8 year old cat and 6 month kitten intro

smallone85

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Hi! Looking for some reassurance and that I’m on the right lines with my cat introduction process as I’m starting to worry that I’m doing something wrong, my resident cat just seems so unhappy.

I’ll explain the background with my resident cat Luna first as I think this might have some bearing on the situation. I’ve had her for 8 years and I adopted her and her brother together, sadly her brother passed away unexpectedly at the start of this year. She coped better than I expected after his passing and but seemed lonely, vocalising a lot and very clingy with me in particular. She recently had seemed to become more territorial in the garden (she has controlled access) and has been getting into fights with the neighbour’s cat which never happened before her brother passed away, I think he kept a lot of other cats out.

My daughter was so devastated at Loki’s passing that so we decided to get a kitten and I also hoped it would give Luna some companionship as she’s never been an only cat. My thinking on getting a kitten is it would make the introduction easier with less territorial issues.

Enter Kallie, our (now) 6 month old kitten. She’s a bundle of fun but has had a lot of health issues which has been very stressful but she’s almost fully recovered now.

-In terms of the introduction I’ve struct quite strictly (I think!) to the process described here and by Jackson galaxy. It has taken us 3 and 1/2 months to get to the point we’re currently at as Luna has just been so unsettled.

-I’ve done site swapping since the first week and I regularly swap round their cat trees/scratching pads and bedding so that both their scents are all over the house. I continue to site swap multiple times a day but Luna hates being shut in anywhere as does Kallie, she meows at the door which freaks Luna out and she hisses and growls when she hears it.

- Luna has the run of the house most of the day if we’re at work or out and Kallie is in her room. She comes out when Luna goes outside and if Luna is sleeping up in one of the bedrooms.

-They both have time with us individually, Kallie loves to play but Luna doesn’t really. I’ve been trying to put more effort into playing with her to build her confidence but often she just watches without much interaction, then she gets fed up and hisses at the toy.

-We did either side of the door feeding which progressed pretty quickly but with the occasional hiss from Luna, Kallie couldn’t care less.

-This progressed to feeding either side of a glass door which was a bit slower but eventually they were eating right up at the door with little to no issues.

-They now have all their main meals in the same room, I’ve been moving the bowls closer together every day and they’re now pretty close. Luna is fine until Kallie seems like she’s about to finish then she gets unsettled and growls a bit, if Kallie looks at her she growls or hisses and then instantly wants to go outside once she’s finished eating. She’s very fearful of having to walk past Kallie to go anywhere other than outside and hisses and growls etc if she feels she needs to get closer than she’d like. The other issue with this is Kallie will try to bolt over and try to steal Luna’s food unless she’s stopped, obviously this doesn’t please Luna at all. I give Luna some dry food on her own sometimes as she wasn’t on a feeding schedule before Kallie arrived and she’s found that hard to adjust to, Kallie can’t have dry food due to her digestion issues.

-I’ve also been giving them
treats in each others presence once a day which goes well, they are both VERY food motivated so they’ll happily eat treats as long as Kallie stays at a reasonable distance. Playing in the same room is not an option really as it just doesn’t hold their attention.

- In terms of physical interactions between them Luna has a couple of times gotten very close to Kallie where she’ll growl/hiss/vocalise loudly but also sniff her between hissing and growling and swipes at her then she runs off. Kallie doesn’t seem to care overly, she backs off when Luna is defensive unless there’s food involved and then she just keeps trying to get at the food.

Since Kallie’s arrival Luna has definitely been more aggressive and fearful in her demeanour. She hisses and growls at visitors, not always but mostly when she wants something like to go out and isn’t getting it straight away. I’m just concerned I’ve made her totally miserable by bringing Kallie into her home and that the process is taking longer than it should. I’m also not sure where to take things from here in terms of integrating them into sharing the house, especially unsupervised as I don’t think Luna is comfortable enough for that yet.

