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Some cat-based ramblings and a call for advice from multiple cat owners

Ginge

This post is deviating a bit from the usual fashion and design based fare.

Last week, our cat, Ginger, went missing for a bit. He has a cat flap, so he can always get in and out. He disappeared overnight on Monday. My friend then found him at a petrol station far away from our flat, and on the other side of a main road at midnight on Tuesday. he had apparently followed some girls who were stroking him. he’s very trusting like that. We call him slapper cat sometimes, because he will just miauw at anyone in the street and demand cuddles. He doesn’t care about food at all, all he wants is to sit on people’s laps.

Anyway, my friend carried him back to his/our front door. He came in and ate and slept in our bed, but then disappeared off again and never came back. On Friday morning we put out posters and through the combined power of our neighbourhood managed to track him down and return him to the flat. He wasn’t even that far away from the flat (and on our side of the main road), but he obviously got confused and couldn’t find his way back. He may be older than we think he is (7 according to the age we were given when we got him from the cattery).

Cat

So, anyway! We were thinking maybe the best thing to do is to get him a cat friend, to keep him enetertained during the day, so he won’t go off and accost strangers and follow them out of the area he knows. We’ve been doing some research and it sounds like introducing a new cat is a bit of a gamble. The advice is to get a kitten as they are more likely to be accepted by the original cat, but we can’t really do that, because we’re both out during the day and can’t give the constant attention that they would need. I don’t really want tiny claws wreaking havoc on our soft furnishings while we’re away! So it would have to be a full-grown cat.

Has anyone done this – introduced a new adult cat to a household with an existing cat? What was it like? How long did it take for them to get on? Any tips? Should we get a girl cat or does it not matter? Ginger is neutered and not into fighting other cats, if that makes any difference.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Cynthia 8 September 2010, 3:30 pm

    I've introduced several new cats to my group of established cats. Last time I got a new cat, I had two male adults (one about 5 yrs, one about 15) and one elderly female (who has since died), and I got an 8 month old male. It took them about a week to stop freaking out, but now, just over a year later, the remaining three are happy and well-adjusted together. I tried the whole "keep the new cat in a separate room and let the established cats sniff him under the door" strategy but it didn't last long. They all wanted to meet each other pretty quickly.

    In your situation, I would get a youngish but old enough to be left alone, fully trained, well-socialized neutered male to add to your household. With two male cats who are equally mentally stable, you won't probably have problems. Elderly female cats seem to have a very hard time adjusting. Cats who have lived feral seem to have a harder time adjusting, so even if you get a cat that's a little older, try to find one that's been raised by humans from a kitten. There are lots of cats that stay in foster care for a long time (if they aren't adopted as kittens they get harder to place) and are fully socialized to humans and other cats.

    As for the issue of your cat running off and straying far, maybe keep him inside while he's adjusting to his new friend, in case he feels like he's being run off his territory. My cats don't go outdoors so I'm not sure how to handle that part though.

  • Kasmira 8 September 2010, 5:36 pm

    I've introduced many cats.

    I agree with Cynthia on a youngish male. Multiple cat households of all males work best. A younger cat will most likely accept Ginger's status as alpha cat and there will be fewer fights. A younger cat will also be more playful and interested in interacting.

    You will probably have to keep the cat flap closed during the adjustment period. Ginger will probably be very uncomfortable with the newcomer at first and will want to escape. When I brought one kitten too many home, my cat Cleo left the house and moved in with my neighbor. She never came back.

  • Lemondrop Marie 8 September 2010, 6:06 pm

    I have introduced other adult (fixed) cats, and sometimes it required separating them and supervising at first so no fighting. There is also a calming spray here, called feliway, that seemed to help. But- the bad thing about a wandering cat is that they can introduce the second animal to the habit. I revoked my kitty's outside pass after too many problems. Best of luck!
    Marie @ Lemondrop ViNtAge

  • jesse.anne.o 8 September 2010, 6:44 pm

    Since I fostered cats with my own cats for over 5 years I've been in the enviable situation of introducing 50+ cats to my resident cats over the years (yay?) and have facilitated many adoptions giving guidance for how to do the same within other people's homes to ensure the adoption went well.

    Aside from introductions – the thing is, if your cat is very people-identified and likes a lot of attention, that might not change. So if that's what he's seeking, an easier fix might be to find a way to give him that with sitter visits or not let him out and give him a more enriched indoor environment (hiding food/treats, novel toys like boxes, interactive toys, sounds, smells, etc.)? Just postulating various situations based on what you listed for his motives. I have 6 cats and while they all get along and 4 of them have "paired up" and have their favorites, they are all very people-identified and seek my attention constantly regardless if their favorite cat is there or not.

