Welcome to The Cat Site
your cat community
Interact with our community
Share A Funny Cat Story To Win Gwen Cooper's Book! Click here for details

Introductions With Two Scaredy Cats

Discussion in 'Cat Behavior' started by rosegold, Oct 3, 2018.

  1. rosegold

    rosegold Thread Starter TCS Member Alpha Cat

    304
    1,045
    Feb 1, 2018
    Hello, I currently have two cats I am trying to introduce to one another, and I could really use some advice. Chilli is a 4-5yr female I've had for about 8 months. Chai, 2-3yr female, is the newcomer. Chilli is my first cat so these will be my first introductions and I REALLY want to do my best to introduce them well so they can live as friends, or at least harmoniously.

    Personalities: Both are certified scaredy-cats. Chilli is a bit less so. She extremely sociable and talkative with me, and very comfortable in "her" house, but with strangers or a new situation in the house she does get skittish and hide. Chai was picked up off the streets about a year ago and spent all that time in the shelter not being socialized so she is extremely shy of humans. She is non-aggressive, but veryyyy timid and mellow and rarely comes out of her hiding box. She also is missing a front leg and currently is being medicated for gum disease so she probably feels even more vulnerable.
    THE GOOD NEWS is both cats have lived happily with other cats before. Chilli's previous owners had another cat and a kitten; according to them she adored the adult cat and tolerated the kitten. And Chai was very peaceful and cuddly with other cats in her room at the shelter. So I am HOPING they can be introduced peacefully...

    Setup: I live in an open, loft-style studio apartment. Chai is in the bathroom (the only spare room) currently as her safe room--with a cardboard box to hide under, food/water/litterbox/toys/soft blankets/etc. When I first brought her home Chilli stayed up in the loft and refused to come down for days. She eventually wandered back downstairs and seems mostly back to her normal self but still acts a bit skittish whenever she hears Chai moving around behind the door. But overall she's adjusted well to the stranger living in the bathroom.

    So Far: I have done some scent-swapping. Chai doesn't seem to care or react at all, even when Chilli is meowing annoyingly outside the door ("Hey Mom! Mom! Mom!"). But Chai may just be too scared of me and the overall situation right now to focus on another cat. Chilli sniffs everything with great interest--no hissing or tail-lashing, which I think is good?--and will eat yummy things next to the bathroom door or with it cracked open. Chai, on the other hand, barely comes out of her hiding place for treats so I haven't really been able to practice that with her. They did see each other once through the barrier, as well. Chai barely glanced up and was too interested in her food. Chilli stared for a while with giant eyes and then ran back upstairs.

    Anyway, from what I've been reading about introductions, the next step would be to switch their places for short periods--e.g. Chilli gets to hang out in the bathroom, Chai gets to explore the house--to make sure both of their scents get blended around the house. But that seems impossible right now... because Chai is SO shy. I know if I pulled her out of her hiding spot and set her loose in the house, she would immediately find another spot and stay there indefinitely. Meanwhile, locking Chilli in the bathroom for even a short time means a LOT of unhappy meowing.

    The alternate next step as I understand is to allow more visual contact through a baby gate. But... again, Chai rarely comes out of her hiding place as it is. So I can't even guarantee they would see each other, unless I took away her hiding box which seems cruel. And I don't want her to feel that she can't be safe in her own safe room.

    So... what do you recommend?? In an ideal world, I would have a better spare room and I would wait until Chai is happy, socialized, and comfortable in that room and then work further on introductions. Or I would be able to keep working with Chai while she had the run of the apartment and the companionship of Chilli.
    But as it is, Chai is here on only a month-long adoption trial to see if things work out... I have to know if the two cats will get along. :( If they can't coexist, if they are totally incompatible and fighting, I can't keep Chai.

    Please let me know what you would do in this situation, or share any experiences you've had of introducing two shy cats to one another. Thank you in advance!
     
    rubysmama and dustydiamond1 purraised this.

