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.
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!