How to play with two very active cats who aren't ready to be friends just yet?

Willowwombat

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Since we got Dude a couple of weeks ago, my Willow is all of a sudden very eager to play, much more than she has for the last couple of years. She's been watching Dude play, and he's a very energetic cat who will run up and down the stairs and play until he's panting and can't run any more. Apparently she's remembered what real playing is like.

The trouble is, if I try to play with Willow, Dude goes absolutely nutso when I use our feather wand toy, and he can't see me playing with Willow without charging over, at which point there's hissing and the game is over.

Willow has shown a real interest in playing with Dude. She'll play pounce at him with her tail up, but he just hisses. I think eventually these two will be friends. But in the meantime I need to keep them both happy with play.

When I play with the wand, should I just ignore the fact that the game always ends with a hissy fit, and keep trying, and hope that eventually they'll both be able to join in and just have fun? Or is that too much to expect?
 

susanm9006

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I would try to do separate wand or laser playtimes so that each can have some active playtime without the other butting in. Just shut one or the other in a room for the half hour or so of play with the other. You can also try something like a roller ball track that lends itself well to two cats playing at the same time.
 

ArtNJ

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There is this idea that playing with cats together builds positive experiences and helps with relationship building . . . but it rarely seems to work. In practice, a cat with tension won't want to play. Or will be stressed by one cat flying for the toy - just as your seeing. So in practice, I think susanm9006 susanm9006 's answer about separate play sessions is the correct and realistic one.

That said, Susan's idea of a toy that makes it easier for two to play could be tried. You could also try to prompt play in situations which tend to be lower stress, like trying to prompt play through the crack in a door with one on each side of the door. Or perhaps you could prompt play with the more skittish cat having some elevation -- that helps with confidence a surprising amount. I had two cats where the only times in their lives they ever played was when the older one was on a chair or in the cup of a scratching post. If your feeling the Jedi in you surging, you could try using two lure toys or two laser pointers. I don't know that any of these will really work, but little harm in trying.
 
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Willowwombat

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Thanks for the suggestions. I want them both to have some decent play time. Dude is very lively and will get spinny and shouty if he doesn't burn off energy. If I have to separate them for a half hour every day, I will. I'm spending as much time on them as I can right now so that we can have a harmonious home.

I notice that my Willow, my original cat, is more likely to want play time in the morning so I gave her a few minutes right after eating. Eventually Dude noticed the playing and came over, commandeered the flying feathers, and played with it for a bit, with Willow watching. I then moved the toy back to her. She wasn't interested in playing any more -- she's a very lazy girl -- but I found it interesting that she just lay there apparently quite content. I gave her treats for being good.

Things change with these two every day, since the relationship is less than a month old. I have high hopes for these two.
 
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Willowwombat

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An update:

At almost 5 weeks in, the cats are actually playing with each other - the usual "chase me" games cats love so well. Willow is a bit pushy sometimes, because she's so happy at having a companion, but I've seen Dude initiate a chase several times now by racing past her with his tail in a big curl. Dude will simply go somewhere else and climb somewhere high when he's had enough and Willow knows to leave him alone at that point.

To supplement this I play with each of them at least once a day.

Both cats seem very happy.
 
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