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Old 02-27-2011, 10:11 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default How to help cats get along

Hi Everyone,

I'm looking for advice on how to get two 7 year-old cats to get along. They are both females, and are both new to each other. One issue is that one cat is an indoor/outdoor cat and the other is indoor-only and doesn't have front claws...the previous owner had her declawed years ago

As more background, my cat and I moved in with my boyfriend and his cat 3 months ago. My cat is declawed and indoor-only. We went through many of the suggested steps on how to introduce cats (i.e. keep the new cat in a locked room for a few days, introduce scents, and gradually introduce the cats).

The gradual/short introductions involved a lot of staring, moaning, and hissing. After that, we increased their time together. Most of the times the cats are together, my boyfriend's cat (Lucky) hides in a corner, and my cat (Bianca) eventually finds her, stares at her for awhile and moans, Lucky hisses, and then Bianca launches at her which leads to a fight. We then separate them with water sprays.

Many people tell me the cats will work it out themselves, and even if they get along initially, there will still be fights at some point. My concern is that my cat will not be able to defend herself and has a greater potential of getting hurt. At this time, my cat is still locked in her original room because of my concern. I let her roam the house once in awhile when Lucky is outside or sleeping in one room.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. And I appreciate any advice you can give me on how to make them comfortable with each other, and any knowledge that can help ease my concern about Bianca not being able to defend herself.

Thanks!
Margarita
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Old 02-27-2011, 10:15 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I don't have advice because I don't have any experience in this, but I've read that declawed cats use their teeth more. I'd be worried if I was Lucky.
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Old 02-27-2011, 10:48 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Hi Margarita. I wouldn’t worry too much about Bianca not being able to defend herself, especially considering she seems to be the aggressor. It’s very unfortunate that her prior owner had her declawed, but there’s not much you can do about that. She will find other ways to defend herself when necessary (biting, etc.). I would, however, try to keep Lucky’s claws trimmed. I would also focus on ways to avoid the fights in the first place, so Bianca has no need to defend herself.

The problem with the suggested steps on how to introduce cats is that all the books imply that after a few days or a week, the cats will start to get along. That’s true in many cases, but in many other cases, the introduction can take weeks or months…and the books (or websites) fail to mention that. Given that your girls are both 7, and (I’m assuming) haven’t lived with other cats recently, you could be in for a longer-than-normal introduction.

You really have two choices. You can let them “work it out”, although that approach often leads to two cats who never truly get along.

Alternatively, you can continue the introduction, whereupon you will need to separate the two cats. Usually baby gates are used for the separation. So, one cat is kept in a safe room, and baby gates (or a screen door or something similar) are put at the door so the cats can interact without being able to "get at" each other. You will likely need to install two or more baby gates, stacked on top of each other, so they can’t climb over. You should feed both cats either side of the gates, play with them there, give them treats, etc. Thus, you should have as many “good things” as possible happen by the gates so that, over time, the cats learn to associate each other with good things. After a while, they should stop hissing, growling, etc. when they’re by the gates (although it could take weeks or months). Once they seem ok together when separated by gates, you can let them be together for short supervised sessions a few times a day, and then slowly move to longer sessions.

I went through a difficult introduction with my girls and ended up hiring an animal behaviorist to assist me. The approach outlined above is the one he recommended and it was the approach I used. It took two months before I could put my girls together for supervised sessions a few times a day, and three months before I could leave them out all day together. But today, they are best friends. They cuddle and groom each other. It’s been over a year since their introduction ended and, although they play-fight, they never fight “for real”. This approach is a lot of work and requires a lot of patience, but it’s really the only way for your two girls to ultimately get along in the future.

One complication in your case is that Lucky is an indoor/outdoor cat. Cats are very sensitive to smells. When Lucky comes back in after being outside, she carries all sorts of new smells, which often means Bianca will no longer recognize her. If you’re not able to “convert” Lucky into an indoor-only cat, it will likely mean that the introduction will take even longer.

Finally, you might also try certain calming products, to see if they help. Feliway is one such product. Rescue Remedy or Spirit Essences are another. Good luck!
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Old 02-27-2011, 11:52 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I agree with Susan. The slow approach really is the best way to do things. I like to think of cat introductions like the birth of a new sibling lol. It takes time to adjust to their presence. The new sibling is coming home to your turf and suddenly you have to share it in ways you are not accustomed to. Not only that but you don't know your sibling and their personality in 1 minute, 1 week, etc. You must get to know each other and grow together. And even through all of that, because we all have different personalities, some siblings just don't like each other.

