New cat mixed messages?

Susanna72

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A little over a month ago, I adopted a new cat. He's five and just the nicest cat ever. I have one resident cat, Oliver, who is very docile and has mild Cerebellar hyperplasia, so he's a little wobbly, but gets around fine. (Just mentioning in case this new cat senses he's different and that's why he doesn't like him?)

So the new cat, Finn, is in the basement and he had his hiding spots, but when you sit down, he comes right out to be pet. Now he is totally friendly and lets you pet and brush him and he's just the easiest cat.

However....he hates Oliver. They are still separate, but any introductions are hissing and misunderstandings (Oliver got away from me one time and ran to hide...in the exact same place Finn was running, so I think he thought he was chasing him.) Oliver is now terrified of Finn and Finn just hisses and runs away. The FIRST few times he met him, Finn hunkered down and started to like stalk him to attack. Another time he went around the coffee table and snuck up on him. I was there both times and clapped my hands and it ended up in both running away, so no violent full-on cat fights.

The thing that really concerns me is yesterday, he hissed at ME. I put Oliver in a room by himself and closed the door. Then I let Finn come up and sit with me in a chair in my bedroom. He really does just want to be around people. We did that for a few hours. Then I went and got Oliver and held him. I always hold him so they can't make eye contact. I just want Finn to see him and get used to him. Well, he hissed and went under the bed. Okay. That's normal. Then he ran into the other bedroom and hid under that bed. I put Ollie in my bedroom, closed the door, and went into other room to coax Finn out and pet him. He let me for a second and then ran downstairs. I walked down after him and he ran back UP the stairs. I started to walk up after him and he stopped 2/3 way up and hissed at me. He did that scary mewling sound and acted like he was going to swat (this is a cat who doesn't even nip when he's overstimulated.). Is he afraid of me or angry or what? He was blocking me from going upstairs. I'm not dumb, so I just stood there. I took a step back and he blinked at me a few times. In fact, he would hiss and then blink! Mixed message? So then he went up and tried to get back in my bedroom, where Ollie was. Now, I don't know if that's because Ollie was in there or if that was a nice place he spent the afternoon or what. I walked up behind him and he ran downstairs. I'll take a moment to say that I don't ever yell or swat at my cats. They don't understand and it just scares them. So is this cat afraid of me? Angry at me or Oliver? I sort of don't trust him now that he turned on me. That was scary. I've never been afraid of my cats before. I think that was a turning point. Up until then, I was like okay we'll work through this....eventually. I asked the shelter for advice and they said bring him back, but it breaks my heart to give up on him. I went down and sat with him last night and he was a doll, as usual. It's so confusing. It's like he's two different cats. Does he just need to be the only cat in the house?
 
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Susanna72

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Wanted to also mention that I was thinking one possibility for hissing at me was a "I am NOT going back to the basement" message. I never have to pick him up to go down there, though. He just goes down... It's his safe space.
 

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Hi. I think you are just rushing the introduction process and both cats are upset by it. A month's time is nothing to adult cats, which can take months and months - and more months - to even tolerate each other, much less be 'buddies'. There is a possibility that Finn senses a weakness in Ollie due to his disability, but that is probably farther down the list of reasons for his behavior. I gather you also don't know what Finn's background is, so there could have been things that went on before which are affecting how he currently acts.

Take a look at this TCS article to see if you can adjust your current process to come more in align with the steps they recommend on how to introduce cats. I also included one about fixing an unsuccessful cat introduction in case there is any additional information in it for you to consider.
How To Successfully Introduce Cats: The Ultimate Guide – TheCatSite Articles
How To Fix An Unsuccessful Cat Introduction – TheCatSite Articles
 
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Susanna72

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Hi. I think you are just rushing the introduction process and both cats are upset by it. A month's time is nothing to adult cats, which can take months and months - and more months - to even tolerate each other, much less be 'buddies'. There is a possibility that Finn senses a weakness in Ollie due to his disability, but that is probably farther down the list of reasons for his behavior. I gather you also don't know what Finn's background is, so there could have been things that went on before which are affecting how he currently acts.

