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Trouble between existing cat and new cat - help!

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
Hi all,

We adopted our cat Headbutt (female) back in 2005. I should say, she basically adopted us, by hanging around our house when we were living in Corvallis. She is probably somewhere around 7 or 8 years old by now. She seems to be very happy being an "only cat", not having displayed any friendliness toward other cats as far as we have seen. She always tends to hiss and growl at them, and tend to run away and retreat rather than stand and fight. She seems to be a "gamma" character (I read an article about the personality types somewhere) - happy to be by herself, affectionate but not overly so toward us, doesn't try to create mischief or manipulate her environment as alphas do.

Now we are in Eureka CA, been here for a couple of months now, so it's fairly new. There was a small cat who came around our house who we just assumed was owned by someone in the neighborhood (no collar, this was just an assumption). The couple of times we saw him interact with Headbutt, there was hissing and Headbutt would come inside, and I'd chase this other cat off.

Then, one day a few weeks ago, we noticed that this other cat was limping badly, not able to put his rear right leg on the ground at all. We saw this continue for about a week, by which time we decided that he must be a stray after all - and talking to some of our neighbors confirmed this suspicion. He was impossible to approach, being very spooky, but we couldn't bear the thought of him being injured like that, so we decided to catch him and get him to the vet to be fixed up. Our neighbor loaned us a humane live trap, and sure enough the bowl of tuna got him first time! He screamed like a banshee, not happy at all, but since it was the weekend (of course) and the vet was closed, we had to keep him in the garage that night. He was quiet, but meowed pathetically whenever we went in to check on him. It was really heartbreaking.

I eventually put some food in to see if I could tempt him out, and this worked like a charm - in no time he had eaten two 5.5 oz cans of premium wet food (Evo) and was turning out to be a real sweetie! Cuddling in my arms, purring like crazy, but still very spooky whenever I moved.

When the vet took a look, and did some x-rays, it became apparent that the leg issue was a bad bite, which had actually chipped a couple of the foot bones. The site was badly infected with cellulitis, and if he hadn't been caught then the vet said that the infection would have probably spread, and he would have died. So we started him on a course of antibiotics.

This presented a problem, since he obviously didn't get on that well with Headbutt. But I decided to just play it by ear, and take one step at a time. First thing was to get him better. So he stayed in the garage at first. After a few days, he seemed to be doing a little better, and during that time he had been gently working his way into my (and my wife's) hearts. He was just so cute and gentle. We decided to try opening the door between the house and the garage to see how the two kitties would get on. We read that gradual introductions are better, and since there is an air vent in the door to the garage, we thought Headbutt probably already knew he was in there. Sure enough, she was curious, and first contact wasn't all that bad - noses touched, and no hissing. We were ecstatic. Maybe this could work after all!

But not so fast. After that we gradually tried to introduce William (his new name, seemed right somehow) to the rest of the house, and our bedroom. To cut a really long story a little shorter (sorry!) he is now a lot better, but he always seems to be wanting to bug Headbutt. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's why he was originally hanging around our house. He would suddenly get completely fascinated whenever Headbutt was around. They are both neutered, so I don't know whether there is some residual mating instinct or something, but in any case he is completely interested in her, but she has absolutely no interest in him. In fact, whenever he came close, she would growl and hiss at him.

Eventually, a couple of weeks later, this is where we're at:

William is pretty much healed up. His foot is much better, antibiotics all done and he is fully mobile. In fact, very, very mobile. We started to let him out again, since he obviously likes being outside, but I've gradually convinced him that the door closing is not a trap, so he seems ok spending the night with us. He climbs on the bed and is the cutest thing, cuddling up. Headbutt has always been a little more standoffish, but she tends to avoid us a bit more now, and I'm afraid she really is not happy at all. She doesn't frisk around any more, or play. William bugs her frequently. He has this way of rushing up to here like a kitten (and he is young, maybe two years, and quite small, only 9 lbs to Headbutt's 13 lbs - yes she's overweight), and she reacts by squawking or hissing if she has time.

What I can't fathom is where this is going. I can't work out whether they will ever be able to live with each other. Sometimes it seems like they are getting better used to each other: He leaves her a bit more alone sometimes, perhaps learning from all the hissing and growling warnings, and I've seen them touch noses on occasion (usually when they are both waiting for food). Other times Headbutt is growing and hissing and clearly unhappy that he's around at all. She'll sit in the doorway stopping him from coming in. And she's been peeing around the house, I've seen her marking territory more since he's been around.

