Introducing new cats part 2: Thanksgiving stress edition
November 20, 2017 9:33 AM   Subscribe

This was me about a week ago. Things have not exactly improved since then, plus I have a three-day trip planned this week. What to do?

As described in my last post, we have two older, male cats, and I wanted to adopt a kitten to serve as company for the lovelorn cat of the duo (who is largely ignored by the other). The shelter staff ended up convincing me that a slightly older-than-kitten cat would be best, so I adopted what I thought was a one-year-old female...

...only to later learn that she's actually a he. I learned this when he totally stopped eating and I took him to the vet, where they diagnosed him with mild pancreatitis and oh yeah, mentioned he had just been neutered about a week before. So this was a clerical error on the part of the shelter.

I'm not sure how much the gender of the new cat factors into how well he'll get along with the older guys, but thought it was worth mentioning.

He continued to not eat, despite being on various meds, so we ended up having to have him hospitalized late last week. He finally resumed eating yesterday, and stayed in the hospital through this morning, and is now back in the bedroom of our house.

The vet thinks that stress is a big contributing factor in his not eating. This is worrisome, because on Wednesday morning I plan to leave to join my partner on an out-of-state trip, returning on Friday evening. I have professional petsitters coming over twice a day, and am paying them extra to spend time with him. Nonetheless, he'll be spending about 23 hours a day alone in the bedroom. I can't imagine he'll be okay to freely mingle with the other two by Wednesday morning.

When I adopted him I had a long staycation planned (prior to leaving on this trip, that is), and was going to spend that time with the cats helping them to integrate. However, the fact that he's just spent the majority of that time being either sick or at the vet means that we have only two days to get resettled before subjecting all cats to being alone for three days.

My partner is adamant that I go on the trip (without going into detail, it's extremely important for family reasons). If I could call off on the trip I'd feel a lot better about all this.

The petsitters can't spend any longer here and the only other person I can find to stop by is a family member with a toddler in tow, which I can't imagine would have a soothing effect on the cats.

Am I overreacting by being worried about new cat's health? My concern is that his dramatically negative reaction to his new environment is a sign that he is not a good fit here. I'm also concerned about the resident cats, one of whom tends to develop pancreatitis of his own if overly stressed.

Thanks, cat people of Metafilter.
posted by whistle pig to Pets & Animals (9 answers total)
If it’s important that you go on the trip, could your partner stay behind? I know that would kind of suck for the holiday, but it’s a thought...
posted by Weeping_angel at 9:52 AM on November 20, 2017

Partner is already gone on trip; I would be joining them.
posted by whistle pig at 9:57 AM on November 20, 2017

I think it'll be okay. You have good petsitters coming to care for things - make sure they know to contact you if they're seeing problems, and that you would appreciate updates for ease of mind regardless. Cats that are stressed often prefer to spend the majority of their day being quiet, either asleep or just sitting in a place they feel safe. Keep the new cat separated while you're away, and think of it as just putting a pause button on integration. Maybe set up your bedroom to be more cat friendly while you're away (cover the bed with an extra sheet, put toys on it, lots of scratch pads, make sure he can see out a window while loafing, etc) and get a draft-stopper or otherwise block off the bottom of your bedroom door so the cats aren't able to swipe paws beneath it at all. That way everybody has their own safe space while you're away.

It sounds like you need to prioritize your human family for a few days, and that's okay! Cats that feel sick don't usually need or want the kind of close care that people do, as much as we project onto them. Giving them routine and quiet for a few days might be a good thing.
posted by Mizu at 10:05 AM on November 20, 2017

I had a cat who developed chronic pancreatitis; I tried everything the vet suggested, but ultimately we could not get his pain under control and I had to put him to sleep.

I would see what the vet thinks about the new cat being left alone unsupervised for so long while you’re gone. It might be safer for him to be boarded at the vet while you’re away, so they can make sure he’s eating and give him pain medication if he has a flare up. Or maybe the rescue organization should take him back for observation—if they got his gender wrong and didn’t tell you he was just recovered from neutering, what else did they forget to tell you? (I mean, I think generally male cats are supposed to get along together better than female cats, but, if they gave you a cat with health problems you weren’t aware of ahead of time, it’s not fair.)
posted by oh yeah! at 10:39 AM on November 20, 2017

Aside from isolating him, you have not mentioned what you did/plan to do. Felliway? Thunderspray? Do they have enough litter boxes? (N+1 is standard, where N = number of cats, if not forever then at least for sure while you're out of town, obviously he's getting his private commode in the bedroom, are there at least two other boxes outside the bedroom?) Feeding areas? A thing that stresses cats out is having their water too near their food. Additionally, cats prefer running water, so if you could get fountain type waterers, that would help some. That lingering low grade water stress can add to the stress of having the new cat.

Having more cat beds might help also, perhaps hide one under a bed so that the scaredy-er of the cats can have a safe snuggle place that is definitely not near the door and feels like a cave.

I would also strongly advise that he go be with people who can dote on him much more while you're away. Barring that, see if the pet sitter can give the isolated cat some vet-approved super exciting treats while you're away. Also, catnip.
posted by bilabial at 11:06 AM on November 20, 2017

>I would see what the vet thinks about the new cat being left alone unsupervised for so long while you’re gone. It might be safer for him to be boarded at the vet while you’re away, so they can make sure he’s eating and give him pain medication if he has a flare up.

This. I can sense how torn you are. I would be, too. And if I were in your place, I'd feel much more comfortable doing a re-set than trying to fast-forward the acclimation process and spend your time away worrying.

Allow Resident Kitties to chill at home while New Kitty gets a chance to "be with people who can dote on him much more while you're away," as bilabial puts it. (If New Kitty has a blanket or a pillow or something similar that he likes to cuddle with, make sure that it goes along with him when he's boarded.)
posted by virago at 11:18 AM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

If it were me, I would cancel the trip. I had to do this a few years back when I was adjusting new cats and they were having a hard time, and the lovely Genjiandproust forgave me for it.

If you can't do that, see if you can find a pet sitter who can stay over, and just suck it up on the money front. I've been doing that with my kitties recently and it's made a ton of difference.

Also: Felliway really does help. Put a diffuser in the room with the new kitty so he can calm down. Maybe give him a cardboard box on its side with a bed in it so he can have a very secure hiding spot.
posted by bile and syntax at 11:20 AM on November 20, 2017

Our local shelter has a very involved foster program, with devoted volunteers who would be open to a last minute plea to take care of a sick, recently adopted kitty for a bit while his new owner had to be away. Yours might be similar. Worth it to check. I'd email their volunteer coordinator if they have one.
posted by theweasel at 1:15 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks for your thoughtful responses. I called the vet and they agree that it would be best to have him boarded there while we're gone. I also plan to call the shelter and see if they have any insight into the whole situation.
posted by whistle pig at 2:46 PM on November 20, 2017

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