Kitten + Older Cat...tough situation

HopingIDidn'tMessUp

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My wife and I adopted an 8-week-old male kitten in March named Bobby (photo attached). He had been fostered with his litter and mother before going up for adoption and was neutered by the time I brought him home. His introduction to our small apartment went well and he took to our routine in a matter of days. My wife and I are often gone for 12 hours at a time. We managed the first few months with him by recruiting help to visit him during the day or managing to eat lunch at home whenever possible.

Our apartment is small. It consists of a living room attached to an open kitchen and two other rooms, one is our bedroom and the other is our bathroom. Bobby spent his intro period in the bathroom and still sleeps with us in the bedroom. Otherwise, he is out in the living room doing what cats do.
Bobby is now 10 months old and recently began showing some signs that he was potentially bored or looking for a friend. He began chewing things he had never chewed before, showed strong interest in meeting dogs/cats in our complex, and had lots of playful energy. He is a fan of rough house, often chewing toys and playing physically within his solo cat environment.

We decided to get another kitty, a 9-week-old male named Mo (photo attached), primarily as a playmate for Bobby while we were gone on vacations, holidays, or working. I believe we may have misread Bobby's needs and permanently botched the introduction of the new kitten.

We made the bathroom up for Mo (instead of our bedroom where Bobby and we sleep). When we brought the kitten home in a carrier, Bobby saw it sniffed it, and hissed at it while we were finalizing the bathroom setup. The cats were then physically introduced that night when Mo slipped out of the bathroom and into the living room. Bobby showed some growling and hissing and gave some claw-less head smacks. Mo showed no signs of fear until Bobby did, and even then didn't really respond much to the hissing or growls. More just ignored Bobby and explored. The first interaction was no more than a few minutes.

It's extremely difficult and distressing to leave Mo in the bathroom every hour of the day. Being the only bathroom in our house, we are in and out of it somewhat frequently. He also hears us outside. Either of these instances causes him to begin crying out. The cries are heartbreaking and persistent. He will go for thirty minutes or more. Often, he will slip out of the bathroom and into the living room.

We are now intentionally bringing him into the living room for an hour or two at a time. The cries are too much and I cannot spend all day, every day with him in the bathroom. I am almost certainly rushing the process and that may be the whole situation's undoing. Bobby has been tolerating his presence. It's Day 3 and no more growls or hisses. Each of them will eat in the other's presence. We play with each individually and feed treats to them to create positive associations. Bobby doesn't mind if Mo eats his dry food or drinks water. Mo isn't scared or really too apprehensive of Bobby. Mo will not go near Bobby's window perch/"nest" or his litter box. BIG NOTE: Bobby has gotten into the bathroom twice and angrily used Mo's litterbox. Growling while peeing in it, growling at it. The issue is he isn't using HIS litterbox now. The distress is causing him not to pee or poop, it seems.

If things are calm, Bobby will steer clear of Mo. Mo will initiate play but it isn't reciprocated. When Mo gets super active and begins running around the room, sh*t hits the fan. It's like Bobby's predatory instincts take over and he hunts the kitten. He will chase it around the room, pinning it down, biting his tail/legs/neck HARD. Mo makes noises and fights back but Bobby doesn't get the message quickly. He will momentarily stop biting or be still, but he doesn't let go. He will even go so far as to pick up Mo around the throat. HE IS NOT CARRYING HIM LIKE A MOTHER. His jaws are generally around the neck, not carefully around his scruff. He also doesn't want to release Mo and will drag him backward. I've always intervened by this point and after the second time, I have been on pins and needles any time Bobby approaches Mo. I have watched dozens of videos online to help differentiate play from fighting. It is more like this video (IMG 1492) than it is like this video ()

Each day, Bobby has seemed less agitated and each session sees Bobby show more and more patience before this attack. At first, it was minutes, then an hour. Today was close to two hours and I broke it up on the first real pin down that Mo called out. I have not found any broken skin, hair pulls, or scabs on Mo. Mo runs away when it's done but doesn't avoid Bobby. Bobby would do it to Mo endlessly if we didn't intervene.

I think it is play that is too rough. Bobby doesn't know how strong he is and Mo can't defend himself. Regardless, it's clear that they cannot be alone together any time soon, probably for months. I am STUCK. Does Mo need to spend the next few months in the bathroom? Can he and my wife and I handle that? Will Bobby come around to Mo? I want them to enjoy the company, not tolerate it. Will I know if that's possible before Christmas when we leave for a week? I don't want Mo in the bathroom all day except during Rover checkups and feeding time.