Any advice or reassurance would be so helpful! Thanks :)
 

ArtNJ

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I'm not sure there is an introduction process that actually gets you to the level you want to get too before you let them freely interact. With a lot of older cat/kitten combos, its a long slow road to toleration. I would have advised to do a shorter introduction, because as the kitten gets older there is the theoretical possibility of fighting, which is absent with a true kitten. You don't hear about a true kitten purposefully hurting an adult or being hurt by the adult, and as some point as the kitten ages (unclear when exactly) there is a risk. Since its not clear that ship has totally sailed at 6 months, and there might be some "golden time" of no risk at all of true fighting left, I'd proceed to unlimited access immediately. Its also just plan a myth that there is a perfect introdoction process that can do all the work. Its totally routine that some work will need to be done by the cats on their own.

The way this typically proceeds in these kitten + very grumpy older cat scenarios, is that once there is unlimited interaction, there will be more hissing, growling, and the older cat will either simply leave/hide when the kitten bugs her, or somewhat less commonly, there will be some swatting, or even charge/swatting. Thats different from fighting -- its like "Get away from me!!!! Aargh!!! Stay away!!!" A little crazy lady waving the umbrella, but with no desire to actually hurt. Either way the older cat is stressed, and seems like they are always on guard duty, not wanting petting or (maybe not in your case!) food when the kitten is around. Its a miserable time period, and it doesn't get better fast, but there is enough progress that the edge gets taken off in a few weeks or at worst a month or two. Soon enough (although it may not feel that way at the time) the older cat is calm in the same room, and only gets hissy/growly or leaves when the kitten tries to get too close or play. I call this slow progress the long slow road to toleration, and I've had cats on it myself. You might do much better, and any result, even friendship, is theoretically possible, but its often the long slow road.

I know its a little depressing, but the truth is that with an 8 year old and a kitten this was always possible, and perhaps even somewhat more likely than not. As the resident cat gets older, they get less and less accepting of newcomers, statisticall -- any particular cat you never know. Tons and tons of people mistakenly get a kitten to keep their other cat company, and unfortunately that just isn't a particularly good reason to do it when the resident cat is over two (when the chances of friendship are very high), and certainly not when the resident cat is over five (and the chances are slowly declining to the point where at some age the odds of lasting problems are better than friendship), but its a mistake millions make. Your in good company and can't in any way be faulted. And getting a kitten with a resident 8 year old *is* reasonable -- we dont discourage it -- I just like people to know not to do it unless *they* want a kitten, because some times the resident cat will never appreciate it.
 
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smallone85

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Thank you ARTnj that’s so helpful, I’m also very amused by the image of a little old lady with an umbrella 😂 Agh I’m annoyed I didn’t know that about the age difference and chances of friendship, it makes sense though. We really wanted a kitten I guess but I don’t think I would’ve jumped in so quickly if I’d realised how hard it would be on poor Luna and on us! There’s a lot to be said for a peaceful house 😂
Is there certain things I should keep doing once I give them both full access? E.g do you think it’s worth continuing the treats and feeding them together or is that just making matters worse? Thanks again!
 

ArtNJ

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Well, there are folks on here that say "it takes as long as it takes" and have done longer introduction processes. But it just seems to me that at some point, its done whatever work it can, and you need to let them move the ball forward. And here, where the kitten may still be seen as a kitten for another month or two, I'd let them freely interact.

