Cat introductions: new apartment edition
August 10, 2017 5:39 PM   Subscribe

My cat has been living with my family while I've been in college. My partner and I are about to move into our first apartment, at will be taking my cat with us. My partner also wants to get a cat of their own, but we aren't sure how to best introduce the two cats.

Her name is Cindy, and here are some obligatory photos.

Cindy's history with other animals:
- We got her when she was fairly young, 1-3 years old (she was a stray and the humane society didn't know her exact age), and she was brought into a home to a (large) dog and another cat (male). She got along with the dog fine, and was very good friends with the cat.
- The dog passed about a year later, and the other cat about five years after that. There was about a year where she was the only animal in the house.
- We adopted another (small) dog, who she didn't like but never fought with. He would try and play with her and she would smack him on the nose (but never use her claws).
- About five years later I moved in with my partner and their mom and brought Cindy with. She got along with Cat A (male) fine; occasionally she would swat him and run away if he moved close to her too quickly, but that's it. Cat B (male), however, completely flipped out at bringing her into the house. They got into frequent fights, but as far as we can tell Cat B almost always instigated them. Cat B also started attacking Cat A, who he had previously been good friends with (even after we moved out with her, he still kept attacking Cat A; he also possibly had some neurological condition so we don't know if this played a role).
- About a year after this my partner and I moved in with partner's dad, who had a cat (female). She and Cindy occasionally got into fights, but it wasn't frequent or very serious. The cat was also known to bite/scratch humans previously so she may have just been ornery. We never could tell who started the fights, though.
- Half a year after this, my partner's dad lost his house and had to move into an apartment, which didn't allow cats. We asked my family to take Cindy while I was in college. At this point my parents had adopted two other cats (brothers). She didn't like them much but fights were pretty infrequent; they were also only ever caused when one of the male cats started harassing her (and usually she just swatted them and ran away, though there were times they had to be separated).
- Two years later, about a year ago, they adopted another (large) dog. She doesn't like him at all because he tries to play with her and she doesn't want to, but the only thing she does is swat at him (and still doesn't use her claws).

She's 12-15 years old (again, don't know her exact age), healthy but clearly old and grumbly and would just like to be left to sit on the couch in peace, thank you. She's currently living in a house with two dogs (who constantly try and play with her), two cats (that occasionally try and play with her but have mostly learned their lessons), two very loud teenage boys, and two adults who are almost as loud as the teenagers (it's a yelling family). We're pretty sure that even if we do bring in another cat, it's going to be way less stressful than her current situation. But we want to do the best we can to minimize her stress as much as possible.

We move into our new apartment in a month. We'll probably move her in a week or two after that, once we've settled in. There's a couple of different ways we could approach this, and we're not sure what's best.

1) Bring Cindy into the apartment first, and give her a month or two to make herself comfortable. The risk with this is that gives her time to establish and become defensive of her territory, however, it would also mean she's less stressed out when we bring the new cat in. My partner thinks this is the best idea because it also means that the new cat will be less likely to try and establish territory over Cindy, and will hopefully defer to her.
2) Bring Cindy into the apartment first, but only give her a couple of days to a week to settle in. Less likely that she'd become defensive of territory in that time, and she'd have a few days to calm down from the move, but she may still be kind of stressed when the new cat comes in.
3) Bring them both in at the same time, so there's no chance for either of the cats to feel like their home is being invaded. Since they'd likely both be pretty stressed, I don't think this is a good idea.
4) Bring Cindy into the apartment first, but keep her confined to one half of the apartment for the next month or so. The way the apartment is set up, it's divided evenly in half, with the kitchen, dining room, and living room on one side, and the bedroom, walk through closet, bathroom, and vanity on the other. The only access to the bedroom/closet/bathroom are by going through the vanity room, so we could easily close that door and keep her confined to the bedroom/bathroom half of the apartment and she would still have plenty of space (and we would be keeping her litter box/food on that side of the apartment anyway). If we did this, she would have a month to de-stress from the move, and then we could then introduce the other cat on the other side of the apartment, which would theoretically be "neutral territory." It does have the potential of Cindy possibly chasing the other cat out of "her" territory when the cat goes on the other side of the apartment, but it seems less likely to me.

