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Old 08-18-2010, 11:13 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default How do I know if my cat just doesn't like other cats?

My husband and I adopted a 3rd cat on Sunday. He's 7 months old and very friendly and assertive.

We have two 9-month-old littermates--Coda and Allegro--already who get along fine. They fight, wrestle and roughhouse a lot and it gets pretty wild, but the next minute they are grooming and cuddling next to each other.

I immediately brought the 3rd cat, Forte, to his safe room without seeing the other cats. I've installed a Feliway plug-in just outside of Forte's room. We have been bestowing lots of affection and treats on Coda and Allegro. We've been switching out their bedding every day to intermingle their scents. C+A have been interested in the door, and I've given them treats and praised them when they sit outside of the door. Allegro especially has been interested. When I entered and exited the room, Allegro would hiss when he caught a glimpse of Forte, but now he doesn't. I've even cracked the door slightly so that they could sniff each other. The first couple of times I did this, Allegro hissed or growled, but he no longer does that. He just seems calm and interested, and has even rolled on his back and purred while the door was cracked open.

Coda was always the one I worried about (she's the one that hissed at the baby foster kittens, even when they were as young as 3-4 weeks). She's been cuddling up fine to the bedding from Forte's room. I decided to take the next step and let them explore each other's environment. My husband brought Forte into a spare room, out of sight of the other cats. I then lured Coda and Allegro into Forte's safe room using their favorite treats. Coda started softly growling, but I spoke calmly and reassuringly and I closed the door so that my husband could bring Forte out to explore his new home without the stress of having the 2 other cats there. I was going to go out there too and watch him explore, but it became quickly evident that Coda was NOT happy. I'm sure she smelled Forte all over the place. She started hissing and growling CONSTANTLY. When Allegro got anywhere near her, she'd growl and hiss, raising a paw with extended claws. I've never seen her hiss so seriously before. At one point, she stopped growling as I spoke reassuringly to her, and I held out my hand (the back of the hand, curled into a fist) to sniff. I figured she wouldn't be interested in being petted, but was still a little surprised at her reaction--she batted at my hand (no claws, just footpad) and hissed LOUDLY at me. That was one unhappy kitty! I didn't know whether to give her treats or not, because she was growling and hissing constantly and I didn't want to reinforce that behavior, but on the other hand I wanted to associate positive things with Forte's smell.

We still have to bring Forte out in the carrier for them to smell through the bars.

Any tips on what we can do until then or what we can do to help Coda chill out?

In another issue, my husband said that Forte was hiding from him, like he was scared, when touring the house. He said his tail was up and hooked on the end almost constantly, so I think he was probably just playing? Any feedback on that?

Thank you in advance!!
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Old 08-18-2010, 11:54 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Forte was probably nervous in new surroundings. it sounds fairly normal. Daisy was like Coda when i introdoced both cats after her. and after one of the cats goes to the vet and smells funny when they come back. Keep doing what you are doing. keep switching rooms and scents. when they are calm give treats. some cats are just really stubburn and just wont accept another cat, but in most cases they will at the very least learn to live with them. at this point Coda doesnt seem that out of sorts. she is just less tolerant to change. I think you are doing everything so patient and puurrrfect! keep up the good work. wait to take the next step when they are comfortable with where they are. I know introducing cats is stressful...but soooo worth it in the end!
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Old 08-19-2010, 12:33 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I have a few reactions to your narrative. By way of background, I have one very temperamental, fear aggressive, hissy female cat, Snowball, who took 45 days to get along with Hershey the Havana, has taken six months to coexist uneasily with Blizzy, but who learned to get along with Little Hersh, my other Havana who arrived three weeks ago, within two weeks. I'd like to believe I've learned a few things the past six months, mainly due to the guidance of others, that made Little Hersh's intro so smooth--he got along with Hersh the first day and with Blizzy within a few days.

With all respect, you may be moving a bit too fast with Coda, on your timetable more than on hers. I did make that mistake myself with Snowby and Blizzy, and it undoubtedly delayed their getting along. Forte only arrived Sunday, so it may have been a bit too soon for Coda to go into his room; perhaps she needed or needs a few more days to stand outside his room and to get used to his being there and to his scents before she is "confronted" with his smells directly all around her.