As far as things you can do, many folks recommend feliway and various similar things, but I personally don't know if that stuff actually does anything. No scientific evidence. And I think you'll find that the tension level is high enough once you allow face to face that you won't likely be able to get them to play near each other. Given that your saying they are both food motivated, maybe you can do treats together, and maybe it will even help. Usually, with most cats, it won't work, the kitten will fly around after the treats and it will freak the older cat out. But you can try. Certainly, you can give the older cat a break now and then, some closed door love time. Indeed, it might be difficult for her to relax enough to be pet for a while unless a door is closed. I tend to think that it should just be an hour or two here and there though -- otherwise when the older cat sees the kitten, the kitten is always over eager to play, and the older cat never gets to see chill sleepy kitten. Its like a christmas morning effect sometimes if you make the kitten wait too long to see the older cat, and thats not helpful. And of course when your available and have time, you can try to distract the kitten. And playing with the kitten a lot can't hurt -- trying to exhaust a kitten is a bit like trying to drain the ocean with a thimble, but it can't hurt to try.

As far as regret, I totally get that, but this will pass. They will most likely never be friends, but down the road they may lie next to each other or even play a bit. The last time I had the long slow road to toleration, they eventually got to pretty much full toleration, and even played a few times, when the older cat had elevation (which helps cats feel safe).
 
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kissthisangel

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Hi and welcome to TCS, at this point I think you've prepared them enough to just go free reign for both, your younger cat should be big enough to defend themselves, your older cat should assert some authority when they don't want to play. I agree with NJ in that giving them vertical territory is a great option. make sure there's no way either cat can be cornered. If you want to continue with a slow intro, try a MASSIVE play session with your younger cat and then feed them a few feet apart without a door between them so the older one can eye the little one a bit.

So long as no one is drawing blood, scrapping, yelping and hissing is all fair game. Should the introduction result in a huge "I will kill you" fight, DO NOT get your hands in there or try to pacify them. Use a big sheet of card or similar to put a barrier between them and shoo off the most confident cat. go back to the door feeding, then try again a few days later.

New enrichment in their general environment like a "fish" or "butterfly" tank can help or cat grass. Cats are kinda like college room mates in that it's rare to pair up non siblings who will truly bond and sleep together. Settle for " I accept you're in my space and I won't kill you" to make their lives, and yours easier.
 
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smallone85

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Thank you for the advice folks, I’ve moved to full access initially whilst I’m in the house so that I’m aware of what’s happening just in case of any full blown fights. I started today and Luna my older girl was of course very grumpy but as you guys said it’s all been either growling/ hissing/yowling and the odd whack when Kallie came too near, then she just runs off. Kallie is very relaxed about the whole thing and seems interested but backed off very quickly whenever Luna when into crazy wee lady mode. I had most of the day with Luna chilling upstairs and Kallie bouncing around downstairs. I’m taking that as a win 😃
 
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smallone85

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Hi me again!
A ArtNJ and kissthisangel kissthisangel just a quick question. At what point do you think I’d be safe to leave the cats alone in the house together while we’re at work? They’ve been doing ok with full access, Luna hisses/growls or screeches at Kallie when she comes too near and mostly Kallie seems to be getting the message to leave her alone but she’s still trying to play and I’m just a bit concerned about a fight happening while we’re out.
I also don’t want to be stalling progress by keeping them apart during the day. Thank you again for your advice, it really does seem to be working and I’m definitely seeing some signs of tolerance from Luna. She sat in the same room as Kallie (with us there) for about 30 mins the other day and she did seem quite chilled out, body language was good apart from if Kallie came too close.

Thanks 😊
 

ArtNJ

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Its extremely unlikley that this sort of relationship will lead to a fight once you've watched them for a couple of hours. If either cat was willing to fight, you'd know by now. I'm sure things could somehow go wrong, but thats always true anytime you leave any pair of cats alone, even best friends. Once you've watched for a couple of hours, the risks aren't much greater than that. Still, maybe waiting till you have an off day (the weekend?) makes the most sense?
 
