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New from NY State; Multi-cat household

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hi there! I am new to the site & a devoted cat-lover. We've got 3 cats - Sadie, Scarlett & #3. #3 is as-yet-unnamed, a new addition to our household. I am so excited to have found a place with fellow cat-lovers!

I must admit, though, that problems with #3 prompted my search for such a place. #3 is about 1.5 yrs, adopted from a shelter. Previously feral, she has become territorially aggressive with my existing cats. I was expecting the reverse to occur, but the new, younger cat is the aggressor and our existing cats are the victims... Sadie, imparticular, is sent scurrying under the bed when a curious (at first mutual) sniff of the newcomer results in a swat with all claws extended from #3.

Is it too late to remedy this? Can we return to separating the newcomer for a period of time? Because of our complete success with introducing our 1st 2 cats, we were unrealistically confident this introduction would be as easy.
post #2 of 15
Welcome to the site!

Sounds like #3 is still very unsure of her situation, hasn't quite figured out what the comfort and security of a home is yet. Her actions are very consistent with a feral cat who has to fight for every scrap of food, for the best places (most secure) to sleep. She sees your two kitties as a new feral colony in which she has to establish that she won't be the pariah, and your two just don't know how to react to this since they haven't had to live like that.

Is #3 sociable at all with you? A really good resource is this thread: Socializing a Feral: The Story of Lucky which pretty much has about all of our tricks and tips on integrating a feral cat into your household, from trapping a scared kitty to gaining her trust, to integrating her into the household. It is a long thread, but there is SO much information in it!

I would definitely recommend isolating #3 again, work on gaining her trust not only for yourself but also for her environment so she knows that food isn't an issue and no one will hurt her here.

I'll move this to Behavior where others can give you assistance too.
post #3 of 15
Here is a really good article on introducing a cat to the existing cats...some people who have tried doing it for a second (longer) time..find that it works.


Good Luck

post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the links and posts. I have them separated again and am going to 'start over' with the introductions and hope for the best.

#3 is very sociable & affectionate with us humans, she loves to be rubbed and petted and tolerates being held for quite some time. She is also very playful.

We had separated her in her own room for the first 3 days, and let her out to explore while the other cats sniffed her space. Then we let them all roam free together, but they mostly stayed apart. At first, it was the existing cats that didn't take to her, but after a couple days they became more accepting. Now the tables have turned and #3 is intolerant of another cat in her space. At times she will exchange sniffs without conflict, but half the time she will simply swipe, bat, or tackle unprovoked.

I don't think I am reading too much into the situation when I say that I think #3 sees that Sadie is 'green' and unaccustomed to this cat heirarchy. Although we have gotten all 3 of our kitties as adults, we found Sadie at a shelter when she was only 1, and are confident she has been with people all her life. #3's first reaction to Scarlett (who, prior to our guardianship, was an outdoor kitty and possibly feral at one point) was very defensive. Now, she freely shows her dislike of Scar by swiping her when she walks past. But it is as if she knows she can't get away with as much with Scar. Whereas with Sadie, its as if it is a game to her, this chasing and stalking and attacking. It is almost like play, but it seems to have a different intention.

I am very optimistic that we can make it work though, because our existing kitties seem very open to the new cat, if only we can get the new cat to be a little more accepting. I will be happy with peaceful cohabitation at this point.
post #5 of 15
Hi and welcome to the board. Here are my thoughts.....

Anytime you introduce a new cat or kitten to an existing group, you upset balance and routine. 3 days is not a lot of time for cats to adjust, especially if you don't know the history of the new one. #3 has decided she wants to be the head of the feline group and so she is asserting herself in this way to make it happen. My bet is, if you had a tall cat condo, she would be climbing to the top and battling it out with whichever cat was running things prior to her arrival. This is just their way, the head of the house, gets the topmost post. Right now I have a bit of battle ensuing as my recent arrival Noddy has decided she is top cat and will not let up on Kabota, who is.

You can do several things, you can put vanilla extract on each cat a few times a day for several days to make them smell similiar and lessen the threat. Put it under their chin, between their shoulderblades and on the base of their tails.

You can also invest in a feliway comfort zone room diffuser and plug that in- for that helps as well.

Or you can just let the cats figure it out for themselves (as long as there in no bloodshed) and purchase cat furniture to give them alternate places to escape when things get to hot.
post #6 of 15
Hi--I have a two year old neutered male named Mango. I got "him" a kitten to keep him company, she arrived Friday night. She's about 14 weeks old, will be spayed @5 months per my vet's requirements. I've read the articles, bought kitty books, etc. So, new kitty (name tbd, so I'll call her nk in this post) is in a room to herself and Mango has the rest of the house. I awoke Saturday morning (my husband & I are alternating sleeping in the room with nk) to what turned out to be nk hissing, not very energetically at Mango who was looking through the fairly large gap under the door. No growl or hiss from Mango & he soon left. NK adjusting wonderfully, friendly, eating, litter-box all ok. BUT, now Mango rarely goes upstairs and will only use the downstairs litterbox.

