Advice on Cat Introductions - Feeling a Bit Lost

Furmama22

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Hi all,

I'm new to the forum and have been reading all of your excellent thoughts and posts on cat introductions. Our new cat is Florence, a 4 year old spayed female from the local humane society. Our resident cat is Hawthorne, a 10 1/2 year old neutered male. Hawthorne has always been an anxious and not particularly cuddly cat (he has moments, but is NOT a lap cat - he is still scared of my stepkids after four years) and his friend and my beloved cat Tennyson passed away in August. They were not bonded, and fought occasionally, but generally speaking got along and did friendly nose touches.

We have had Florence for about 6 weeks. We lost one week (week #2) of introduction time because she was very sick with a URI (she is healthy now). She is declawed (something we found out after we knew we wanted her) and was surrendered by her family for "not getting along with their kids." They did not provide any additional information. From my perspective, she's one of the sweetest cats I've ever known. She has spice but she is quite confident now and good-natured.

Anyways, I take my cats very seriously (they are my babies) so I was determined to follow the introduction rules to a tee. Hahah, of course, with cats things rarely go as planned. We have Feliway plugins (two kinds: regular and the friends variety), a calming spray, a safe room for Florence, and we have been doing scent swapping, meals progressively closer to a closed door, then meals far away and progressively closer from a pet gate (we started with the door cracked and the gate covered by a towel, then moved closer while the towel was lifted, etc). Now we're doing twice a day with a special treat, for about 5 minutes each visit. As noted, this is week #6.

I've also tried Zylkene for Hawthorne and now have CBD oil that I'm trying for both of them. Florence gets three blocks of time out of the room per day in which we play with her and Hawthorne goes into her room (or another room). I'm trying to play with him too, though he isn't super playful. He is definitely more anxious and doing lots of humping and yowling. We are trying some clicker training for him and he seems to enjoy it.

They have progressed quite a bit but he is still anxious and wants to approach the pet gate and stare (if not distracted) and when he does that, she growls and might even hiss (if he comes to close). They once managed to get to the gate while I was fumbling to open the treat bag and she growled/hissed and he reached through and bonked her on the head. They also play footsies but it is angry footsies (with growling on her part and apprehensive body language on his) - we're adding a second pet gate to help avoid that as a potential negative experience.

Our struggles are the following:
1. Hawthorne HATES going in any room while Florence gets to come out. I give him a food puzzle but he still mostly just cries. I have tried going in with him and it doesn't make much difference although I might try that again.
2. Florence is tired of being IN the room. She's really very good but at certain points of the day, she starts meowing to come out.
3. They got into a bad habit of playing footsies under the door but not in a good way - she growls and he bites the pet gate bars (with the door closed). I'm getting another pet gate so they'll be separated by a few feet and no more angry footsies.
4. And of course, that brings to me her growling - it's gotten WAY better but she still growls at him. Interestingly, her body language is not aggressive at all - no puffed fur, no dilated pupils, or pulled back ears. She just growls, occasionally hisses, and then is merrily on her way for the next treat or what have you. Her recovery is instantaneous.
5. He is still doing some staring and fixation on the pet gate, and seems anxious/overly curious/not reading her signals with hissing/growling.

I talked to a behaviorist and she recommended Prozac for one or both of them. I'm just curious if anyone has thoughts. We love them both and we want them to live in peace with each other! Are we on the right track?

PS: Both are eating/peeing/pooping/drinking, so no health issues at this point.
 

calicosrspecial

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Hi all,

I'm new to the forum and have been reading all of your excellent thoughts and posts on cat introductions. Our new cat is Florence, a 4 year old spayed female from the local humane society. Our resident cat is Hawthorne, a 10 1/2 year old neutered male. Hawthorne has always been an anxious and not particularly cuddly cat (he has moments, but is NOT a lap cat - he is still scared of my stepkids after four years) and his friend and my beloved cat Tennyson passed away in August. They were not bonded, and fought occasionally, but generally speaking got along and did friendly nose touches.

We have had Florence for about 6 weeks. We lost one week (week #2) of introduction time because she was very sick with a URI (she is healthy now). She is declawed (something we found out after we knew we wanted her) and was surrendered by her family for "not getting along with their kids." They did not provide any additional information. From my perspective, she's one of the sweetest cats I've ever known. She has spice but she is quite confident now and good-natured.

Anyways, I take my cats very seriously (they are my babies) so I was determined to follow the introduction rules to a tee. Hahah, of course, with cats things rarely go as planned. We have Feliway plugins (two kinds: regular and the friends variety), a calming spray, a safe room for Florence, and we have been doing scent swapping, meals progressively closer to a closed door, then meals far away and progressively closer from a pet gate (we started with the door cracked and the gate covered by a towel, then moved closer while the towel was lifted, etc). Now we're doing twice a day with a special treat, for about 5 minutes each visit. As noted, this is week #6.

