Introducing cats and could use some advice

Wyocat

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We have a 10 YO Resident Cat (RC) that lost his brother 3 months ago. We never thought he LOVED his brother, but he definitely liked the company and loved to play with him. He was exhibiting all the signs of loneliness and depression, the most alarming of which was excessive licking, to the point of having bald spots and sores. We have always said that he is a bit OCD; SUPER curious about everything and will not let something go until he has it completely figured out. He has always seemed a bit indifferent to the outside neighbor cats; we thought he would be ok with a buddy. So 7 days ago, we decided to get another kitty from the same rescue that we got RC and brother. We picked out 3 YO New Cat (NC) because he was so chill with all the other kitties in the communal shelter they came from. NC is a complete love bug and we have instantly bonded to him. We watched/read tons of info and are following Jackson Galaxy's recommendations. NC is in my husband's office. Here's where we are:
- Scent swapping with 2 towels that we put in their beds & swap out every 2 days. Neither seems to mind that, although RC spends lots of time sniffing when they are freshly swapped.
- Site swapping daily. RC sniffs everything, then seems indifferent. We give him his heated sleeping pad and he ends up napping. We play with each cat both in their own areas and in the others' area. We have been doing this for a couple hours a day. That seems to be ok.
- Feeding. We are currently feeding wet food 8-12" on either side of a baby gate with a towel raised about 2" or so. NC eats fine and is curious about RC. RC eats, but keeps stopping to look at NC. RC goes back to eating, sometimes on his own but often needing encouragement. RC eats 90% of his food, then either walks several feet away and stares at the baby gate or completely walks away.

Through all of this, NC seems completely fine with RC. He is a bit shy, but brave & curious. He just came from a communal shelter with lots of cats, so he is used to other kitties. He will sit by the baby gate with his back to RC. RC seems a bit obsessed - stares at the closed door/baby gate, sniffs around the bottom, etc. RC does eventually go to his favorite areas to lounge, sleep, etc.

We thought things were going so well that we tried the Eat Play Love thing - got RC playing in the common area and then tried to bring NC in while playing. Nope. RC was completely obsessed with NC and started hissing/growling, could not be distracted. It appeared that a fight was going to ensue, so we separated them. We are not sure how to go from here. Our questions are:
1. It kinda seems like RC has now accepted the routine of eating "under duress" by the baby gate and often stopping to watch/listen to NC eat. It is difficult to tell whether it is "staring" or not. RC has always been the type of cat to easily get distracted by noises while eating. So it takes him way longer to eat than NC. I guess we are unsure whether or not we should have the towel raised any or not.
2. Should we wait until they can 100% eat peacefully, side-by-side, with no towel on the baby gate before trying the eat-play-love thing? I know that Jackson Galaxy says that, but from reading posts here, it sounds like others have tried face-to-face before that?
3. Should we continue playing with RC when he is in NC's area? Or should we let him sniff and then relax?

We were hoping to be able to introduce these 2 boys within the week we had off for Thanksgiving, but that may have been an ambitious goal. We both go back to work tomorrow. I work at home and am going to try to do the swapping & morning feeding on my own. We are SUPER concerned about NC's mental health, being cooped up in the office. The office is not far from the living room. We can hear him mewing when we watch tv at night. He wants to be with us; it is heartbreaking. We have even talked about considering giving NC back to the rescue, thinking that might be best for him (but we really love NC already). In rewatching Galaxy's videos, we realized we should probably take away RC's dry kibble during the day. So he is good and hungry when he eats near the baby gate. He normally eats a few pieces of kibble throughout the day. I guess we are looking for ideas, answers to the questions above, encouragement.... anything. I will also admit that we are nervous because we tried introductions twice in the past with a previous cat and they failed miserably. However, that was pre-internet days and we now know that we did just about everything wrong back then.
 

FeebysOwner

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Hi and welcome to TCS! A lot depends on the cats, but most introductions, especially those involving an older cat are going to take a lot longer than what you had in mind.

Some cats are not motivated by food to get them to a certain level in the introductions, and I, myself, would never change up a cat's feeding routines in the hopes that would help. It would be disrupting your cat on yet another level at the same time as changing his entire world otherwise.