Today, out in the yard, it was a beautiful day and they had both just had a snack, and William was lying with me. Headbutt came out and started rolling in the grass around 15 feet away. William stalked her, then rushed up, and what looked like a fight ensued. She was hissing and growling and it looked like they were trading swats. In fact she was in full retreat the whole time, it was always William who looks like he's got the advantage and is being the "aggressor". It's never Headbutt who initiates this, so I'm wondering what's going on. Is William trying to play in a very hamfisted way, and Headbutt is just interpreting this all wrong, or is William trying to display dominance over Headbutt, or is he actually trying to force her out of the equation by chasing her off? In the past, he never seemed aggressive when he approached her - it always seemed more playful, ears forward and tail frequently up. The hissing and growling always comes from Headbutt. Maybe it starts as play from William's end, but she reacts badly and then he reacts right back more aggressively???

What I'm trying to work out here is how we can tell whether this is going to work at all. We just had William microchipped, because we decided that whatever happens, we're not just going to abandon him to being a stray again. If he can't get on with Headbutt, then we'll find him a good home somewhere, however long that takes. So he's covered in terms of healthcare etc either way.

I know these things take time, it's been a few weeks now, but it can take months. I don't want Headbutt to be unhappy, but at the same time I know cats sometimes play rough and it can be hard to distinguish between play and fighting. I've heard William fighting (there's another cat who comes around here, and yesterday I heard this awful screaming from outside, and this turned out to be William fighting this other cat). I've not heard that kind of noise from the Headbutt/William encounters; it's all been simple hissing, growling and the occasional squawk of surprise from Headbutt as William jumps on her. No screaming.

I have read elsewhere that it can take months, and then suddenly cats start accepting and getting on together. But does anyone have any tips on whether we can interpret behavior to determine which way this will go? We'd love to keep both of them if we can.

I've noticed that older females often seem to be very impatient and intolerant of younger males. Maybe this is just a cat thing - the females do seem to favor the older, beat up tom cat, perhaps because he's shown that he can cut the mustard so to speak and he's a survivor (which implies better genes, which would make sense). So maybe there's an instinctual reaction here - the younger male is just not someone the female wants to have anything to do with, while of course the younger male finds her irresistably attractive (much hilarity ensues)...

I don't know what to do... the "fight" today shook me up a bit, I clapped my hands to split it up, though I know see from reading around that you probably shouldn't do this if it's not a serious fight.

Any clues? What should we do?


And sorry for the epic post.

post #2 of 8 are a fantastic person to take in a stray and help him and love him.

It does take time for a 'resident' cat to warm up to the newcomer. My 'resident' cat, at the time, was 12 yrs when I introduced her to a kitten. She wasn't happy....but she still got alot of attention from us. Knowing that she really didn't enjoy the kitten..and the kitten needed to play, about 2 months later, I brought home another kitty. She still wasn't happy....but at least the two kitties had each other.

It didn't take long after that.....the three of them are great pals now.

It's true that some 'resident' cats never warm up...but a few weeks is not long enough to know. There is going to be some territorial 'noise' of them has to be the 'boss' of the other. As long as they are not actually hurting each other...just give them time and space. Keep giving them lots of attention..or as much as each one needs...they will eventually find their own balance of power. Your new little fellow sounds like a cutie and I'm sure Headbutt will mellow in time.

Best of luck and I'm positive that things will work out!!!
post #3 of 8
....about clapping your hands to break up a disagreement...nothing wrong with that! I still do it!! My two younger ones, male, 1-yr olds, can get a little rough with each other, so I firmly tell them how I feel about it. Or, one of them thinks that his older sister wants to play...not!! So I will clap my hands or slap my hand on a hard soon as the action between the cats is halted, I say in a soft voice....good they know that I'm not mad at's stops their train of thought and directs them to a better thought...LOL

Better still, if you feel that one is definitely losing a fight...reach in and grab one of the cats. Keep them safe. If they seem to just jump at one another, separate rooms are a good idea until the thought passes.

You're still going through the transition stage....patience is needed now!

Again....enjoy both your sweeties!!
post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the encouragement!