    Anyway, re introductions — as other people mentioned, energy level/age have a lot to do with it but the bulk of it is really on the cat's personalities and *HOW* they're introduced. Rarely do you find a cat who's fine being dumped in with another cat right away. Most reputable cat behaviorists recommend introducing cats in stages – scent/smell, sight, space

    There is a very good book on this, very simply written — Cat vs Cat by Pam Johnson Bennett. It reviews basic cat behavior including body language (so important – it's easy to misread what a cat's projecting to the other cat if you're not very keyed into their body language), basic introduction stages, and troubleshooting.

    The basics are, over time (and the important thing is to do it as it naturally progresses – some cats take a day, some take a month or more):
    – the new cat should have his own 'safe space' so s/he doesn't feel threatened
    – let the cats smell items that have been in each others territory
    – introduce the cats to each others territory when the other cat isn't around so they feel safe in that area and know where they might retreat if feeling threatened
    – when introducing the cats together some hisses and swats might be normal but the idea is to make sure both cats are feeling safe and having a positive experience so this could mean giving them treats when they're in the same room, interactive toys (1 for each) in the same room, petting/same room, etc. The idea is you build positive associations and safety associations with each cat when the other is around. Never let cats "fight it out" – this typically increases the aggression over time. Never keep a "beta" cat in a carrier and let the more alpha cat walk around him/it must be vice versa or you traumatize the less aggressive/confident cat

    Basically, you keep doing short positive-association sessions with both cats until they relax a little and can spend longer times together. Key point: the people must also be relaxed or the cats will sense they're not and continue to be on guard.

    There are a million online resources for this – both basics and trouble-shooting so send me an email if you have any questions/are looking for more resources.

    Most of my introductions were normal but I've dealt with a few food aggressive cats and some severely aggressive stalking behavior and was able to use behavior modification and train them out of it, with increasingly positive interactions over time, where everyone was able to be civil at all times.

  • Charlotte 9 September 2010, 2:26 am

    jesse-anne, thank you for a very helpful post. I'm ordering Cat v. Cat immediately!

  • Yvonne 9 September 2010, 4:53 am

    I volunteer as a foster parent for a cat rescue group (www.annexcatresue.ca) and I'm always bringing in new cats. I'd say a older kitten – say 9 months to a year and half old – and I'd go with a male.

    I'd suggest if you have a local cat rescue that fosters cats to contact them about adopting as those cats might already be living in a home rather than a shelter and they can give you more information about the personality of the cat you are bringing in. Quite often a people shy cat who will bond with the active outoing people cat you have can be a good thing.

    We have an interesting pair that we introduced in one of our foster homes – A one year old young kitten who is very skittish around people – is now bonding with an older male cat who demands lots of people attention. He's happy to supplement it with her teenage heroworship of him and the fact she's shy means he doesn't get jealous cause she's in everyone's lap.

    So definitely a rescue or other place where they really get cats might be a good place to look and get advise

    (sorry to babble on)

  • Franca 9 September 2010, 7:07 am

    Thank you all, that is all really helpful. I will be checking out that book and speak to some rescue places if we decide to go ahead. We have quite a few cat shelters nearby (we got ginger from one), so that's good.

  • Rad_in_Broolyn 9 September 2010, 3:38 pm

    Sorry that your poor kitty got lost. I am glad to hear that your friend found him and he got home safely.
    I recently (in June) introduced a baby (6 weeks old) to my 3-4 year shelter female cat. There is still a lot of aggression and anger, but the vet/friends tell me this will subside when we get him neutered. He's about 4 1/2 months old and we want to wait until he's 6 months to get him neutered (evidently, their jaws need the testosterone to fully develop). Jesse.anne.o is clearly the inhouse expert. It takes patience and time, and you shouldn't be planning to be away for the first month or so, but other than that, I am a multi cat fan.
    (I do think they make more poo when there is more than one though. Like instead of twice the litter box prizes, there are three times more!)

  • Diana 9 September 2010, 7:25 pm

    Yes, I have, congrats on the new friend but i hope your other pet isn't too difficult at the change.

    My cats took about a couple months to stop fighting. There were a lot of territorial issues (which meant lots of marking). It sounds like Ginger is doing well so far, maybe just adjusting to change.
    Now, we have to have TWO separate litters.