  2. Hellenww

    Hellenww TCS Member Alpha Cat

    321
    402
    Mar 5, 2018
    South Jersey, USA
    I'd move on to the baby gate stage but stack 2 since both cats are big enough to jump over 1. The open door will allow free airflow and scent flow. They will also have the option to peek around boxes and furniture to get a protected view of each other from a distance.

    Since they are both scared adults it might move slower than other types of intros. With similar personalities I hope they bolster each others confidence.
     
    rubysmama and dustydiamond1 purraised this.

  3. Mamanyt1953

    Mamanyt1953 Rules my home with an iron paw Staff Member Forum Helper

    16,092
    17,303
    Oct 16, 2015
    Havelock, North Carolina
    You also may want to do actual SITE swapping, not just scent swapping. Give Chai time out of the bathroom, while Chilli is in there. This gets the scents of both cats ALL OVER the apartment, and also allow Chai time to get used to a new place without the added stress of Chilli's presence.
     
    Hellenww, rubysmama and dustydiamond1 purraised this.

  4. rosegold

    rosegold Thread Starter TCS Member Alpha Cat

    304
    1,045
    Feb 1, 2018
    At first I was hesitant to do this because I’m afraid Chai will just hide, and not explore, but perhaps if I keep consistently doing it she will start to look around.

    Today I let them eat on either side of the barrier while looking through just an inch or two at the bottom of the baby gate. Chai just sat there watching. Chilli was very enthusiastic to eat at first without even looking through the barrier, but as soon as she actually laid eyes on Chai she froze, watched a few seconds, and ran away. But she didn’t go up the stairs! She’s still down here around the corner, been inching her way back over curiously and jumping at her own shadow. I’m really encouraged by no hissing. Chilli just seems scared rather than super defensive of her territory. I hope once Chilli realizes that Chai is the chillest, shyest, least confrontational cat on the planet, she will be able to adjust just fine.
     
    rubysmama, dustydiamond1 and Mamanyt1953 purraised this.

  5. rosegold

    rosegold Thread Starter TCS Member Alpha Cat

    304
    1,045
    Feb 1, 2018
    Chilli’s gone back for a few more glances. There’s been no hissing or growling but a lot of mutual staring. Chai happily eats during the staring but Chilli was much more timid. But she still hasn’t run and hid upstairs! I’m taking that as a positive sign.
    Chai actually did a few tiny meows at her, I’m not sure why as I thought cats didn’t meow to one another? And Chai rarely meows anyway. They definitely weren’t growls or yowls, just very soft kitten-like meows.
     
    rubysmama, dustydiamond1 and Mamanyt1953 purraised this.

  6. 5starcathotel

    5starcathotel TCS Member Adult Cat

    149
    127
    Mar 30, 2017
    Phoenix, AZ
    How are they at night, in relation to you? At least one *should* be climbing on your bed,and wanting to sleep with you
     
    rubysmama and dustydiamond1 purraised this.

  7. rosegold

    rosegold Thread Starter TCS Member Alpha Cat

    304
    1,045
    Feb 1, 2018
    Chilli sleeps on or next to my bed at night. (Chai is still in her safe room in the bathroom.) Why do you ask?
     
    rubysmama purraised this.

  8. di and bob

    di and bob TCS Member Top Cat

    7,995
    6,365
    Dec 12, 2012
    Nebraska, USA
    I think everything in general sounds very good! The step forward of Chilli not running back up the stairs and then inching her way back is a very positive advancement! Chai letting out soft meows is her way of saying she is no threat, mamas often call their kittens and soothe them with these meows. As long as they run from each other, and the other does not give chase and attack, all is good. If they absolutely did not want to accept another cat's presence, they would actively seek them out, have much tail lashing and puffed fur, and be wailing., trying to attack. In early introductions, staring, some soft growling and keeping a distance is perfectly normal. I really believe you are OK, it may take months instead of weeks with such scaredy cats, but eventually there will be harmony and the two will accept each other's presence and become friends.
     
    rubysmama, dustydiamond1 and rosegold purraised this.

