Introduction next steps? Cats growling at each other?

lil-bee

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Hello everyone,


I've been obsessively reading posts going back years on introducing cats, and have read the many guides on the ultimate introductions, introducing cats to cats, kittens to cats, dealing with unsuccessful introductions, non-recognition & redirected aggression. I've also read up about the differences between play fighting and actual fighting, and what to do in the latter situation.


That being said, I've got some videos from trying to introduce my 7 year old resident cat, Nizu, to a new rescue cat Naayu, with unknown history; and I'd really appreciate any thoughts on next steps. This post is very long, sorry!


To give a some background, Nizu just turned 7. He's a Russian Blue, and I brought him over to our home when he was 13 weeks old and the rest is history. He's our first pet and besides being quite jumpy at sounds and not liking strangers and running away, he's the absolute baby of the house and loves his human slaves.


He's not really been with other cats except his breeders cats and kittens when he was young, and for a two week stint back at hers when my family had to travel away for an emergency.


He doesn't normally like change and gets stressed with random things like people going on holiday. He tends to withdraw to one of the many rooms in the house, and his eating reduces a bit but that's it. He's not really vocal except when he's talking to us e.g. he got locked in our bathroom a few times and just doesn't make any sounds.


We have tried to put him on different calming supplements like YuCalm and Zylkene to varying degrees. He's okay and we've kind of accepted that he will always be jumpy but he's certainly not as anxious as my cousins cat who is actually on gabapentin (Nizu has only had it for a long car journey / staycation).


Then you have Naayu, a new rescue cat that came into our lives a month ago. She was hanging around in our neighbourhood for around a week and was fed by different neighbours before some kids took her in, before leaving her out two days later. She's been hiding underneath our car apparently and one weekend when we were coming home from the shopping, I saw her and made kissing sounds towards her and she ran to me and jumped into my porch. I petted her a bit and tried to put her back but she kept crying / meowing at me and jumping back into the porch so I ended up taking her in.


She looked like a Persian mix and was very heavily matted but also super friendly and social, so I thought she must have gotten lost. We took her in and fed her some food before putting her in Nizu's carrier (thankfully he was sleeping upstairs). We took her to the vets but unfortunately she wasn't chipped so we ended up bringing her back that evening at least for the day / weekend while we figured out where she came from.


We rang around and posted on Lost & Found groups in our area, and spoke to some neighbours. No one seemed to be missing a cat. In the meantime, I took her to a local rescue lady to get checked for a microchip again, and to get some flea treatment, and we ended up leaving her there that evening as we thought that would be best - for the rescue lady to get her checked at the vets to see if she was spayed, and to get rid of the severe mats that had been pulling at her skin and getting ripped in some parts :(


Well, I couldn't stop crying since I left her as she was such a sweetheart and I ended up bonding with her in two days. The rescue also thought she was likely neglected and abandoned and that just broke my heart. So after the rescue couldn't find her a home, we officially adopted her and got her back 30 March and she's been here since.


She's a super loveable, confident and assertive cat. I set up her in a spare room in the annex but she's been crying to be let out since day one and has been roaming around the house like she owns the place (while Nizu has been locked away in whichever too on hes been sleeping in).


I've been following different steps for the introduction so I'd really appreciate any thoughts on what I should do next. I'll use the next post to set out what I've done so far and how they've reacted to each other.
 
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lil-bee

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So right after we took Naayu back after not finding her chipped at the vets, she was in a fully covered carrier bag while we sorted out the spare room for her. Nizu walked by, hissed at the bag and ran away. We had to set up the room with Nizu's spare litter box, his feeding bowl and some of his toys but its a spare room that we usually rent out and Nizu doesn't use that room so it didn't overly smell like him. Naayu settled in perfectly, using Nizu's litter box, playing with toys and eating comfortably from his food bowl.


I spent some time with her that evening before I went back and was headed up to my room when I saw Nizu. He usually always sleeps with my mum but I'm his human but when I went to pet him, he started hissing at me and cornered himself so I left him alone that night and washed off my hands.


Since then, I've been scent swapping a bit, leaving Naayu's blanket that she sleeps on and her towel next to Nizu's food bowls, or near him. I've rubbed them both with my old worn shirt and socks. I regularly brush Nizu and Naayu with the same brush on their cheeks, and Nizu loves to get his cheeks brushed even if it was shortly after being used on Naayu.