I've also tried Zylkene for Hawthorne and now have CBD oil that I'm trying for both of them. Florence gets three blocks of time out of the room per day in which we play with her and Hawthorne goes into her room (or another room). I'm trying to play with him too, though he isn't super playful. He is definitely more anxious and doing lots of humping and yowling. We are trying some clicker training for him and he seems to enjoy it.

They have progressed quite a bit but he is still anxious and wants to approach the pet gate and stare (if not distracted) and when he does that, she growls and might even hiss (if he comes to close). They once managed to get to the gate while I was fumbling to open the treat bag and she growled/hissed and he reached through and bonked her on the head. They also play footsies but it is angry footsies (with growling on her part and apprehensive body language on his) - we're adding a second pet gate to help avoid that as a potential negative experience.

Our struggles are the following:
1. Hawthorne HATES going in any room while Florence gets to come out. I give him a food puzzle but he still mostly just cries. I have tried going in with him and it doesn't make much difference although I might try that again.
2. Florence is tired of being IN the room. She's really very good but at certain points of the day, she starts meowing to come out.
3. They got into a bad habit of playing footsies under the door but not in a good way - she growls and he bites the pet gate bars (with the door closed). I'm getting another pet gate so they'll be separated by a few feet and no more angry footsies.
4. And of course, that brings to me her growling - it's gotten WAY better but she still growls at him. Interestingly, her body language is not aggressive at all - no puffed fur, no dilated pupils, or pulled back ears. She just growls, occasionally hisses, and then is merrily on her way for the next treat or what have you. Her recovery is instantaneous.
5. He is still doing some staring and fixation on the pet gate, and seems anxious/overly curious/not reading her signals with hissing/growling.

I talked to a behaviorist and she recommended Prozac for one or both of them. I'm just curious if anyone has thoughts. We love them both and we want them to live in peace with each other! Are we on the right track?

PS: Both are eating/peeing/pooping/drinking, so no health issues at this point.
Hi,

Welcome to the site. I am happy to help.

I think you are on the right track. But I think we can do some things (more nuanced) that might help them a bit more. You are still early in the process so the little slips are not uncommon.

The keys (basic building blocks or principles) are really Positive Association (using food or love if safe), Positive Encounters (trying to have them together in a positive way distracting as needed and this happens when there is a positive association and limiting or avoiding negative encounters) and building confidence through (Play, Food, Height and Love safely) as a confident cat is more likely to accept and be accepted. Also, human's emotions are very important so being as calm and confident as possible helps the cats as cats take on the emotions.

"Now we're doing twice a day with a special treat, for about 5 minutes each visit. As noted, this is week #6." - This is great. Just keep doing this and try to make it as positive as possible.

"Florence gets three blocks of time out of the room per day in which we play with her and Hawthorne goes into her room (or another room)." - Great

' I'm trying to play with him too, though he isn't super playful. " - Ok, there are other ways to build confidence. Give him places to go high (cat trees, cat shelving possibly if you own the home), safe love, treats. Safe love is eye kisses, talking lovingly, etc. Doesn;t have to be physical since he is not a lap cat.

"He is definitely more anxious and doing lots of humping and yowling." - More than normal? If so, we just need to reassure him that she is not negative. So a lot of positive association and positive encounter and confidence building. He is neutered correct?

"They have progressed quite a bit but he is still anxious" - That is normal for a resident cat. As cats are territorial so any "threat " to that territory is unsettling. Time and actions will help him trust.

"and wants to approach the pet gate and stare (if not distracted)" - That is normal. So just try to reassure, make it as positive as possible.

" and when he does that, she growls and might even hiss (if he comes to close)." - Yes, that is normal. SO try to reassure her as well and try to let her know he is ok,

" They once managed to get to the gate while I was fumbling to open the treat bag and she growled/hissed and he reached through and bonked her on the head." - Yep, they will do that. Part of the process.

"They also play footsies but it is angry footsies (with growling on her part and apprehensive body language on his) - we're adding a second pet gate to help avoid that as a potential negative experience. " - Yes, good idea to add a "buffer zone".

Our struggles are the following:
"1. Hawthorne HATES going in any room while Florence gets to come out. I give him a food puzzle but he still mostly just cries. I have tried going in with him and it doesn't make much difference although I might try that again." - Yes, that is normal as cats do not like territory being taken away. I would maybe pull back on the site swapping for now. We do have to do that. It is better to keep him as positive and confident as possible and he seems to be bothered by the territory being "taken away". We'll deal with the issue in face to face intro later in "his" territory.


"2. Florence is tired of being IN the room. She's really very good but at certain points of the day, she starts meowing to come out." - Yep, she tasted freedom. That tells me she isn't too afraid of him which is a good sign. Not surprising.

"3. They got into a bad habit of playing footsies under the door but not in a good way - she growls and he bites the pet gate bars (with the door closed). I'm getting another pet gate so they'll be separated by a few feet and no more angry footsies." - Yeah, that isn;t too big a deal but another gate is good just to keep it a bit more positive.

