Cat and kitten introduction plateau - seeking advice!

shannimal

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Hi all!

I introduced a 13 week old male intact kitten ("NewCat") to my 2 year old male neutered cat ("HomeCat") over the course of a month and I'm not sure how to read their interactions at this point or how to move forward.

I started things slow using a mix of Jackson Galaxy's and Mieshelle Nagelschneider's methods. In summary, NewCat has his own home base (my bedroom/bathroom) while HomeCat gets the rest of my apartment. I swapped scents (and still do) using socks, other items, and brushing. I have Feliway plug-ins and sprays. Fed cats on either side of door then through covered baby gate, then fed treats on opposite sides of uncovered baby gate. Progressed to play time through uncovered baby gate. Cats would sniff each other through the gate, HomeCat would trill at NewCat, and both cats seemed to want to interact without the gate.

Ungated supervised interaction time started off fine. HomeCat was a bit apprehensive about NewCat tumbling around, understandably. NewCat was also apprehensive about HomeCat's size (NewCat is 2.5 lb. and HomeCat is 15 lb.). This didn't hinder them from eating treats together or playing with wand toys. NewCat even rubbed his head against HomeCat's a few times. The problem is that HomeCat is getting more and more disinhibited and has begun treating NewCat like a toy or prey. It started with HomeCat stalking and chasing NewCat. Progressed to HomeCat cornering NewCat to bat and bite NewCat - including biting at NewCat's tummy. HomeCat isn't hissing or growling during the attacks his ears are upright. His pupils are dilated but no whites showing. He doesn't seem to be using his claws and he hasn't caused any injuries, but the attacks do look aggressive. NewCat is scared of these attacks. NewCat would respond by running, hiding, rolling on his back and hissing/growling/puffing. I always try to intervene before physical contact or escalation. HomeCat doesn't do this all the time - only when he's in an alert mood. Otherwise, he's fine to nap in the same room as NewCat.

After a negative interaction, I move the cats back to gated interactions only for a few days. Again, they play through the gate, trill, and seem to want to meet. Both meow and try to get to the other's side of the gate. However, HomeCat inevitably tries to stalk/chase/bat/bite NewCat at some point during supervised ungated interactions.

My question is - where do I go from here? Here's a link to the kitties interacting through the gate as they're back to gated interactions only. Am I misreading the interaction? Is HomeCat being aggressive in the video? I think he's being playful but his pupils are dilated. His tail is normally low so that's not out of the ordinary.
Many thanks in advance!
 

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susanm9006

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Home cat is most definitely not being aggressive. He is playing very gently with Newcat and looks like he would really like to be together so they could play more. Cat play can be rough and there is a size difference but I would allow them supervised time together and would not separate them unless the Newcat is getting super annoyed or afraid of Newcat.
 
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shannimal

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Home cat is most definitely not being aggressive. He is playing very gently with Newcat and looks like he would really like to be together so they could play more. Cat play can be rough and there is a size difference but I would allow them supervised time together and would not separate them unless the Newcat is getting super annoyed or afraid of Newcat.
Thanks for responding, Susan! I agree from the gated play it looks like they're ready for some more supervised ungated interactions. My worry is that ungated interactions always end with NewCat being very spooked by HomeCat's chasing and biting - NewCat will hiss, run, hide, and start avoiding HomeCat. But when I move back to gated interactions, they interact per the video!
 

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Keep going forward with the ungated interactions, but try and give them things to do together! Some cat-tv, some puzzles (lots of homemade DIY options on youtube!) or even some wand play. It just sounds like they aren't ready for the phase of full focus on one another. And that makes sense given the size difference. In time, NC will hold his own, because he will catch up.

It's really normal for a young male to go a bit too hard in play with another young male. They don't mean any harm; it's just hard for them to contain their excitement and they don't know their own size!

Honestly, that's great gated interactions too! I'd let them interact as much as is possible through the gate as well. Basically, any time I'm home.
 
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shannimal

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Keep going forward with the ungated interactions, but try and give them things to do together! Some cat-tv, some puzzles (lots of homemade DIY options on youtube!) or even some wand play. It just sounds like they aren't ready for the phase of full focus on one another. And that makes sense given the size difference. In time, NC will hold his own, because he will catch up.

It's really normal for a young male to go a bit too hard in play with another young male. They don't mean any harm; it's just hard for them to contain their excitement and they don't know their own size!

Honestly, that's great gated interactions too! I'd let them interact as much as is possible through the gate as well. Basically, any time I'm home.
Thank you! That's reassuring to hear. I'll definitely proceed with supervised ungated interactions and amp up the distractions :)
 

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Thank you! That's reassuring to hear. I'll definitely proceed with supervised ungated interactions and amp up the distractions :)
Good luck! With your older one, you can also use catnip. If it makes him hyper then a bit before and play him out. If it makes him chill, then even during the interactions is fine.

I also like to try some sniffing enrichment. I get a small pack of fresh "chicken herbs" from Walmart. It has sage, thyme, rosemary inside. Those are all cat-safe herbs for sniffing and chewing. So the cats can fuss around with a few stems and I can use the rest!
 
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shannimal

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Good luck! With your older one, you can also use catnip. If it makes him hyper then a bit before and play him out. If it makes him chill, then even during the interactions is fine.

I also like to try some sniffing enrichment. I get a small pack of fresh "chicken herbs" from Walmart. It has sage, thyme, rosemary inside. Those are all cat-safe herbs for sniffing and chewing. So the cats can fuss around with a few stems and I can use the rest!
I love the idea of sniffing enrichment! I'll definitely give it a try :)
 
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