Help me give my senior cat a happy retirement
January 12, 2021 1:15 PM   Subscribe

I would like my energetic and playful new cat to be nice to my sweet senior cat. How do I foster this?

We got Harvs in October. He was allegedly over three, but his behavior is very kittenish. Lots of ankle tackling, supervising all water movement in the house, zoomies like crazy, and, unfortunately much stalking and tackling and neck biting of our senior lady cat Bee who is willing to chase, but does not appreciate being knocked off the bed out of nowhere and violently tackled onto the floor. She also gets trapped on her perch if we don't supervise because Harvs waits under the bed for her to try to get down and walk around or make a litterbox run. Harvs is a few pounds heavier than Bee.

Here is what we have tried:

-Slow introduction (eating on opposite sides of the door, later looking through the door and swapping bedding so they can smell each other) over the course of weeks, followed by supervision and shutting one cat or the other out of the bedroom/office to give them breaks from each other after an incident


-Getting a huge cat condo to try to give them new perches up high. Only Harvs uses it, but it seems to chill him out.

-Taking Harvs on walks and playing with him a lot

-Keeping Bee with us at night behind a closed door so she gets a break.

The problem is that multiple times a day, if you take your eye off of Harvs, he'll tackle Bee and it's kind of violent and I don't want her to get hurt. Eventually, my husband will have to go back to his office and can't cat-referee. Also, we would like to get out of the cat referee business. Bee was super lonely after her buddy died this summer and she is curious about Harvs. There have been many times when they peacefully co-exist but I'd like it to be more and the extreme tackles to stop so we can leave them together safely. What can we do? (Returning Harvs to the rescue is not on the table.)
posted by *s to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One thing you may have to do is create the circumstances in which he does this (to the best of your ability, but you can start by being extra watchful when it's been a while since the last round) SO you can catch him, squirt him or startle him to interrupt, and then offer a redirection.

You might also offer him a larger stuffie he can pounce and wrestle with. If he's responsive to catnip, you can make a spray of steeped dried/fresh leaves, buy catnip oil to mix in a spray, or buy catnip spray to spritz the toy periodically to refresh. He's probably craving big full-body contact/play, which is hard for a human to provide without Kevlar.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:26 PM on January 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

We put the kitten in one room, adult cat in another. Rooms separated by a door.
Under the door we put a string under a door with fillable cat toys (perforated ball with dry cat food) at each end.
The cats eventually played with the thing, ate some snacks, and got to know each other slowly.

However this maybe not perfect for your particular situation.
posted by artdrectr at 1:38 PM on January 12, 2021

Best answer: I hate to say this, but you may need a third cat -- someone young and kittenish who will play energetically with Harvs.
posted by heatherlogan at 2:02 PM on January 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: When I was in a similar situation, it was the introduction of a third cat that helped. We were reluctant to try it, but after a couple of years (during which we had limited success redirecting or wearing out the younger cat, and often separated the two at night to give the older one some peace), a third cat showed up on our doorstep. Once she was integrated into the household, the dynamic improved immensely -- if only because the attention of the more energetic cat was divided, so he wasn't always picking on our quieter, older girl. Everyone was happier.
posted by kite at 2:54 PM on January 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Even the coexistence photo looks like Bee's huddling into a corner, while Harvs tries to engage.

A third cat sounds like a plan.
posted by zadcat at 4:48 PM on January 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: A third cat seemed insane when we first considered it but now seems inevitable. Please pray for me that they don’t gang up on Bee.
posted by *s at 7:10 PM on January 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Please play with Harvs a lot! Wear him out at night and in the morning. Wear him out so he's panting, wait a few minutes, do it again. Get him to chase a toy-on-a-string-on-a-stick along the ground, up and down stairs/jumping up on the couch and back down again, etc. over and over again.

If you do get another kitty, the kitty can do this. Until then, you need to focus his energy.

"Sorry, Biff, I can't go out with you tonight. I have to go home and play with my cat."
posted by amtho at 10:01 PM on January 12, 2021

Best answer: Yeah, another vote for third cat as the solution. I had 2 cats who were only about 2 1/2 years apart, but ran at very different energy/playfulness levels. The younger, more energetic, larger cat constantly picked on the (slightly) older, quite cat. Then a couple years later, I happened to get a 3rd cat, and everything settled out. She played hard, a good companion for the younger cat, and they mostly left the gentle kitty to her own devices.

They're all getting up there in years now, nobody plays so hard anymore, but it sure balanced out everybody's needs for quite a few years.
posted by dorey_oh at 11:21 PM on January 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Final update: we did indeed rescue a kitten, named her Junie, and she is taking all the heat off of Bee and being a great playmate for Harvs, who is exhausted and 85% less of a jerkface. Yay, it's working!
posted by *s at 10:51 AM on January 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

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