They've eaten from each other's food bowls, and Naayu is out for a good 6-7 hours a day, walking around the house and spreading her smell while Nizu is locked and sleeping in his room. I've also site swapped a few times where I lock her in one of the other bedrooms and have taken Nizu to her room, locking us both in there during the third visit where he allowed me to brush him before wanting to leave the room.


During this whole time, Nizu went from hissing a lot and being suspicious even of me to slowly getting more curious and less hissing at her smell, though when he first encounters it closer than he was expecting, e.g. sometimes when I pick him up after spending time with her, or when I am carrying her and walking up to the annex room, he'll do a sudden hiss. But its definitely lessened a lot to where he will now be chill despite the room or carpet smelling like Naayu and I haven't heard him hiss in a while.


I also found that Nizu would sometimes sit outside Naayu's room, or outside another room if I've locked her elsewhere. And Naayu would also approach and sit at the door when Nizu has been locked. I've seen them both sit on opposite sides of a closed door now a few times.


A week and half ago, I slept with Naayu in my room overnight for the first time and Nizu was outside my door for a long time and I felt really bad! That morning, I opened my door barely a crack, I'd say maybe there was a one cm gap and suddenly Nizu and Naayu both started hissing at the door, yowling / growling and meowing at the door for a good 10 mins even after I closed the door within 30 seconds of hearing these noises. I tried to distract her but she was a bit fixated but they both calmed down at some point with Naayu playing with some toys, before returning back to the door, and then eventually sitting there while she lay down relaxed on the door. When I looked through the key whole / side door crack, I could see Nizu so when I called him name and made kissy noises at him, he flopped down on his belly which he usually does for affection. Naayu was half snoozing on the other side of the door and didn't react to anything at that point.


Two days later, I tried to let them have visual access to each other through a glass door for the first time, while trying to keep them distracted by feeding them treats, trying to brush or play with them. They both started hissing and growling at each other, despite me trying to distract Naayu while my mum, dad and brother were in the room with Nizu. I moved her after 5 mins before I didn't want them to just growl at each other.


That was last week. Since then they've been fine sitting behind closed doors. I've continued group scent swapping and taking Nizu to her room a few more times and he's definitely being more brave to her smell. However I gave them visual access to each other again two days ago and Naayu was meowing / growling, with Nizu eventually growling back or sitting up on a chair and staring at Naayu. Despite my efforts to distract, she kept meowing at the door before walking away eventually. When I went to see her or coax her back, she'd come close but not completely and would meow at the door. I moved her to her room again after about 5 mins or so.


So I guess my question is... What now? Should I block off the glass doors with some paper, and try and feed them or brush / play with them on opposite sides of the closed door? Should I continue to give them visual access and let them hiss and growl at each other if they refuse to be distracted or eat their fave treats? And do the sounds / posture look like they are ready to potentially fight?


I guess I am nervous and don't want to do anything that gives them a bad association, but I'm also nervous about this nor working out. I'd hate to lose her, but I'd also hate if she did anything in her confidence to Nizu who is a pampered baby and a scaredy cat. They are using their litter boxes (I got another one so now have three) like normal and I'd hate for that that to change!


I am taking it sloooow but I wonder if I am being too slow and limiting progress if I don't now move on from the scent smelling step that Nizu seems to mostly be okay with, and Naayu never had a problem to begin with!


Thanks in advance and worry for the long posts.
 
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lil-bee

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Here is a link to the videos of jet growling / yowling / meowing???

 

Mamanyt1953

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OK...I think your problem is that articles sometimes fail to stress the fact that it takes as long as it takes. And it is JUST under three weeks now, which would be close to record-breaking if it were done. You just can't go any faster than the most reluctant cat. You're doing the right things, just...be ready to slow down. We've seen some VERY successful introductions that took MONTHS, but the families ended up with bonded cats.

Also, sometimes the best you get is two cats who coexist peacefully, but are never "besties," and that's ok, too. They still benefit from having another cat in the home.
 
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lil-bee

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Thank you so much! I guess I'm not sure what the next step is. Should I continue to have short visual visits with the glass door, even if they hiss and growl at each other? I've tried to distract them but they don't budge from each other, so I'm worried it will do more harm than good.

I've read some members here say to stick to a stage where work is still being done. Jackson Galaxy also has a video about the challenge line and getting cats slowly to that stage. And I'm a it confused about what that next step is I guess.

Are they growling at each other then? Or is it a meow? I can't really tell with Naayu and Nizu is just very quiet anyway.