"4. And of course, that brings to me her growling - it's gotten WAY better but she still growls at him." Hissing is communication so what happens after (if it is respected and understood) is more important.

"Interestingly, her body language is not aggressive at all - no puffed fur, no dilated pupils, or pulled back ears." - That is good.

" She just growls, occasionally hisses, and then is merrily on her way for the next treat or what have you. Her recovery is instantaneous." - That is really good. Tells me it is just communication of a "don't try anything" and since nothing bad follows she is ok. I had a feral that did this to me ALL THE TIME. I would go up to her, she would hiss mightily an I would be like "whatever, here is your chicken" and she would be happy eating. Cats.............

"5. He is still doing some staring and fixation on the pet gate, and seems anxious/overly curious/not reading her signals with hissing/growling. " - Totally normal. Just reassure him with some treats, calm. confident and loving. Distract him. Etc. It is normal and part of the process. Anytime you can get him (or her) to look away it is positive as no cat would look away from a potential threat.

"PS: Both are eating/peeing/pooping/drinking, so no health issues at this point. " - Very positive.

So you are definitely on the right track. Keep making positive associations, positive encounters, and building confidence.

Please ask anything, anytime and update us on how it is going. I am happy to help. Sounds pretty good so far. 6 weeks is not long at all. I don't read any reason to worry. We just need to focus on the basics and as just as needed and get them intro'd. It really comes down to knowledge and effort and I think we are in good shape on both.
 
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Furmama22

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Thank you SO much for taking the time to reply. I really really REALLY appreciate it. In fact, I'd hoped you would reply as you give such great supportive answers! :) I've found this introduction process to be very stressful, largely because I'm a more anxious personality type who values harmony in the home (I definitely pictured the 'cozy in the living room all together' part and didn't enough weight to the 'how long an introduction might take' part) and partly because I love her already so much and felt terribly worried the fact it was taking this long meant it would never work out.

So if I'm understanding, sounds like it might be ok to slow down on the site swapping (I'm still swapping blankets and he must be able to smell her in the main living space - she eats off his food plate if there is leftover when she comes out, and they share scratching posts, etc).

He still needs to go into SOME room for her to come out because we don't have a big enough house for them each to have territory AND safely be apart, but I will go into the room with him when possible and we can make it a nice time - play, maybe the clicker training, etc. Something to keep his confidence while he's in the room so he won't feel it's a punishment/separation from me. He's never been a super confident cat so that's a project all on its own. :) I'll see if going in with him helps him with less crying.

And otherwise sounds like just keep going, yes? Short positive snack visits x2 per day and trying to keep them calm (and me calm too - sometimes THAT'S the biggest project). Thanks for being so reassuring.

When do you know they're ready for a face to face?

And, once I have the second pet gate (which will create the buffer) I was thinking of letting them see each other for longer - is that worthwhile, or only if someone is doing something fun with each (to make it positive)? Are there other ways to show them the other cat is not a threat?

Thank you again!!! :)
 

Mamanyt1953

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I don't think I can add a thing to C calicosrspecial 's advice, and to your idea of going into the room with Hawthorne during site swapping...in fact, that was going to be my own one additional idea! Patience, time. Those are your best friends, and are working for you. You simply cannot go faster than the most reluctant cat.

Don't overworry about a bit of growling or hissing that isn't accompanied by aggressive body language. Sometimes a cat's gotta say what a cat's gotta say. I know a good many "best buds" pairs who occasionally hiss and growl.
 
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Furmama22

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Thanks so much for your thoughts and comments! And thank you for saying not to overworry about the growling. :) I felt confused about it because it's such an 'aggressive' noise (or at least, considered so) but she looked just the same when she made it - one blink, and she was back to happy tail and cheerful face.

It's really such a special thing to talk to and hear from other people who love to talk about their cats too! Thank you!
 

Mamanyt1953

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You certainly came to the right place! And, in my experience, this is one of the friendliest, most welcoming and least judgmental sites around. And I'd been to a few, before making TCS my "home."

And growling does sound aggressive to us, but a cat knows another cat's body language very well. If the body language is ok, the growling is just a snarky comment.
 

calicosrspecial

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Thank you SO much for taking the time to reply. I really really REALLY appreciate it. In fact, I'd hoped you would reply as you give such great supportive answers! :) I've found this introduction process to be very stressful, largely because I'm a more anxious personality type who values harmony in the home (I definitely pictured the 'cozy in the living room all together' part and didn't enough weight to the 'how long an introduction might take' part) and partly because I love her already so much and felt terribly worried the fact it was taking this long meant it would never work out.

So if I'm understanding, sounds like it might be ok to slow down on the site swapping (I'm still swapping blankets and he must be able to smell her in the main living space - she eats off his food plate if there is leftover when she comes out, and they share scratching posts, etc).

