Cat bothering other cat. Do I intervene?

Anoxia

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Hello! I have two children who I love and adore: Juno (14 months, female) and Henri (12 months, female), who have been living with me and each other for 10 months.

They have never fought and they seem to get along. They can eat near each other (and have to be separated during mealtimes for unrepentant thievery), play in the same room, play together, and pass in the hall while ignoring each other.

However, it seems that Juno gets on Henri's nerves. Sometimes she tries to initiate play, such as ambushing Henri, or biting Henri's shoulder, when Henri is not feeling up to it. At other times, Henri seems to slap her--with annoyance, and not in a way to initiate play--before Juno tries to engage, as if she is assuming Juno will bother her and takes the initiative to quell any interaction before it happens. (I'm a first time cat mom; I understand they communicate more with their eyes and body language than I know. During these times, it seems to me that Juno is calm and unbothersome, but it's possible she is saying something I cannot see, or simply that Henri assumes she will be bothered due to past experiences, even if Juno is content to ignore her at that specific instance.) Juno used to groom Henri, but stopped 3 months ago since Henri would end every session with a tussle; Henri never groomed back, although she was not against approaching Juno (Henri has since stopped). The most vocal Henri has gotten during a tussle has been a grumbling sort of meow, which lasts less than two seconds; I have not heard a full-on yowl from her, although it is possible she simply has a quiet voice, since her normal meows sound like a squeaky toy on its last legs. When she runs away she does not go far and is most likely still in the same room. If she hides, it seems more to me that it is to deter Juno from touching her than from finding her. She does not seem fearful so much as irritated, but she still runs. Juno does not pursue her out of the room, if at all, and her body language appears calm to me, except during times of ambush when she wiggles. Juno does not vocalize during these occurances, although she will happily meow at 4 AM (she has done this since we had her; we like to say she is speaking with ghosts).

Initially, I took a hands-off approach. I wanted them to set their own rules regarding how they lived with one another, and I didn't want to impact anyone's confidence by making them feel as I had to be relied upon to enforce peace. However, it has been over 3 months since they willingly approached each other to sleep side by side, and it has gotten to the point where I expect Henri to feel bothered every day. It seems they play with each other less and have disagreements more.

I got the impression that Juno was not having her energy needs met by Henri, and recently I made the decision to intervene instead of asking them to work it out on their own.
  • I have expanded their play time to three times a day: when I wake up, when I come home from work, and before bed. All playtimes combined last 30 minutes at minimum, but they set the play schedule during the session after work (meaning I don't make the prey "die" after a predetermined number of minutes have passed, but wait for them to seem bored first) so the actual playtime per day is flexible. All play sessions are ended with a meal.
  • I started hiding toys around the apartment before I leave for work; they are gone by the time I get back.
  • I started training with Juno in hopes of tiring her out mentally as well; she is a big scaredy cat and spooked by many things, so we're currently working on paw handling and have not reached anything more complex.
  • If I feel Henri will be bothered, I try to distract Juno, such as by throwing a toy or holding an impromptu training session.
  • I am trying not to have Henri feel neglected while I work with Juno, and I set aside 15 minutes a day to just be with her alone. Henri does not like to be pet and she is more than fine being playful with me, but we often just spend the time cuddling on the couch.

Other notes include:
  • They have been checked up at the vet twice and came back each time with no concerns.
  • If they are both interested in something I always buy a second so they can each have their own.

The training was initiated early, but the extended play and hidden toys were implemented as recently as this month and at this point I cannot tell if I'm helping or harming their relationship. I feel that leaving them to figure it out was not working with them, but my initial concerns still stand. Is taking over 3 months to establish a co-existant relationship considered normal, especially since they are still closer to being kittens than not? Would my actions disrupt their own ability to hash things out among themselves, or is it fine to continue intervening? I understand that sometimes the most I can ask for is that they can live under one roof, even if they are not the best of friends, but is there anything more I can do to foster positive relationships between them?

Thank you so much for taking the time to read it all! I've attached images of my beautiful daughters; Juno is the calico and Henri is the orange and white.

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rubysmama

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Awww... they're beautiful. :redheartpump:

Quick question: they're both spayed, right?

Reading through your post, nothing really stood out as concerning. There's no actual fighting, right. Or fur flying, or blood shed? Both are eating, sleeping and using the box normally, right? No one seeming stressed? Those are the things you need to watch for.

It's possible that one just has a higher play/energy level than the other. And it's also possible they may never be besties, particularly as they're both female. But they're also still young, so things could change as they get a bit older.

Some of their squabbles could be play fighting. Here's a TCS article that describes Are My Cats Fighting Or Playing? – Cat Articles

And a couple on stress, though nothing stood out to suggest either of them is stressed.
Is Your Cat Stressed Out? | TheCatSite
You, Your Cat And Stress | TheCatSite
 
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Anoxia

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rubysmama rubysmama Thank you so much! Yes, they were both spayed at the shelter before we got them; there are no fights (fur flying, blood drawn), and their eating, litterbox, and grooming habits are normal.

Thank you for the articles as well! If they squabble for a long time I usually chalk it up to playing based on their body language; with the bothering, it's less of a fight and more Henri trying to get away, and happens relatively quickly. Besides the fact that Henri is much more reactive to Juno's presence (e.g. slapping when Juno gets too close), neither of them seem to display the stress signs listed in the article.

I'm incredibly relieved to hear there's nothing concerning! I think to me it feels like a deterioration because they used to sleep together and I loved seeing them groom, but to be fair to Henri, I have never seen her accept it with grace, even at the height of their relationship when they were together all the time. It's a shame, because Juno did wonders for her post-shelter ears; we even paid to have the ears tested because Henri's was so concerning, but we were just told they were filthy. :^) She is much more capable of self-cleaning them now, though.

Here's a picture of the last time I saw them together in August; Juno seemed incredibly intent on getting her tongue down as far as it would go. 😂
 

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She's a witch

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I'd say it's totally normal and nothing to worry about. And I don't really think that you're truly intervening, as redirecting would hardly be considered that, you simply trying to manage the fact that you have two cats at different energy levels and you're doing great work. To me, intervening would mean that you physically, or with some noise, try to separate Juno when she bothers Henri, and I don't think you need to do this, they will manage with their own language.
I have two cats that like to play differently: one is a chaser, the other one is a wrestler. The wrestler often wants to, well, wrestle, and my girl is not having it, so she hisses at him a lot. Sometimes she growls. All totally normal :) And funny to watch :) They have lots of jumping and chasing parties despite of that. As long as they are not tense around each other and get along good otherwise, nothing to worry about. Cats don't have to be best friends to benefit from their own company, being simply play buddies is more than enough. I like to refer to the relationship that my cats have as "siblings in their teens"; they have lots of disagreements but there's not doubt they are attached to each other, even if they don't show it through cuddling/grooming.
 
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Anoxia

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She's a witch She's a witch Thank you so much!! I really appreciate hearing that; I was starting to get stressed out about it myself, and I was worried it would contribute to a perpetuating cycle, haha. Describing them as siblings in their teens helps to put it in perspective; my sibling and I certainly caused our parents to come home to broken china more than once, but that didn't mean we didn't like each other!

Thank you guys so much again; I just got on a computer and scrolling down felt like running a marathon! 😂 I truly appreciate the time that was taken to read about my baby girls and respond! :hugs:
 
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