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New cat introductions; a behavior I haven't read about online

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Hi, I have a new cat that I am working on introducing to my current resident cat and despite my best efforts and lots of reading; I am not sure if what I am seeing is good progress or potentially bad. Sorry for the long thread, but I want to be sure I don't miss details.

Resident cat: Spencer is a 6 year old neutered male tabby cat who grew up with an older female cat. My MIL and this female cat died close together, and Spencer came to live with us 2.5 years ago. He is an indoor/outdoor cat because that is how he prefers it, using the litter box only during bad weather, preferring to go in the garden. He is very friendly and social; he greets us and our guests, comes when called, goes for walks with us when we walk our dog, and lies anywhere warm belly-up. He is very playful and is not remotely skiddish around my husband, myself, or our dog; the dog steps on him when they are walking out the door, etc...He just ducks. He loves belly rubs, doesn't mind getting his nails clipped or baths. Just very chill.

New cat: Josie is a 9 year old spayed female Russian blue mix. Our good friend is executor of his FILs estate and she needed a home. She lived in a quiet house with a single man and a small dog who chased her; therefore, she hid all day until the dog was crated at night, then she came out to eat. She got very little attention from the sounds of it. I read that Russian blues can be skiddish, and she does live up to this.

Prep: Josie's room is in our 3rd floor office with a door at the base of the steps. She has a litter box, her fave blanket, food, and toys. This is the room least used by the other two animals, so it more scent neutral.

Week 1: We spent a lot of time getting to know Josie and coaxing her out of hiding the first few days. Lots of treats later, she is getting us at the top of the steps and loves pets, but avoids sitting on our laps. She runs and hides with any sudden movements or sounds, but is generally being more relaxed. By the end of the week we start swapping blankets with each cat's scent. Josie meows once the first time smelling Spencer's blanket, then proceeds to sniff curiously. Spencer took a bit longer to get used to Josie's scent; there was quite a bit of hissing and growling, but no puffed up fur or flat ears. We fed him for several days in the middle of her blanket outside the office door. Eventually he stopped hissing at her scent. NOTE: Josie is only eating after we leave the room; this has continued to present, which has made that positive association difficult.

Week 2: Josie gets more adventurous; she starts meeting us halfway down the steps, and even curiously, gets a glimpse of Spencer eating dinner at the base of the steps before running and hiding. We block off the 2nd floor from the other animals and give Josie free roam; we catch glimpses of her on the second floor, then she sprints back up to the office. Spencer doesn't seem phased by her scent on the second floor. Because we can't coax her down to the base of the stairs, we set up a baby gate between the 2 rooms on the 3rd floor for feeding. Spencer comes to the 3rd floor! First attempt, there were statuesque cats, lots of meowing from Josie, and lots of hissing and growling from Spencer; noone ate. I learned my lesson and put a blanket over the gate; Josie was much more confident walking around her side despite the closeness of Spencer; Spencer ate, unphased. This was the routine for 3ish days; each day I would pull back the blanket once Spencer was eating, if he saw Josie and got stiff, I dropped the blanket before he could hiss. Josie mostly sat on the couch watch from afar...If she could see Spencer she mostly tried to curl in a very small ball and hider her face.

Week 2.5: So, I will be honest...I got really bored really fast. I took down the gate, and with spray bottle, blanket, and pillow in hand to break up a fight, I opened the gate and fed Spencer and tried to keep Josie occupied and relaxed with pets. Spencer walked around, sniffed and hissed/growled some. Eventually, he walked to his side of the baby gate and laid down, uninterested. Each night this got better with less hissing and growling. We did lots of playing, lots of treats, and lots of pets for both cats. Josie is still scared stiff a little bit when she sees Spencer, and Spencer is just curious.

So, questions:
1. Because Josie doesn't eat right away, Spencer keeps trying to eat her food. We keep stopping him, and she is eating while the are separated overnight. I am hoping we don't have to keep separating overnight forever, so how do I make it so he doesn't go for her food (he's a fatty and on a strict feeding schedule; she was free feeding and is much skinnier).
2. We have left the door of the office open the last 2 days (weekend) while in the house and able to supervise so that both cats can come and go. Spencer keeps going up into the office and lounging, but is also following Josie around on the second floor. An example of something out of the ordinary for him; Spencer has NEVER hid under the bed. Josie was under the bed in the guest room, and Spencer was under there with her on the opposite side. Both laying down on their sides, relaxed. Spencer will also hang outside of the guest room if Josie is in there. Is he hanging so close to intimidate her or control the situation? Is this a bad behavior? Or does the fact that they are both relaxing in the same room mean things are going well? Spencer will follow our dog around in the house and outside and often lays within a few feet of the dog to relax.
3. Both nights, Josie didn't want to go back to the office, so we went to bed with the office door open, and both nights Spencer has chased Josie up there. She has meowed, but no other aggressive noises happened. Is this playing or aggression?
4. Spencer is more curious and Josie is more skiddish by nature and the way they have lived. So far I feel that things are going well, but I dont want Spencer to limit Josie's ability to explore the house, and I definitely don't want anyone to start spraying. I am planning on continuing to separate during the day and night when the cats are not supervised, but do I need to take it back a step to feeding on opposite sides of the gate until Josie starts eating? I know this was a lot for her so quickly, but I also cannot see us keeping them separate for 6 months with our work schedules, etc.

