Fixing a bad introduction

Sam_

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Hi folks,

I'm currently in the process of trying to introduce my new cat to our established cat and it's not going swimmingly. At least I don't think so. I'm hoping that people more experienced with this sort of thing can provide some guidence.

For background, we brought M (1ish year old, male) home from the rescue centre almost three weeks ago, and our 'established' cat, P (7ish year old, female), wasn't a fan. Admittedly, we didn't do our research before bringing him home so initial introductions went poorly. We pretty much just let them have a smell of each other for a while with M in the carrier before letting him loose. They didn't seem too stressed about being in the same room and were pretty chill unitl M got too close. Hissing and growling from P whenever M got too close, but not much more than that. M settled into the house very quickly and seemed happy, still does. Lots of playing, purring, cuddles and affection. Whilst P initially seemed like the aggressive one of the two, it's now M that is the one that takes it to the next level. Whilst P is more vocal, she's quite defensive and will try to leave the area. M will chase her and pounce if she turns her back, resulting in lots of noise, fur flying, and P hiding away for a while. I'm not 100% sure on who's fur it was, but I suspect P's. M doesn't seem phased in the slightest and goes back to being his usual, charming self. The second time this happened (couple of days apart), we split them up and finally looked up the proper method for introducing them and realised we'd been doing it all wrong.

We've since been keeping them separate, doing the feedings on the other side of the door, site swapping, visual contact, all that stuff. We've been waiting until it seems both cats are comfotable before moving on. Unfortunately today P barged her way into the kitchen where M was and tried to scoot past to get to the area where we keep the food (a dead end, unfortunately). M was close by, chased and pounced, and we ended up with fur flying again. The fights never last long and they're not locked in, but I'm concerned that it's done irreparable damage to their potential relationship. We got to the stage where both seemed comfortable eating in the same room, with occasional glances at each other, but no outward signs of distress. After food is a different story. We tried the 'eat, play, love' approach from the Jackson Galaxy videos, but M quickly becomes fixated on P and relentlessly hounds her, ending with the seemingly inevitable 'hiss-chase-pounce-fight' routine.

The plan going forward is to now keep P in the kitchen area and let M have his run of the rest of the house. Both areas are big enough to keep the cats in permanently (although we'd rather not), and P will have access to the garden. We're going back to the original distances for other side of the door feedings and will work forward from there, but won't do the site swap for a while.

So, I suppose my questions are: 1) can this situation be repaired, or is all hope lost? And 2) if it can be fixed, how do we gauge when it's right to move onto the next stage? My judgement is obviously a little off as we've moved too quickly a couple of times now, so could do with some pointers.

Any other tips or guidance on getting these two to the stage where they tolerate each other would be much appreciated.

Thanks in advance, and sorry for the wall of text :)
 

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ArtNJ

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The Jackson Galaxy guide is ok, but I like this site's guide a little better, its similar but more streamlined. How To Successfully Introduce Cats: The Ultimate Guide – TheCatSite Articles Ideally, I think you'd let a visual access step run for quite a while, if you can get a secure gate set up. There are pictures of some homemade get set ups in the link.

We have a separate guide for fixing a bad introduction . . . and there is nothing wrong with it, but it mostly boils down to back up, do it again, following the ultimate guide (linked above). In any event, here it is, perhaps there is some independent value to it that I missed on my prior reading: How To Fix An Unsuccessful Cat Introduction – TheCatSite Articles

Is the younger cat hissing when charging in? A lot of times one year olds are play maniacs and just a super PITA about wanting to play and totally ignoring the most obviouis social cues that an older cat emphatically does NOT want to play. It tends to make things a bit harder, since the introduction is mostly to eliminate "stranger danger" and is not going to get an older cat to suddenly like getting jumped on. So yes, you should back up . . . but its quite possible there will still be issues after that. Cats can get "work through" issues other than actual true fights given time. It sounds like you may have true fights now, and if so, they really can't work through that on their own, so hopefully the introduction will do at least enough that any remaining tensions dont cause true fights.
 
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Sam_

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Thanks for the info guys. I'd skimmed the articles before but I'll go back and have a good read through.

Is the younger cat hissing when charging in?
No. The noise mostly seems to come from the older cat. If it weren't for the claws and flying fur I'd think it was playing.

I think, in hindsight, the visual contact stage was far too short and that's the main root of the problem. I'll see if we can get a screen door or a couple of baby gates or something to make it easier once we get back to that stage.
 

ArtNJ

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It could still be playing, or playing that morphs when met with hostility. With no hissing and the cat being one -- at the absolute peak of crazy enthusiasm for playing -- its a decent bet that it at least starts as playing. I had a cat like that once. He only wanted to play, but shortly after he turned one, it was like a switch flipped and he wouldn't tolerate being hissed/defensively swatted at -- he would go from wanting to play to fighting in a heartbeat. I think thats quite rare, but it does happen.

Anyway, backing up and greatly extending the visual access step sounds like an excellent plan.
 
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