We can't throw two cats together and expect them to be best buds for life immediately. They don't even know each other. And Susan is right, some personalities just don't like each other. That's ok. We don't know if that will be the case with your fur babies or not. Cats are creatures of territories. So an introduction is very stressful on them because for one cat they are in a new place where nothing is theirs. They have to try to find their own territory while stressing over who might live there and who they will have to fight or might offend in their quest. The older resident cat is equally as stressed. There is an invader on their territory and naturally they will feel threatened by this. This is why the slow introduction is so incredibly important. By doing so you are letting your cats get use to the idea that the new cat is now a resident of the place, not an intruder, and they get the chance to slowly accept this fact as well as get the chance to get to know each other in a calm way. It sounds to me like you increased their time together way too soon. You should not have done this until they were comfortable with their small times together. The problem I have with the 'just let them work it out' strategy is that it fosters the very thing I outlined above. It only reaffirms to one cat that this is an intruder and to the other cat that they must fight for a place. This will not lead to any sort of happy environment.

Start your introduction over. Take it slowly. Best of luck!
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Old 02-27-2011, 12:04 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I also want to add that I have 4 cats and have never had a cat fight in my house, so whoever conveyed to you that cats living together and fighting is just a normal part of cat ownership is very mistaken. They get annoyed with each other, everyone gets annoyed with the individuals they live with from time to time lol. But they have never had a fight. Proper introductions and personality match ups are crucial to a happy home environment. And even if personalities don't match up there are ways to create a home situation where they cats aren't around each other. Once again, since cats are creatures of territories most are very content when they don't like one another to each have their own place.
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Old 02-27-2011, 12:50 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Which personalities match each other?
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Old 02-27-2011, 05:12 PM   #7 (permalink)
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This is subjective to the cats and would be a case by case thing. For example a senior cat who is very calm and enjoys spending the day lounging is going to get very annoyed very quick at a youngster who keeps pestering him/her for play. This is why I disagree with the notion that it is easier to get a kitten when introducing a new cat to the family. Some cats don't like kittens with their energy and lack of manners lol. Adding additional cats to the family should be based on personality and not age. Another example is the fact that you do not want to place two extremely dominate cats with each other, that is asking for trouble.

You can't always know and predict who your cats will like and not like. Sometimes it seems like it would be a perfect match and the cats just don't get along. Cats, like people, decided who they like and don't. That's natural even if their choice sometimes doesn't make sense to us It is important, however, to really know your cats personality and consider what might annoy it or what kind of personality would compliment their own. Some match ups in personality are an obvious bad choice, like the ones listed above. Sometimes as humans it is easy to forget this factor in the excitement of getting a new cat but it has to be considered.
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Old 02-27-2011, 09:34 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Straysmommy View Post
Which personalities match each other?
There's never any guarantee, but you'll typically have the most success if you match like with like. So, a shy/timid cat will do best with another shy/timid cat. An outgoing, playful cat will do better with another outgoing, playful cat...etc.

Daisy17: I agree with Nicole. Fighting is not a normal part of having two cats. If there's fighting, there's a problem. I suspect ongoing fighting is often the natural result of just letting two cats "work it out", which is the main drawback to that approach.

That said, even after a slow introduction, sometimes two given cats just can't/won't get along, whereupon there's not much you can do other than to re-home one of the cats or keep them separated (in separate parts of the house). However, it's far too soon to conclude your two cats will never get along if they're properly introduced now. I wish you the best of luck.
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Old 02-28-2011, 10:36 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Thank you all for your advice - you have given me great tips that I can work with. I definitely want to create an environment where our cats can live together without fighting and where they are both made to feel safe around each other. Now that I read your comments, I do think we introduced the cats too soon - we were ready, but they weren't. I really like the idea of starting over with the baby gates and adding some positive reinforcement during their interactions like food and play. And I feel better in knowing that Bianca will be able to defend herself (if needed). I have a good feeling that over time our cats will be able to share the house and space with a lot of patience and applying all your advice. I'm going to search for some inexpensive baby gates/screens and hope for the best, wish me luck
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Old 03-02-2011, 08:42 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Good luck! Keep us posted on how things are going.
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