Cats not getting along, stress levels high

Hellosquare

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Hi all,

I am looking for some thoughts on my situation between my two spayed, female cats. I’ll try to sum up the last 16 weeks as best I can!

I have had my resident cat, May, since last fall. She is 3 years 4 months old and was found as a timid, pregnant stray. She is gentle (with humans), playful, energetic, cuddly…I thought she’d do well with another cat.

I got Elle at the end of May. She is extremely sweet and an extremely sociable cat. She came from a hoarder situation. She had kittens in February and was spayed about three weeks prior to me taking her home.

Tried to do a slow introduction, Jackson Galaxy style. May was highly territorial (yowling, swatting under the door, etc.). After a couple of days, I started the process of food bowls on either side of the door and scent swapping. There were three times when one of them escaped over the course of two and a half months- and May would chase, claw, yowl, until Elle could escape or I could safely intervene on the fight. Over all of this time; we got to the cats eating right next to each other separated by a gate about four weeks ago. When we finally put them in the same room, I had someone play with one cat in the corner and I played with the other in the opposite corner. We made two days in a row for five minutes. On the third day, Elle wandered a bit out of the corner and May attacked.

At that point, I contacted a cat behaviorist. She wasn’t able to come out last week. Her advice was restarting the introduction process- adding more play time, clicker training for May. She suggested that eating that close together was actually increasing the tension between them.

This whole process has taken a large impact on my mental health and stress levels. When I think of going forward with multiple more months of work, alone, I feel like I can’t do it. My good friend wants to take her, and I feel like this is the best alternative if it doesn’t work out, but I’m heartbroken over this. At what point is rehoming the best option? Has anyone had a similar experience that has worked out?
 

maggie101

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I have clicker trained my cat Maggie to come when called. That has helped a lot. Coco is afraid of her. Maggie is territorial including over me. Coco sleeps on top of my couch so she can observe. Somehow Maggie knows not to bother my cats when they jump above her. She walks away!
 

Mamanyt1953

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Let's get back to some basics...you say that you started feeding on opposite sides of the door after a couple of days. That may have been WAY too soon. I've seen very successful cat introductions that took 6 months to a year to complete. Each cat must be comfortable on their own side of the door. Start the feeding far apart, and inch the bowls closer together. If someone gets jumpy, back up to the distance at which they feel safe. You cannot rush this. You cannot move any faster than the MOST reluctant cat is willing to go. Time and patience are on your side in this.

 

ArtNJ

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I'm not a fan of the Jackson Galaxy feeding step either. I don't know how helpful it really is, and people don't seem to realize what Mamanyt1953 Mamanyt1953 mentioned, that you can start the bowls further apart and move them closer, because I don't think that is in Jackson's guide at all. So the focus on it always seems to stress people the heck out. You aren't alone there. I don't think that step is in this site's guide at all (which is otherwise very similar).

All of that said, you've had a long introduction process, and I don't really know how it went at the end, how long you had the gates up for, and how that went. I regarding the gates as perhaps the most important step. If they are up for a good while (at least several days) and the cats don't seem stressed anymore, then generally its safe to move on. But the key isn't really them eating on either side of the gate for a few minutes, its having the gates be up for days (or weeks if needed) and having the cats get used to each other.

It may also be useful to talk about what you mean by "attacked". A full cat fight tends to be destructive of progress. A cat charging another cat and swatting is often different, motivated not by a desire to hurt, but to simply back the other cat off. That isn't necessarily a set-back at all.

Generally, when its time to put them together, you don't need to do that thing you did with your wife. If its time, you let them do their thing, and try and work through their issues. If they don't actually fight, the growling and hissing and maybe even charge swatting can be worked through. With lots of time together. Keeping them distracted from each other isn't really a substitute for that. You can't micro manage that last step -- they have to do some work on their own at the end sometimes.

All of that said, I don't think its a sin to give up where you have a great home lined up for one of the cats.
 