Second, I have read that it is often (there are no hard and fast rules, of course, it all depends on your situation and your cats) better to allow the newcomer first to meet either the dominant or most influential of the remaining cats, alone. Thus, I had Little Hersh meet Hershey first, then Blizzy, and after a few more days, then Snowball. By the time Snowball met Little Hersh face to face, she was able to see that Hersh and Blizzy got on with him. And before she met him, I had opened the door to his safe room and allowed her to go in and explore it ON HER OWN, as I did with Hersh and Blizzy, and I kept the door open, so they could leave as soon as they were uncomfortable. As you can imagine, even though the first exploration by Snowball was short, she was curious, and so she came back and explored again, quietly and tentatively.

Third, I would resume the room exchanges only once Coda stops serious hissing outside his room, and then keep doing them, and hold off on the face to face, until Coda stops hissing or growling when she is in his room. That would be the signal to move to the next step of allowing any kind of face to face meeting. I would also continue to give them treats when in the other's room, to develop a positive association with the smell of the other cat.

Based on our human sense of impatience and excitement to get over the initial phase, our sense of time often differs from the cats' own timetables. Forte will likely want to move much more quickly than Coda, for instance, to the next step. By the way, Forte doesn't sound like he was behaving out of the ordinary, bearing in mind that he smelled Coda and Allegro all over the house but didn't see them. He is ready to expect the unexpected and is alert for it. Usually it is good to just let them go around the house and explore without interfering, just trail along to see that they don't get into trouble. I suspect Forte will feel totally comfortable in the house with one or two more forays out.

Since Coda could be a source of concern,just go more slowly with her. You know her well, you will be able to sense when she is calming down enough to move to the next step. Also, I'd get Allegro and Forte to meet first and feel calm around each other before moving on to Coda, since she will take some cues from Allegro's reaction to him.

Just a few ideas/thoughts for you to consider.
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Old 08-19-2010, 02:34 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Thanks for the great suggestions!

It was weird though...I know now that she needs more time, but I waited until she wasn't hissing or growling anymore at the closed door. I even switched their identical scratch mats and Coda was cuddling up on Forte's scratch mat downstairs earlier yesterday evening. It seemed like she was ready for that next step.

Allegro has been doing fine. There were some initial hisses when he glimpsed Forte through the door when it opened or closed, but now he's just curious. And Allegro was just fine in Forte's room last night. Totally calm and curious, and he ended up curling up on Forte's bed. We've been having Forte and Allegro glimpse each other through the cracked door, and by now they're both just calm and curious.

Coda's technically the dominant one (Allegro follows HER around the house- not the other way around). But Allegro's the friendlier one.

I know we probably should have waited a little longer just to make sure, but here's my concern regarding that--Forte is ALL BY HIMSELF (ETA: And he's used to having many, many cats around him), and I can tell he's getting bored in there despite toys and whatever time we can spend in there (food bowl is often knocked over, other things knocked over and scattered around). I hesitate to spend TOO much time in there with him because I don't want to neglect Coda and Allegro and cause more behavior problems. We're trying to still give lots of love to them.

I think Allegro and Forte may be ready to meet face-to-face, since they're both doing so well with smelling each other's living areas and peeping at each other through the crack in the door. Would this idea work? I am thinking of isolating Coda in the downstairs bathroom tonight (my husband would stay in there with her and play with her) and opening the door to Forte's bathroom and just keep it open. That way Forte can come out, or Allegro can come in, and Forte can retreat if he feels he needs to. Would that hurt Coda's progress in any way?

Last edited by paperbacknovel; 08-19-2010 at 04:02 PM.
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Old 08-19-2010, 07:52 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I don't think what you suggest would impede Coda's progress at all. The most important element in all of this, IMHO, is your sensing when the cats are ready for the next step. I think it will help if Allegro and Forte start getting along, even if he is not the dominant cat. When Coda is ready to meet Forte face to face, perhaps through a crack in the door at first, it should help that Allegro will probably be friendly towards him. To me the tough call is where Coda and Forte should meet, when they do meet. There's Forte's room, Coda's room, if she has a favorite, or neutral ground. Opinions differ. Since Snowball gets scared easily, I thought it best if Little Hersh meet her on her own ground, since she knew the turf and could hide if necessary. One great thing about most Havana mixes is they sense where the boundaries are with other cats and try not to cross them, so Forte himself should be a great help. In my case, Snowby hissed a little at LH and then gauged his reaction. He didn't pay that much attention to her, went about exploring the room and certainly wasn't interested in annoying her. That allowed her to relax fairly quickly. Hopefully the same thing will happen with Coda, as she sees FOrte is friendly but respects her space.

