Cat introduction stuck at the last step

jessaisquoi

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Hello, I am sure there are questions about cat introductions all the time but I feel at a loss and googling things always gives me the same information that I've been working with since the beginning.

Background: I had two cats, Lucca (11, f) and Korra (7, f), for 7 years. They got along just fine, liked to rough house, but Korra would always back off if Lucca hissed or wasn't down to play. Sadly, earlier this year, Lucca passed away due to cancer. I always considered Korra a social cat and I've always been a two-cat household, so some time after I adopted June (1, f). Who came from a shelter/foster setting and although the foster said June took longer than most cats to warm up to other cats but would eventually get there (and I witnessed her being just fine with her other foster cats)

In the introduction process, the “new cat” room has been my home office, while Korra has the run of the rest of the house. They both have their own water/food/litter boxes/cat beds/you name it. My introduction process has stalled at the “see each other with a baby gate between them” phase for months. They never had any adverse reaction to each other's scents when trading territories or toys/blankets/etc, or hearing each other on opposite sides of the door.

With the baby gate they both want to sit and watch each other, but that riles them up. Korra starts pacing and flipping her tail (never hisses or growls) and will rush the baby gate which makes June growls and hiss at Korra but won't leave even though she has plenty of room to go where Korra isn't. I try not to intervene as soon as they start getting sassy but I try not to let it go on too long without separating them with a door. But the kicker is- Sometimes I'll catch June social rolling/showing her belly at Korra, they'll greet each other by sniffing nose-to-nose through the baby gate, and they will literally sit next to each other without the gate and take turns being fed treats.

But every time I try to let them exist without the baby gate and I'm not actively giving them treats, it has ended with a fight. As far as I can tell, Korra charges June and June tries to get away but doesn't use the vertical space of the cat towers and ends up getting cornered. There's also very little lead up to the attack either, Korra never hisses or growls. (Also, I'm very sure they are fighting and not just rough housing.)

As best as I can tell, Korra is probably being territorial, which has come as a huge surprise to me because Korra always backed off if Lucca gave her vibes that she didn't want to be messed with, which seems to do the opposite when June does it. They both want to be around me and I trade their territories every day so that one of them doesn't always get to be with me at work all day (I work from home) and I take time to play with both of them every day.

We have been at this step for three months. I don't know if it's just a case of giving it time or if there should be something else I should be doing or some behavior I'm misunderstanding. Extended family tell me just to let them fight it out but I don't want either of them to get hurt. I'm nearly to the point that I'm considering hiring a cat behavioral therapist (expensive) but figured it wouldn't hurt to ask if anyone else has any insight that might crack the case. Sorry this is long, I'm just trying to include as much context as possible and I'm including some pictures of the cat's interactions/body language.
 

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Alldara

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If there were still times when rushing the gate, it was too soon to move on to non-gated intros.

What are you giving them "to do" when you're all at the gate together? You want to be finding things that break eye contact of one another. That's why Jackson Galaxy suggests feeding, however toys work well in many cases too.

You can try taking a worn shirt of yours and rubbing it on Cat A, then Cat B then Cat A again.

Are you using Feliway Multicat? It might be helpful.

You can also try some cat calming music. Most streaming services have this. Try to choose ones without high pitched tones. Cat purring on a loop also works.

Ideally, for their new-first out time together they'll have a few positive interactions through the gate and then they'll do something together with you even if it's "watch these squirrels through the window while on separate chairs". received_445934379634541~3.jpeg

Another thing I found helpful was slowly expanding new cat's territory (NC). Just for gated visitation time. So for example they all start out here in the office. Then they get the office and part of the hallway, this accesses our bathroom as well. And then they get both bedrooms and hallway. The plan of my home lets me do this and doesn't work for everyone. Gated visitation happens all the time that I can do it; whether I have to do a short one or can camp out with a book and a cat toy for a few hours - I always sit at the gate. I sit at the edge of the gate and my legs stretch out in front. One cat must step on my to get to the other. But also I can provide comfort to my resident cat (RC) this way. (Says I personally won't let this new family member hurt you.)

What room is NC in? Is there a reason RC could be jealous of that room? (For example if it's your befroom or home office)
 
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jessaisquoi

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What are you giving them "to do" when you're all at the gate together? You want to be finding things that break eye contact of one another. That's why Jackson Galaxy suggests feeding, however toys work well in many cases too.

You can try taking a worn shirt of yours and rubbing it on Cat A, then Cat B then Cat A again.
I have been sitting with them and giving them treats/playing, and I have tried having some interactive cat toys in the middle to see if they would play with them together if I wasn't actively sitting there. Their food bowls are not right up against the gate but close enough to be aware of each other when they're eating (the bedroom and the office are directly across from each other, bedroom is where RC hangs out most of the time and office is where NC hangs out) As long as they could be distracted and break eye contact they were fine, and when I'm "away" if they start getting sassy and I catch it early I can make a noise and distract them, but if I'm not actively monitoring it they will end up staring at each other.

