I recently got a 6 month old kitten, Leeloo, to pair with my cat Apollo, who is 3 years old and has been a part of the family for a little over 10 months. We have had Leeloo for over a week now, and the introduction process hasn’t been going as smoothly as I would like. I apologize for completely diverting from my usual topics of crochet and book reviews, but I would really appreciate some insight from others who have successfully integrated two or more cats into one household.
Here is the back story to how we got Leeloo: a few weeks ago, my husband and I were walking around our apartment complex one evening playing Pokemon Go. As we were walking past a clump of bushes, I saw a little grey kitten dart into them. I managed to coax her out and check her collar– no tags. She was very dirty and felt a little thin, so we took her upstairs and put her in the bathroom with food, water, a bed, and some toys. Apollo was quite fascinated by her, though she just hissed at him. I spent some time with her in the bathroom to calm her down so she could sleep, and she was just the sweetest little thing: head-butts, winding between my legs, curling up on my lap, and purring like mad. When she stretched herself up to rub her face against mine, I felt a little tug on my cat-loving heart.
The next morning, I took her to the vet to scan her for a microchip– no chip. I honestly felt a little devastated. I wanted to get her home to her family (even though a part of me already knew I wanted to keep her), and with no chip and no tags, the search for them had just become exceedingly difficult. Furthermore, my husband and I were leaving for vacation in two days, so we had no time to launch an extensive effort to get her home. The vet tech recommended taking her to the county animal shelter, as that is typically the first place locals search for lost pets. I didn’t like that option, as that particular shelter is not a no-kill shelter (although they keep cats a minimum of 60 days, usually longer). Unfortunately, that was the best option, so a friend of ours took her there while we took Apollo to our chosen boarding house. We also put a Found Pet page on Pet Harbor and a super vague Craigslist post with no picture so that we could verify ownership if contacted. And we talked about adopting her when we came back.
Fast forward a week and a half later, and we took home our newly spayed, newly chipped Leeloo. We did our best to keep her and Apollo separated from each other for the first couple of days, but it is very difficult in a tiny one bedroom apartment. We kept her in the bathroom– still do at night and when we’re not home– and it is impossible to not visit the bathroom at least twice a day for human purposes. Being the escape artist that she is, she regularly slips out, and Apollo– being the curious cat that he is who doesn’t like closed doors– is usually right outside the door. However, the first few times, she didn’t hiss at him like she used to, and a couple of times, she even rubbed up against him. It also seemed like she invited him to chase her. They would trade off with who chased who. The play started to include wrestling and bunny kicking, which our vet said was normal and to let them do their thing. We never let it get too out of hand, since she is still healing from her spay surgery. Sometimes he would bite her a little bit, which is par for the course with him– he bites us all the time. They napped near each other, and they even groomed each other a little bit (Leeloo just got his toes once, but Apollo has gotten her head, ears, feet, and tail).
By Sunday, the wrestling had gotten a little more intense, and ears started getting flatter, pupils more dilated, and postures indicated fear or aggression. They still traded off on who chased the other. I also noticed that Apollo wasn’t as interested in eating his food, and he was hesitant to use his litter box. And then on Monday morning, shortly after Leeloo slipped out of the bathroom, Apollo must have moved too quickly, because she hissed and her tail was straight up, all of her hair standing on end. The classic “super terrified” stance. That night, we had them out in the living room, and though there was no hissing, growling or sound of any kind, the wrestling was so intense and frequent that we separated them and have not let them be in the same room since.
I will be the first to admit that I know I introduced them too quickly. I have read multiple articles online about how the introduction must be very slow– over days, weeks, or possibly months– and taken one step at a time. I guess I just thought that we might be able to accelerate the process because they didn’t show much hostility in the beginning.
The plan now is to do a reintroduction– a slow one (or at least as slow as we can manage, given our living situation). Apollo and Leeloo have been separated since last night, and we’re going to strive to keep them that way until Friday at the earliest. Then we’re going to try to do the steps recommended in the various websites I’ve seen: feed them separately with the door closed at the same time; then play with them separately, and give lots of treats for positive reinforcement; then crack the door while they’re eating. I don’t think putting up a baby gate or two will work– we already have one (long story why), and it doesn’t stay in the door very securely. Anyway, I know that going slowly and lots of positive reinforcement are crucial.
What I’m worried about is the face-to-face interactions. I don’t want them to get too close, at least for a while. I have a harness and leash for Apollo, but he just goes limp when he has it on. I’ve read that putting vanilla extract on their heads can work because they like the smell, and it masks their own scents. Or tuna juice on their heads and faces so that they’ll groom each other (when they can be that close). I’m going to hold off on aromatic pheromones like Feliway, because I don’t think their hostility is that severe.
I’m optimistic that things will go well if we take things a little slower. They seem to have the types of personalities that will allow them to get along with other cats. Also, it’s looking likely that we’re going to move to a bigger place in a couple of months, so if things still aren’t great, at least we’ll have another bedroom to keep Leeloo in. If anyone has any success stories that they can share, I would love to hear them.
Thank you for taking the time to read this super long post! I’ll get back to writing about crochet and books again soon!