He still needs to go into SOME room for her to come out because we don't have a big enough house for them each to have territory AND safely be apart, but I will go into the room with him when possible and we can make it a nice time - play, maybe the clicker training, etc. Something to keep his confidence while he's in the room so he won't feel it's a punishment/separation from me. He's never been a super confident cat so that's a project all on its own. :) I'll see if going in with him helps him with less crying.

And otherwise sounds like just keep going, yes? Short positive snack visits x2 per day and trying to keep them calm (and me calm too - sometimes THAT'S the biggest project). Thanks for being so reassuring.

When do you know they're ready for a face to face?

And, once I have the second pet gate (which will create the buffer) I was thinking of letting them see each other for longer - is that worthwhile, or only if someone is doing something fun with each (to make it positive)? Are there other ways to show them the other cat is not a threat?

Thank you again!!! :)
I am so sorry for the delayed response.

You are very welcome, I am happy to help. Awwww, you are too kind.

"I've found this introduction process to be very stressful" - Yes, it is understandable. Intros can be stressful and with the current times it makes it even more stressful BUT I'll help you through it. It helps to have a set of eyes that can see the forest from the trees.

"largely because I'm a more anxious personality type" - Understandable. I too battle anxiety so I understand the feelings.

"who values harmony in the home" - Me too. I do not like conflict, etc.

" (I definitely pictured the 'cozy in the living room all together' part and didn't enough weight to the 'how long an introduction might take' part)" - Yes, oftentimes the expectations are a little off. Sometimes we get lucky and it is easy but most times it is a bit of a process. BUT the good news is understanding the situation and aligning the expectations combined with the right knowledge and effort results in success 99.9% of the time. I will walk you through the whole process.

" and partly because I love her already so much and felt terribly worried the fact it was taking this long meant it would never work out." - Yes, this is very common among people. We love so much and we can get over protective and worry a bit too much. 6 weeks (really 5) is not long at all and I am not reading anything to suggest real problems. We will just take it step by step and try to get them intro'd as soon as possible. I really am not worried.

"So if I'm understanding, sounds like it might be ok to slow down on the site swapping" - I think so. Because we want Hawthorne to feel secure and confident and putting him in another room (making him feel like he is losing territory) seems to be a bit disconcerting to him. It isn't necessary to have this step and we can achieve what we want in other ways and eventually at a future time.

"(I'm still swapping blankets and he must be able to smell her in the main living space - she eats off his food plate if there is leftover when she comes out, and they share scratching posts, etc)." - PERFECT!!!! Please keep that up.

"He still needs to go into SOME room for her to come out because we don't have a big enough house for them each to have territory AND safely be apart, but I will go into the room with him when possible and we can make it a nice time - play, maybe the clicker training, etc." - Ok, of we could hold off on her going into "his" territory until they are a bit more comfortable and trusting of each other. We will monitor his body language and behavior and see if it is working.

I am not sure if we really need to get her into his territory right now. It can wait.

"Something to keep his confidence while he's in the room so he won't feel it's a punishment/separation from me. He's never been a super confident cat so that's a project all on its own. :) I'll see if going in with him helps him with less crying. " - Yes, if you chose to do the site swapping then that is the exact right thing to do. If he doesn't do well then we can adjust.

I would probably like to just spend more time at the gate doing positive associations and positive encounters distracting as needed. Any time you can get a or both cats to look away when they are together it builds trust as no cat looks away from a potential threat.
And while we do that we'll work on confidence building. Playing when possible, feeding after. Giving them places to go high, get their scent on things, warm and comfy bedding. And then safe love like eye kisses, loving talk, treats. And we'll monitor the body language and behavior.

"And otherwise sounds like just keep going, yes?" - Yes, agreed. You are doing great. The only thing is I may pull back on the site swapping until they are a bit more confident at the gate.

It really is all about positive associations and positive encounters to build trust. TO show that the other cat isn;t a threat to their physical safety, access to food water, litter box, territory, etc.

" Short positive snack visits x2 per day" - Yes, Positive Association, Positive Encounters.

"and trying to keep them calm" - Yes, and confident. So reassure them with loving words. I use "it's ok" a lot. I deal with ferals so I see the impact of human emotions on the cats. If I am like "all is fine" the cats tend to calm down and be more trusting.

" (and me calm too - sometimes THAT'S the biggest project)." - Oftentimes we humans have the more difficult challenge. That is very normal. I have done so many of these that a person gets accustomed to what cats do. SO it gets easier to deal with the drama when you know it is more drama rather than something more serious.

" Thanks for being so reassuring." - Oh, you are very welcome. I will always tell you the truth. I believe the best way to address a problem is to acknowledge it then do something about it. I do sugar coat and wish things away as experience tells me that is a good way to get better problems.

"When do you know they're ready for a face to face?" - The actions at the gate. So the body language, the ease of distraction, things like that.

The biggest mistake I see are rushed intros. So trying to avoid negativity that can become ingrained and then need to be reprogrammed helps speed intros along. So we take it a bit slower to hopefully reduce the full intro time. Sometimes intros can happed faster bvut I tend to be more cautious to try to avoid the negativity which can extend the process.