Should I limit baby gate time to entirely when I can be directly present? Or what should I do to properly intercept them at the gate to create positive associations (while also not teaching them that being jerks to each other will get them treats and play).

Also I've been doing the rubbing a shirt/blanket/trading scent for awhile and neither of them seem to mind being rubbed with each other's scent.

What room is NC in? Is there a reason RC could be jealous of that room? (For example if it's your befroom or home office)
Very possible. NC is in the home office where I am at least 8 hours a day, and where RC's favorite perch used to be (I moved the perch to the bedroom once NC came). The other option I had was my bedroom which I thought RC would like less because she likes to sleep with me at night. The bathroom is way too small for a cat to hang out in for multiple hours a day. The only other option would be to set up the baby gate in the hall and let NC have the living room (not somewhere RC hangs out often) and let RC have the bedroom AND home office. I was originally avoiding that because I don't spend a lot of time in the living room and thought my current set up would give them both time with me.

Are you using Feliway Multicat? It might be helpful.
Not yet! I wasn't sure how good the range was on them, is it helpful to just have them somewhere in the room or would they be ideal near the baby gate?

Ideally, for their new-first out time together they'll have a few positive interactions through the gate and then they'll do something together with you even if it's "watch these squirrels through the window while on separate chairs".
That's a good idea. NC loves watching out the window. RC isn't as into it but if I could time it when she also wants to nap in the cat tower nearby, would that count as "spending time together"?

Thank you for your reply!
 

Alldara

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I have been sitting with them and giving them treats/playing, and I have tried having some interactive cat toys in the middle to see if they would play with them together if I wasn't actively sitting there. Their food bowls are not right up against the gate but close enough to be aware of each other when they're eating (the bedroom and the office are directly across from each other, bedroom is where RC hangs out most of the time and office is where NC hangs out) As long as they could be distracted and break eye contact they were fine, and when I'm "away" if they start getting sassy and I catch it early I can make a noise and distract them, but if I'm not actively monitoring it they will end up staring at each other.

Should I limit baby gate time to entirely when I can be directly present? Or what should I do to properly intercept them at the gate to create positive associations (while also not teaching them that being jerks to each other will get them treats and play).

Also I've been doing the rubbing a shirt/blanket/trading scent for awhile and neither of them seem to mind being rubbed with each other's scent.



Very possible. NC is in the home office where I am at least 8 hours a day, and where RC's favorite perch used to be (I moved the perch to the bedroom once NC came). The other option I had was my bedroom which I thought RC would like less because she likes to sleep with me at night. The bathroom is way too small for a cat to hang out in for multiple hours a day. The only other option would be to set up the baby gate in the hall and let NC have the living room (not somewhere RC hangs out often) and let RC have the bedroom AND home office. I was originally avoiding that because I don't spend a lot of time in the living room and thought my current set up would give them both time with me.

Not yet! I wasn't sure how good the range was on them, is it helpful to just have them somewhere in the room or would they be ideal near the baby gate?


That's a good idea. NC loves watching out the window. RC isn't as into it but if I could time it when she also wants to nap in the cat tower nearby, would that count as "spending time together"?

Thank you for your reply!
You've got a few things going well then!

If it's going well I wouldn't limit it to when you can be there. You're nearby afterall. If your cats aren't chewers you could hang a pompom or mouse or two on the gate. I use sisal or cotton.

At first, I didn't care, if Nobel looked at Magnus with or without hissing, he got a treat. (I used alternative kibble as a treat). Same with if he let Magnus come close. I'd say it's okay, shhh. And not let Magnus come closer and give him a treat or put the treat where he would have to turn away from Magnus. Of course, you can never let the kitten come closer if you make the other cat turn away.

Narrate for them a lot. Use a consistent vocabulary so that they learn to understand. That's super helpful.

RC is being denied you all work day. So that will make RC upset for sure. Can you site swap them for part of the work day and bring the tree in? How hard is it to relocate your gate? Perhaps NC can go to the livingroom after lunch or something. I was able to borrow a second gate off my Buy Nothing Group, you can search for yours! Many places have them.

If you can plug it near to your office I think that would be good. We have one per level, but I'm unsure of the working range on them.

And yes that would certainly count as time together!
 

Mamanyt1953

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Let's try this, as well as A Alldara 's excellent advice. Let actually site swap. Put Korra in the "new cat room" for a part of each day, and let June roam the rest of the house. A LOT of people overlook this step, and I think it is crucial, because it gets the smell of BOTH cats mingled EVERYWHERE, and to a large extent, territory for cats is defined by smell. If the smell is blended all over the entire living area, they'll begin to accept that.
 
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