Help and reassurance with cat introductions

CELA312

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Hi all. Am looking for a bit of help and reassurance with introducing two adult cats to each other. We adopted a stray male cat “Banoffee” who kept visiting us for food - he’s now neutered and chipped and doing really well with us. But introductions with our other cat Lola are rather up and down. Although we read quite a lot beforehand it has been much harder than anticipated. Think we were naive in thinking because Lola had always enjoyed living with other cats before and already knew Banoffee’s scent from him sneaking in it wouldn’t be too hard! But it has not been easy! We have been going very slowly with these introductions (it’s now been 2.5 months since we adopted Banoffee) and we are still at the stage of viewings either side of the pet gate. Some days these go well, with them touching noses either side of the gate and eating close up together. Other days, Banoffee is a bit boisterous (e.g. pawing at Lola - could be attempting to play but hard to know) and Lola hisses at him. We’ve tried a few interactions without the gate in the last few weeks but these haven’t gone well so far - Lola always hisses at him and sometimes he has run at her. He does usually seem to back off when she hisses (except one time when he stole her treats - he is very food driven having been a stray). Where should we go from here? Should we stop ungated interactions for now and wait until we have consistent no hissing either side of the gate for a couple of weeks? Have also been trying to increase the amount of time they see each other for either side of the gate. Is there still hope that we can get this to work between them?! We really don’t want to have to rehome Banoffee - he’s a lovely boy and deserves some stability after his stray past! But also love Lola dearly and don’t want her to be unhappy. Thank you!
 

ArtNJ

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Introductions commonly don't do *all* the work. Hissing at the end is normal and something that cats can work through on their own. One cat running up to try and play (and if he is silent that is most likely what it is) and the other hissing is normal too. If you have had the gates up 24/7 (not sure what you mean by "viewings") for a good while, you might be done with the intro, it having done as much as it can. Its true you don't want them to actually full on fight, and you need to be ready to break one up during the first hour or two (and sometimes multiple sessions of that length if it seems there is some hostility), but it doesn't sound all that likely from what your describing.
 

di and bob

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2.5 months is not long at all for introductions. Females almost ALWAYS hiss and act huffy during introductions, they are the manners teachers, the limit setters, and are NOT happy sharing their domain, especially with boys. If they are touching noses, or close, that is great. They WILL accept each other in time, mine took almost a year, but there were six of them so probably different. Too many for them all to keep tabs on each other and were very nervous. He will probably get his nose bopped a few times until he learns his place, make sure she has a place she can defend, preferably high up. My Chrissy spent many months on a bed on top of the fridge!
 
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CELA312

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Thanks very much both of you for your replies. That's really helpful and reassuring. The gates are up 24 7 but they aren't always able to see each other during that time (often one cat in inside and the other out, or in different rooms) and we have also not been allowing them to see each other when we can't be there to monitor, so they can't always get to the gate to view each other. He is silent when running, so probably he is playing then. Maybe we should now allow them free range to the gates though and keep going with gate free time too. Sounds like it is actually not going too badly! I think perhaps I have been overly anxious about it all! Thanks so much :)
 

ArtNJ

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Sure, might be some mileage left to get if they haven't had free range near the gates, do that for a week or two. Ultimately though, they will likely still need to do some work at the end on their own. There is no perfect process that necessarily makes them instantly free of tension at the end! Makes sense if you think about it, since face-to-face is always going to be more stressful! Its like my kid is taking the SAT. The prep course and practice tests are great, but I'm sure he'll still be sweating bullets. But he can deal with sweating bullets -- its enough that the prep course prevented a panic attack! Similarly, the intro is to prevent them from fighting at the end, not to get rid of all tension.
 

kakers

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Hissing is normal! She's setting her boundaries, and it sounds like for the most part he is accepting them. That's good :) Honestly I have one cat who hisses and swats at our other cats almost daily, the ones she's lived with for over a decade now. Just her way of saying "give me my space."

If he's backing off and neither is acting scared things are going ok!
 
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CELA312

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Thanks so much all! I think I have got overly worried about it as my partner and I had never introduced adult cats to each other before and some of the resources I read seemed to suggest that any 'negative' (e.g. hissing) interactions during introductions was really bad and could set them up for a lifetime of stress and tension! But sounds like it's actually going pretty ok and that they will have to figure some of it out on their own!
 