Take a look at this TCS article to see if you can adjust your current process to come more in align with the steps they recommend on how to introduce cats. I also included one about fixing an unsuccessful cat introduction in case there is any additional information in it for you to consider.
How To Successfully Introduce Cats: The Ultimate Guide – TheCatSite Articles
How To Fix An Unsuccessful Cat Introduction – TheCatSite Articles
Thank you! Finn is five and we don’t know what his history is. He has scarred, crumpled-up ears, so he was either outdoors, neglected, or both. He’s little, so maybe he was beat up a lot and was trying to assert dominance over a larger and fluffier Oliver.
What do you think of his hissing and blocking me? And when I backed off, he blinked at me? The blinking is positive, right?
 
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Susanna72

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FeebysOwner FeebysOwner Thank you for the article links! The one thing I struggle with is site swapping. Oliver is terrified of the basement. He can't navigate the uncarpeted stairs with his balance issues and he's just afraid of it. I took him down there for a tornado warning once and he was paralyzed with fear.

I was reading other threads in this forum and I was thinking the next best thing is letting Finn out a few times a day and he can explore the house, which has Ollie's scent all over it. Ollie can stay in a spare room. I just tried that and it seemed to work okay. It was weird because Finn was sitting next to me and then he got up like "Okay that was nice. Going back to the basement now. Bye." Do you think that is an okay substitute for site swapping?

Sometimes Oliver sleeps on a pillow, so I take that pillow case and put it on Finn's bed the next morning.

I also bought a Feliway plugin and put it in the kitchen area, which is by the basement door.
 

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The room that you put Ollie in when Finn has the chance to explore the house, can you have Finn explore that room at some point in time? I am guessing that has more of Ollie's scent in it than other rooms? If not, then it is not as important. Does Finn react in any manner to any spots that Ollie typically hangs out in?

What does Finn do with the pillow case that has Ollie's scent on it? Anything? If you do reverse swapping, does Ollie react to that?

There are other calming products you can try, as none of them work on all cats. Just do an internet search on other ones to see if you want to try any of them as well.

I am not sure what the hissing and then blinking is about. I think it just has to do with Finn getting riled up and lashing at who ever might be there at the time (re-directed aggression). The blinking afterward could be him telling you that he is not as much mad at you as he is the situation he is in. (That is just a guess.) I doubt that he is really trying to block you, but rather standing his ground or perhaps there is a repeated interaction between the two of you when he does that which he is responding to.

You are probably right, he has some defensive mechanisms going on from his past, most likely related to other cats. If that is the case, it is going to take a long while for him to understand Ollie isn't there to beat the crap out of him.
 
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Susanna72

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Hi! Thank you for helping me! I'm finding your comments REALLY helpful.

The room that you put Ollie in when Finn has the chance to explore the house, can you have Finn explore that room at some point in time? I am guessing that has more of Ollie's scent in it than other rooms? If not, then it is not as important. Does Finn react in any manner to any spots that Ollie typically hangs out in?

I can absolutely do that. With this Covid stuff, I now work from home (really helpful right now, so I can check on these guys throughout the day) and Ollie sits in the spare bedroom/my office with me all day. I let Finn out earlier and he sat on the sofa for a while and then went back to basement on his own. Later this evening, I was thinking I'd let Finn hang out in the office while Ollie is in the living room or my bedroom. As far as reaction to Ollie's scent, since Oliver can't navigate the basement stairs, his litter box is in a spare room I call the "cat room". It has toys and a small cat tree Ollie likes to nap in (not really a tree, as much as a cubby). I let Finn in there the other day and he just smelled around the boxes and tree. I have three boxes in there (I lost two 17 year old siblings last year to cancer, about 6 months apart. I hate 2020.) but Ollie only uses one and very rarely a second one. Finn smelled all three and then laid down in the one that is barely used and was scooped clean at the time. It was so weird! Then he hopped out and went on his way. He didn't use it. I checked. Just laid down in it.

What does Finn do with the pillow case that has Ollie's scent on it? Anything? If you do reverse swapping, does Ollie react to that?

I'm not sure. It was still on the bed the next day....I assume he slept on it. I didn't try reverse swapping. I'll do that.

I was going to try Jackson Galaxy's Stress Stopper. Do you have any experience with that?
 

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Yay, CH cats are my specialty! I love love love wobbly kitty syndrome cats. From reading what you're going through, the CH doesn't factor in here. They maintain all of their processing abilities, it's just they're not so good with balance.
The way CH usually plays into cat introductions is when two cats try to play for the first few times. When CH cats try to play with non CH cats, they usually fall into other cats a bit rough (not on purpose, of course), which can cause the "normal" cats to become a bit angry. On the other side, when a normal cat tries to play with a CH cat, the CH cat can fall a lot easier, sometimes hitting the ground pretty hard, which then causes them to become angry or afraid of the normal cat.
However, in your situation, I agree with what's been mentioned above.
 