"And, once I have the second pet gate (which will create the buffer) I was thinking of letting them see each other for longer - is that worthwhile, or only if someone is doing something fun with each (to make it positive)? " - For now, I would let them see each other under positive supervision using distraction (if possible). So if two people can do it that is best (one with each cat) but if only 1 person can do it then be with the one with the least confidence and the one that has the more difficult time with the visual.

"Are there other ways to show them the other cat is not a threat?" - It is pretty much getting them to look away, to walk away, to have positive body language. Things like that. It does need human involvement though toys that can get a cat's attention are good as well but it is good to have a human there to distract just in case.

You are very welcome. Keep an eye on their body language and please feel free to share any details no matter whether you think it isn't important. Just anything that might be "interesting". And feel free to ask anything. It really is about nuance and that nuance can tell us a lot about their relationship.

"And thank you for saying not to overworry about the growling. :) " - MamanyT is exactly correct.

"I felt confused about it because it's such an 'aggressive' noise (or at least, considered so)" - Yes, this is challenging for humans. For me, it is always about how the cats act after the hiss that tells us what the cats thought about it. If they respect it and go back to noraml quickly then it was just an "outburst". MamanyT is spot on on her post about it.

" but she looked just the same when she made it - one blink, and she was back to happy tail and cheerful face." - Yes, THAT is a great sign and tells me it was communication and that it was communicated and respected and it was over which is great.

Keep up the great work and ask anything. It is a bit complex but we'll guide you through it.
 
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Furmama22

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This is great information, thank you! :) It's very generous of you (and everyone here) to take the time to offer such great information and support.

One question I do have is if we pull back on the site swapping, how do I keep HER entertained? She's used to coming out of her room three times a day for play/company. Theoretically, if we reduce that (so that Hawthorne doesn't have to go away as often), then she has to stay more in her room (since his territory is technically the whole house, with the exception of her room). Would it be best to go into her room and do the playtime and other things there? I don't want her to get stressed out by being confined too much to a small space.
 

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This is great information, thank you! :) It's very generous of you (and everyone here) to take the time to offer such great information and support.

One question I do have is if we pull back on the site swapping, how do I keep HER entertained? She's used to coming out of her room three times a day for play/company. Theoretically, if we reduce that (so that Hawthorne doesn't have to go away as often), then she has to stay more in her room (since his territory is technically the whole house, with the exception of her room). Would it be best to go into her room and do the playtime and other things there? I don't want her to get stressed out by being confined too much to a small space.
How is your house/apt. set up? I can just tell you what I have done is have the new cat mostly in their "safe room" and me go in to the room for play, pets, love, food, treats etc. I have also closed a door when one of my residents goes into another favorite room for a nap or to sit in the window. One of mine however strongly dislikes any closed doors so that made a bit more challenging when I adopted her. But mostly that's what I have done. Then when it comes to face to face in the house in the future with the new cat the newbie has that room as a safe space to retreat to if needed and it's worked well.

I can tell you I've used C calicosrspecial methods (I came to this site looking for info when I got Waffles) and it has worked well, at the pace of the cats. This site and the people in it are such a blessing!
 

calicosrspecial

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This is great information, thank you! :) It's very generous of you (and everyone here) to take the time to offer such great information and support.

One question I do have is if we pull back on the site swapping, how do I keep HER entertained? She's used to coming out of her room three times a day for play/company. Theoretically, if we reduce that (so that Hawthorne doesn't have to go away as often), then she has to stay more in her room (since his territory is technically the whole house, with the exception of her room). Would it be best to go into her room and do the playtime and other things there? I don't want her to get stressed out by being confined too much to a small space.
You are very welcome.

"One question I do have is if we pull back on the site swapping, how do I keep HER entertained? She's used to coming out of her room three times a day for play/company. Theoretically, if we reduce that (so that Hawthorne doesn't have to go away as often), then she has to stay more in her room (since his territory is technically the whole house, with the exception of her room). Would it be best to go into her room and do the playtime and other things there?" - Yes, play with her in her room and spend a little time hanging out with her. Sit on the floor, talk to her, give treats, etc. It is always a bit of a challenge once they taste freedom so we will see how she does. It isn't a problem, we can deal with however she responds.

"I don't want her to get stressed out by being confined too much to a small space." - She will be a bit rambunctious probably and we can see how she responds and change as needed. But just try your best and let us know how she does.

Usually in intros the resident/existing cat has the most difficult transition as it is "their" territory being 'invaded". So typically I tend to focus more on the resident cat to reassure them, build their confidence, trust etc.

The new cat typically has the easier adjustment as they don't own the territory and therefore don't feel insecure. So if we make it as comfortable as possible they may get antsy but we have a bit more leeway with the new cat. And given that they are more tolerant of the situation.

I will say, it tells me she isn't really afraid of him if she wants to get out which is a good sign and tells me we are on the right path and should continue to focus on Hawthorne to get him to trust.
 
