Request for behavior analysis (videos)

rosegold

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If anyone would like to watch these and tell me what they’re seeing in Clove’s body language especially, I’d really appreciate it. I feel stuck and I’m hoping for some insight on how to move forward with these cat introductions.

Sophie, the colorpoint girl, is 13 years old and it’s her house, so she’s taken some time to adjust herself. But to me she is quite relaxed and fairly open/ignoring at this point (and gets along great with my other cat). Clove, the calico, is my cat (5 years old) and is the newcomer to this house—it’s been a little over 2 months.

The cats can eat on each side of the gate with no issues, and can usually be distracted away from the gate. But Clove’s intense behavior makes me nervous to let them meet face-to-face - even though I suspect the gate itself is a major cause for her frustration and then misdirected energy/aggression.

As you can see in the videos, sometimes Clove slow blinks at Sophie and averts her gaze, which is supposed to be a good thing, right?? But then she stalks/pounces at the gate, and wildly sticks her paws through. To me her body still seems very tense, and I don’t know if it’s fear or aggression (or both). Or perhaps playfulness/energy that’s getting directed at being frustrated with the barrier. When I go back over to her side, she tends to follow me around and leave it alone—so she also might be jealous of my attention or want to be with me, idk.

Here are four videos as they each show something a bit different. The videos don’t have sound, sorry. Hopefully you get the idea.

In the last video I was very interested to see that Sophie rolled over—was she being friendly/playful to Clove? After the video Sophie proceeded to play with her toy unbothered by herself, haha. And as soon as I went on Clove’s side of the gate, she was purring and rubbing on me and playing by herself too. Who knows… haha.

 

ArtNJ

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Looks fine to me. Sound wasn't working on the videos for me, but I saw no signs of much if any stress and you didn't mention any hissing. So its likely time to move on. You might get hissing and even some swats when you do, but that is because face-to-face is always more stressful. It doesn't mean that the gate has any work left to do. It looks like its job is done and more gate time wont do anything more.

Its like if the therapist has you used to a spider being 4 feet away, and you can read without terror. More time like that (maybe even years like that lol) wont necessarily make you cool with the spider roaming free on your leg. So just because the gate has done all it can doesn't necessarily mean its going to be stress free, and thats ok. You just dont want actual fighting.

With a senior cat your 100% right to be going slow and careful. But at the same time, based on the videos, I think you might be worrying a smidge too much, maybe trying to orchestrate the perfect process because you love the cats so much. Which is understandable, but there generally is no perfect process that will avoid all stress for a senior cat (unless you get lucky).
 
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rosegold

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Looks fine to me. Sound wasn't working on the videos for me, but I saw no signs of much if any stress and you didn't mention any hissing. So its likely time to move on. You might get hissing and even some swats when you do, but that is because face-to-face is always more stressful. It doesn't mean that the gate has any work left to do. It looks like its job is done and more gate time wont do anything more.

Its like if the therapist has you used to a spider being 4 feet away, and you can read without terror. More time like that (maybe even years like that lol) wont necessarily make you cool with the spider roaming free on your leg. So just because the gate has done all it can doesn't necessarily mean its going to be stress free, and thats ok. You just dont want actual fighting.

With a senior cat your 100% right to be going slow and careful. But at the same time, based on the videos, I think you might be worrying a smidge too much, maybe trying to orchestrate the perfect process because you love the cats so much. Which is understandable, but there generally is no perfect process that will avoid all stress for a senior cat (unless you get lucky).
Thanks so much! I think you’re definitely right that the gate’s done its job, and perfect analogy about the spider. What do you make of the behavior where Clove tries to stick her face/arms through the bars? Is she aggressively trying to get to Sophie or do you think just frustration with the gate itself?
 

ArtNJ

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Thanks so much! I think you’re definitely right that the gate’s done its job, and perfect analogy about the spider. What do you make of the behavior where Clove tries to stick her face/arms through the bars? Is she aggressively trying to get to Sophie or do you think just frustration with the gate itself?
The last video right? I don't want to be too optimistic because she is a senior cat, and that usually makes for a hard intro. But . . . it looked like she was trying to play to me. Same reason cats stick paws under closed doors when there is a cat on the other side. Maybe you'll be one of the luckier folks and they will actually end up friends rather than eventually get very close to toleration as is normal with a senior. I wouldn't bet on it, but it does happen and so far so good!
 
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rosegold

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The last video right? I don't want to be too optimistic because she is a senior cat, and that usually makes for a hard intro. But . . . it looked like she was trying to play to me. Same reason cats stick paws under closed doors when there is a cat on the other side. Maybe you'll be one of the luckier folks and they will actually end up friends rather than eventually get very close to toleration as is normal with a senior. I wouldn't bet on it, but it does happen and so far so good!
Ah the calico is only 5 and is the troublemaker haha, it’s the colorpoint who’s the senior (and it’s HER house) and yet is being so tolerant!

