2 Month Cat to Cat Introduction Help

adacicadas

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Hi everyone! I'm a long-time TCS visitor and I finally decided to create an account because of my current situation with introducing two female cats.

We researched and researched using resources here on TCS, Jackson Galaxy, other cat blogs, success/fail stories, etc. We followed the steps as closely as possible. I'll give as much detail as possible so that you have sufficient info to give advice or reassurance.

Background info:
Resident cat - Carrie, 6 years old, female, been an only pet since she was 5 months old, confident, overall happy cat.

New cat - Bagheera, female, shelter rescue, assumed to be about 2 years old, female, just finished nursing a new litter of kittens before adoption.

We didn't allow Carrie to see Bagheera when we brought her home. We mmediately put Bagheera in our second bedroom with food, litter box, cat toys, cat trees, etc. She was skittish at first and it took a week for her to adjust to her surroundings. During this time Carrie was hissing at the door whenever she would approach the door. Bagheera didn't react to this.

A week later Bagheera was itching to get out, which was great because she had become so much more comfortable! She started sticking her paw under the door (about a 1.5 inch gap) to try to get out. This is when Carrie's hissing escalated to growling.

We began site swapping twice a week, moving Bagheera's base camp and allowing Carrie the rest of the apartment. They still had no visual contact at all. We began feeding them on the other side of the door, starting about 6 feet on either side. Bagheera was eating her food just fine on the other side of the door and Carrie was as well for the most part. She would eat and walk away then come back, repeating this until she was done eating. Carrie was still growling and hissing whenever she approached the door.

Because Carrie was still obviously unhappy with smelling, hearing, and occasionally seeing Bagheera's paw under the door, we decided to close the little gap under the door by putting a piece of cardboard there. So, now Carrie couldn't see Bagheera's paws at all. But, this did nothing to stop her growling and hissing. In fact, it got worse. Carrie was now swatting at the door and growling more than ever whenever Bagheera would paw at the cardboard.

We continued to move their food bowls close to the door until we got about 2 inches away from the door. They both ate their food with no issues, so we started using our pet gate to allow them to see each other while eating. We moved their food bowls back to 6 feet on the other side of the door again. Bagheera was fine and curious about Carrie, but Carrie continued hissing and growling. She would stop mid-bite to hiss whenever Bagheera would look up. We would close the door whenever they were done eating. This continued for 2 weeks until the bowls were about 3 feet on either side of the door with Carrie's hissing and growling barely lessening slightly over time. But, she would still growl whenever she would approach the closed door. So, we started feeding them both treats and playing with them on the other side of the door multiple times a day for positive association.

We thought that maybe Carrie would benefit from seeing Bagheera during other parts of the day, so we started leaving the door open so they could see each other through the gate. Carrie would watch Bagheera and hiss from about 6 feet away. In the beginning whenever Carrie approached the gate, Bagheera wouldn't react. But, as we continued, whenever Carrie would approach the gate, Bagheera would charge at the gate, running into it, making Carrie's growling worse.

There was only one time where they both were sitting calmly about 2 feet on either side of the door for about 2 minutes without any hissing or growling from Carrie. We closed the door immediately after to end on a positive note.

Bagheera accidentally got over the pet gate (the gap between the gates was too high and she slithered through). She immediately ran towards Carrie who was growling and they both stared at each other with their backs arched, tails fluffed and pointed down, and ears flattened. Bagheera lunged at Carrie, but didn't make any contact. We broke them up before it went any further.

Because of that incident, we decided to start back at step 1, keeping them on other sides of a completely closed door and feeding them 6 feet on either side of the door. We have also been using Feliway for about 2 weeks.
It has been over a week since then and Carrie is still hissing, growling, and swatting at Bagheera from the other side of the closed door even when Bagheera is not at the door.

I am afraid that Bagheera now associates Carrie with mostly negative feelings because of all of her hissing and growling, despite our best efforts.

It feels like Carrie will never get used to Bagheera even though we've given her tons of treats, playtime, and pets throughout this whole process. Could it be that she just cannot coexist with another cat?

Any advice? Should we just stick it out? We really don't want to re-home either of them and would like to make this work.
 

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di and bob

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It WILL work out it just takes time and lots of it. My cats took almost a year before they stopped attacking and growling. By the way, growling and hissing are all perfectly normal in introductions. I think you have come a long way. Just keep doing what you are doing until they become more comfortable (the gate) and then let them out together. Running, hissing, growling, are to be expected. This will go away over time. Believe me, they will become good friends a year from now, don't give up. Cats hate change and you brought home a big one. It just takes time to accept that the other cat is not going away......
 

Columbine

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Hi adacicadas adacicadas , and welcome to TCS :hithere::welcomesign:

Cat to cat introductions can be tricky, even when you're doing everything right. Two months really isn't long at all, so don't lose heart. You're doing the right things, its just that Carrie needs more time. I know of a number of introductions that have taken a year or more, as di and bob di and bob says.