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Hellosquare

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Let's get back to some basics...you say that you started feeding on opposite sides of the door after a couple of days. That may have been WAY too soon. I've seen very successful cat introductions that took 6 months to a year to complete. Each cat must be comfortable on their own side of the door. Start the feeding far apart, and inch the bowls closer together. If someone gets jumpy, back up to the distance at which they feel safe. You cannot rush this. You cannot move any faster than the MOST reluctant cat is willing to go. Time and patience are on your side in this.

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It may have been too soon; but unfortunately, I can’t take that back. The process has been extremely gradual with the food bowls. I haven’t moved them up unless each cat was able to finish their meal and then walk away
 
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Hellosquare

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I'm not a fan of the Jackson Galaxy feeding step either. I don't know how helpful it really is, and people don't seem to realize what Mamanyt1953 Mamanyt1953 mentioned, that you can start the bowls further apart and move them closer, because I don't think that is in Jackson's guide at all. So the focus on it always seems to stress people the heck out. You aren't alone there. I don't think that step is in this site's guide at all (which is otherwise very similar).

All of that said, you've had a long introduction process, and I don't really know how it went at the end, how long you had the gates up for, and how that went. I regarding the gates as perhaps the most important step. If they are up for a good while (at least several days) and the cats don't seem stressed anymore, then generally its safe to move on. But the key isn't really them eating on either side of the gate for a few minutes, its having the gates be up for days (or weeks if needed) and having the cats get used to each other.

It may also be useful to talk about what you mean by "attacked". A full cat fight tends to be destructive of progress. A cat charging another cat and swatting is often different, motivated not by a desire to hurt, but to simply back the other cat off. That isn't necessarily a set-back at all.

Generally, when its time to put them together, you don't need to do that thing you did with your wife. If its time, you let them do their thing, and try and work through their issues. If they don't actually fight, the growling and hissing and maybe even charge swatting can be worked through. With lots of time together. Keeping them distracted from each other isn't really a substitute for that. You can't micro manage that last step -- they have to do some work on their own at the end sometimes.

All of that said, I don't think its a sin to give up where you have a great home lined up for one of the cats.
I have had the gates up the entire time- for the first month, with a closed door behind it as May figured out how to open the door so I had to tie the gate to the door knob with a shoe lace!

There has been no blood drawn from the attacks by May. They look like her chasing Elle- there is a lot of yowling- I’m sure it sounds worse than it is. May tries to claw at Elle- she also hisses and her tail puffs up. During one of them, she redirected her aggression towards me and clawed me pretty bad. I wish I had a video of it. I don’t have a wife lol, I’m by myself in this.

I think part of the confusion with “letting them work it out” is that it’s a big no if it really is serious, but not if they are just trying to establish dominance? I have no idea.

Thank you for the reply
 

ArtNJ

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I think part of the confusion with “letting them work it out” is that it’s a big no if it really is serious, but not if they are just trying to establish dominance? I have no idea.
Right. If there is intent to have a real fight, that can't be allowed to happen as it destroys progress. And it does sound like you could have had a real fight if you hadn't broken it up. Still, if you are at the end of your rope or close, and have already done a proper introduction of months, perhaps you need to find out whether they will fight for real or can potentially work through this. Just keep a towel ready in case you need to grab one cat. You might be surprised. They might be into settle into a stable relationship, even if, initially, there is some mild nastyness and distaste involved.

Its true that some people on here have done stuff like 6 month processes, but I don't know if you are up for that mentally, and I'm not sure how often 6 months will work when the 3+ you did did not. I do know that even if there is some tension and mild unpleasantness when they are put together, that can sometimes be stable and improve over time. The introduction doesn't have to do everything.
 

Mamanyt1953

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Another way to break up the fight is with a large piece of cardboard or a big throw (BIG!) pillow. Get it between the cats, and use it to herd one away from the other. I suggest whichever cat is easiest to move.
 
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