I just tried leaving the gate open while the cats ate, and no problems there—barely even looked at each other. But as soon as the food was done, Clove (calico) walked straight up to Sophie and started yelling and striking at her. It seemed to be escalating fast so I separated them again. Clove wouldn’t pay attention to toys or any other usual distractions. Sophie is fine to ignore her, but Clove is so persistent about immediately getting right up in her face and smacking her. This is where I’m not sure what a good transition is between gate and face-to-face. It’d be different if Clove was mostly keen to ignore her, but she absolutely isn’t. And tensions go from zero to a hundred so fast.
 
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rosegold

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I’m even wondering if I should get Clove a harness and let them “meet” face-to-face that way, so that I can redirect and control her more easily and keep her from running straight into Sophie’s face. I know the extra stress of a harness might not be great but I feel like Clove will hurt Sophie if they are completely free together.
 

ArtNJ

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Ah thats unfortunate. They can work through swatting, as long as that is all it is, but its less than ideal. One of my two adult cats has a tiny bit of mild cauliflower ear from some swats a then-senior-resident gave him when he was a kitten. So its worth trying some things before your forced to see what they can do. I didn't see stress at the gate, so I don't think more gate time alone is going to cut it. Maybe Alldara Alldara can help -- she is a big proponent of using strategies to ease the transition whereas I'm more in the sometimes you need to let them work it out school.
 

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I never advocate for either a harness interaction or a cage interaction. Gates are good because each cat can walk away and feel safe or calm down.

The cat sticking its feet through looks like it wants to play. It's a bit nervous still as well, you can tell by the straight tail. But she definitely wants to be part of it all.

From what you said in your most recent update, I'd let them eat together and add the gate immediately after the finish to keep it positive.

Bribe with a treat if you have to.

During some gated interactions keep giving positive associations.




How's scent swapping going? Have you site swapped them? How do they do during that?


Can you use a used shirt of yours and rub it on new cat, then old cat then new cat again and then around the baseboards? Just of mutual territory at first. Then even further.
 
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rosegold

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How's scent swapping going? Have you site swapped them? How do they do during that?


Can you use a used shirt of yours and rub it on new cat, then old cat then new cat again and then around the baseboards? Just of mutual territory at first. Then even further.
Thank you for your input! They both have daily access to the rest of the house when the other is napping, save the two bedrooms where they’re napping in (and have had scheduled time to go in those bedrooms as well). They seem fine with each other’s scents at this point, which is why we progressed to sight. I will try feeding with no gate and then putting the gate up right before they finish, as you suggested, for a few days and see how that goes.

The cat sticking its feet through looks like it wants to play. It's a bit nervous still as well, you can tell by the straight tail. But she definitely wants to be part of it all.
Yes, she certainly doesn’t like being excluded! She is such a difficult cat for me to read behaviorally. I could count on one hand the number of times she’s hissed or growled since being here—she just goes straight to yelling/meowing, as though she’s talking to ME about the other cat rather than talking TO her, haha.
 

Alldara

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Yes, she certainly doesn’t like being excluded! She is such a difficult cat for me to read behaviorally. I could count on one hand the number of times she’s hissed or growled since being here—she just goes straight to yelling/meowing, as though she’s talking to ME about the other cat rather than talking TO her, haha.
This is pretty normal for cats who are used to other cats! Do you know what her living situation was like before? Ghost never hissed or growled at anyone. Just wanted to be involved in everything they were doing. Magnus and Calcifer were hissing up storms.

Keep up with the scent swapping stuff for sure.

So something I like to do (and maybe it's how your normally do too when not recording), is put my body between the two cats. So even though there's a gate there, I usually put myself between the cat and the gate. This is another representation to your Resident Cat (RC) that you are there to physically protect and defend. To New Cat (NC) it shows that you want to be with both cats, so less jealousy if that will pop up.

I find I can draw my RC in more comfortablely and provide comfort, while leaving another hand for NC. When they come close I provide treats to each. (I just use a different brand of dry food because food is lower calories than treats.)

I ALWAYS play music during introductions. Cat calming music is best, or purring but anything without a lot of high tones in it is great. The purpose of the music is to stop each cat from being hyper responsive to every small sound. It's consistent and comforting.

I like to give some catnip during intros because it helps my cats to play games that consist more of rolling and batting than full on running around. But that's really dependant on how the cats react to the catnip.

Something they can do together like watching baby sensory videos (basically large shapes bopping around the screen) while at the gate is helpful. This can be saved until they're ready for non-gate meetings. My cats really liked Discovery Channel's Small World series.

Lastly don't underestimate the power of your words. Narrate to them what the other cat is doing. Like when she sticks her feet through tell RC that she's trying to play. Tell them they are good cats when they do a positive or neutral interaction. Use consistent vocabulary and they'll pick it up easily.
 

Alldara

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Oh. When she sticks her feet through too you can use a little toy after narration and just her with the toy and then just tell the other cat that the two of you just played.
 
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