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smallone85

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Its extremely unlikley that this sort of relationship will lead to a fight once you've watched them for a couple of hours. If either cat was willing to fight, you'd know by now. I'm sure things could somehow go wrong, but thats always true anytime you leave any pair of cats alone, even best friends. Once you've watched for a couple of hours, the risks aren't much greater than that. Still, maybe waiting till you have an off day (the weekend?) makes the most sense?
Thanks so much, that makes sense. I think I’m just a bit anxious because my older cat is soo vocal and loud toward the kitten, it sounds aggressive but her body language doesn’t seem that way at all unless she gets close to her. she’s always very vocal so I guess in stressful situations like a kitten running at her she’s just going to be more so! I’ll leave it to the weekend and give them a couple of hours alone so that it’s not a full day we’re away for.
 
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smallone85

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Hi A ArtNJ I’m seeing a lot of ‘charge swatting’ from my older cat and my little one is constantly trying to follow her around and (I think) trying to play. Luna just wants to be left alone. It seems to be a step forward a step back every day, sometimes I think Luna’s making progress and other times she’s just pissed. Is the charge swatting a real concern? And should I stop the little one from following her around? Sorry for all the questions, I’m just finding it all really stressful. Thanks again.
 

ArtNJ

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Ugh, I know thats scary looking and stressful. Objectively, its clearly not ideal. The kitten might get some minor scratches too, even if the intent is just to back the kitten off. Still, as long as the older cat doesnt want to jump on the kitten and have a rolling around real fight, the risks of injuries beyond minor scratches are low, and this is something that the older cat can usually eventually get out of the system.

Is there a risk that there could be a real fight? With the kitten getting older and bigger, its definitely not impossible. Its not even just a risk on the older cats side. I had an overly playful kitten that the older cat always disliked. At approximately one years of age, the younger cat stopped ignoring the hissing and growling all of sudden decided that being hissed at warranted murder. All of that said, charge swatting is reported with some frequency here, and it does seem to be something that can be worked through, different from a real fight. And if I recall right, you did a lengthy proper introduction period. If you weren't making any additional progress via the lengthy intro, then seeing what they can do is about all thats left.

As far as stopping the kitten from following the older cat, it certainly can't hurt to do so in a particular moment, but I don't think its realistic to make it your full time job. So what happens when you've been keeping them apart for a bunch of hours and need to pay attention to something? The kitten will be even more eager to play and immediately try to jump on the older one. So thats the problem. I generally tell people that its fine to distract them if your there and have time and things aren't going well, but not to view it as your job, because that isn't realistic and is likely doomed to failure.

How long has this been going on? When the kitten is quiet, the older cat will chill in the same room no problem? Eat together maybe? Will the older cat accept petting if the kitten is in the room if the kitten is chill? Does the older cat charge swat without provocation if say the kitten just walks into the room?
 
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smallone85

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It doesn’t seem like real fighting, I mean the noise from my older cat is awful but she’s very dramatic. She hisses and growls and does a kind of scream meow if kitten comes near her. Generally the little one just follows her and doesn’t even get that close to her. the charges are mostly if Luna feels she can’t get away or is pissed because she wants outside and I’m keeping her in.

If they’re in the same room and the kitten is calm and far enough away my older cat will sit and allow petting. The problem is she will mostly avoid her if she can as the house is big enough for them to avoid each other apart from if she needs to come downstairs for food etc, then the kitten’s like yes! I have a friend! And gets very excited.
They will still eat in the same room twice a day with no issues until the food is finished then she starts freaking out again, growling hissing etc. If the wee ones eating she doesn’t care, she just ignores everything even if she’s being charged she’ll just continue eating. They will do treats together as well, albeit at a reasonable distance.
 

ArtNJ

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That doesn't sound too bad in the scheme of these things. How long has it been?

The big house and avoidance problem can definitely be a real issue and slow things down.
 
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smallone85

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So the kitten has been here for 3 months, which was all slow introduction and has got us up to them eating together with relative calm. Do you think that’s a positve sign?
It’s been a week now of them having more access. The avoidance is difficult to do much about as Luna just seems very scared so she runs away upstairs or goes outside. It’s very back and forward.
 
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smallone85

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Thank you for the reassurance! I’ll keep with it 😃
 
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