  9. Mamanyt1953

    Mamanyt1953 Rules my home with an iron paw Staff Member Forum Helper

    16,092
    17,303
    Oct 16, 2015
    Havelock, North Carolina
    I so agree with @di and bob's assessment of that behavior. You are on the way to harmony. Just be patient. You can only go as fast as the least confident cat. Time is your friend!
     
    rubysmama, dustydiamond1 and rosegold purraised this.

  10. rosegold

    rosegold Thread Starter TCS Member Alpha Cat

    304
    1,045
    Feb 1, 2018
    I need some more suggestions...

    I tried site swapping them today, but I’m not sure if it was very productive and I think it may have set Chai back a lot. Chilli didn’t seem to care about sniffing around once she realized the other cat wasn’t there, and basically waited meowing for me to let her out. Chai stayed in the carrier and then ventured out to the small cat tree and went inside the cubby. She was wedged in there very tightly and was very scared the whole time. She’s still there but I’d like to switch them back soon. I doubt she will come out of her own accord so I’ll probably have to drag the cat tree back to her room instead (luckily she chose the small one).

    Since my apartment is one big room (plus the bathroom, her safe room) I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to just let her slowly come out and explore the rest of the house on her own? If she were an only cat I would absolutely let her do that. But having another cat of course complicates that.

    I’ve been leaving the door and baby gate totally open for the past few days, other than when I’m out or at night, but the cats haven’t really shown interest in meeting. Chai seems very nonchalant about Chilli in general. Chilli is curious at times but basically doesn’t push it and has been content just not going near the bathroom. I’m trying to keep feeding them closer and closer but they still just aren’t very interested in seeking each other out, and seem fairly comfortable in their relative areas.

    Making sure the two cats get along is the last step before finalizing the adoption... Should I just finalize it anyway, and assume they’ll eventually merge peacefully as Chai gets more comfortable exploring?
     
    dustydiamond1 purraised this.

  11. rosegold

    rosegold Thread Starter TCS Member Alpha Cat

    304
    1,045
    Feb 1, 2018
    I forgot to add, due to the layout of my house, they can’t see each other unless one of them ventures into the hallway. And neither are. So they haven’t been regularly seeing each other either.
     
    dustydiamond1 purraised this.

  12. Hellenww

    Hellenww TCS Member Alpha Cat

    321
    402
    Mar 5, 2018
    South Jersey, USA
    I would try leaving the door open while you are home to supervise. Also switch regularly who is in the bathroom at night and when you are out. Chai is more likely to explore at night or when she knows she's alone which will make her braver to come out when you are around.
     
    dustydiamond1, rosegold and Mamanyt1953 purraised this.

  13. rosegold

    rosegold Thread Starter TCS Member Alpha Cat

    304
    1,045
    Feb 1, 2018
    On a whim I decided to leave everything open during the night last night. Chilli spends most of the night up with me in the loft, so I hoped Chai might finally care to explore without feeling cornered in the bathroom. I took the chance that no one would attack each other while I was asleep. It worked!! I woke up to litterbox scratching in CHILLI’s box while Chilli sat next to upstairs me looking very puzzled. :lol: Chai helped herself to Chilli’s box and then explored all the way across the room and perhaps more after I went back to sleep. Chilli was timid and quiet but not unreasonably terrified, and happy to just watch her from up in the loft.

    I will probably keep closing the bathroom door when I go out for now. But honestly, I doubt they would hurt each other if I left it open. Even if they did get into a confrontation I’m pretty sure one or the other would just retreat and hide. Chai has her bathroom hideaway and Chilli has the loft.
     

  14. rosegold

    rosegold Thread Starter TCS Member Alpha Cat

    304
    1,045
    Feb 1, 2018
    Today Chilli came to peek through the door and they started quietly meowing at each other. Is this a good thing or a bad thing???

    It wasn’t yowling or at least not any yowling I’ve ever heard. Both meows were very soft and neither cat had any aggressive posturing that I could tell (Chai remained lying with her head down and Chilli just sitting and watching). Chilli came back and forth for a few more hesitant visits.

