Cat Intro: Am I going too fast?

HeroicJade

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Hello!
This is my first time trying to integrate a second cat into my household. From what I can tell, every experience is different largely based on the cats' personalities. And I'm attempting to do this all by myself, so I guess I'm just looking for a little reassurance that I'm on the right track or for some advice if I'm not. Here's the background:
I brought Shawnee (new cat) home last Sunday and, not realizing there was a step by step recommended approach to intros, I set her loose from her carrier in view of Coraline (resident cat). Coraline was initially wary, but overall curious. Shawnee immediately hid under the couch. Coraline kept peering at where she was and hissed and growled some, but nothing that seemed to verge on aggressive (i.e. no flattened ears or puffed fur), just a warning. I was smart enough to realize they were both uneasy and not to leave them alone so I have a free bedroom I set up as "base" for Shawnee. After googling cat introductions, I thought I may have messed things up, but figured I would just start over.

Thus began letting Coraline figure out there was another cat behind the closed door. I spent the week sleeping with Coraline and switching rooms early in the morning before work to get some sleep time with Shawnee in her room. This was exhausting for me, but I think helped overall. Still it is not something I can or want to do in the long term because I was not actually getting restful sleep. Anyway, I made sure to spend time every day playing with each of them as equally as possible. I even got Coraline to play by the closed door a couple times. I've also done scent swapping. Both are now largely comfortable with each other's scent. There's no hissing at all when I present them with blankets or other things with each other's scent.

Because of that and Shawnee becoming restless in her room, I moved on to site swapping. I was careful and didn't let them see each other. This went well and helped with the scent swapping. Day 5, I switched Shawnee to a bigger spare bedroom and continued previous steps. Day six, I was struggling to balance Shawnee's need for freedom and the need to keep Coraline comfortable, so I figured perhaps a screened separation would help and set up stacked baby gates in front of her door. It actually seemed to ease some of the tension they exhibited through closed doors, so I feel like it was a good choice. But it didn't reduce Shawnee's cries to be let out. Since I was home the whole weekend, I decided to try a supervised face to face. It went well initially with only some staring and hissing, so I continued to do so throughout the weekend in shorter bursts, always sure to praise the good behavior.

Generally Coraline will hiss and growl if Shawnee gets too close and tends to retreat higher up on windowsills and the cat trees as Shawnee doesn't jump if she doesn't have to. Shawnee doesn't seem to understand personal space, though, but I don't believe it's meant aggressively. There are moments that I can distract them and get them to play when they're in the same room. And for the most part they just watch each other (I've since tried to distract when the staring seems prolonged).

There's still no signs of aggression that I'm noticing apart from the hissing and growling, which my coworkers with cats tell me is normal and likely them just figuring out their relationship. But they have had a few "spats" with hissing and swatting when Coraline comes down to the floor and Shawnee gets "too" close. I've distracted and/or separated them when they've swatted during these "spats" and let Coraline calm down. It freaks me out a little, though, honestly. I'm not sure if they're just getting a feel for one another and I should keep bringing them together or if I'm moving too fast and the spats are a sign to slow down. Coraline doesn't really move from her perch when they're in the same room. So I still separate them for feeding and sleeping mainly for Coraline's comfort since Shawnee doesn't seem to care. I have also started letting Shawnee wander the house at night while I sleep with Coraline in my room just so I don't have to listen to her meow all night.

Today is the first day they've been on their own with screened separation as I'm at work. I checked on them midday and they seem fine. Coraline even came up the stairs and peeked at us while I was visiting Shawnee in her room, which is improvement over last night. But overall I've noticed Coraline spends much more time downstairs now.

Sometimes I feel like I'm stressing and working myself up over nothing and sometimes I feel like maybe I'm not careful enough. I know this takes time and it has only been a week, but does it seem like positive progress?
 

sivyaleah

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This sounds like it's going quite well.
Perhaps try backing off when they get a little hissy with each other. Cats will pick up on our tension and the vocalizations are normal. Even some growling is expected but as long as there isn't aggression leading to actual fighting they will figure it out eventually.
Your goal is peaceful co-existence and it sounds like they are well on their way to this. If lucky, they will wind up becoming good friends. Honestly, I think you can start relaxing and just let things progress on their own. I might still separate at night when you aren't able to keep within ear shot just for your own peace of mind but other than that, good job!
 

rubysmama

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Hello and welcome to TCS. I agree with sivyaleah sivyaleah that things sound like they're going really well. A bit of hissing and growling is ok, as it is a cat's way of communicating. It's when there's fur flying or bloodshed, that you really have a problem. And it sounds like you're no where near that.

How old are the cats? Younger cats generally are quicker to take to newbies, than older ones.
 
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HeroicJade

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This sounds like it's going quite well.
Perhaps try backing off when they get a little hissy with each other. Cats will pick up on our tension and the vocalizations are normal. Even some growling is expected but as long as there isn't aggression leading to actual fighting they will figure it out eventually.
Your goal is peaceful co-existence and it sounds like they are well on their way to this. If lucky, they will wind up becoming good friends. Honestly, I think you can start relaxing and just let things progress on their own. I might still separate at night when you aren't able to keep within ear shot just for your own peace of mind but other than that, good job!
Reading this was such a relief. I think I've just been working myself up because it's a change for me too and I just needed someone else to tell me that's what it was for me to believe it. So I took your advice and relaxed last night with a more lengthy face to face. It actually went amazingly well. Both girls were distracted with either food or toys and Coraline took a chance to get much closer than she normally does to Shawnee. The one thing I did see was Shawnee still tends to chase after Coraline. I think it helped to stay out of it, but distract afterward and let both calm down before they tried to get close again. I still think the chasing is meant to be playful, but I'm not entirely positive because it's hard to observe when they dart off so quickly. I'll keep observing for a few days and see if anything changes. :) Thank you for the advice!
 
