Help anxious kitty in multi cat home
Hi, I’m looking for advice acclimating an anxiety prone cat to a home with 2 other cats. My fiancé and I are in a unique situation in that we are renting a home from a friend at a reduced cost in exchange for allowing her 2 mature cats to live there as well: Henry (16?) and Izzy (10) We also have a cat of our own, Zuzu (5).
The other cats are mellow and have been very tolerant of Zuzu. They lived with a 3rd cat before and seem curious but sort of unconcerned by her presence. The issue is that Zuzu is very defensive toward the other cats (won’t let them get near; hisses and growls). A couple times one of the other cats managed to sneak into her sanctuary room and she freaked out (lots of noises and hid, but no fighting). She has also peed outside the litter box in her sanctuary room a couple times. Ugh. What can we do? Does it just take a lot of time, or are there ways we can ease her anxiety? It’s been almost 4 weeks.
Here’s some history that may be relevant:
Zuzu is a bit of high maintenance kitty. We adopted her as a young adult and she previously had kittens and lived with other cats in foster care. She’s very sweet and loving, but also very alert and on guard. Easily startled. She’s also prone to separation anxiety and was diagnosed with FLUTD after several bouts with UTI symptoms and peeing outside the box after we had been gone for vacations. Since then she has been doing well on a Rx diet (Royal Kanin Urinary+Calm).
In advance of the move I read up on cat introductions and we followed a lot of the best practices for introducing a cat to a new environment with other cats. First we moved our stuff in and got acquainted with the resident cats. We installed multi-cat and calm pheromone diffusers. A week later we moved Zuzu in and set her up in a sanctuary room (our bedroom). She adapted shockingly well to the new space and seemed right at home. We kept her there for a week and did sock/smell exchanges. Then let her explore the house without Izzy and Henry there (they go outside). Eventually we introduced them and things seemed to be going ok. The residents were curious but not defensive. Zuzu didn’t like them getting too close, but we were able to feed them in sight of each other. Eventually we let Zuzu have access to the whole house when we were home, but kept her separated in her sanctuary room anytime we left, or didn’t want to monitor them. We had a couple experiences when all three cats were on laps in the living room and peacefully coexisted.
We figured things were right on schedule and continued giving them all lots of praise and treats when in the presence of each other. However, Zuzu was still reacting strongly if another cat got too close. We decided to dial things back and last week I created a cardboard “screen” to put in the doorway of the bedroom. It has holes she can see out, but not put her head thru. I thought this would help her view the other cats without feeling like they were ‘in her space’. However, she still hisses at them if they approach. Last week we also noticed she was peeing next to her litter box (on towels we were using as a litter trap over the carpet; we’ve since put down a plastic chair mat and she stopped). Also, whereas she was happy in her sanctuary before, now she cries to go out (but then freaks at the other cats). It’s Iike her anxiety is increasing.
One other thing. Zuzu is a ‘leashed’ outdoor cat. She’s not allowed to roam, but can go outside under supervision. We give her a long leash anchored on a center point and she can roam the back yard at her own pace. About week 2 we started taking her outside. She loves it and runs to the back door whenever she’s out of her room. She’ll even tolerate the other cats a bit if they won’t get too close. What’s worth noting is that there are a lot of neighborhood cats that walk through the yard. Zuzu has always been very defensive of her turf, so she doesn’t like this. Could seeing these other outdoor cats be making it harder for her to accept Henry and Izzy at home?
If anyone has strategies/suggestions or tips for an anxious drama-queen kitty, I’d love to hear them. Thanks for bearing with this long post!