Good luck tonight, hopefully this is the easy part!
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Old 08-19-2010, 11:23 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Well, THAT didn't go well. Coda went in another bathroom with DH and did fine the whole time, purring. Allegro was doing fine when I cracked the bathroom door, did fine when I opened the door and Forte came out. They just sniffed each other and then Forte went to explore the loft. Allegro followed him, sniffing his butt. Forte tried to sniff Allegro's butt a lot, but Allegro didn't feel comfortable exposing his tail end to Forte for more than a few seconds at a time. He kept turning around to face Forte, looking a little worried. Forte turned his attention to exploring the loft, and pretty soon Allegro just went to sniff Forte's safe room, looking calm but interested. When Forte went downstairs, though, Allegro followed him. Forte started being interested in sniffing Allegro's butt again, and Allegro eventually hissed softly. He seemed kind of upset that Forte was crawling around his digs or something.

Anyway, I had been dispensing treats to both cats at this time, and I decided that the session should probably end to keep things short and simple, so I picked up Forte (Allegro following me closely) and tried to deposit him in his room. He didn't want to go, though, and scrabbled around at the entryway to the room, limbs flailing, and frightened Allegro, causing Allegro to growl. Allegro started halfheartedly chasing Forte around the loft, softly growling, and at one point I saw Allegro tap Forte on the nose with his paw. I didn't see claws- it was a tentative tap. I was eventually able to distract them with a pile of treats and pick up Forte again and bring him to his room. Everybody was fine after that.

The good signs were that throughout everything, both Allegro and Forte had their tails pointing up with a little curl on top, and ears seemed to be in normal position. So even if Allegro was agitated and growly and Forte was apprehensive, it wasn't enough to translate to their body language.

I still feel like I failed, though. It seems this whole thing is going to take a LOT longer than I thought...
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Old 08-19-2010, 11:42 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Hi there, paperbacknovel. Reading your narrative, I don't think you failed at all! Really! Granted, it wasn't fantastic, but what you describe is not bad at all, about par for the course. So don't be so hard on yourself. Sounds like Forte was a little too interested in Allegro's back end for Allegro's comfort, and so he was setting a few ground rules. The first para doesn't sound negative to me at all, just a "getting to know you" kind of thing. I should have mentioned to you that even though Hershey and Blizzy took a liking to each other the first day, Hershey tried to teach Blizzy how to wrestle starting an hour after they met. He applied more force than Blizzy was comfortable with, so Blizzy would give a little hiss, cry out, and then run. But it didn't take Blizzy long to figure out that Hershey was not trying to hurt him, just play, and since Blizzy was not a mean cat, the two of them worked it out pretty fast.

Assuming Allegro and Forte are both not mean, I would guess they will pretty fast "suss" each other out, too--but that takes some trial and error, which may include some early hissing. I will confess that Hershey never used to do paw swipes himself, but during the 45 days he was getting to know Snowball, she paw-swiped at him so often that he picked it up. But it was never open claw, and now he uses it as a subtle warning, like to Little Hersh not to steal his food.

The one brief moment that frightened Allegro hopefully was an aberration caused by the momentary commotion. The running and chasing are standard operating procedure for many cats, but especially for HB mixes--I have Hershey chasing Little Hersh, and vice versa, often, and also Blizzy and Hersh. The chasing should turn into something good, as long as the hissing and growling doesn't get worse--though I should also mention that when Hersh and Blizzy wrestle, there is some serious vocalizing going on. So early on, yes, I would keep a careful watch on it, but it can be just a precursor to learning how to play with each other, once they know each other a little better.

So don't be discouraged--if things don't improve the next two or three times you do this, THEN you can consider what you might need to do to improve the situation--but the fact that they need to set some boundaries for each other is natural, not a bad thing, as long as Allegro doesn't get too upset--if he verges on it, then I would do as yo did, give some treats and end the session.

Good luck tomorrow!
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Old 08-22-2010, 10:42 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Sorry that this is so long.

I took a few steps back and kept switching out bedding and scratch mats. Still showing Allegro and Forte each other through a crack in the door. No hissing between the two anymore. Coda doesn't seem interested, or maybe she's afraid, so she doesn't really go near the door.

