Brady Bunch with cats
November 14, 2017 6:45 PM   Subscribe

In a few months I will move in with my partner. Hooray! Also, my cat and her cat will come along: uh-oh. How to best navigate multiple problems?

Walter is 17 years old and is the friendliest cat I've ever seen. I've only had him for two years, but I adopted him with another cat and they got along fine. He's pretty sedentary at this point, but gets lonely when I'm not close to him and always wants affection. He has some medical issues that may mean he doesn't have a ton of time left with us.

Hazel is about 6 years old and is used to a life as the only cat in the house. She can be skittish around unfamiliar people, and sometimes she has strong feelings that can lead to people getting scratched (especially since she abhors getting her nails clipped).

My partner and I are planning to move in together to a new apartment for all of us. We are hoping to get a 2 bedroom, but may end up with 1. I've introduced cats before and know the general protocol, but I'm wondering if there are best practices for cats with this kind of age/temperament difference.

Additionally, my partner is pretty badly allergic to Walter (but not to Hazel, obviously). Is there any chance she'll get better with him after exposure? Are there ways we can minimize the impact on her that doesn't involve locking Walter in the second bedroom? Is there a medicine that is good at helping with this?

Any help on best managing this would be appreciated!
posted by soonertbone to Pets & Animals (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When we moved in together, my partner was allergic to my cats for the first year, and it was starting to escalate from a runny nose to the beginnings of asthma symptoms (wheezy cough).

Our solutions:
Daily Loratadine pill (Claritin), frequent vacuuming, opening windows, running a hepa-filter, buying new inexpensive sleeping pillows every 6 months, washing the duvet and sheets more often.

We gave the cats specific targets to sit on (small fleece blankets) that would keep their dander in one place, and threw those out every few months.

And especially, most of all- we got rid of all rugs, all textiles that were visible magnets for cat-hair, and a specific faux-sheepskin throw that used to live on the sofa (the cats didn't even sit on it, but I think it electro-statically collected their dander).

As soon as those textiles were gone, it turned out that we both breathed easier. And with the passage of time, partner's allergies to the cats have really receded to the point that they're unnoticeable.

In terms of introducing the cats to each other- make sure their nails are clipped, feed them from separate dishes, and ensure they have lots of access to hiding spots. My cats have been roommates for 8 years and still dislike each other, but the more space they have, the happier they both are.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:08 PM on November 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

The cats will sort themselves out very quickly and easily.

The old cat will just sit. The younger cat will not.

I don't think there will be a lot of problems, but I would 100% buy a $20 shot of Feliway on Amazon for the occasion. It'll make everything so much easier for both kitties.

You can't predict cat behavior, but you can plan ahead for a best case scenario.
posted by sanka at 7:41 PM on November 14, 2017

My special cat allergen abatement techniques:

1) Wipe them down with a warm washcloth at night, or occasionally.
2) Rotate two or three simple, flat bed sheets as a bed spreads (a pretty one). The light weight makes them easy to swap out and wash frequently.
3) Get one or two HEPA room air filters and use them.
posted by amtho at 7:54 PM on November 14, 2017

Focusing on the allergy issue:

When I adopted my kitty almost a year ago, I definitely noticed increased allergy symptoms after I first brought him home, but they settled back down to normal levels within the first month or so. Same thing happened to me previously when I moved into an apartment where a roommate had two cats.

I'm also allergic to a number of other things (pollen, dust, mold, etc), so I already take zyrtec daily and use flonase nasal spray. Your partner might want to consider a daily over the counter allergy med like zyrtec (cetirizine) or claritin (loratidine) when you guys first move in while she adjusts. However, I think it's a good sign that she has a cat currently which she isn't allergic to. Seems like it's more likely that she'll adjust to Walter once you live together.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:19 PM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also, for whatever reason, certain daily allergy meds work better for some people than others. I've found zyrtec works best for me, but I know other people do better with claritin, so ymmv, and if one doesn't help your partner, she should try another. If she needs additional help, then consider a nasal spray like flonase or nasonex while she adjusts, but to start, I would just go with a med like zyrtec. If you're in the US, all of this stuff should be available over the counter.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:22 PM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

FOR the cats:
Swap their cat beds/sleeping spots. Or add a fabric to each cats sleeping bed and then place them in opposite houses.
Felliway for the move/after. Get it going before the cats arrive.
RFID activated feeding stations, get each cat used to their own bit of privacy for eating now. Also, if you can get the senior cat and the younger cat onto one formulary of food (talk to their vets) do it now so that you can leave food in a communal location if they free feed.

You mentioned knowing general things about combing cats, it will help if you can be specific about what your game plan is so we can suggest where else to tweak it. (For instance the number of litterbises in a miltivat home is at least N+1, where N=# of cats privacy for pooping is very important and cannot be overstated.)

For the humans:
Whatever you do, separate feeding time from the time humans wake up. The cats will try to train you to wake up earlier.
Fresh pillowcases every night on the bed. Both pillows. Or put a clean fabric over the pillows. Obviously make sure it’s always the same side up and don’t shake dander all over the pillow when you remove it.
Try a variety of antihistamines/allergy meds until you find what works. Consider shots.
posted by bilabial at 10:11 PM on November 14, 2017

I have read that one reason cats react so negatively to new cats in their territory is instinct to defend food sources. I haven't worked with this idea a lot, but have had some success with making sure cats always have lots of good food _immediately_ on being introduced to a new place, and immediately, or just before, and always available for a good while, when a new cat is revealed to them.
posted by amtho at 4:41 AM on November 15, 2017

Instinct tells me that it's best that you're moving both cats to new territory, so neither has claimed it yet as their own. Hopefully you can get two bedrooms. Set each cat up with it's own 'room' so they have their own space to retreat to and to call their own. Be sure they each have their own litter box, food, and water dishes. (They may be able to share water later, but for now, let them have their own.)
posted by hydra77 at 9:37 AM on November 15, 2017

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