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Furmama22

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Thank you C calicosrspecial and pearl99 pearl99 !! I will try to incorporate a bit more special time with Florence in the room again (we were doing that at the beginning until she was like, let me out!!) and see if that helps Hawthorne feel more confident in his territory. When he does need to go in the room, I'll go with him and we can play/clicker train/hang out.

And pearl99 pearl99 , the house is basically a (small) rectangle bungalow with finished basement. Living room/dining room/kitchen on the main floor, plus a bathroom and two bedrooms, and then a bedroom, family room, and unfinished room in the basement. The cats seem to spend the most time where I spend the most time, which is in the living room upstairs. It's not a huge space, so I've tried to add a cat tree and a few other things to help out the territory. It has a big window for squirrel/bird watching.

I'll keep trying to focus on Hawthorne and keep him confident. :) That's a helpful idea.

Out of curiousity, how often do most people do the "at the door/gate visits" for getting them to feel positively about each other? And, what do most people do to extend those visits? We're good until the treats run out (after 5 minutes) and then I'm not sure what else to do with them. Usually then we close the door and wait for next time. I was including meals as well but a cat behavourist I spoke to suggested that if Florence was still growling, it might indicate the meals were not 'positive enough' an experience and to limit it to really high value treats.
 

ArtNJ

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The thing that jumped out at me was that you were doing a gate, and then you went to something having to do with treats for 5 minutes at a time. I don't think this is a great approach, because the cats never have time to calm down, so the entire 5 minutes is a stressful experience -- and possibly therefore counter-productive. I'd keep up with the gate until you are ready to let them be together for some supervised hours - hours, not minutes. They need time to work stuff out. The process is all about gradually getting them used to each other (desensitization) and that takes real time at a step that is causing stress. This hopefully gives them time to calm down, so unlike the 5 minute sessions, its not all high stress.

Unlimited visual access separated by a gate should be the last step before letting them mingle with supervision. Giving them treats when they are out doesn't work in my experience, becaused stressed cats dont really want treats or human attention. They just need time to stare each other down, growl and hiss, and see nothing bad is happening. As long as there is no fighting, its time together that will do the trick.

That said, I defer to the above posters as to whether you are ready to move to that -- having really focused beyond your OP.
 

pearl99

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And pearl99 pearl99 , the house is basically a (small) rectangle bungalow with finished basement. Living room/dining room/kitchen on the main floor, plus a bathroom and two bedrooms, and then a bedroom, family room, and unfinished room in the basement. The cats seem to spend the most time where I spend the most time, which is in the living room upstairs. It's not a huge space, so I've tried to add a cat tree and a few other things to help out the territory. It has a big window for squirrel/bird watching.
I'll keep trying to focus on Hawthorne and keep him confident. :) That's a helpful idea.
Out of curiousity, how often do most people do the "at the door/gate visits" for getting them to feel positively about each other? And, what do most people do to extend those visits? We're good until the treats run out (after 5 minutes) and then I'm not sure what else to do with them. Usually then we close the door and wait for next time. I was including meals as well but a cat behavourist I spoke to suggested that if Florence was still growling, it might indicate the meals were not 'positive enough' an experience and to limit it to really high value treats.
Your house sounds like my house setup :), it's been helpful for me to have the basement which I have a cat tree, cat beds, the Ripple rug and toys in also so the residents can retreat to if they want/need. Cat trees are a real help to have with intros, if you can afford more than one. And scratching posts around the house.

For at the gate/door, calicosrspecial will have info plus what I do is even just a few minutes- 2, 3, 4 times per day. (I'm retired so I have time for that much.) I find brushing the kitty at the door/gate- or as close as kitty will comfortably get- if the cat likes it is great too. My latest addition, Ziggy, loves loves to be brushed. With me it's just me in the house so I usually brushed the resident as a pleasurable encounter within sight of the other cat- if the cat is not too stressed seeing the other and you're sure she/he won't lash out at you.
I also do meals of wet food as close as each cat will get, even if it's 12 feet away for the resident.
 
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Furmama22

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Thanks so much for commenting A ArtNJ . I think there might have been a misunderstanding though. To clarify, the cats have had NO in person time together yet - the five minutes is spent with visual access through the pet gate while they have a positive experience - in this case, the treats. All the rest of the time they are separate. They only thus far come together and see each other during a positive experience.

My plan is to work up to unlimited visual access through the gates before moving to in person time. I just need to figure out how to move from the 5 minute positive visual access times to making it a bit longer.
 
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That's great, thank you pearl99 pearl99 ! Our five minute visual access experiences seem to be going well. They're both very focussed on the food/treats and not on each other. So I'll keep doing that. And perhaps I'll return visual access during meals too, just a bit. They both love eating.

I'm working from home right now so I can also do as many times as needed through-out the day. :)

Funny that you mention the Ripple Rug too. I was thinking of getting one of those too!
 