Poor Forte is SO BORED. We try to spend time in there with him, but while we're gone he knocks over his water (we came back to a flood on the floor), scatters his dry food, and knocks over his bed and kitty condo. I feel so awful for him. Being isolated is slowly driving him nuts, I think. He's so sweet and affectionate while we're in there, though. I sit on the toilet seat and he jumps onto the counter, puts his front paws on my shoulder, and gives me head-butts and nuzzles, purring. My mom called while I was in there with him and I got into a mini-argument with her, and when I raised my voice and sounded upset, Forte jumped onto my shoulder like a parrot and nuzzled me with his nose and head, purring for me. Such a sweetheart.

Tonight we tried putting Forte in the carrier and letting Allegro and Coda look at him while we fed all of them treats. Coda growled and hissed. Allegro was fine, and just sniffed at him, tail up. Allegro went to explore Forte's room and was just fine. Forte was going nuts in the carrier, though. We thought he was going to hurt himself- he kept scratching at the bars (nail sheaths falling all over the place) and trying to dig his way out of the carrier. He was moaning a little. We felt awful, but happy that Allegro was doing well, so we put Coda in another room and let Forte out to explore the loft area (which is a kitty area and right outside Forte's bathroom). Forte seemed glad to get out, and Allegro seemed curious. Both boys had their tails up and were sniffing each other's tail regions, but both boys seemed nervous and wanting to keep their backsides away from each other. They were doing OK until Forte started batting Allegro with his paw (maybe to play?) and Allegro hissed and batted Forte with HIS paw, claws out. Then they tackled each other, growling and yowling. I had treats all over the room, but they were distracted by each other. I tried playing with them using a teaser toy, and it worked for about 5 minutes (Allegro was calmly laying on his side, watching Forte play and blinking) before Forte stopped trying to pounce on the toy and instead turned his attentions to stalking and pouncing on Allegro. More chasing and fighting and hissing and growling. I ended up picking up Forte and taking him back into his room. Poor little guy. I apologized to all of them for having to go through that.

I know it's only been a week, but I'm very discouraged. Keeping Forte isolated would be fine if he were a cat like Brooke (the foster mom), because she never expressed interest in leaving the room and was just fine (and felt safer) chilling with her toys in the bathroom. It's not enough for Forte; he needs someone to play with, and I desperately wish I could let him out and they could play. I almost wish things had been different and we had gotten Forte first--maybe it would have been easier.

Basically, I know it's all about THEIR schedule, and not OUR schedule...but I don't know how much longer Forte can take being by himself. At the rescue, he was around lots of cats and dogs and people all the time. Here, he has no one, except when Jake or I go in there (we each go in there about twice a day to read and play with him). This is not fair to Forte, and while progress is being made in Allegro's case, progress is very slow. I had no idea Allegro would be this difficult--he had no issues with the foster kittens.

My husband has already said we're not giving up--he's too attached to Forte. And for heaven's sake, I certainly don't want to give Forte back, even though it technically is a foster-to-adopt situation for 3 more weeks. But at what point do we determine that this just isn't good for either Forte OR Coda and Allegro? I've heard of cats that just don't ever get along, even if they stop fighting. If that happens, Forte will have no playmates, and he'd probably be happier back at the rescue. And Coda and Allegro would be happier without the stress of Forte being there.

This is really depressing. I didn't think it would be a cakewalk and I knew it'd take time--I certainly didn't think they'd be grooming each other and cuddling at this point--but I know a lot of people who bring new cats into their households, and no one I know IRL has had this much trouble. I guess I just expected them to be wary of each other at this point, but at least able to be in the same house together without fighting.

We're giving it more time, of course. Wish us luck.
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Old 08-22-2010, 11:18 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Pic of Coda and Allegro in my lap- look how well they get along!


Pic of Forte in the bathroom sink-
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Old 08-22-2010, 11:18 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I'm going through similar stuff with Gigi, so I understand your frustration. It's fine to switch rooms occasionally, letting Forte be with you and putting the other two cats in Forte's room for a few hours at a time. Even overnight. I'm keeping Gigi separated from the other girls while I'm at work and at bedtime. But she has half of the house and she's fine by herself. I also use baby gates (three stacked on top of each other.) Then it's not like she's closed in, they can see each other and get used to each other that way, too.

Cinderella and Cleo never became friends in the three years they were together. They didn't fight, but there was never any closeness. I got the twins partly so Cleo would have someone to play with because she was so young, but they were too overwhelming, so she mostly keeps to herself.

Introductions can take a few weeks, I don't think you should give up at all. I just saw how recently you got Forte. They're actually doing pretty well, considering it's only been a few days.

I've been dealing with Gigi's aggression since May.
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