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trying to integrating 2 kittens with 2 cats, need advise

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
We've been trying to integrate 2 now 6 month old male kittens into our household now for 5 weeks, and things aren't going as smoothly as we'd hoped. WE already had a 14 year old male, and a 9 year old female who only tolerated each other when these kittens appears on our doorsteps.

We have been following all the integration "rules". First isolation, then scent swapping, room swapping, feeding everyone on opposite sides of closed doors on top of towels with all their scents, placing the "half cats" in a large dog carrier for viewing by the adult cats, and now we are at the point of feeding everyone while the "half cats" are in the cage, but STILL the adults are not comfortable eating with this arrangement, even though their food dishes are several feet away (maybe 8) and with a table and chairs or even a couch) in between them and the cage. And our female is still hissing a little bit, and they aren't even having supervised visits yet!

We are looking for any advice for integrating TWO kittens of this age with TWO adult cats.

post #2 of 6
Well, it seems you're doing everything right. Some cats are just more set in their ways - and some cats just don't like other cats that much.

In our experience (we have seven cats), the females are more jealous and take longer to accept new kitties. If we waited for one of our girls, Spooky, to stop hissing before just letting newbies have free roam, they'd be separated for six months.

I don't know what your goals are in terms of integrating the new kitties. At least they have each other for play - so I wouldn't worry too much about that. If they try to play with the older kitties, they'll get bopped or tackled, and they'll learn to give that up (hopefully sooner rather than later).

What I would do, at this point, is just focus on minimizing the stress to your existing kitties. It does not sound to me like you need to get to a place where your female is no longer hissing. If she's anything like ours - your kittens will be separated for a long, long time.

If you haven't already purchased Feliway spray, that's often VERY helpful in a multicat household. Some people recommend the diffusers - that's fine, but they're expensive, and if the cats don't kind of concentrate into one or two rooms in your house, it's kind of pointless.

I would also consider giving Bach's Flower Essences a try - specifically Rescue Remedy. You can add 3 - 5 drops in their water dish(es) every day when you clean it (them) and put fresh water in. You can also dab a little behind the older kitties' ears, at the base of the neck, at the base of the tail, and under the chin (this one wafts up into their nose). It may help calm her stress about having new cats invade her territory.

Um - the boys are 6 months old. Are they neutered yet? That'll be important, because they'll be less "territory" oriented.

FYI - for your future reference, you may want to start thinking about vertical space now. Having as much vertical space as possible in a multicat household is REALLY important. That also really helps diffuse the alpha-status and pecking-order issue that arises when there's more than just a couple of cats.

At some point you just have to go for it. You can try the supervised intros and see how it goes.

How long have the kitties been with you at this point? It's so hard to tell - some people get anxious after just a couple of days, and some people give it a couple of weeks before worrying.

If you really want to go whole hog on it though - whatever room is their separation room - replace the door with a screen door, and give that a week, while continuing the scent swapping, and using the Feliway and Resce Remedy.

Another thing you can try to help perk up your upset female is harp music. Classical harp music. This was designed specifically for stressed kitties - http://www.musicmypet.com - but really any classical harp music works (at least to ease stress. Doesn't make cats like each other! ).

One last thing.... I don't know what kind of scent swapping you're doing. For some cats, it's enough to put a "new kitty scented rag" in the bed of the existing cat. But we recommend it be placed under the food dish of the existing cat. And we also recommend that play sessions for the existing kitty - 10 or 15 minutes every day - end in a treat session where the treats are placed on a "new kitty" scented rag. It's not just about getting them used to the scent of the new cat - it's about getting them to associate that scent with good things, with food, with fun - and to think it's a total party having new kitty around.

You should play it by ear with all of this in mind. In the end, there will be hissing and growling, and probably some batting and scruffing. This is very normal - the "pecking order" and dominance need to be established. The idea of slow introductions is not to eliminate the need for that to happen - it is just to reduce the intensity with which it happens. You just need to be around to make sure no one is actually getting hurt (and it can sure sound like it some times! ) - but it is important, once you get to that point - to let them get their relationships established.