Yesterday I was at work and my mum was in her room with Nizu and my dad had opened up the door for Naayu to roam the house. He normally takes her back when Nizu is up but he forgot & didn't have this phone. My mum really had to pee but she could see that Naayu was sitting outside her bedroom, so she picked Nizu up thinking she could quickly run to the bathroom with him (its across the hallway) but as soon as she opened the door, Nizu was quiet initially but Naayu started hissing as soon as she saw him, and then Nizu started hissing back. Has that set us back a step??

Do we go back to closed doors now? The thing is, they'll both go right by the door and just sit there on opposite sides, in what looks like a relaxed pose (at least for Naayu), they'll eat treats etc, but as soon as they can see each other, the hissing or growling starts. So I'm not sure when / if we continue with the visual, or whether the hissing and focus on each other is making it worse for them.
 

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In that 1st video you did an excellent job of breaking the focus. Keep up with the visuals. Not short times. As often as you can so they get bored at looking at one another.

For me, i always start with a gate after NC settles in. I never follow JG and use regular mealtime. I think in this case you should skip that too. Youve got two stressed cats and their regular meal needs to be calm. We dont want food to be associated with stress or associate the other with making mealtime stressful. JG uses food because many cats are so food focused, that it can work. But we must remember: hes giving very generalized advice to a big group of people, not individual advice to your home. That means hes giving thr advice that works for the most people, but it doesnt mean it will work for you.
I recommend doing a high-reward treat for any feeding steps, not the regular meal. Weve got to bring that sense of calm and peace back to your RC.

Your RC (cat you've had the longest), in his memory he has never met another cat. Cats, like humans have "baby amnesia". Which means no active memories, even though there are some behaviours or feelings that might be imprinted from that time. So to him this experience is very novel and scary.

So you just want to break that stare focus. You can use the wand toy. It would be ideal if you have someone help you on the other side with your other cat. Just encouraging him to play or get him to turn away for a treat toss (since you cant pass a treat under the door).
 
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lil-bee

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Thank you so much Alldara - so you think I should keep up with the visual, even if they hiss and growl, and just try and get them used to it while I try and shift their focus?

I think I agree on maybe skipping the meal step that Jackson suggests. They are both a bit prone to under eating slightly anyway so wouldn't want to bring stress to that. Do you think I should cover the door and try to feed treats or try play or brushing both on each side without the visuals though?

At the moment they both sit at a closed door and just sniff. They'll go a bit normal in that they will sometimes eat a treat in close proximity to the other cat behind a closed door, or be brushed etc. But I haven't done that on a consistent basis over a long period of time. Should I do that first?

When they have visual access, even the most high reward treat doesn't seem to distract them. NC just walks away while RC is prone to hiding. He will probably find my presence more calming so if I continue visuals I might stay with him and try to brush him. NC meows a bit to get access and then walks away.

Another question, when should I break it up do you think? I don't want either cat to feel trapped in that glass room, so maybe let them have visual for 10 mins, 15 mins and then move the cats if the one on the other side of the glass door doesn't eventually leave? With the view to slowly increase duration?

Thank you again!

In that 1st video you did an excellent job of breaking the focus. Keep up with the visuals. Not short times. As often as you can so they get bored at looking at one another.
 

Alldara

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Yes. Basocally when I introduced my cats, my free time is spent so they can have visual. I dont have a glass door like you so i use a gate. I can fit a wand toy under the gate.

I sit myself at the gate so it also feels for the cats as if i am an extra barrier. Then i can provide treats etc through the gate and prevent jumping. I turn on some music with purring in it. The music stops the cats from jumping at any small sound because it provodes a constant sound, rather than quiet with sound mixed in. And i think the purring comforts.

I feed treats and play, or if one wanders off i just read my book. I take breaks to cook or take care of my own needs or play separately with each cat. Some sessions are short and some long. (For ex. We did a short 10 min in the morning, then another short at lunch, an hour before dinner and then after cleanup basically 4 hours before bed.)


Hissing is okay. That is communication, not aggression. Theyre saying "hey! Too close." Or "dont do that!" Growling should be prevented. When yoh get that stare, do like what you did with the toy. You only nees to break eye contact. If youre in-between like i am, even a soft stroke on the nose should cause a blink. You can use a small cardboard and set it against the glass if you are more comfortable with that. Then toss a treat.


I use treats in all sessions. When they break eye contact after a hiss (or better, before!) Then i reward them for giving the other space. Because proper communication is a hiss then backing off.


You can site swap yes, but I wouldn't site swap mid-session. For us we just put up a gate at the door to the NC room. Then for short sessions we just stay at that gate. For longer sessions, we set one in the hall to give NC some more space. This also acts as a partial site swap because NC smell is getting on RC space.

