How (and how long) do you try encourage two cats to get along?
January 21, 2020 2:58 PM   Subscribe

I just got a new cat, and he's been fighting with the one I already had (both males ~2 years old) at every opportunity for weeks. I can't keep them in separate rooms forever. What else can I do?

I've had a cat (Chopper) for over a year now in my two-bedroom apartment. I just got a new one (Oliver), also from the Humane Society. The idea was to give Chopper, who's pretty clearly bored out of his mind, some company.

Chopper is very sweet and cuddly but needs a lot of attention, and is on the wild side (a "bitey bolter" as one friend says). Oliver is also very sweet 1-on-1; his bio at the shelter said he "tolerates other cats but probably won't become best friends." Both are indoor cats.

So the introduction could have gone better: on the first day, Oliver got out of the bedroom when I wasn't home and ended up hiding in the basement. Since then they've been at each other at every opportunity, hissing and swiping and lunging and chasing. Oliver ended up with nose scratches within the first few days. I'm not sure who's the instigator, but they are clearly not getting along.

I've tried watching over them like brawling siblings, petting both and giving them treats and toys when they're in the same room and not at each other's throats. I've also tried the squirt bottle approach. I even tried dabbing the tops of their noses with vanilla (recommended by a friend with experience in this area).

They each have food bowls and a litter box. I have a cat tree and got one of those hanging window seats for more vertical space. I've tried Rescue Remedy a few times, but haven't tried one of those plug-in diffusers (not Adaptil, the yellow one) yet. But I still have to keep them in separate rooms or else the fur starts to fly, and then Oliver disappears into the deepest darkest corner of the house to hide, sometimes for days.

What else can I do? I can't play referee all day long. I know introductions can be rocky and take a while to settle, but it's been 3 weeks. I also know some cat combinations just never work. When do I give up and start looking for a new home for Oliver? (Which would break my daughters' hearts, fwiw.)
posted by gottabefunky to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Feliway diffusers are amazing.
posted by evilmonk at 3:19 PM on January 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

I haven't tried one of those plug-in diffusers (not Adaptil, the yellow one) yet. (...) What else can I do?

Well, it's right there in your question. I have good experiences with Feliway, FWIW.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:20 PM on January 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: My impression is that those only work in an enclosed space, like a single room?
posted by gottabefunky at 3:26 PM on January 21, 2020

Cat tax is not paid here, make with the photos please!

Feliway also makes collars. Get a pack (they come in threes), put one on each cat, see how they do.

If they're still going at each other after another week, I hate to say it but the new cat may not be a match :(
posted by bile and syntax at 3:55 PM on January 21, 2020

You can also spray their bedding with Feliway spray. But yes you might need diffusers in multiple rooms and the stuff ain’t exactly cheap. But it does work and is not bullshit, at least for many cats.
posted by spitbull at 3:57 PM on January 21, 2020

I think you might've rushed this a bit (not intentionally, maybe, if the cat escaped?). Best practice is generally to keep them in separate spaces for a bit while mingling their scents (like, pet one with a cloth to get their scent on the cloth and then give it to the other one and vice versa) and then introduce them to the same space slowly, for limited amounts of time at first, under supervision. I'd go back a few steps to that for a week and then see if you can re-introduce them slowly.
posted by Weeping_angel at 4:05 PM on January 21, 2020 [8 favorites]

I would separate them again at least for a few days, you can google "reintroduction" and someone will have some instructions about length of time, but I remember it's more like a week or two than a day or two. Feliway has never done anything for me, but some people love it!

this said, I had two cats and my husband had a cat and a dog when we got together, and one of my cats and his cat do NOT get along. They have been properly introduced and they are both generally sweet, but they will hiss and sometimes chase/swipe each other, at least once daily. They never hurt each other anymore (they did a few times early) and generally it's more of just a.. warning thing now, but they just will never get along. That said, we've been married for 4+ years and cohabitated for 7, so they live.

I just sometimes like to tell people, because I feel like there's almost only stories of "our cats integrated well" and "our cats couldn't get along so we had to get rid of one" and there is an inbetween - a cat cold war. It's fine, I just yell at em or spray em when they are haranguing each other.
posted by euphoria066 at 5:07 PM on January 21, 2020 [8 favorites]

I am in the process of introducing two new boys to my old boy right now. I have had problems in the past with inter-cat aggression and so I am taking it extremely slow. The new kids have been in our house for three weeks and they are still in one room, separated from our original cat, while we follow slow incremental steps to introduce them. This website has some of the best step-by-step instructions I have seen to do this. But since you've already had some problems, you are probably going to have to go back to square one, completely separate them and very, very gradually introduce them. Good luck.
posted by acanthous at 5:40 PM on January 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Rescue Remedy is homeopathic, so while you may feel like you are doing something (which may in turn make you calmer and calm down your cats) it isn’t actually having any physiological effect.
posted by rockindata at 6:07 PM on January 21, 2020 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I'd separate them again and then re-introduce them slowly. Let them smell but not interact with each other. Let them see each other (through a class door?) but not interact. Try to resist rushing it.
posted by bluedaisy at 6:19 PM on January 21, 2020

Maybe I missed this, but are both neutered?
posted by Kitchen Witch at 7:00 PM on January 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions! Yes, they're both neutered. Feliway diffuser is in the mail. Collars may follow shortly. (I picture them eventually lying side by side stoned out of their kitty gourds.) I was wondering about Rescue Remedy being homepathic--people still swear by it, though.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:30 PM on January 21, 2020

There's also calming medication which you administer to cats orally -- but recommending anything specific is above my paygrade, and you should speak to your vet about it.
posted by confluency at 4:19 AM on January 22, 2020

And just to chime in as a pet person with three cats and a dog in the house at the moment, they won't always get along perfectly all the time, every day. Our three cats generally like each other, two of them are really best friends and the other one likes to be their friend on her terms. Usually once a day, sometimes once every couple of days, one of them annoys her for no apparent reason and she hisses and spits and gets VERY ANGERY at the offender. And then she's fine. So even if they end up being best friends forever, they might still occasionally have spats.
posted by cooker girl at 9:13 AM on January 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Are they able to use both litter boxes or are the litter boxes kept separate so that each cat has their own? If they each have their own, take some poop from each one and transfer it to the other. It works like rubbing the towel on them, getting them used to each other.
posted by poppunkcat at 10:10 AM on January 22, 2020

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