I see two options:
  1. Try this setup for another few days to a week. Get Mo out of the bathroom when possible, but remain on high alert for aggression. Keep trying to positively associate them and showering each cat with love and play, especially Bobby. If things don't improve, rehome Mo to someone who will show him the love and attention he is calling out for.
  2. Leave Mo in the bathroom until he's bigger (4 or 5 months old) and continue this dance until then, knowing they may never really be friends. It's a daunting thought and saddens me to ruin the relationship we had with Bobby by keeping Mo.
I would love some perspective on the situation. I am aware that I didn't follow Jackson Galaxy. That is my fault. Is the cat relationship beyond repair?

TL,DR: I rushed the intro of my resident cat to a kitten. I cannot keep them apart for more than a few hours without distressing the resident and/or the kitten. I cannot let them play freely for fear the cat will kill or hurt the kitten. Do I persist or rehome the kitten?
 

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Furballsmom

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Hi, I personally don't think you went too fast or too slowly. These are both energetic kittens, it's just that one is larger and a bit territorial.

Does Mo need to spend the next few months in the bathroom?
No.

Growling while peeing in it, growling at it. The issue is he isn't using HIS litterbox now.
Try putting some of his litter in Mo's and some of Mo's litter in Bobby's litterbox.

Will Bobby come around to Mo?
Yes. He already is starting to, from your description of him becoming more relaxed.

The only thing you need to watch for is the little one running away and truly acting fearful, tail tucked, hunched and hiding. Otherwise, since he is small, I'd give them a break from each other now and then. I don't know if you'll be able to let them be together by Christmas. Maybe you can have your caretaker spend more time during housechecks.

We managed the first few months with him by recruiting help to visit him during the day or managing to eat lunch at home whenever possible.
Can you do something like this again for Mo? And when you do have Mo in the bathroom, get a purr toy and a heartbeat toy for him.

That small kitten is going to grow fast, and soon will be able to defend himself just fine.
 

maggie101

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Its possible Bobby tires out faster than the kitten. I used to have a toy called the cat's meow,electronic toy for my kitten to play by herself. bobby looks like my cat Josie. Standard litterbox was too small so they use storage bins. since there have been no injuries,let the cats get to know each other
 

ArtNJ

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Just leave them together and dont worry about it. Bobby will be over it in days. The play might still seem too rough to you, 10 month olds dont do restraint, but that is just how a 10 month old and true kitten goes. Bobby wont actually hurt the kitten, and they WILL be friends. The ages literally guaranty it. Lengthy structured intros aren't necessary with these ages.

After a few days it will go something like this. Kitten is interested in playing and approaches. Play is too rough, kitten squeals and runs away. Comes out in a few minutes and acts like nothing happened, and approaches Bobby again shortly thereafter. That is the kitten telling you everything is good, and you can trust it. Over time, play will become more equal. 10 months is just a tough age -- they are stupid enthusiastic and dont do restraint well. Or at all, really. But Bobby will not actually hurt the kitten.
 
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HopingIDidn'tMessUp

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These are awesome responses. Thank you all. It's a stress relief for us to even have some responses to work with.

I will let them be together for longer after I break it up next time. My concern is that Bobby doesn't seem to stop the attack. After it's been broken up, he will chase the little one across the room again and continue the behavior. I guess this too will subside over time?
 

Mamanyt1953

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You're fine, and this is far more distressing to you than it is to the younger kitten. And remember, your 10-month-old IS STILL A KITTEN, and will be, psychologically, until he's around two. It may seem that Bobby is "too rough," but Mo is NOT terrified of him, nor has Bobby ever injured Mo. That pretty much tells you what you need to know. The other thing to remember is that ALL play in cats and kittens is practice for the all-important HUNT, and can look (and sound) far worse to humans than it actually is.

It is almost impossible to botch an introduction between two kittens, or between a kitten and a cat. Most especially between two kittens. They are going to play, sometimes very roughly. Just give Mo a little time to himself here and there. Y'all are just fine, and progressing!
 

ArtNJ

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Its 100% normal for folks that haven't seen this level of rough play before to worry about it. We get this question ALL the time, and we totally understand. And the squealing! But it doesn't bother the kittens any, except in that specific moment. Its like big human brother giving little bro a head noogie, if you know what that is. Little bro might run away, cry for mom, but he will be back because it wasn't truly a big deal, and he desperately wants to play with big bro. You can certainly gently break them up if the kitten seems unable to disengage and miserable, but I promise that you dont have to view that as your job, and they might actually settle faster if you just let them be. With little human brothers, you can try to get them to play nice, although even with human kids its hard. With cats, its really really hard, can't really teach a little and big kitten to not be kittens, and not really worth the attempt when there is no actual problem.
 

maggie101

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These are awesome responses. Thank you all. It's a stress relief for us to even have some responses to work with.