I don't know what all is in JG's recommendations about introductions, but maybe see if these TCS articles can be of help.
How To Introduce A Kitten To An Older Cat [A Guide] - TheCatSite
How To Fix An Unsuccessful Cat Introduction - TheCatSite
How To Successfully Introduce Cats [The Ultimate Guide] - TheCatSite

Every step in the process has to be 'accepted' by the slowest adapting cat before moving to the next step. With cat introductions, 'patience is a virtue' is key.
 
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Wyocat

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Thanks for the advice.. I/we have read everything available, including the guides on this website. RC has had so many changes in the last 6 months. We had to completely change his feeding routine when his brother got sick (April or so), since brother's meds were every 12 hours with food. And now we are changing them again. In the big picture, we are probably lucky RC hasn't exhibited other behavioral issues, like litter box problems or spraying.

At this point, we are trying to figure out if we just stay the course, esp when it comes to the towel and when/if to raise it. Nothing we have read has been very definitive.
 
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Wyocat

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And we are concerned if we are doing damage to wonderful NC by keeping him isolated so long. He seems so sad about it.
 

FeebysOwner

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At this point, we are trying to figure out if we just stay the course, esp when it comes to the towel and when/if to raise it. Nothing we have read has been very definitive...And we are concerned if we are doing damage to wonderful NC by keeping him isolated so long. He seems so sad about it.
I think it is not definitive because of the many variables involved, and those involved in the throes of the introductions, and their circumstances, also cause variances. If you get to a step and it seems to be working consistently, then you can try the next step. If that next step doesn't go over well, then you back off for a while and try later.

I often see much concern focused on the 'new' cat as opposed to the resident, and while I understand it, the resident cat's needs 'rule', particularly when it involves an older cat. The new cat, despite their history, is going to be going through changes throughout the entire time - if not with you, then someone else, might as well be with you.

There is no reason to isolate NC all the time, and there is no reason that RC can't be confined elsewhere during those times. You have the advantage of two people being involved, maybe not all day, but in general. No cat has to be left alone for hours on end, even if that means you interrupt your schedule more than you would like, as well as swap sites several times a day. Finding entertainment for the new cat is also another thing to add to the mix. Automated toys, heartbeat toys/ticking clocks, cat trees and windows, music, etc. can be used with each cat when they have to be alone.
 
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Wyocat

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Thank you FeebysOwner. You made some very good points and had some good suggestions. I appreciate it. We have stepped back and realized this process will take as long as it takes. Thanks to everyone who commented.
 

aelovina

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Hi! I know you've already gotten answers, but maybe I can help too. I'm currently introducing our two resident cats to two newcomers. Its been over two months since it started. All adults; I've gotten one resident and the newcomers to exist peacefully. My other cat, Sunny, (the oldest) is harder to get to play nice as he's been displaying some territorial behavior. Much like your RC, Sunny seems obsessed with the new cats and sits outside their room. Then when he gets to see them becomes uninterested.

Something I found that helps is getting lick mats to slow-feed all cats and put wet food toppers/Churrus on them rather than just use regular food/kibble. It took a while to find wet food that all cats liked, but eventually we got there. This forced the cats to stay together for an extended period and encouraged them to focus on the mat rather than the other cats in the area. We also would let the cats wear their collars or a few days, take the collars off, let them sniff each others collars, then reward with treats. Then, we'd have them wear each others collars for a few days and repeat.

I highly encourage site swapping. For several hours at night I take the residents into the new cat's room (my office), while the newbies are in the rest of the house with my fiancé. After a couple weeks the interest wore off and they relax quickly now while swapping.

Something that took too long for me to learn is that this process takes a long time. A long long LONG time. And the older the cats involved the longer it will take. You need to fight that little voice in your head that says to push things too soon; missteps can take ages to correct and bring more stress to you and the cats. But goodness, its rewarding when you get them to finally coexist! Remember slow progress doesn't equal no progress; keep videos or notes of interactions so you can go back and see how much progress has been made!

Just remember to be consistent with each step and wait a while to move to the next one. Cats love a schedule and will get used to almost anything (eventually). Be on the lookout for subtle redflags like blocking or guarding.

Good luck with your kitties! Feeling hopeless at times is unfortunately a part of the whole thing.
 
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