BTW - don't know if you live in a house or what, but stuff like this is easy to do if someone in the household or family is handy. You really just need brackets for shelves and cheap wood shelving. Carpet, of course can be stapled or glued on - but how cool is stuff like this? http://www.katwallks.com/customerphotos.htm

post #3 of 6
Oh - if you're not familiar with Flower Essences or Feliway (both can be purchased cheaper, but when I can afford it I like to give them the business anyway because of all the good stuff they do) - both are described and can be purchased here: http://www.catfaeries.com
post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 
We heard about Feliway and ordered 3 diffusers from Amazon last week. They are supposed to arrive on Monday (can't wait!)

As far as vertical spaces, ordered a HUGE cat tree from Overstock to go along with the 2 other normal sized cat trees we already had. So now we have the huge one downstairs, and the 2 others upstairs. I love the idea of the carpet covered shelves right on the walls, but hubby drew the line there (however, I'm still working on him, since we do have one room (currently the safe room) that has always been dedicated to the cats, so why not?)

The boys ARE neutered, so at least that is out of the way. They were "snipped" at 2 months, way before we got them! We've had them 5 weeks now.

Here's the odd thing about sharing the scents...our female actually gets into the "viewing cage" and hangs out whenever the kittens aren't in there!! She seems to really like it in there. We keep fresh water there always, and both she and the older male drink from that water more than their usual dish too! Weird. And we have fed them and petted them on the shared towels...they don't seem to have any problems.

Sounds like we're ready for a short supervised visit! I may wait until the Feliway arrives, just to be sure, or maybe run to the petstore and pick up some Rescue Remedy today. Don't guess having both could hurt. Maybe then should hit the music store, huh? Unless PBS happens to be having a classical concert on tonight!!

Thanks for your assurance that things are going ok!
post #5 of 6
Another quick thought. When you do the supervised visit, if either of your existing kitties growls or hisses - or even lunges at at new kitty - do not intervene physically, you may get hurt. And don't say "Bad Kitty" or anything like that - it is a very natural thing for a cat to not be happy about an "invader" in its territory. Have an empty can with some coins in it ready to rattle. The loud noise will startle cats out of the aggeression - and then just remove kitty from the room. Give him/her pets or whatever to reassure him/her that he/she is still your #1.

If there's growling or hissing... just keep an eye on it, I guess. (We live in an RV so never had the luxury of supervised introductions ) If they just sit there and stare each other down... well - that's just fine!

Most importantly, in all of this, just trust your instincts about what's happening. They're going to have to work out their territory and alpha status / hierarchy issues at some point.

Good luck - and keep us posted!
post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
We tried our first short supervised visit on Monday, and things went pretty well (better than we expected), because everyone was happily eating. They actually ate with their food dishes only about 6 feet from each other. Remember we're talking 4 cats here...2 established cats, 2 new "half-cats".

Our mouths fell open when one of the kittens walked right up to the 9 year old female (Callie) while she was finishing up, and she didn't do anything at first. AFter she came to her senses, she then hissed and jumped up on the counter. Then she just followed the high road over to check out what they were doing on the floor, and basically stayed out of their reach.

Sven, our elderly male, had already finished up and simply exited from the area.

We pretty much kept the visit to just eating because we didn't want to overstress Callie, so that was that.

Yesterday we did it again, and made it a longer visit. This time Callie decided to check out Darko (kitten's) dish, but when he caught her he made a dash at her and she hissed and growled and ran into a place where she could be cornered. This drew Stinkpot (the other kitty) into the action, which I could foresee as not a good situation, so I tossed a toy down the hall to draw the kittens away. It worked, and I got them into the bedroom where we could play a little and shortly thereafter, Callie came in. I don't know if she wanted to play or not because she jumped onto the cat tree, but when Darko approached her from below she hissed, growled and swatted , and he didn't appear to get the message. So I threw a ball again and headed them in another direction and we decided to put them in their safe room. During all this time, Sven was no where to be found.

My question today is, should we just have these short supervised visits with one kitten out at a time, even though they are 6 months old? I was hoping they could keep each other occupied and not really bother the adults too much, but also realize that they must get to know them.
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