Thank you for taking the time to read and for your advice!
post #2 of 9

I don't think you could call Russian Blues skittish by nature, I think it's because what you have heard and sensed is true, poor little Josie been mostly left alone to fend for herself. 


I have to say, you are doing really well. Both are older cats, they take a longer time to accept change than the young ones. 


It's inevitable that there will be a certain amount of posturing from Spencer, it's his territory, he's boss. The thing is to get Josie confident enough to stand her ground and not to run from Spencer. Running from a cat is behaving like prey. It's a matter of building her confidence and making her at home in the space. In Josie's case it will take time and patience to get her to this point. 


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The best thing you have on your side is the cats' age, older cats are more likely to just want to take it easy and go with the flow. Oh and the fact that Spencer doesn't seem to be aggressive with Josie. Josie needs to be able to get away from Spencer if she needs to, so lots of places to hide and lots of places up high where she can view the space in peace. 

post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thank you for your reply (and for reading)!

So a new development...Last night Spencer went under the bed to greet Josie nose-to-nose, then gave her about 2 feet of space and laid down near her no hissing or meows from either party.

In the midst of playing with Spencer on the floor and trying to coax Josie out from under the bed (she likes to hide in/under things; Spencer likes to be up high)...Spencer went under the bed on 3 occasions. First, he went under sat in front of her and slowly lifted his paw, preparing to play swat; Josie hissed and he ran out from under the bed and came back to me. Second time, he went under the bed and laid next to her and stretched his paw out until it was almost touching her; they laid like that for 30 seconds, then Spencer kept rolling into his back and upright again to get her to play. Again, she was not interested and hissed, and he ran all of the way out of the room. Third time he just went up to her to smell and laid down; she meow/growled so he left and sat outside the doorway and sulked.

It seems that she is developing enough confidence to request the space she needs despite being scared, and Spencer is responding appropriately. It also seems that Spencer is just looking to play as opposed to chasing her aggressively.

I have decided to let the office door stay open in the evenings to give Josie exposure to the other animals (don't get me started on how scared she is of our dog!), And to separate at night until Friday. On Friday night we will start letting her have free roam overnight and see how it goes.

I know Josie is going to take a very long time to get comfortable. As crazy and friendly as Spencer is, it took him about 4 months to be realy comfortable, especially around our dog (and they knew each other before - they just always gave each other a lot of space).
post #4 of 9

It's going incredibly well for such early days. I'm really happy for you all. Yes, I agree, Josie seems to be much more relaxed and Spenser is being friendly and wishing to play.


Go very slowly, especially since Josie probably hasn't been around dogs. 


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post #5 of 9

Time - give it time.  Cats can take a while to learn to get along - some are faster than others.  We're on week 6 of our introduction and one of the cats is still constantly getting into "cowardly dominance fights" (basically they meow at each other until one slinks away but they're too chicken to actually fight) - we're expecting him to take months to settle in. 

post #6 of 9

I like Spencer.  He has a big heart, and smarts to boot.

post #7 of 9

Females are normally more standoffish than the males,  I have had many females act like this, even the little loving, cuddling one I have now hisses and swats at the boys and keeps them in line. She may always hiss at him and want her space even as she loves him dearly. It is good she is standing her ground, she learned quickly that running results in him chasing her. I think everything is going remarkably well, mine didn't get along at all for almost a year.  Spenser is extremely curious and a little afraid at the same time, it is his turf but he wants a friend. She is extremely afraid and is trying to get used to all the changes and sees him more as a threat and an annoyance. You have not had any real fights which draw blood so that is really encouraging. Chasing, growling and hisses are all normal and will lessen in time as will the unwillingness to eat together. She will come out of her shell eventually and the fact that she is standing her ground already is a very good indicator that they will eventually become a family. He, of course, will want to play, being a male, and she will not, being a diva, but will become friends nether less in their own way. All the luck!

post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
Hi all! I have not visited this forum in a little while, but I wanted to share a quick update.

Josie now has free roam of the house; she will wander to the first floor on occasion (as long as the house is quiet). She is still terrified of the dog, but has taken to watching him from afar; if he looks at her she runs.

Josie and Spencer seem to be well adjusted and are getting used to each other more and more. No fighting, hissing, or other concerning noises, although Spencer will still chase in the middle of the night and Josie will run. They often hang out together and seem generally comfortable with one-another's presence. Both have taken to following me into the bathroom recently...The end of privacy. Also, we have recently had some mice behind the wall and we keep finding the pair of them staring at the corner together.

I am so greatful that this has been a relatively easy transition.

Thank you, again, for all of your help. And yes, to whomever said that Spencer has a good heart; he is truly one of a kind and we are very lucky he wanted to come live with us.

Now, enjoy a few pictures of these two soon to be best friends:

Here is a great shot of Spencer is all of his yawning and lazy glory...and Josie frozen staring at the dog...

Here Josie...Still staring...and Spencer is carefully patting her back...
post #9 of 9
your kitties are beautiful! I'm so happy for you that they seem a lot happier.
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