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I was going to try Jackson Galaxy's Stress Stopper. Do you have any experience with that?
No I don't, but it can't hurt to try.

That is a good idea with Finn being in another place than the basement to interact with you. It could be that he goes to the basement because that is where he gets the most interaction with you - where he is most comfortable. The rest of the house is kind of taboo for that reason, maybe?

These cats do really need a test - when you are ready and can prepare for it. That is, being able to see each other through a barricaded door. It would just give you a clue as to Finn's demeaner when he is close to Ollie, but knows there is something between them that will prevent him from getting to Ollie, and let him know Ollie can't 'get to him' (OK, that is for his benefit - mindset wise.) Likewise for Ollie. Think about a set up that would be most comfortable for both of them. It may be a gated doorway from your office where Ollie is and Finn on the outside of that gate. There are some tips and ideas in that article, but we also have other possibilities for you to create barriers. If all goes crazy, you just let that idea rest for awhile.
 
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Susanna72

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Yay, CH cats are my specialty! I love love love wobbly kitty syndrome cats. From reading what you're going through, the CH doesn't factor in here. They maintain all of their processing abilities, it's just they're not so good with balance.
The way CH usually plays into cat introductions is when two cats try to play for the first few times. When CH cats try to play with non CH cats, they usually fall into other cats a bit rough (not on purpose, of course), which can cause the "normal" cats to become a bit angry. On the other side, when a normal cat tries to play with a CH cat, the CH cat can fall a lot easier, sometimes hitting the ground pretty hard, which then causes them to become angry or afraid of the normal cat.
However, in your situation, I agree with what's been mentioned above.
They are the BEST cats. So sweet and easy going. It's so cute how he sits by the bed/sofa/whatever target and focuses for a minute...then he launches himself up there like a leap frog. Sometimes he hits the back of the sofa, but he makes it! He's very handi-capable. I moved into this townhouse from a one story house three years ago and was SO worried he couldn't do stairs, but he does them just fine. Takes his time and I've never seen him fall.

I started feeding Finn on the basement landing a few weeks ago and then I would sit on the step between them and let Ollie come up and he just looks at him. He's so curious. If Finn turns around, Ollie starts and runs away. Finn just goes back to eating. The time Ollie got away from me, he was scared of Finn and ran up the stairs. The problem was, Finn ALSO ran up there. Oliver was so confused and scared, he just bumbled around and fell into him. I think Finn thought he was chasing and attacking. So Finn got under the bed and that is Ollie's safe space, so HE tried to go under there. I yelled, "Ollie no! Not there!" Swiping and hissing ensued. Oliver didn't know what to do. He's not a fighter and isn't good at running and hiding, either. I really messed up that day. I just rushed it. I hope we can get past it.
 
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Susanna72

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No I don't, but it can't hurt to try.

That is a good idea with Finn being in another place than the basement to interact with you. It could be that he goes to the basement because that is where he gets the most interaction with you - where he is most comfortable. The rest of the house is kind of taboo for that reason, maybe?

These cats do really need a test - when you are ready and can prepare for it. That is, being able to see each other through a barricaded door. It would just give you a clue as to Finn's demeaner when he is close to Ollie, but knows there is something between them that will prevent him from getting to Ollie, and let him know Ollie can't 'get to him' (OK, that is for his benefit - mindset wise.) Likewise for Ollie. Think about a set up that would be most comfortable for both of them. It may be a gated doorway from your office where Ollie is and Finn on the outside of that gate. There are some tips and ideas in that article, but we also have other possibilities for you to create barriers. If all goes crazy, you just let that idea rest for awhile.
I DO interact with him mostly down there. My big mistake has been to let them see each other with no barrier other than me. Even across the room, it was tense. Ollie is scared stiff and Finn is ready to pounce. That's when I end it and everyone goes to their corner. I see now that I rushed that. I was thinking I'd get a baby gate for $20 and put it at the basement door and try that one day?
 

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If you do a baby gate, you might consider two - one of top of the other. Not so much for Ollie, but for Finn if he thinks he can jump over just one. That is why another form of barrier might be better/easier. The attached pic is made of DIY shelving which can be hooked together with zip ties to make an accordion style door, that is easily opened/shut.
 