Sunday afternoon I decided to put Mango in NK's room and let NK check out downstairs. Sent my nervous husband up with Mango, which lasted about 10 minutes before the husband came down traumatized by how unhappy Mango was. So, I go upstairs, leaving NK with the husband. Of course, Mango makes a break for it when I open the door, but I retrieved him (NK was behind another door, so no risk there) and brought him back to the room. He let me hold him (which doesn't happen that often) whereupon I was sereneded with a succession of growls & yowls.

When I put him down he kept up the serenede as he roamed the room, as if he was looking for NK. I distracted him with a toy, which he didn't play with, but watched me bounce it around like an idiot. Meanwhile, NK is doing fine downstairs, growled a little bit at Mango's food, then kept going back and sniffing the dishes (husband did not let her eat Mango's food, we did bring food downstairs for her, which we brought back up once the hour was up). So I kept that up for about an hour, brought him back downstairs, put NK back in her room and gave Mango some treats.

What do I do now? Am I on the right track? Are we doomed?
post #7 of 15
southsiderpgh..sounds like the cats are establishing "territories". It can be a bit nerve racking at first...but cats will hiss to let the other one know who is boss. Your kitten because of her age, maybe exhibiting alpha tendencies....and your boy cat is probably passive. That's ok...as long as they each have places to go and you and your husband give them equal amount of attention, over time they should at least form a truce. You may want to buy some Feliway spray to calm the environment since it is probably full of "on edge" scents right now.

Good Luck,

post #8 of 15
Tips For Introducing A New Cat To Your Cat(s)

Keep Them Separated
When you bring your new cat home, have a special place set up
for them. A guest room or the bathroom is ideal. Put food, water and litter box in the room along with toys and a scratching post. Keep your new cat in this room, away from your other cat(s) for about a week. It is tempting to let them interact right away, but you will have much better luck if you wait.

Introduce The Smell First
To a cat, a sniff is worth a thousand words. To get your existing cat use to the smell of your new cat, rub a towel or washcloth gently over the new cat. Let your cat(s) smell the towel, but don't be surprise if your cats start to hiss. Hissing and growling are normal reactions so don't scold them when they hiss or growl. Do the same with our existing cat so the new cat can smell them too. Also, you can leave the carrier you brought the new cat home outside with the existing cat.

Encourage Interaction Through The Door
Place your new cat's food near the door of the room so he/she will stay near the door. Your cat will smell and hear the new cat through the door. Give your cat treats and/or catnip near the door of the new cat's room so that he associates it with good things.

Let Them Roam Alone

Lock up your cat in the bedroom, and let the new cat roam around the house. This lets them explore and exercise, and it also helps them find good hiding places for later. Then put your new cat back in its room and let your old cat walk around and smell them without having to see the new cat. This is another good way to get them use to each other's scent.

Open The Door A Crack

After a few days, carefully open the door a crack so the cats can see each other but can't stick their heads out. Be prepared for some hissing and growling, but if one tries to smack the other, close the door. Do often--a few times a day.

Let Them Out
Bringing a new cat into the house is not unlike introducing a baby to an older sibling. Jealousy and pouting are normal reactions. Even though you are excited about the new member of your family, do not forget the cat that has been your faithful companion until now. Do not yell, scold or punish them for hissing at the newcomer. They may not react like they way you want them to right away, but your cats will come around.

When the time comes to let the new cat out (do not rush--wait a week) and be sure to monitor closely, open the door to see what happens. Most likely your existing cat will hiss and growl, maybe even wail, confirming their worst fears. Unless open fighting breaks out, let them hiss as cats need to establish hierarchy and territorial rights. Even though the growling is upsetting and sounds bad, it's okay.

Reassure your cat verbally and pet him if you can (he may not let you because he's upset so don't take it personally). When is nice or at least non-threatening to the new cat, praise your cat lavishly and give give them treats.

Do Not Expect True Love

We all wish our cats would become best buddies and curl up together, lick each other, etc., but unfortunately this does not always happen. However, your cat and the new will at least form a truce. They may not want to hang out together, but they will eventually respect each other's space and stop hissing. Don't worry if your cats never become best friends because they will still keep each other company and they will both love you.

Living Happily Ever After
Spend time with your cats--brushing, petting and playing with them. Cats may seem aloof and independent, but they need attention from humans. Cats are curious and easily bored. Be sure to provide some sort of new entertainment for your cat everyday. You will be surprised how much fun an empty paper bag can create.
post #9 of 15
If Mango becomes the subservient cat will he be unhappy? My promise for getting NK was that if Mango was unhappy, NK would have to find another home. Is it in Mango's best interest for us to give NK back?
post #10 of 15
It is way to early to "give back" the newcomer. Just give it time. It doesn't sound like it is going bad at all. There has been no bloodshed, the cats haven't tangled and wrapped themselves into a fight mass of fur and claws have they? Try not to project your human emotions on cats, they can figure these things out- and one Mango adjusts he will probably be quite happy he has another cat around. if he completely stops eating drinking and using the litterpan then worry- until then they sound fine.
post #11 of 15
Thanks! I needed to hear that--my husband took quite some convincing to get nk, his primary fear was that Mango would be unhappy, especially if he had to relinquish his position as "ruler of the universe." I argued that Mango is such a playful cat that he would enjoy having a friend while we're at work. I certainly don't want to give up on NK, she's a joy, but the person who fostered her (she was abandoned behind a dorm) would like her back within two weeks if we don't think it's going to work. I'm just trying to be fair to the kitties.

