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Here's the situation. During the nationwide quarantine I invited my niece and her young family to live at my house. That brought 2 new humans, a 1 yr old golden retriever and 2 yr old domestic shorthair to a quiet husehold that consisted of me and my two 10 yr old nightowl domestic shorthairs. My cats are littermates who've always lived together. I adopted them at 8 mos old and they've been very content during that time. They eat together, play together, hunt together and give each other their space. My bigger cat Bella (8.5lbs) is the most outgoing and curious. She's known to walk right up to strangers and demand petting. She's so tusting she rolls over on her back and has strangers pet her belly. My smaller cat Cricket (6.5lbs) is more the wiry hunter. She's always been shy and cautious about who she trusts, but she also is very curious and will watch from afar. But if she's threatened, she'll hiss and run away to hide.

In comes 2 yr old Charlie who lived in a shelter for a few months as a kitten but was adopted around 7 mos (same age as my cats). She has lived her entire life with my niece, usually in a small dorm room during the school year and in a 2bedroom condo with my niece's mom and her 2 cats. Usually Charlie is a clingy cat who wants to be with and cuddle my niece.

But the quarantine quickly changed life. First my niece moved in with her fiancee and his dog in a tiny place. Then they moved in with me to a 3 story, 5 bedroom house with LOTS of space.

We tried to do the scent, sight, food introduction. My cats were curious but more fearful of the dog who was constantly eager to snatch their food and be in their face. But Charlie's reaction is perplexing. After the food introduction, she started stalking my cats. They growled or hissed at her. Charlie pounced. Fight ensues.

At night my cats are active. They eat, play and hunt. (I work nights from home so I see their antics.) By dawn, they start to settle down and find a good place to nap the day away.

At night, my niece and her family sleep in the finished basement. Late morning they get up and hang out on the 1st floor of the house. The dog and Charlie play chase. They are young and very curious and sometimes too rough.

That's where the problems started, I think. Charlie stalked. My cats hissed. Charlie kept pursuing them. Then my cats started hiding from her. It escalated to the point where she'd go upstairs during the day looking for my cats. Twice she jumped onto my bed while Bella and I were sleeping. She doesn't growl or hiss. She just pounces. it's the same kind of game she plays with the dog. Except my cats aren't interested in playing. They immediately go to war. Hiss and growl, and if they can't get away or Charlie doesn't back off they scratch. All 3 cats have marks across their faces.

Yesterday morning, Cricket had chosen a sunny spot in the sunroom to sleep. When the fiancee came upstairs with his dog and Charlie, Cricket growled but stayed in her spot. Charlie immediately jumped on a table above her and started creeping toward her. I redirected her to a cat tree. (I probably should have played with her instead.) Anyhow, Cricket stopped growling when it seemed the dog and Charlie let her be. She laid her head down and went back to sleep. But as soon as Cricket got up to walk out of the room, Charlie jumped off the top of the cat tree and chased her all the way upstairs. The dog and fiancee quickly followed. Cricket was cornered by her litterbox when the fiancee picked up Charlie and just put her back in the basement. Cricket didn't come out the rest of the day. (The dog has actually started breaking up cat fights and gets between Charlie and her intended target.)

That afternoon, Charlie snuck upstairs again and found Bella in her sleeping spot. Growling and fighting ensued.

My niece thinks her loving cat just wants to play and my cats are being mean not accepting her. After all, Charlie has never exhibited this behavior with her mom's cats.

I think Charlie was just being curious investigating her new space then started emulating a game she learned with the dog when meeting her housemates. Their "unfriendly" response and penchant for hiding is now leading her to exhibit dominant behavior. She seems to go out of her way to confront my cats. And they are becoming less outgoing and fearful of these daily intruders. They do reset when the intruders go to bed and return to their usual nightly habits.

Unfortunately it is causing me upset and turmoil between my niece and I. My niece thinks the growl is an aggressive challenge to Charlie so my cats are starting it. She thinks we should just let the cats fight it out. (I've had to deal with enough cat fights to know that causes ingrained aggression.

We've tried using baby gates on the staircase. We've divided the 1st floor in half. (To make matters worse or better) We even adopted a kitten this week who is making a wonderful playmate for Charlie. And introduced him to Cricket. Unlike Charlie, when the kitten hears a warning growl he stops and backs away. That response is what Cricket expected so she stopped growling and actually let the kitten get closer. Both ended up falling asleep. (We tried introducing Bella but she took one look at the kitten, hissed and ran away.) Honestly, I think thee would be no fights if Charlie would just leave my cats alone. Or my cats were so dominant they collectively kicked her butt and possessed their territory during the day.

I hate that it's upsetting my niece. I'm worried I'm being unfair to my cats by foisting these housemates on them. And I'm going away this week which leaves my niece in charge of the whole household.

The one good thing to come from our heated discussion is that both my cats came over to us exhibiting their usual nighttime curious and friendly manners. So now my niece and fiancee have experience with them being open and friendly. I didn't think it fair to say Bella and Cricket were the aggressive ones since they just warned the youngsters to leave them be and fought when attacked. Only time I've seen a cat charge a hiss is when t was exerting dominance.
 

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I think Charlie's being a bit of a bully. Just have handy some toys to distract him if he's starting to stalk, such as a wand toy with feathers on the end, or a longish piece of cord that can be dragged around in a snake-like fashion, or some ping pon balls to throw and let him bat them around, or some toys that have catnip rubbed into them. I think distraction may work, and if you can get him playing with you and others, then offer him a treat as a reward.....soon he may think it's more fun to play with you than the hissing girls.. All the best!
 
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