Looking for Advice on Integrating Nervous Cat into Existing Four-Cat Household

InspiredLamb

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Hi, all.

I hope I won't be too repetitive with my issue, as I have read over the other threads dealing with cat introductions, all of which have already provided excellent advice.

Our cat, Sweety, is 13 years old and was a rescue kitten. She has always been an indoor cat and our move to a Queens apartment from Long Island 5 years ago was the first time she had gone through a relocation since we adopted her. My wife and I have some experience with house sitting, all of which involved taking care of pets, mostly cats.

Three months ago we left our apartment in New York to find some peace in other locations. Only this time we brought out cat, Sweety, with us. We drove from New York to a house we were renting in North Carolina, and stayed in a hotel in Virginia overnight along the way. We made Sweety comfortable, gave her some VetriScience Composure treats along the way to relax her. She handled the journey, the hotel stay, and the new house really well. We had worried because she is a rather skittish, nervous cat, but she blew all our expectations. We even bought her a cat tent so she could sit on the porch with us, and she was fine.

Now we have taken a long-term house sit in Florida, but this is a house with four cats already in place. We had expected some teething problems since this would be the first time Sweety has been introduced to other cats, and it hasn't been easy at all. However, while we had expected Sweety to shy away from the other cats, and possibly even spend her time hiding away, the absolute opposite has happened.

She has become aggressive in a way we have never experienced. She hisses and growls at them all and chases and swipes at them occasionally. Luckily we are able to give her a room of her own, which we shut her in with her litter and food at regular intervals. We let her out to mingle with the other cats in small increments and give her treats for positive reinforcement. The hissing and growling continues and there would be more chasing and attacking without our supervision and intervention. The other cats, used as they are to each other, are very calm, if a little wary, and at least two of them know to keep their distance.

I know that this will be a process, and that Sweety is very overwhelmed by this experience. Of course, that was expected. And we have already seen some small positive steps forward (which really amounts to her NOT hissing at one of the cats as they pass by) but I still would like a little advice on the path forward.

1) Is it better to allow the relationships and eventual hierarchy to run their course, even if that involves some aggression and fighting in the beginning?

2) Is there a point at which banishment to her room is a necessary or fruitful action when positive reinforcement has failed?

3) Are there any pointers you can give, or things we have missed that can be improved or highlighted? All advice is welcome.

Thank you.
 

di and bob

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What you are describing is very normal. Females are very prone to attacking, swatting, hissing, and in general enforcing their own code of conduct with other cats. She is not really being aggressive per se, she is scared and doing what comes naturally to her, making the other cats know their limits and teaching them manners. As long as there are no deep bites and blood drawn everything is good, but to prevent this, early in the introductions you SHOULD intervene and separate them, giving her a time out by herself. This is not punishment, it is giving her room to breathe and getting her use to a strange home with strange cats. It would be great if you could allow them to see and smell each other, but be separated, like with a couple of doorway safety gates stacked on top of each other. She could be amongst them in a large dog crate too, but make sure you provide her with a comfy box to hide in.
 
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InspiredLamb

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What you are describing is very normal. Females are very prone to attacking, swatting, hissing, and in general enforcing their own code of conduct with other cats. She is not really being aggressive per se, she is scared and doing what comes naturally to her, making the other cats know their limits and teaching them manners. As long as there are no deep bites and blood drawn everything is good, but to prevent this, early in the introductions you SHOULD intervene and separate them, giving her a time out by herself. This is not punishment, it is giving her room to breathe and getting her use to a strange home with strange cats. It would be great if you could allow them to see and smell each other, but be separated, like with a couple of doorway safety gates stacked on top of each other. She could be amongst them in a large dog crate too, but make sure you provide her with a comfy box to hide in.
That's great advice, thank you! We don't have safety gates, but we have discussed maybe putting her in her tent as an alternative? There is separation of some sort and it's big enough to put in a box or some other thing for her to retreat to.
 

di and bob

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That would be great. She needs a hidey place to observe them and get used to their movements. These things take time with cats. It sounds like she will do fine in time.
 
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InspiredLamb

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We tried putting her in her carry case and sitting her with us while the other cats came and went, and that seemed to work very well. She stayed calm and just watched them. Then last night she seemed a little better around them. There have still been incidents but they are getting less severe. Fingers crossed!

Thank you for all your help. I love this forum. It's a real Godsend.
 

Krienze

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3) Are there any pointers you can give, or things we have missed that can be improved or highlighted? All advice is welcome.

Hello, friend! I grew up in Astoria, Queens! (Though I live in Louisiana now!) so nice to meet you!

The only advice I can really give is to make sure you have LOTS of cat furniture, that really helped me with mine. Them having places to escape, etc. I also play with them in front of each other, it helps them to learn the cats body movement without them having to feel the need to force a fight to do so (or so I was told! I tried it and it seemed to work!)
 
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InspiredLamb

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Hello, friend! I grew up in Astoria, Queens! (Though I live in Louisiana now!) so nice to meet you!

The only advice I can really give is to make sure you have LOTS of cat furniture, that really helped me with mine. Them having places to escape, etc. I also play with them in front of each other, it helps them to learn the cats body movement without them having to feel the need to force a fight to do so (or so I was told! I tried it and it seemed to work!)
Hi,

We were in Jackson Heights, which is an amazing place. Love Astoria, too. Great Greek restaurants!

Thanks for the advice. Sweety has a bed which we brought with us and she gets a lot of security from retreating to it when she needs to. And she sometimes likes to use the carry case as a shelter. We've been playing with them, too. She's spending more time watching them now then hissing at them, which can only be a good thing.
 
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