I will let them be together for longer after I break it up next time. My concern is that Bobby doesn't seem to stop the attack. After it's been broken up, he will chase the little one across the room again and continue the behavior. I guess this too will subside over time?
Another suggestion,if he likes playing with balls,Scatter them around your apartment so he can bat them around. More chasing for him.same with chew toys
My senior cats still like boxes with chew toys and make holes with a box cutter. When my cat was a kitten she liked playing in shipping trash,laundry baskets,and stuffed animals
 

Kris107

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I have a one year old and a 12 week old. The 1 yo plays rough and is prone to overstim. Because of this we hesitated for months about another cat. We didn't want him to torment a sibling. Sometimes he gets a bit wild but we have places the small one can go. Under the couches and other "safe" spots. This helps if she wants a reprieve. And often, when I observe, her little paws are still flicking out at him. She comes out a few minutes later and is back at it. One time the big did pick her up by the scruff and I yelled at him that it wasn't okay. Boundaries. I only hope for peaceful coexistence. Can rarely expect them to become a true bonded pair. SO I'd say do as much supervised play as possible. Give the little places to escape. Give big a break if kitten is pestering. We still keep ours separate at night but that's more for calm and quiet. We used to separate them whenever we left but slowly have stopped unless they are really too wound up and one or the other needs a break. They have to establish their pecking order and own boundaries to some degree. Your "case" doesn't sound hopless at all!
 

GenCat

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You have not at all ruined this bonding experience. Our female hated the new kitten and us for weeks, she would bite US if we tried to comfort her even with gentle touches.

Just wanted to share this since your situation (and mine) reminded me of it.
 

Alldara

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These are awesome responses. Thank you all. It's a stress relief for us to even have some responses to work with.

I will let them be together for longer after I break it up next time. My concern is that Bobby doesn't seem to stop the attack. After it's been broken up, he will chase the little one across the room again and continue the behavior. I guess this too will subside over time?
Distraction at this point over full separation. At age ranges between 2 and 3 years all my boys get too rough with one another sometimes. Occasionally one cat doesn't listen to the other's squeek from a human point of view, though I imagine they loosen their grip as the other cat stops squeaking. Still, I interrupt with a toy toss, kibble toss or gentle Boop to the offending cat. Basically just to get the cat to stop and look elsewhere a moment.

IMG_20231118_231331726.jpg


As boys they are basically always being nonsense to one another.

In your small space, building UP will be good and in the meantime, provide boxes and tunnels (things that can be put away later). Giving them things to go through and around stops some of the play aggression.

I also highly recommend having and playing with your bigger boy with a kicker toy.
 

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Alldara

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Here are some cat YouTubers who have small spaces. Expanding their territory with some creativity while keeping your space nice for the humans as well is always fun to work on and could help your situation.

I don't necessarily agree with all they say, but I very much appreciate their catifcation hacks for small spaces.




 

GenCat

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It's funny, I didn't realize until coming back and reading it again that I'm in the exact situation! My big boy XiaoXiao doesn't understand that he can't rough house like he does with our older girl, he gets so excited he starts chasing the kitten through the house. I'll usually let it happen once or twice then interfere trying not to interrupt the play, but divert it so kitten can enjoy it more. Honestly I think she likes playing paty paws through her cage walls the best cause she has the advantage and can pop in and out of her boxes lol (we have her in the living room with a blanket over a cat playpen from Amazon because she was sick but no space to let her have a room)

I bought one of those Catit track kits and it has been excellent for supervised bonding time. Usually I'll distract the bigger cat with it a couple times then introduce the kitten suddenly while he's distracted. Usually kitten starts playing ignoring big scary boi, which makes him confused and just stare LOL

It's funny because our grown girl, YanYan, was the most angry and aggressive but now that she adjusted she's nicer than he is.

In regards to building space up, I bought two freestanding wire racks and assembled them with the shelves alternating so the cats could climb up. covered the shelves with carpet tiles (18x36 racks are perfect for 9x36 tiles). If you need them to not fling themselves out of it onto the TV you can attach 36" dog pen panels to it.

All the things I used. Along with heavy duty zip ties and clippers to cut them flat (those things hurt). To remove the panels from each other you need bolt cutters though. three panels fit down the front and back, then I cut down the extra panels to add the doors to the sides. Carpet is cheaper at a discount warehouse.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07X53ZD8H/?tag=thecatsite
 

GenCat

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When my carpet was replaced with laminate my cats stopped playing til I bought long rugs normally all the toys are on the 2 rugs except when i workoutView attachment 464178
When we installed granite tile in our entryway the cats would run full tilt through the house then skid out at the entryway and look confused LOL

Hope your cats are doing well! My husband spent some time disciplining XiaoXiao for neck biting earlier and I think we made a breakthrough at last. Everyone is calming down a bit and even our adult female (cat hater) is playing with the kitten a lot.
 
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