Here's another example of their conflicted relationship: We have a flexible bug screen on our back door (the Bug Off Screen, works pretty well). Headbutt was inside, and William came up outside. They touched noses for maybe 10 seconds through the mesh, without any hissing from Headbutt. But then on other occasions, if William is inside and anywhere near her, then she goes into complete hissy growl mode. Very mixed messages.

Of course we'll be giving it more time. I was hoping someone could give me some magic pointers that we could use to determine whether the signs are good or bad... just looking for how to judge the trends, really.

Thanks again,

post #5 of 8
I've been through 4 experiences of introducing a new kitty to a resident cat. It's like having kids....the worry quotient is highest with the first one....and then by the 4th, you're saying to yourself..worry, what worry???? (I haven't had 4 kids, but my Mom had 5 of us)

With cats..I feel it's the same way.....the reaction between the cats is going to be the same every long as they are not fighting to the death...then hissing, growling, pacing, carrying just that.....showing the other one what he/she can do.

With my second cat...I did ask my Vet if he had ever had a case where a resident cat hurt (as in killed) a new cat....and he said that in all his long years of Vet care..both in the city and on the farms....he never had a case where a resident cat ever really hurt a new cat beyond a swat or a scratch. It's just part of getting used to each other and the proper pecking order.
In fact, my third cat, Max, did get a swat on the cheek from Phoebe and needed to wear 'the cone' till it healed....and I have many pictures of the two of them snuggling like angels.

With every subsequent cat, Phoebe (the second cat) had the same reaction with her next 3 'brothers'....and they are/were all wonderful pals now. If you remain calm...they remain calm....

It might help to borrow a book about new cat introductions...maybe the book might have some tips and helpful suggestions.

Hope that helps!
post #6 of 8
sounds to me like your 1st cat needs reassurance that all your love isn't going to the newcomer.
in fact, some things I've read say that your resident cat needs more attention than ever after a new cat enters the house.
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by cd1515 View Post
sounds to me like your 1st cat needs reassurance that all your love isn't going to the newcomer.
in fact, some things I've read say that your resident cat needs more attention than ever after a new cat enters the house.
Yes, that would make sense. We've been trying to pay attention to Headbutt when she lets us... but she is very much "her own cat" and doesn't tolerate too much attention at the best of times. I have noticed, however that she is much more affectionate even now when William is not in the house. This makes me a little sad. I am really torn, because I do want to give William a home, but at the same time I don't want to make Headbutt unhappy.

One more thing I think I forgot to mention: William can be very vocal. He's quieted down a little, but originally he would walk about the house meowing repetitively in a very plaintive way, each meow ending in a definite question mark - like "eow? eow? woorrew? reow? ... (hiss and growl from Headbutt) ... pause... eow? eow? ... eow?"

It would be funny if it wasn't for the fact that it's making Headbutt's life into a bit of a living hell at the moment.

I think he's calling her - he used to do the same thing outside, before the injury, he would sit underneath the window where she was sitting and do the same thing. He was trying to say something, I'm sure of it. Like I said, he's quieted down a little bit now when he's inside, maybe all her hissing and growling finally made an impression.

Another thing: This evening I ran outside because of a godawful racket - screaming. It was William, fighting with another cat who's been around our yard the last couple of days. No idea who it is, but this was a real fight. Again I broke it up with a hand clap, it was just too much to witness without doing anything. I'm pretty sure William was on the attack here too. I'm wondering if he's not just a little troublemaker - albeit a very cute one. He has two personalities, like most cats it seems. Later on, there he is cute as anything curled up on our bed, killing our feet under the covers or just nuzzling.

Our house is starting to smell of cat pee, which is very distressing. I think it's Headbutt spraying. Any tips on how to stop her doing this? We have tried the sprays but they don't seem to work too well. And the blacklight doesn't even show up anything in places where I know I saw her spraying.

I thought life with a cat would be pretty simple, feed them and pet them occasionally and put them out at night... boy was I mistaken, this is like a full time job here...

We're not getting much sleep either, since they both get up around 4am and we just have to wait for the hiss-growl-sounds-of-scuffle from the living room...


post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quick question regarding this website - I read the FAQ, and it talks about being able to upload pic attachments for posts, and photo albums on your profile. However those do not seem to be enabled for me. I wrote to the webmaster address, but no reply yet so I don't know if it's a "black hole" (i.e. largely ignored). Does anybody know if there's a waiting period for new members before you can post pics, or is it just disabled globally for this website?


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