they'll never be besties.
posted by guster4lovers at 7:48 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

In basically the same scenario, we turned an older female cat who was ready to MURDER the interlopers into a loving sweetie who groomed the newcomers, slept cuddled tight to them, etc. It took three months, with the first month the most fraught. We used two Feliway plug-ins (based on the size of our living space) and replaced them monthly, so six total. Week one: murder and violence were lurking at every moment; newcomers kept mostly in a separate bedroom. Week 2-4: newcomers roaming the space freely, Older Cat calmer, but still a lot of hissing and anger. Starting week 5: a state of detente that slowly lessened. Week 12: true love, which lasted a few years, until the Queen Bee died. We miss her all the time.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:13 PM on November 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

Fraught is a good word for it. The good news is that there are two of them - paradoxically it's better to bring in two young cats instead of one. What's the kittens' story? Do you know that they're actually bonded, come from the same place, or just an accidental pairing? Any insight into their food habits since the grande dame is going to complicate that a bit? Do you have a place where you can securely confine them for a couple of weeks or more when you can't be actively supervising? How much would Feliner mind being confined (I.e. To your bedroom) when you're not able to actively supervise, intermittently for a couple of weeks (only) when you can't actively supervise? What are the two young cats' personalities like? Are they shy? Easy going? Aggressive?

I'd guess that you've got a fair chance of success (though female cats are, in my experience, less tolerant of other females). But it isn't guaranteed. And unless you're smarter than me, there will probably be a point during week two when you'll regret trying it, as you try to balance the curiosity and playfulness of the newcomers with the needs of your old lady. But after the second week it usually gets a lot easier.

I'd be happy to memail about it. I didn't have to deal with all the challenges you've got, but I've definitely done it.

Ps: 900 square feet is plenty of space for three. The minimum is about 100 sqft/cat and three is about the most one person can take care of without being a bit stretched by the task.
posted by wotsac at 8:54 PM on November 12, 2015

I'd say don't do it. If the sibs have anywhere else to go, don't shake up your old girl like that. She's sick and cranky and shouldn't have to worry about chasing kids off of her metaphorical lawn.

Good luck.
posted by irisclara at 9:06 PM on November 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't do it, your cat is already stressed out and drained from two major health problems.
posted by serena15221 at 9:26 PM on November 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

p.s. she's adorable!
posted by serena15221 at 9:27 PM on November 12, 2015

I wouldn't.

She's already demonstrated she suffers around other cats, and is happiest when it's just humans.

There are solo-cats that have warmed to interlopers, but it's basically random whether or not you have a solo-cat that will warm to interlopers.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:20 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Neighbour cat didn't like her new cat roommate. So she moved out semi permanently to our house. She asks to be let out and sneaks back home to eat. Also, her diet is probably no small amount of small mammals and birds.

But she never got used to the new roommate, and doesn't want to. She's here except when we kick her out.
posted by clvrmnky at 4:42 AM on November 13, 2015

I've done it but it takes time and patience. I read up everything on some cat boards and they all said basically to keep the interloper cat(s) separated and introduce slowly. The older cat keeping to much of the living space and the new cats in another room. Introduce them slowly - maybe a week with no contact, another week with some eye introductions and then another week with some contact etc. They're not best friends but I was only introducing one cat (who's a simpleton) to another older cat (evil and smart). Now after a few years I will catch them laying around together before older cat sees me and takes off to save face. I would say the first few months were pretty sketchy and then it seemed to work out. Good luck.
posted by lasamana at 5:44 AM on November 13, 2015

I also kept a spray bottle with water at the filled and ready for any physical spats which really only happened once.
posted by lasamana at 5:46 AM on November 13, 2015

My semi-feral farm cat was an only cat for almost a year before being introduced to 5 different cats over her lifetime. Giving them time to get used to each other's smell through a door and subsequent gradual introduction seems to be the main trick to getting them comfortable enough with each other to avoid serious spats.

Larry doesn't love the other cats or anything, but they will sleep on the same love seat, etc.
posted by wierdo at 5:55 AM on November 13, 2015

Of course it is possible an older cat will take to younger additions to the home, as previous answers illustrate.

But allow me to tell a story from the other side (all characters in this story are rescues from the streets):

I am the husband of a veterinarian, so we use feliway pheromones, did the whole let them smell each others' beds before slowly introducing through a closed door and then see each other through the cat gate, etc. over the span of weeks, all textbook stuff.

We had two older boys (10+ years) who took a while to abide one another, then bond. They groom each other and love to wrestle each other playfully.

My wife rescued a third. After being nursed back to health, we decided to adopt her as well. She is a rambunctious little hellion - as kittens often are.

Mr. Grendel is a healthy, robust cat. So he can put the kitten in her place when she attacks him. She has come to respect him and knows when to leave him alone.

Snugs, used to live behind a dumpster behind a gas station. He has arthritis in his back, is allergic to nearly everything and had to have all his teeth removed because of infection. Because he is sick, he is an easy target for a high-energy kitten. Since we cannot play with Hattie every waking moment, she got sprayed 20 - 30 times a day with the water bottle for attacking Snugs...for the first few months. Now, 5 months after introducing them, she only attacks him when he enters the living room. So he no longer gets to hang out with us or snuggle his buddy unless we carry him to the couch or the kitten is locked away in a bedroom. He hisses whenever she comes near him, and for good reason. But they will occasionally nap within the vicinity of one another in the bedroom.

Is this horrible? No. We have rescued them from the streets and, in total, everyone has a much better life than before. But the dynamic has shifted greatly and it is Snugs who has paid the price.

I tell that long story because you, too, have an elderly, sick cat. I realize the numbers are different - you have one cat and are looking at getting a pair of kittens, so they may very well play with one another instead of pestering her. But it might also mean she gets attacked twice as much. And, perhaps most importantly, you have the inside scoop. You had to adopt her because she did NOT take to new adoptions already.

PS Harriett heard me typing about her and just came up to make sure I told you I don't regret our choices. But know it doesn't always work out as well as you may hope.
posted by zyxwvut at 6:51 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tilda doesn't much like other cats, but is tolerant of kittens. She was living not that happily with Conrad, but when I added a third cat everything turned up roses. Lucy plays with Conrad, they snuggle all the time, and mostly leave Tilda alone. All the cats are very happy with the state of things. (She was also fine with my foster kittens, even letting them snuggle her. )

I think two kittens is the right addition, they will keep each other company most of the time.

When I added Lucy, Tilda was 11, Conrad 6 or 7, Lucy 1. I had the first two as kittens and Lucy lived in my aunt's backyard. I am in the same size place as you; all cats will sleep on my bed at once.
posted by jeather at 7:56 AM on November 13, 2015

My apartment is spacious by NYC standards (about 900 sq. ft.)

That's about the size of my house!

We introduced (years apart) two kittens to our Dowager Countess of a cat. A month of keeping them separate, with occasionally switching who was allowed into the 'neutral' room allowed them to get used to the idea of each other. I don't think DC was ever really happy about either of them, but much preferred the second youngest once the youngest was introduced.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:25 AM on November 13, 2015

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