Problems integrating cats - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-18-2013, 05:31 PM Thread Starter
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Problems integrating cats

Hi everyone, I'm hoping for some advice on how to integrate cats as I'm finding it quite difficult. I'll try to give as much background as possible without boring you all!

Cat 1 (male):

6 year old family cat that has lived happily with other cats in the past. Came into the home originally as the third cat with two others established for several years (and who have since sadly passed on). Extremely friendly and loving towards humans.

Cat 2 (female):

A stray cat abandoned nearby the home who took refuge in a tree in the garden around 2 years ago (as a kitten). Eventually coaxed into the home with food and taken to the vet for vaccinations etc. Introduced slowly initially to humans and kept in a separate part of the house for 2 months, then introduced to the existing cats (3 at that time) with no issues. Since the passing of 2 of those cats last year through old age, has developed a friendship with cat 1 with no issues. Now fully domesticated and comfortable around humans and affectionate.

Cat 3 (female):

A 1 year, 4 month old cat who lived as the only cat of the house for a year and 2 months from being taken on as a kitten. She was also a house cat for that time. Affectionate and comfortable with humans.

The situation:

Cat 3 has been introduced to the family home following me moving back for a period, where cats 1 & 2 were existing in the home. After familiarisation to the house for a week or so (fortunately there's enough space to maintain separate living spaces for the cats), an attempt was made to introduce the cats. This resulted in a wild scrap between the 2 females. Several further days of separation were observed then an attempt made to introduce the new cat (cat 3) with cat 1 (the male). Cat 3 growled intensely and was very nervous but no figthing. The male was initially not bothered by this. However, as the growling continued throughout several introduction attempts, the male cat 1 hissed in return.

In between times, though the cats have been kept apart, they have been able to hear or see each other through door windows which has resulted in a lot of posturing and/or growling. We have made 2 further attempts to introduce the two females which has at the very least resulted in a lot of growling and hissing, and one further fight.

It's now been 2 months and the cats are still not integrated. They are being kept apart in separate parts of the house (1 & 2 together, 3 on her own) and we're all losing faith in what to do. Both parties are hostile towards one another. It's becoming difficult and tiresome to keep them all apart, and ultimately we want them all to be able to co-habit.

Hoping for some help from some sages on this forum! Thanks in advance for any help.
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-18-2013, 07:46 PM
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I assume everyone is spayed/neutered.

One thing I've tried at our shelter is a "sock exchange". Petting Cat 2 with a sock over your hand, especially focusing on the sides of her face (friendly/happy pheromones) and doing the same with a different sock with Cat 3 (or 1). Then introducing the scented socks to the other cat during a pleasurable event, such as petting or eating so they can associate the other cats happy pheromone production with something they enjoy.

Secondly, if it's a battle for the top rung of the territory/hierarchy sometimes they're just gonna have to learn to work it out. Some Feliway collars might ease the transition.

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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-19-2013, 04:04 AM
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NebraskaCat that's great advice.

I currently have 1 bald cat and one foster and am hoping to add a few more soon!
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-19-2013, 06:17 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks NebraskaCat, I'll look into the Feliway products.

And yes, all the cats are spayed/neutered. I should have mentioned that.
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-19-2013, 04:53 PM
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I had a very similar problem a little over three years ago, when I introduced my resident kitty, Muffs (then only 5 mths) to my new kitten, Abby (10 wks). Muffs was terrified of Abby, although there was no hissing. Instead, Muffs would run and hide, unless she felt really threatened, whereupon she would turn on Abby and a fight would ensue. After a long slow introduction that had taken at least a month, we were getting nowhere. Long story short, I hired an animal behaviorist. I don't profess to be an expert. I can only tell you what I was told to do. I don't know whether it will or won't work in your case. Fortunately, it worked in my case. I have also outlined these steps for other members here in the past, and it has worked in their case too…so here’s hoping it works for you too.

First, keep them separated as you are doing. However, there needs to be some sort of “meeting place”, where the cats can come together, yet be separated by some sort of porous barrier. They need to be able to see and smell each other, but unable to physically interact. Some people have installed stacked baby gates in a doorway, with the cats on either side (in your case, two cats on one side and Cat #3 on the other). I kept Abby in my dining room (which has two entrances), and I temporarily affixed screens over one of the entranceways. A screen door would also work…basically whatever you have or can come up with temporarily. We will call this the area the “barrier”.

Put all food, water, and comfort objects (toys, etc.) within 2 ft of the barrier on either side (or as close as possible otherwise). Have all “good things” in life happen within 2 ft of the barrier in each other’s company (all attention, all feedings, all treats, any catnip, all playtime, any cat grass, any grooming, etc.). To the extent possible, NO good things are to happen anywhere else. If they want to eat they must do so at the barrier; all play happens by the barrier; all petting happens by the barrier; etc. Have at least 10 “events” (good things) happen each day. The fact that they only ever experience the good things in life when they’re together, and not otherwise, eventually conditions the cats to associate good things with each other and gives them a reason to like each other.

In addition, switch the cats for one hour each evening. During this time, just let them wander around freely in each other’s area…so, put Cats #1 and #2 in the area normally occupied by Cat #3, and put Cat #3 in the area normally occupied by Cats #1 and #2 (don’t let them meet or interact when you switch them). They need not be by the barrier during this hour. By wandering about during this hour, they will each start to get more accustomed to each other’s scents in a non-threatening way. Plus, they will be depositing their scent in the living area of the other, slowly creating a family or “communal” scent, which makes them feel like they all belong.

This entire process (good things by the barrier plus the daily room exchange) may go on for weeks. During this time, monitor their behavior. Once you start to see a reduction in reactivity – the cats no longer hissing, growling or acting frightened, starting to interact through the gate (playing footsies, etc.), then conduct a supervised 10-minute play session each day with the three of them together in an open area. After the session, separate them again and continue with "good things happening by the barrier". Over time, gradually increase the length or number of the supervised play sessions where they're all together.

I was quite skeptical that any of this would work, but after a week I started to see some improvement. After a few more weeks, Muffs and Abby began to play footsies under the screen and they started to touch noses through the screen. I then started to allow them out together for short, supervised play sessions. It took another 3 weeks or so before they could be out together all day (with me still home to keep a general eye on them). It took another month before I left them alone together when I was at work. Despite their horrible initial start, over the past three years, they have been best friends; they cuddle and groom each other, and you rarely see one without the other. They play-fight from time to time, but real fights never happen.

After he saw Muffs and Abby together at first, the behaviorist warned me that there was only a 50-50 chance of success (Muffs is an extremely timid cat and the behaviorist thought she might be better off in a single-cat home). So, mine was a success story and/or I got lucky. I will also note that this can be (and was) a lot of work. I spent hours by the darn barrier trying to get these two little ones to like each other, but it was worth it in the end. As I said above, I don't know if this will work for you. But, whether you try this or something else, I hope you have the same good luck!

P.S. I also used Feliway, which tends to help some cats, but not others. I found it helped Muffs, but had no impact on Abby. But it’s still worth a shot.
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-19-2013, 05:11 PM
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I also had mixed results with Feliway - I tried it with an abandoned mother cat on whom it had no noticeable effect but my semi feral adored it - aging hippy instantly!!!!

I am also totally in favour of scent swapping.

I sometimes feel that introductions can actually go on too long and increase the tension - I know this is going against the main line stream of thought but it's just personal experience with my six and others.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-22-2013, 02:33 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks Susan and Arianwen.
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