    Chai is harder to read to me since I don’t know her as well yet, but in between Chilli’s “visits” she was just dozing and slow blinking at me. Didn’t seem distressed or agitated whatsoever. And Chilli to me just seemed timid and uncertain but not upset (I know her angry/panicky meows well and they weren’t like this at all). It's worth noting that Chilli is an extremely talkative cat all the time whereas so I've only heard Chai meow TO Chilli.

    Any insight? I was considering leaving the bathroom door open tomorrow when I leave the house for a few hours, to give them more time to interact without me there, but now I’m not sure since I don’t know how to interpret this behavior.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
    rubysmama, dustydiamond1 and Mamanyt1953 purraised this.

  15. rosegold

    rosegold Thread Starter TCS Member Alpha Cat

    304
    1,045
    Feb 1, 2018
    I was able to get a video of what I'm talking about (ignore my dumb voice, lol!). It went on a bit longer than this and Chilli walked away and came back a few times.

     
    dustydiamond1 purraised this.

  16. di and bob

    di and bob TCS Member Top Cat

    7,995
    6,365
    Dec 12, 2012
    Nebraska, USA
    I wouldn't leave them alone (night is OK), The intense staring and the fact that one stays still is an indicator of agitation and that an attack is still possible. There is tail swishing too. To be perfectly safe I wouldn't leave them alone until they are comfortable walking around each other. There was no overt aggression, no growls, no hissing, no stalking or raised fur, that is good! It doesn't seem bad, if it was, Chilli would have stalked and attacked. They are still not perfectly secure with each other's company and it wouldn't take much to set them off. So far so good!
     
    rubysmama, dustydiamond1 and Mamanyt1953 purraised this.

  17. Mamanyt1953

    Mamanyt1953 Rules my home with an iron paw Staff Member Forum Helper

    16,092
    17,303
    Oct 16, 2015
    Havelock, North Carolina
    No, not agression, but both are still on high alert. We know that from the tail motions, and there is some lip-licking that indicates nervousness, as well. @di and bob are right on this. But you are definitely making progress!
     
    rubysmama and dustydiamond1 purraised this.

  18. rosegold

    rosegold Thread Starter TCS Member Alpha Cat

    304
    1,045
    Feb 1, 2018
    @di and bob @Mamanyt1953 Thank you both so much for your replies and advice, it’s really helpful to hear! I hope I’m doing everything right. As a dog person (and my childhood cats grew up as siblings), this introduction period is such a strange, stressful, drawn-out process. But I guess I’m one of the lucky ones to have no hissing or attacking!

    Should I just keep doing what I’m doing? Attempting to feed meals or at least delicious treats when they can smell/see each other, letting Chai explore at night, letting Chilli wander over when she feels up to it...? Anything else I should be doing?
     
    dustydiamond1 purraised this.

  19. Mamanyt1953

    Mamanyt1953 Rules my home with an iron paw Staff Member Forum Helper

    16,092
    17,303
    Oct 16, 2015
    Havelock, North Carolina
    Do keep the feeding at the gate up, and don't try to push it. The most important thing to remember is that you canNOT go any faster than the MOST timed cat! If one of them seems nervous at the bowl, paying more attention to the other than the food, just back the dish up a few inches for a day or so.
     
    dustydiamond1 and rosegold purraised this.

  20. rosegold

    rosegold Thread Starter TCS Member Alpha Cat

    304
    1,045
    Feb 1, 2018
    The logistical problems of the way my hallway is shaped is making this even more difficult. There’s a very narrow line of sight where they could actually see each other from far away, and I can’t get Chai to come out of her hiding spot and eat within Chilli’s view (because of my presence, I think—even if I go to another room she still takes her time peeking out, and by the time she does come out Chilli is long finished eating). So largely the only face-to-face interaction they’re having is when Chilli decides to go peek—which is obviously a bit close for her comfort, and at which time she refuses treats anyway as she’s not particularly food motivated...

    These shy cats are going to be the death of me!
     
    dustydiamond1 and Mamanyt1953 purraised this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.