Our cat introduction

Dermax

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I have to admit from the outset this post is as much about therapeutic writing for me than any real question on my part. It's quite an essay - sorry about that! If anyone has any tips or just words of encouragement at the end, however, they'd be appreciated!

Just before COVID hit in 2020, my wife and I adopted a two-year old former feral cat named Sybil from the pound. On her little mugshot it specifically stated that she did not get along with other cats. I hadn't had a cat in almost 30 years, so it was major lifestyle change, but over about three months we imprinted on each other. It was kind of the perfect little family, my wife - more of a cat person - was the "primary care giver", while I was Sybil's "safe space". Anytime she was nervous or scared she'd find me, settle in, and we'd wait out whatever was bothering her. I can't really tell you how calm it made/makes me to have this skittish, skinny stray turn into a content, chubby house cat.

We live in a college town where - sadly - a lot of pets get dumped at the end of the semester. On Halloween this year we had an extremely tame juvenile male show up on our porch and start living there. We posted for lost pets with no response. Our local Animal Control actually does kill cats in the shelter, so that wasn't an option. Between the weather getting cold and other city ferals slapping him around, we made the call to bring him in, because he was unlikely to last much longer with his complete lack of street smarts. We kept the male - Hector - in a separate room and got his health tested at the vet for both their safety. He wasn't neutered or chipped, so we took care of that, and for over two weeks he lived in the spare room while Sybil had the run of the house. At first she was very hissy and yeolwy under the door at him, but over time that stopped. And then one week ago - Hector learned to open doors...

Given everything I've read about cat introductions I have to say this past week has been about as good as it probably could be. There's been no real fights. They even sleep together in the same room - although apart from each other. When they run into each other around a corner Sybil will sometimes hiss and maybe once a day may charge, but not "maliciously", she never pursues to fight, and Hector - for his part - has been the perfect gentleman, always retreating, never fighting, but continuing on with his business. We keep them separated - with a different door! - while we're at work, just in case. Beyond that, they eat in the same room, sleep in the same room, occasionally play in the same room. The only real issue is that Hector clearly wants to be friends with Sybil, while she still won't let him within a couple feet of her without hissing or - again maybe once a day - swatting.

Given how quickly we had to move to bring him in, the "early" introduction due to his opening of doors, and Sybil's ex-street cat personality, I'd say they're making great progress.

I, however, am exceedingly anxious for Sybil. While my wife is a cat person, I'm a Sybil person. I'm used to always seeing her relaxed and lazing around with me, so seeing her hiss or pace even a little really tears me up inside. It's been about a week since I've had a fair amount of sleep, since every time I hear either of them move I snap awake. I don't like having her out of my view "just in case", so I wind up following her around the house. Normal brain me thinks that I'm probably be making thing worse, since cats can pick up on their people's stress and Sybil is undoubtedly wondering why I'm creeping around the house instead of laying on the couch till treat time.

I know this is a cat behavior forum, not a human behavior forum - I'm working on that elsewhere. I'm trying to convince myself that things are going ok and we'll be able to provide a happy, caring home to both of them in time. I just struggle so much seeing Sybil anything but chill and content. I know there's a ton of knowledgeable, multi-cat folks here, so I just wanted to create an account, post, and see if anyone had any additional tips, words of encouragement, or the like.
 

rubysmama

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Hello and welcome to TCS. :wave2:

What a lovely story of of Sybil came into your life after so many years without having a cat. No wonder you bonded so closely with her. :petcat:

And thank you for giving Hector a home. You and your wife most likely saved his life.

As for the relationship between Sybil and Hector, it really doesn't sound too bad. Some hissing, even the swatting, from Sybil, is just her saying "keep back". The charging is a bit more concerning, but there hasn't been an actual fur flying fight, right?

It's hard to know without seeing how they interact, but it really doesn't sound awful.

It's probably too late, and not even necessary, to do a re-introduction, but that doesn't mean you can't try to make the time when they're close together more positive, i.e. giving them yummy treats.

You're right, cats can pick up on their human's stress, so if you can, try not to stress over them. I know, easier said then done.

If you are concerned about Sybil being stressed, here's a TCS article you might want to read.
Stress in Cats – The Ultimate Guide – Cat Articles
 

Mamanyt1953

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You are doing JUST FINE! And so are the cats. Really. I mean, REALLY! A little hissing is what you can expect for a bit, and off and on forever. Sometimes a cat's gotta say what a cat's gotta say, after all! But they are sleeping, eating and playing in the same room, and there have been no fights. Just the occasional "bad word" tossed around.

My best advice is to take a deep breath, and then another one, and then one more. Consciously relax your muscles, and just let them be. They really are doing fine. Sybil will take a bit longer, because she can remember what it was like to have nothing, and to fight for every scrap, every safe spot to sleep. Once she realized that Hector is not a threat to her resources, she'll relax even more around him.
 
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Dermax

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I just wanted to thank all of your for the wonderful replies. Sometimes just hearing "It'll be ok" or "It's fine" is such a huge help. I'm so glad that I joined this forum :)

We're working on establishing our new routine. I just bought and built another cat tree. There were no issues overnight or when I fed them this morning. It's still really early - it took Sybil and I two months to really bond; it's only been two weeks for them. My wife assures me, and I know in my brain, that it's going to keep getting better; they're already doing so well given their past histories.

I'll keep working through my own stress, and the kind words of you all have been a really big help. Thank you all again for the advice and replies.
 

Alldara

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That's wonderful thus far and expanding their territory certainly helps.

What you're feeling is normal too ❣You can be gentle with yourself! That's the big part I hate about the introduction phase.

Don't underestimate the power of catnip too! PS. The cat calming music mentioned above by Furballsmom is really helpful. Or cats purring on a loop.

Cats in the shelter can act very different because it's a high stress situation. She also hadn't gotten used to having "enough" of anything yet but she has that with you.
 
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