Assume all of this will be done using appropriate cat introduction techniques (slowly, keeping them separated, introducing them through doors, etc.). Since we have the convenient divide to the apartment, we won't have trouble keeping them separated. My partner will also be home most of the day on most days and so can put a lot of time and energy into acclimating the two cats. We're also hoping to adopt a cat that's used to living with other cats, such as from the cat cafe in Madison or a shelter that has communal cat rooms (Green Lake animal center has these, for example; I haven't looked into anything else but there are probably others).

I don't think Cindy is super likely to be aggressive, given that she hasn't shown a propensity for starting fights and as in general fairly laid back and mostly seems to want to be left alone (though she doesn't seem to mind being around other cats; she'll even sleep on the same bed with one, just as long as they don't try and drag her into playing). But since I've never actually seen her in a situation where another cat is brought into her home, I don't want to take any risks. What's the best way for us to achieve a harmonious two cat household?
posted by brook horse to Pets & Animals (6 answers total)
In my experience, either #1 or #4 will work better than #s 2 or 3. Also, Feliway may help.

My parents integrated their (now late) elder cats with various younger ones, and both elders were united in their frustration/aggravation/outright hostility when it came to dealing with Insistent Frisky Young Male, but on equally good terms with Friendly But Not Determined on Playing Young Female. It sounds like Cindy would probably be OK with a calm adult cat, especially a male, but maybe not so good with a kitten.

One thing that has worked quite well for my parents is an intermediate period in which the newest cat is kept in an enclosure (you can find these at pet stores), between the "introducing through doors" phase and the "out and about" phase. There will still be territorial negotiations later, but this gives them an opportunity to size each other up and communicate without being able to really fight.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:39 PM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh yeah, forgot to mention we're definitely looking for an adult cat, not a kitten.
posted by brook horse at 8:22 PM on August 10, 2017

Aww, what a beautiful little tortie Cindy is! I think a calm, young, male adult cat would be the best choice to get along with her (I've found that two female cats are less likely to get along than a male/female pair or two males. YMMV).

Get a Feliway plug-in dispenser or two, depending on the size of the apartment. It seems to be a big help with calming cats down and facilitating introductions, according to everyone I know (it's helped me!).

Make sure there are enough litterboxes - at least two, plus one extra if you have the room - so that nobody can be territorial with the litterbox or bully another cat when using it. Same with perching and vertical space - both cats should have places to lounge and not have to fight over the few good kitty perching spots. I have to have two feeding stations for my clowder - while my boys will happily share one dish, my dominant female cat Daenerys will bully everyone, but especially her sister, away from the choicest morsels if given the chance. Cats get along better if there are plenty of resources (litter boxes, access to food, places to sleep and perch) to go around so they don't fight over them.

Be slow and patient in your introductions - it might take more time than you'd like for hissing to die down. But chances are, if there are enough resources, if patience is taken with introducing the cats, and you use Feliway, Cindy and her new brother (or sister) will get along fine.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:29 AM on August 11, 2017

We are in the process of getting a second cat and our vet strongly recommended choosing a cat that is the same sex as the original cat. In his experience (and he's a cat specialist) two females will have similar habits in regard to sharing territory, generally staking out their respective spaces and interacting in shared spaces, while males will probably intrude in the female's territory as a matter of course.

Haven't verified this personally but he seems to know his stuff.
posted by lydhre at 6:50 AM on August 11, 2017

According to the ASPCA, "[t]wo unrelated males or two unrelated females may have a particularly hard time sharing space."

I wish I had read this before adopting a female cat, when we already had a female cat. Biggest pet-related mistake we ever made!
posted by merejane at 11:08 AM on August 11, 2017

What a pretty kitty!

My ex-girlfriend and her then roommate had similar concerns before moving in together, as they each had a cat that didn't tend to socialize well with other cats.

They introduced them slowly one day before moving in, then they made sure their food bowls and litter boxes were far away from each other so there would be no competition on that front. Getting a diffuser is a smart insurance policy. (Feliway is a good brand.) Even if they get along fine without it, you can keep the diffuser if you have lots of people over or for holidays where people shoot fireworks. Try to get as much information from the humane society as possible regarding how well the cat socializes with others. And as stated previously, I have also experienced that new cats tend to get along better with the opposite sex. Hope this helps!
posted by Michael.K at 11:59 AM on January 8, 2018

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