It sounds to me like Carrie is just very stressed by Bagheera's presence right now. She's actually acting just like my boys did when I brought my girls home. Like you, I was following all the right steps, but they were just not having it. I was seriously worried I'd have to rehome my girls, and I honestly thought they'd never peacefully coexist. And, going back a couple of years, my old girl really struggled to accept my boys. So I really do sympathise :hugs:

There is most definitely hope though. I'd suggest trying Carrie on a food based calmer (Zylkene is my go-to, but I know Composure is also very good). It can be a game changer, by helping the stressed resident cat cope with and process their feelings about the newcomer. (Obviously, always check with your vet before adding in any kind of supplements ;) ) I'd definitely say something like that is worth a try.

Other than that, don't rush things and keep doing what you're doing. Patience is key, and let the cats tell you when they're ready to move forward. There most definitely is hope. It took six to seven months for my old girl to accept the boys, and a good three or four months for my boys to accept the new girls. With my current mob, the boys eventually fell totally in love with the girls, and now all four act like they've spent their whole lives together! And they were every bit as upset by the girls as Carrie is by Bagheera at the moment. There is hope, and you can bring them both through this to a place of peaceful coexistence.

How To Successfully Introduce Cats: The Ultimate Guide

How To Fix An Unsuccessful Cat Introduction

Stress in Cats – The Ultimate Guide
 
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adacicadas

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Thank you di and bob di and bob for your reply and reassurance! So glad that your cats finally got along. We're definitely prepared to be in it for the long haul as well.

Columbine Columbine Thank you for the suggestion of the calmer for Carrie! We're scheduling an appointment with our vet to get the OK! It's good to know that I'm not alone in my worrying!

I guess my question now is - how do I know when to move to the next step (seeing each other through the gate) since Carrie is hissing and growling at every step with very little change? Should I continue to allow them to attack each other's paws under the door, or is that harmful to their potential friendship? How did you know when to move forward with your cats?
 

Columbine

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If Carrie is constantly hissing and growling, she's not ready for face to face interactions, even through a door. I'd get her on a calmer and give it a few days to kick in fully.

Do keep up with scent swapping and site swapping. She needs to get used to Bagheera's presence, even if she's not ready to meet her. Don't make a big deal about it, just swap blankets, cardboard scratchers, toys etc between them regularly, and let them explore each other's territory in a little.

I'd probably remove the cardboard from Bagheera's door, and redirect Carrie instead if they start squabbling there. I love using play for this. Its a great way to get them out of their heads and into their bodies, and really seems to help get pent up emotions out. If someone can redirect Bagheera too, that's even better. Always end play sessions with an extra yummy treat too - anything to build up positive associations.

Its important to try and assess why Carrie's growling too. With my guys, there was a lot of confusion, I think. You know Carrie better than anyone - now is the time to put that to use and really assess her whole body language. If she keeps seeking Bagheera out, she's likely curious about her. Curiosity is good. Build on that, and get her playing and eating closer to the door.

Rather than use a screen door, I had little moments of interaction through the just-cracked-open door. This worked well for my guys. The growling did start back up, but I always used the growling as a signal that the boys had had enough and shut the door. Having one person on either side of the door is ideal but you can do it alone if need be. I worked from the girls' side of the door, mostly because the door opened into their room, and I wanted as much control as possible. I also used my body to block the girls from getting too close, so as to keep everyone as calm as possible.

My next step from there was to have two of us in a neutral room (for us that was the living room), and to simultaneously be playing with the cats in opposite corners of the room. Make sure to have appropriate toys for this - I found feather sticks to be the most effective. The idea is to have both cats in the room, but not be focused on each other. This really helped with my guys as it took the pressure off the situation a bit. Ending with extra yummy treats helped too.

Another trick is to open up more vertical space and bring more cat furniture/beds/cardboard scratchers etc into the house. It can really help to have brand new, unclaimed territory to share, so Carrie doesn't feel she's losing her favourite places to Bagheera.

Lastly, a little growling or hissing is ok. Carrie likely needs to be the dominant cat, and you may need to help her assert this by backing her up (ie removing Bagheera) if Bagheera doesn't respect her warnings. This was how I got my old girl to accept the boys. Let them sort it out themselves a little bit at this stage, but step in to avoid escalation.

I hope that makes sense, and that at least some of it helps!
 
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adacicadas

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Columbine Columbine Wow! Thank you so much for such a detailed response. All of it made sense and I, too, hope it turns out to be exactly what my girls need to feel better about each other. I hadn't thought about supporting Carrie's efforts to be the dominant cat, but that makes total sense! I'm definitely going to implement the things you suggested here. I hope the next time I post it will be a huge success story, even if it is many months down the road. 😊
 
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