I dont know how much room they have behind the glass door but if you are having to arrange/move both cats to make this door-ed introduction happen that could be part of the problem. You might need to borrow/buy two gates to set up at base camp.
 
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lil-bee

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You can site swap yes, but I wouldn't site swap mid-session. For us we just put up a gate at the door to the NC room. Then for short sessions we just stay at that gate. For longer sessions, we set one in the hall to give NC some more space. This also acts as a partial site swap because NC smell is getting on RC space.

I dont know how much room they have behind the glass door but if you are having to arrange/move both cats to make this door-ed introduction happen that could be part of the problem. You might need to borrow/buy two gates to set up at base camp.
So I think NC smell is all over RC spaces anyway as when he goes for his deep sleep in the mid-afternoon to the evening, that's when NC is free roaming the entire house and rubbing against corners, carpets, etc. They've even used the same litter box and she's played and bit a catnip toy that RC then rubbed against. I've also used a worn shirt and rubbed it on RC, NC, RC and all over the house so there's a joint smell which includes me too.

This room is the largest room for us to divide, and its one the both cats use. RC has spent time in NC room for up to 10 mins. He doesn't growl or hiss any more, and I've brushed him in that room which is his fave activity so he was happy to allow himself to be brushed - when he first came into the room he'd be very jumpy and hiss, run away before coming back etc.

NC goes back to base camp to sleep, use her litter box etc but prefers to be out in the rest of the house - she'll meow when she's in there and the door is closed, even when we're in there with her. To be honest she meows a lot anyway, she's definitely more vocal than RC so we're still getting used to what she means when she does that!

I'm going to try and stop the staring and distract but it seems like the initial hissing has stopped for now.
 
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lil-bee

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Okay I have an update and new videos - would be great is someone could read their body language - are they scared? Curious? Tense?

I'm also not sure if NC is yowling or deep meowing. It sounds like meows?

RC was chilling in the living room - that's where the humans usually are during the day and where both cats chill when they are out. My dad was working in the room and my mum closed the glass doors to go and get NC. RC was on the sofa when she first came into the kitchen, she didn't notice him but when he sat down on the carpet, they both noticed each other and her meowing started.

RC just sat there and didn't make any noise - just looked at her. He also didn't run away and hide, and his body language doesn't seem like he's scared, though he could be tense? He's most bonded to me so I'll try and be with him next time and distract him from her and help him feel relaxed / break the staring maybe.

NC would come up to the door, meow loudly. Then sit down quietly for a bit while looking at him. Walk away, around the rest of the ground floor. Come back and rinse and repeat. She did that a few times over 10 mins before my mum took her back to base camp and let RC out. RC stayed still in the same position, though he did sit down / loafed eventually.

Should we continue this while each trying to distract one cat? Hopefully we keep doing that, they start feeling more comfortable. Though given how vocal NC is, I'm not sure she'll ever stop meowing as it seems like she just wants to meet him but I want to go at his pace as RC is more timid and scared.


 

Mamanyt1953

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I wouldn't even try to distract when they are behaving like this. Especially if you are getting "meows," and not hissing and moaning. BOTH cats look fairly relaxed. Yes, alert and interested, but relaxed. Let them interact like this for a while. Even the vocalizing. Move in to distract only if one reacts more strongly physically. While they are sizing one another up, this does not mean that there is aggression.
 
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lil-bee

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I wouldn't even try to distract when they are behaving like this. Especially if you are getting "meows," and not hissing and moaning. BOTH cats look fairly relaxed. Yes, alert and interested, but relaxed. Let them interact like this for a while. Even the vocalizing. Move in to distract only if one reacts more strongly physically. While they are sizing one another up, this does not mean that there is aggression.
Thank you so much! I really wasn't sure if she's being aggressive as the meows sound a bit mournful! I'll let them carry on but try and feed them treats etc so they get some positive association with each other too. They've both been too focused on each other for the treats to work and my RC will usually ignore his favourite treats when he's nervous or stressed... He would ignore treats when near NC's room / door but he eventually ate them after getting used to it.
 

Mamanyt1953

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You're headed the right direction, it sounds like. Just remember...you cannot go faster than the most reluctant cat wants to go. Let that cat be your guide as to when to step things up.
 