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HeroicJade

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Hello and welcome to TCS. I agree with sivyaleah sivyaleah that things sound like they're going really well. A bit of hissing and growling is ok, as it is a cat's way of communicating. It's when there's fur flying or bloodshed, that you really have a problem. And it sounds like you're no where near that.

How old are the cats? Younger cats generally are quicker to take to newbies, than older ones.
So, even some chasing could be normal? Coraline is two years old. I believe Shawnee is older, but I'm not quite sure how much older. My sister took her in when my grandma passed and she suggested I see if Coraline gets along better with Shawnee since my sister's dog and Shawnee weren't getting along well. That's why I'm a little worried about the chasing. I don't know if coming from a household with a dog might make her think she needs to do it to defend herself or show dominance...?
I know Shawnee was declawed in her front paws by the owner previous to my grandma (which I don't agree with, so Coraline has all hers). I'm getting her in to my vet as soon as possible, but I don't really know much more about her yet although I believe she is spayed. They're both sweet on their own and Shawnee wants lots of pets and attention, but Coraline is a little more reserved about the petting and only wants it sometimes. Shawnee has seemed so easygoing through the process and even restless to explore, so it's really difficult to tell if she's threatened at all by Coraline.
 

sivyaleah

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H HeroicJade Chasing is normal! It's part of their play. Even some tumbling around with each other. I only worry if it gets rough. My current cats don't interact much (very large age difference between them) but even they will do some chasing around now and then. The older of my current two, used to play very energetically with our boy (he passed a few years back) to the point where sometimes he'd get kind of bitey with her. I allowed that too as long as they were playing quietly. Quiet = play. I'd only interrupt if either starting getting overstimulated by the play. Even then, they always came back for more with each other and were very bonded and sweet together. They just enjoyed rough housing with each other a lot!
 
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HeroicJade

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sivyaleah sivyaleah That's good to know. So maybe right now it's a confidence thing that Coraline will build as they spend more time together. I'll let them continue to get familiar over the next few days and let you know how it goes. :thanks:
 
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HeroicJade

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sivyaleah sivyaleah rubysmama rubysmama
Okay, I need some more advice. I let Shawnee out of her room tonight like I have been doing every day. But this time Coraline was upstairs in my room and Shawnee appeared to be actively stalking her out more so than usual. I tried to distract, but to no avail. Once Shawnee realized Coraline was on the bed, she went after her and they ended up in an actual fight I had break up. Before now, Shawnee has only been able to really chase because Coraline has been more cautious, but this time was a bit scary.

I separated and then fed them in the same room and they were comfortable enough or hungry enough to eat in view of one another. But neither would play with me and Coraline still seemed on edge, so I moved Shawnee back to her room to give them both space.

So, what should I do now? Do I go back a step with no more face to face for a while? I don't really understand the stalking and fighting. Is there something I can be doing to prevent it apart from keeping an eye on them and distracting and/or separating them? I'm kind of mad at myself because tonight was the first time in a while I've come home to Coraline cozy on my bed without me here and that was shattered by this event.
 

rubysmama

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Was this a rolling on the floor, fur flying, loud shrieks kind of fight? Or just growing/hissing and swatting? If it's an actual fight, please be very careful trying to break that up, as they will both be so focused on the other, you could very easily get badly scratched or bitten.

It's only been 2 weeks, right, since you brought Shawnee home, so it might be that you need to slow down a bit, and keep them separated more, until they're more comfortable around each other.

Here's the 2 TCS articles on cat introductions that might be helpful:

How To Successfully Introduce Cats: The Ultimate Guide | TheCatSite
Introducing Cats To Cats | TheCatSite

Plus
How To Fix An Unsuccessful Cat Introduction | TheCatSite
The Multi-Cat Household – TheCatSite Articles

Also
Why Do Cats Attack? – TheCatSite Articles
How To Safely Break Up A Cat Fight – TheCatSite Articles
 
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HeroicJade

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rubysmama rubysmama It was the rolling on the floor, fur flying, loud shrieks kind. I was careful with breaking it up. I tried throwing a shirt and a pillow between them, but it was my first time dealing with that kind of a fight and so the breakup wasn't super quick. Thank you for the articles. They've been helpful and I'll implement a few things from them. I'm taking a step back and keeping them separate and doing some more blanket swapping for now. I'm not sure I'm equipped to handle this right now, though. I'm feeling a little foolish that I didn't think through the timing of everything and chose a somewhat terrible time to attempt an intro. It's causing me a lot of stress between the cats and work and trying to find a balance. I'm going to take another week and see how it goes, but after that I think it may be better if she goes back to live with my sister and perhaps I try the intro again later when I'm more mentally equipped to handle it.
:sigh:
 

rubysmama

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Ok, yeah, that sounds like a fight. :(

Sometimes cat introductions go amazingly fast, but most times they take time. Like weeks, even months. . And though cat parents want them to go more quickly, they'll only go as fast as the cats can handle.

Having the option to let Shawnee go back with your sister until you have more time to oversee introductions is a good thing. Much better than having to return her to a shelter. See how things go this week, and if you end up returning her to your sister, you'll have time to be better prepared for when you try again.
 
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