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Susanna72

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FeebysOwner FeebysOwner quick update! Rubbed clean sock on Oliver's face and put it on Finn's bed (ended up on floor next morning). Tried a room swap the next day and he just wanted out and sat at the door. Wouldn't smell or lay on Oliver's blanket. The next day, Oliver spent the day sleeping on my bed. Later in the day, I put Oliver in one room and let Finn lay on the blanket Oliver was on all day. He was purring and kneading it! That's a good sign, right?

As a side note, I try to let him out to roam free a few times a day for an hour or so here and there and he just wants to stand by his food dishes. He's a little guy, but he likes to eat! lol.
 

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It's a process isn't it?!?! Finn might have just been happy to be on the blanket, but the fact that he wasn't disturbed by Oliver's scent in it is good!

I guess Finn is more interested in eating than roaming! Was his bowl empty? Feeby has always been obsessed with ensuring that there is a bit of food in her bowl, even if she isn't hungry. I have added food to her bowl while she sat there, and once I did, she has just walked away without eating any of it. Not saying that is Finn's case, but you never know!

Keep us posted!!
 
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It's a process isn't it?!?! Finn might have just been happy to be on the blanket, but the fact that he wasn't disturbed by Oliver's scent in it is good!

I guess Finn is more interested in eating than roaming! Was his bowl empty? Feeby has always been obsessed with ensuring that there is a bit of food in her bowl, even if she isn't hungry. I have added food to her bowl while she sat there, and once I did, she has just walked away without eating any of it. Not saying that is Finn's case, but you never know!

Keep us posted!!
It was empty for sure. I'm feeding him what the vet told me to, but he's getting a little gut on him. He's really little, so maybe that's good.
 
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It's a process isn't it?!?! Finn might have just been happy to be on the blanket, but the fact that he wasn't disturbed by Oliver's scent in it is good!

I guess Finn is more interested in eating than roaming! Was his bowl empty? Feeby has always been obsessed with ensuring that there is a bit of food in her bowl, even if she isn't hungry. I have added food to her bowl while she sat there, and once I did, she has just walked away without eating any of it. Not saying that is Finn's case, but you never know!

Keep us posted!!
Well, I've discovered that Finn doesn't like the room I work in and meows to be let out. I picked him up and tried to shoo Oliver into that room so I could switch them. Set Finn down and rushed to Oliver (he's not a bolter) and picked him up. Finn looked at him and meowed/hissed. I've been brushing him with Oliver's brush. Trying to switch scents. The only intros I've done is holding one and walking by. Oliver is scared, but doesn't freak out. Finn still does not like him. I'm not sure what to do next. Is it time to buy a baby gate and try that?
 

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I'm not sure what to do next. Is it time to buy a baby gate and try that?
You might as well give it a try. Just remember, if you think Finn will attempt to jump over the baby gate, you will need to either buy two or concoct one of your own - such as the example I shared earlier. You can also use a towel or sheet, etc. to cover the bottom leaving only a few inches above the ground so that can kind of peek underneath it to see each other, if 'full on' exposure initially causes a ruckus. Or, you can set something up on each side of the gate to let them see each other, but prevent them from getting too close to one another to start off with. You just have to experiment with what seems the best at the beginning. Don't forget about the treats as noted in the Introduction article. And, continue to follow the rule of thumb that you can only proceed as fast as the slowest adapting cat.
 
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Susanna72

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You might as well give it a try. Just remember, if you think Finn will attempt to jump over the baby gate, you will need to either buy two or concoct one of your own - such as the example I shared earlier. You can also use a towel or sheet, etc. to cover the bottom leaving only a few inches above the ground so that can kind of peek underneath it to see each other, if 'full on' exposure initially causes a ruckus. Or, you can set something up on each side of the gate to let them see each other, but prevent them from getting too close to one another to start off with. You just have to experiment with what seems the best at the beginning. Don't forget about the treats as noted in the Introduction article. And, continue to follow the rule of thumb that you can only proceed as fast as the slowest adapting cat.
What do I do if Finn doesn't seem interested in treats? It's so odd!
 
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Finn doesn’t seem to want to leave the basement anymore. Today I put up the baby gate and Finn was curious on the basement stairs, but Oliver wouldn’t come over. He’s really scared. So I put Oliver in the spare room and lured Finn up with the brush. He played with piece of cardboard! Haven’t seen him play before. So he’s been exploring and he’s lying in my bed purring. I’m thinking at dinner time we will try the baby gate again and feed them on either side.
 
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