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Thanks so much for commenting A ArtNJ . I think there might have been a misunderstanding though. To clarify, the cats have had NO in person time together yet - the five minutes is spent with visual access through the pet gate while they have a positive experience - in this case, the treats. All the rest of the time they are separate. They only thus far come together and see each other during a positive experience.

My plan is to work up to unlimited visual access through the gates before moving to in person time. I just need to figure out how to move from the 5 minute positive visual access times to making it a bit longer.
Gotcha. Well, schools of thought differ, but I'll give you my take. If one cat is really charging the gate or seems super stressed, then the thing people do where they put a towel over the gate and gradually lift it a little more every day is logical. Generally though, I say when you are ready for the gate, leave it visually clear. Let them hiss at the gate. The whole idea of desenitization is to let them be stressed, hiss and growl, and see that absolutely nothing comes of it. To let them get tired of growling, and chill a bit, because its draining to be growling all the time. Now if the free to roam cat won't ever go near the gate? Then I see a definite roll for treat or food to lure them close. However, in general, I'm not a big believer that five minutes at a time does anything.

Think about how a human therapist would desensitize you if you had a fear of spiders. On session one, maybe they would have you watch Charlottes Web. On session two, a spider in a cage 12 feet away. They would adjust depending on how you were doing. Sweating or a racing pulse = ok, vommitting, constant screaming or wetting yourself? Go backwards! If you were really and truly sweating over Charlotte's web, the therapist would keep playing it, Clockwork Orange style. You'd have multiple sessions, maybe even homework to watch it. Conversely, if you barely sweat the first time, he would do something different the next time. What he wouldn't do is show you 5 minutes of Charlotte's Web. Your not going to have time to desensitize to it. In fact, if you shake/sweat when you see the 5 minutes of Charlotte's Web, maybe that makes a bad association with the movie, and because its only 5 minute sessions, you don't have time to calm down, and maybe you end up afraid of the movie. So I'm pretty against doing anything in 5 minute increments -- unless you have no choice, because the roaming cat won't go near the lovely gate you put up.

My two cents.
 
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Furmama22

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Thank you for your perspective! I'll keep that in mind. :)
 

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That's great, thank you pearl99 pearl99 ! Our five minute visual access experiences seem to be going well. They're both very focussed on the food/treats and not on each other. So I'll keep doing that. And perhaps I'll return visual access during meals too, just a bit. They both love eating.

I'm working from home right now so I can also do as many times as needed through-out the day. :)

Funny that you mention the Ripple Rug too. I was thinking of getting one of those too!
Mine love the Ripple Rug. It's been hilarious watching them hide in it, half hide in it, pounce out of it. Over time it got less stiff and harder to make the mounds and ridges, but I'm following the advice on the web site on how to clean it, make it a bit stiffer, etc.
I lengthen the visuals gradually, even if by 15 seconds only, if they tolerate. And I use the towel raising visual thing.

As A ArtNJ states, there are different methods of intros. My one cat Gracie, who I adopted 13 months ago at age 11 years, who doesn't mind other cats- but who sleeps most of the time (her health checks out fine) and loves to hang out in a cat bed or tower 90% of the time sleeping, and hates to be confined, I used more the A ArtNJ methods (I have read a lot of intro posts to learn) because otherwise the residents would have hardly ever seen her and adjusted to her or remembered her between encounters. And it worked for them.

Otherwise I'm more of a slower introducer, so people do what is comfortable for them and how their cats do and how they feel about it all.
 
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calicosrspecial

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Thank you C calicosrspecial and pearl99 pearl99 !! I will try to incorporate a bit more special time with Florence in the room again (we were doing that at the beginning until she was like, let me out!!) and see if that helps Hawthorne feel more confident in his territory. When he does need to go in the room, I'll go with him and we can play/clicker train/hang out.

And pearl99 pearl99 , the house is basically a (small) rectangle bungalow with finished basement. Living room/dining room/kitchen on the main floor, plus a bathroom and two bedrooms, and then a bedroom, family room, and unfinished room in the basement. The cats seem to spend the most time where I spend the most time, which is in the living room upstairs. It's not a huge space, so I've tried to add a cat tree and a few other things to help out the territory. It has a big window for squirrel/bird watching.

I'll keep trying to focus on Hawthorne and keep him confident. :) That's a helpful idea.

Out of curiousity, how often do most people do the "at the door/gate visits" for getting them to feel positively about each other? And, what do most people do to extend those visits? We're good until the treats run out (after 5 minutes) and then I'm not sure what else to do with them. Usually then we close the door and wait for next time. I was including meals as well but a cat behavourist I spoke to suggested that if Florence was still growling, it might indicate the meals were not 'positive enough' an experience and to limit it to really high value treats.
"I will try to incorporate a bit more special time with Florence in the room again (we were doing that at the beginning until she was like, let me out!!) and see if that helps Hawthorne feel more confident in his territory." - I think that is always good. Just trying to keep it as positive as possible. Keeping the cat(s) distracted so that the other cat doesn't think they are so focused it is a threat. And then you get a positive encounter and that in time builds trust and confidence.