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CELA312

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Just wanted to say thanks all - they seem to be progressing nicely. Lola still a bit wary and gives him a good hiss every now and then but they are both chilling out in the living room right now - Lola seems to have even specifically chosen to be in the same room as Banoffee as she could easily have gone upstairs to 'her' bedroom.
 

ArtNJ

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Thats great to hear! Yeah, hissing can mean a lot of different things and is perfectly consistent with things going well. In your situation, its an expression of very mild displeasure or very mild warning, both of which are common. I had an indoor/outdoor cat that if you opened the door for him and it was raining, he would hiss at the rain. I've never had it, but some folks have cats that will at them if you take them off the lap. So directed at another cat it can be something as simple as "hey, this is my space/toy!" "I'm watching you!" "I eat first, *&^%!" or other mild communications, no worse than young siblings make to each other all the time.
 

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I have one of those cats that hiss if disturbed. He's just a grumpy old guy, and it doesn't mean anything. He hisses at his housemates (and me) over the smallest things. However, he is bonded with them and routinely grooms and sleeps with them. On a good day, he'll even play with them.

Occasional hissing is just a part of normal life with multiple cats. As long as it's not coupled with other aggressive behavior, it's nothing to worry about.
 
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CELA312

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Me again! Things are progressing I think, but it all seems very up and down. E.g. we just had a calm nose sniff of each other followed by a happy treat feeding session where they seemed really chilled around each other and chose to be close to each other (see the picture). But then afterwards Banoffee chased Lola and pawed at her, and she hissed, growled, and hid from him. This kind of changeable interaction has seemed very common in the last week. I think he is probably attempting playing, as he’s not making any noise and is also fairly easily distracted by calling his name or waving toys at him - but am not completely certain - he could also be being dominant and intimidating? These chasing interactions are making Lola intermittently wary of him - after each chasing she does seem scared and then avoids him for a while. Normally she is a playful cat - she loves chasing toys and birds (and sometimes other cats!), so it’s not that she isn’t interested in playing, but I think maybe she’s not certain of Banoffee’s intentions.

What should we be doing to help them? What’s the best way to intervene in the chasing incidents where Lola seems scared and stressed? I’m wondering if there are particular toys that might help distract in these instances and help them play more together? Banoffee has only just learned how to play with toys - at first he was very scared of them - and he only likes ones that aren’t too big and or noisy. :)


8B7F6944-B8EA-4534-82AF-31E66737202B.jpeg
 

kakers

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How long does Lola stay hiding after he chases her? Does she continue to act scared and avoid him? Or does she hide for a bit then come back out? Does she come back out at all when he's still around or wait for him to be long gone? This will help us know if the behavior is a problem that needs to be avoided or if it's not a big deal. He will likely quit trying if every time he's trying to play she says "back off" then hides, he'll learn that there's no point in trying and will find something more fun to do BUT we don't want him learning that lesson at the expense of her feeling unsafe in her own home. So it all comes down to how she is acting afterwards.

As far as the best toy for distracting that's going to be whatever he likes playing with the most! We have 4 cats and they have different amounts of preference for different toys so there's really no one right answer. As you keep playing with him and learning more about him you'll see which toys he can't resist and which ways of moving the toys really capture his attention! Sometimes it's as much in how you're moving the toy as what the toy is.
 
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CELA312

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Thank you. Lola comes out quite quickly after he's chased her, and whilst he is still around - she does seem a bit scared and and is definitely wary of him afterwards (i.e. she keeps her distance from him for a while and is quite alert, and sometimes she will run off to the bedroom whereas other times she'll stick around but from a distance or a height) but she's not terrified (she isn't hiding away for long or seeming really stressed) - perhaps more pissed off and a bit nervous.

Banoffee's favourite toys are our shoes rather than the feather wands we have! So I think I will get him some kind of string toy as he seems most interested in shoelaces so that might be the best distractor!
 

kakers

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There's some great wand toys that have ribbons! He may like those, I know our cats are fans of that type more than not.

It's a great sign that Lola comes out quickly. Shows she's not too afraid, probably more annoyed and as you say wary, which makes sense. If nobody is getting hurt and she isn't starting to act more scared that's great. You can keep him from chasing some by having something that will block his sight of her, like a big piece of cardboard or a blanket. That can at least distract him just long enough and will do the job until you find a toy that he likes enough to be distracted by something fun instead.
 
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