Should I keep switching the kitties for about an hour a day or should I wait for Mango to resume using the upstairs litter box?
post #12 of 15
I agree with Hissy...time will be the factor and things sound like they are going well. Remember..Mango is adjusting to a new cat...where NK is adjusting to a new home, a new cat and new owners. Time is the one thing that both will need.

post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 
Southsiderpgh, it is also my husband who needs reassuring that the new cat is going to work out, just a funny aside.

What I found during my first new cat introduction a fews years ago, was that things can work out even when the cats seem to be arch-enemies. My 2 existing cats are generally the best of friends, and they will play together and groom each other. That may be best-case scenario, but it could happen.

With my current new addition, I am hoping for peaceful cohabitation.

I have had #3 separated for 4 days now and things are going well. #3 does not seem to really mind having a room to herself. My existing cats are still very curious about her which I think is a good sign. But if I open the door a crack so they can see each other, #3 still tries to swipe them through the door. I have a feliway diffuser in her room now to see if that helps her feel more at ease. I'm planning on keeping it this way for some time, gradually increasing their interactions as their tolerance for one another increases. I'm not sure this will affect the outcome of who is top cat, but maybe it will make the transition a little easier for everyone.

I'm also reading the 'nine emotional lives of cats' which has some funny anecdotes in it for multi-cat households. I like the one about how you can bring in any number of new humans to your house, and your cat couldn't care less, but just one new cat. . .
post #14 of 15
kcidr--thanks for the post. We named NK "Uma" [Indian Goddess--bringer of balance & mediator of conflicts in heaven]. I bought two feliway diffusers & the spray to try to alleviate Mango's stress (he wouldn't play, slunk around the house with his tail down, etc.). Thankfully, the feliway really seemed to help bring Mango back to close to his old self. We gathered up our courage & switched rooms for a couple hours Friday night (exactly one week after we brought Uma home)--no growling so I threw caution to the wind (though we both had pillows in hand to break up any fights) and opened the doors.

Well, little Uma lived up to her name...all she wanted to do was play with Mango--he hissed at her when she got too close, but no major display of aggression. We put Uma back in her kitty palace before we went to bed, just to be safe. The next morning I opened the doors and we haven't looked back. Uma is a card-carrying member of the Mango fan club, and her persistence seems to be paying off--they're playing, sleeping near each other and pretty much ignoring the humans in the house (sniff).

So, good luck with yours--I've got Amy Shojai's kitten book and a book by Pam Johnson-Bennett about raising well adjusted cats as "back-up."
post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 
We have named #3 Gin... She is totally adorable and seems to eat almost anything - maybe as a result of living on the streets? Tonight she was intently licking a banana. She also goes crazy for frozen yogurt and olives, I don't know what will be next. She's still eating all of her own food, which is good because she needs to gain some weight. She also loves our bird feeders. We have a window feeder set up she loves to stalk birds at. I think she is determined to scare all the birds away so that we will save money on bird seed.

We got Gin from the SPCA, she was there only about a month after being brought in with kittens. I don't think I mentioned that in my previous posts. She took to us right away, melting into our arms when we held her. She still does that - when she is in the mood to be held.

We have mostly integrated the household. After keeping Gin as isolated as possible for another 2 weeks, we have re-introduced her to Sadie and Scarlett. Currently, we still isolate her when we are going to be gone for the day, and sometimes at night. This is because after many hours outside of her room, she seems to start picking fights again. We've got the whole house feliwayed now so that may be helping some.

Good things: Sadie has chased Gin 2 times in the past week, compared with about a dozen chases from Gin. I read that it is good news if they reverse roles - chaser and chasee. Also, there seem to be greater time lapses between spats. As long as the whole aggression thing isn't one-sided, and as long as all of their interaction isn't negative, I think its not bad at all.

I've started to wonder whether Gin's swats at the other cats might be the result of her protecting her new 'people'? I know she starts things even when we aren't around (I'm a good and stealthy spy when I want to be), but when we are around, it seems a little different. Its as if there is less of a transgression required from Sadie or Scarlett to elicit a swat from Gin.

Its still tough at times, because Sadie and Scarlett aren't able to relax around Gin. But it looks like it is getting better and hopefully with some more time, things will work out. I can't imagine that the chasing and swatting will continue ad infinitum. I think the cats just don't know each other all that well yet, and once they do they will learn each other's limits. Hope springs eternal.

Growing up, we had 4 cats, and I remember one of them, Purr, would swat anything that passed her (human or cat). She would sprawl out across the hallway, and anyone who needed to get by had to dance around her chasing paws. That was just the way it was, and she never changed, and we never tried to change her. In fact, she was a stray as well, before joining us.
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