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lil-bee

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Hey everyone,

I'm back and thought I'd have a positive update but I think we may have gone back a step this evening :(

I've been keeping up the visuals for the last few days, changing it around so that Naayu (NC) is inside the room while Nizu (grey, RC) is outside the room. He still hisses once or twice when he first sees here but last two days I've been with him and keeping calm and reassuring him, and he definitely relaxed quite a lot. He would allow himself to be brushed (its his favourite thing) and even ate food close to the door and cat loafed after a bit.

NC had definitely stopped meowing as incessantly. She'd still do it a bit, before standing still, walking around, looking at him or looking to the side before she started meowing again but it was a bit more muted too. Our last encounter, she eventually just walked away, marking my mum before going to sit in the cat tree while Nizu was on the other side.

All good right? Well I went upstairs and he came with me so I closed the door to my room and was just chilling with him a bit. I kept my door very slightly cracked and that's when things went a bit awry - she was at my door meowing and crying, and he heard her and approached the door / maybe saw her from the crack and kept hissing and low growling a bit. I tried to keep him calm but he kept hissing till she left. He was fine after for around an hour but she came back again and kept crying and meowing at the door and he hissed at her a few times.

Has that made us regress back a step? Maybe it's because RC didn't see her first and the limited visual freaked him out? I'm going to try and avoid the cracked door and maybe try cracking the glass door a bit but for now will just go back to completely closed visuals only. I really hope we haven't messed it up!

Videos in the link, with the growling and hissing video at the end. Thanks for any help and thoughts!

 

Mamanyt1953

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As "steps back" go, this one is very mild, and was handled by all involved, regardless of # of feet, very well. They happen. They almost always happen. And then you move forward again. I note that RC never laid his ears back, never showed an overly-tense body posture. His tail was talking about how he was concerned, but not panicking, more...unsure. And, sometimes, especially in the early stages of introductions, a cat's gotta say what a cat's gotta say. Even well-bonded cats will occasionally have heated discussions.
 
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lil-bee

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Thank you so much @Mamanyt1953 - I've read about other cats during intros so I am probably over thinking and over worrying - always find it reassuring to hear from you!

RC has done so well. Its only been 4 weeks since NC has been around (I'm not counting the three days she was with us when she first strolled into the house as a stray) and he's being super brave considering he ran away from me for a whole day when he first smelled her on me. I have to give him time.

I guess I'm worried and sad about NC when I hear her cry so mournfully. I can't tell whether she's scared of RC, confused, territorial or just curious. I hate hearing her crying and then having to put her back in her room though that routine has been working so far. I don't want her to regress while RC gets settled you know?

As for the cracked doors - would you say it's better to avoid it for now? I've done this three times so far and each time they've been growling and hissing though you probably can't hear the latter because of my loud kissing noises oops lol
 

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I think its more spooky for cats to see one another through cracked doors than gates or something. Personally, I've had long term cats who tolerated one another hiss through cracked doors at each other. Like if one went to bed in one room overnight with the door shut.

So it's up to you. Hissing really isn't aggression. Just communicating. As long as the other cat is listening the communication, the it's good.
 

Mamanyt1953

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I am so sorry I was missing in action for a few days. My offline life got totally nuts, and my online life had to be put on hold.

Overall, I agree with Alldara on this one. I prefer to use baby gates, or a screen door, when that is possible. It gives them a chance to get totally accustomed to each other's smell in a controlled, safe way. I've used two of those tension baby gates stacked on top of each other, since cats are good at climbing AND jumping! Something like this, I think:

1714403110968.png


They are quite reasonably priced, as well.
 
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lil-bee

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Thanks both! I've stopped doing the cracked doors and have just kept up with the glass doors so they can fully see each other. They have mostly been fine except when they first get into view of one another - they kind of stare at each other and if NC gets too close to the door, RC will sometimes get a bit close and hiss. But he normally won't go too close to the door except when she's further away, and she's started meowing less, and sometimes walking away.

I have videos from a few days ago but how can I tell when they are ready to move on to the next stage? NC still meows a lot and I'm not sure if those are curious meows, or confused meows as to why there's another cat in her space (even tho really all of this has been RC's space).

Should I just keep the visuals up as normal and get on with my day? Should I slowly crack the glass doors a bit more? I was thinking of taking my old dress, rubbing it on them both to have a joint smell, and maybe putting that under the glass doors?

First video is from the morning, and the next two are later in the afternoon, with around 5 mins between NC walking away and then coming back. By then RC had moved where he was sat:

 

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Usually I move on when they're both able to play in front of one another. That way I know I will be able to play with one and have the other observe.

When they first have non gated introductions, the point is for them to do something together, not to be focused on one another. That could even be watching CatTv or something.
 
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