" When he does need to go in the room, I'll go with him and we can play/clicker train/hang out." - Yes, just make it as positive as possible for him so he views it as something good.

"And pearl99 pearl99 , the house is basically a (small) rectangle bungalow with finished basement. Living room/dining room/kitchen on the main floor, plus a bathroom and two bedrooms, and then a bedroom, family room, and unfinished room in the basement. The cats seem to spend the most time where I spend the most time, which is in the living room upstairs. It's not a huge space, so I've tried to add a cat tree and a few other things to help out the territory. It has a big window for squirrel/bird watching." - Sounds perfect.

"I'll keep trying to focus on Hawthorne and keep him confident. :) That's a helpful idea." - Yes, the resident cat always has the most difficult transition so helping them adjust is a good focus. New cats tend to have an easier adjustment given they don't have territory they fear of losing.

"Out of curiousity, how often do most people do the "at the door/gate visits" for getting them to feel positively about each other?" - It depends. I believe it is all about quality over quantity. So two positive sessions is better than 4 total with 1 negative session.

" And, what do most people do to extend those visits?" - Distraction - so treats (but slowly them down to extend), safe love, a toy, calm, confident and loving words, anything to get them focused on something other than the other cat but in a positive way.

"We're good until the treats run out (after 5 minutes) and then I'm not sure what else to do with them." - Yes, that is always the trick. So try to extend the treats and then use the above. BUT 5 minutes of high quality positive association and positive encoutner is excellent to build that trust and confidence.

"Usually then we close the door and wait for next time." - That is fine.

" I was including meals as well but a cat behavourist I spoke to suggested that if Florence was still growling, it might indicate the meals were not 'positive enough' an experience and to limit it to really high value treats." - Yes, I do meals as well. How exactly was Florence during the meals? And how long ago was Florence growling during meals? Usually if there is an issue I move the bowls back a bit. I do agree with the cat behaviorist that it may not have been "positive enough". And I think that is key. There are now "set rules" that have to be followed. Whatever works to make a positive association and positive encounter is the right thing to do.

" Cat trees are a real help to have with intros, if you can afford more than one. And scratching posts around the house. " - Totally agree with this. Cat trees give the ability to let a cat get their scent on it and "own" something which helps in building confidence and confident cats are more likely to accept and be accepted. And cat trees can give an option to go high and many cats feel more safe and confident going high in the world.

"For at the gate/door, calicosrspecial will have info plus what I do is even just a few minutes- 2, 3, 4 times per day. (I'm retired so I have time for that much.) I find brushing the kitty at the door/gate- or as close as kitty will comfortably get- if the cat likes it is great too. My latest addition, Ziggy, loves loves to be brushed. With me it's just me in the house so I usually brushed the resident as a pleasurable encounter within sight of the other cat- if the cat is not too stressed seeing the other and you're sure she/he won't lash out at you. I also do meals of wet food as close as each cat will get, even if it's 12 feet away for the resident. " - Pearl is spot on. Anything to make a positive encounter and get the cats focused on something other than the other cat.

"My plan is to work up to unlimited visual access through the gates before moving to in person time. I just need to figure out how to move from the 5 minute positive visual access times to making it a bit longer. " - Just try different things and see what works. Sometimes it just takes a little time for them to be able to extend as well. I am not worried, we will make it happen. It is normal. It really is all about reinforcing positives to build trust.

"That's great, thank you pearl99 pearl99 pearl99 pearl99 ! Our five minute visual access experiences seem to be going well. They're both very focussed on the food/treats and not on each other. So I'll keep doing that." - Perfect!! THIS is EXACTLY what we want to achieve.

" And perhaps I'll return visual access during meals too, just a bit. They both love eating." - Yes, try doing it with a little visual or further away. Just try some things and see what works.

"I'm working from home right now so I can also do as many times as needed through-out the day. :) " - Great. Just when you do it try to be as calm and confident as possible. And cats like routines so have kind of a schedule when they are a bit hungry, etc can work well.

"Funny that you mention the Ripple Rug too. I was thinking of getting one of those too! " - Cats love those.

Pearl is exactly right. There are many different intro processes. It is like trying to go from LA to NYC. One can fly, drive, take the train. They will all get you there (which is really the goal). They just get you there in different ways and some are more risky while others are less. There is no one right way to do intros. Matching the process with the human and cat personalities is the best. I tend to be slow because my experience is the biggest mistake I see is rushed intros that ingrain some negative feelings which take time to undo and then build trust. Of course, I don't get called in when fast intros work either so I am biased. Whatever works is the right way to go.

The good news is, I am highly, highly confident they will be intro's successfully. I am not at all worried. So far I have not read any reason why there will be an issue. How long it will take? I don't know. BUT we will be successful. I am not at all worried.
 
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