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10-month old kitten not himself since new cat - help!

Discussion in 'Cat Training and Behaviour' started by JasM88, Jan 8, 2019.


  1. JasM88

    JasM88 PetForums Newbie

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    I have a 10 month-old neutered Ragdoll male who is a very friendly, lovely cat. He's an indoor cat and has been from day one. We work full time, which means he spends a large portion of the day alone. He has a lot of energy when we get home and loves to play. With him being so sociable, we could tell towards the end of the working week that he was getting a bit frustrated so we knew he needed company when we were out. Naturally we decided to get a second cat. We had initially planned on getting one younger or a similar age as we're aware kittens have a lot more energy than adult cats.

    However, my partner's cousin was looking to rehome her 5-year-old spayed female British Shorthair. She's also an indoor cat and has been a single pet for 5 years. We knew there was a chance it wouldn't work due to her being an adult cat that's used to her own company. But with them having a similar temperament and her being quite playful herself, we decided to at least give it a go and have also arranged a fab permanent back-up home for her just in case it doesn't work (my parents who have no other pets).

    We did all the recommended steps to introduce them - Feliway plug ins, kept them separate whilst swapping scents, let them explore the other's space without meeting and put the feeding bowls on opposite sites of the door. They were pretty comfortable around each other's scents to we let them see each other through a barrier. On day two of using a barrier the kitten actually leapt over it and they met properly much sooner then we had planned (she'd been with us less than a week at this point). To our surprise they just sniffed each other and started playing!

    We've had the new female cat for about 3 weeks now and up until about 4 days ago they've been brilliant. They chase each other, play and sleep next to each other. Now, something's changed... The new female cat has been hissing, growling and using claws when they play fight. At first we thought it was the kitten getting too carried away and annoying her (I should point out that he's a big kitten and is actually the same size as her right now). But when they're 'fighting' he's making no noise, his ears are upright and he doesn't seem to have his claws out. It's like she thinks she has to defend herself when he comes over to play and is getting quite aggressive (and very vocal) with him. He's not got any injuries from it though.

    Putting it down to the kitten simply wanting to play more than her, we've been trying to help burn some of his energy through solo playtime. But he's just lost all interest in playing with us and his toys, which isn't like him at all. He still tries to initiate play with the female cat, then after a few minutes of mutual play she'll start hissing and growling at him. Once that happens he wonders off and then we'll hear him meowing from another room. We grab some toys and go find him, but he just won't play (we've tried teasers, a laser, ping pong balls, flashing balls, catnip on his toys etc) - no reaction from him at all. Normally when we pick up a toy he goes nuts, so I'm getting a bit concerned.

    From the way they've been sleeping next to each other and don't go out of their way to avoid each other, it genuinely seemed like they're getting along. But then surely losing all interest in playing with us/his toys isn't normal for a 10-month old kitten who would usually chase a ping pong ball for thirty minutes straight? Could I be reading the situation wrong?

    Just incase anyone is wondering, there's been no inappropriate furniture scratching or toileting problems with either cat. The kitten hasn't lost any of his favourite napping spots since she arrived and they have separate litter boxes and feeding/drinking bowls. Sorry for the essay, I could just be worried over nothing but any advice would be amazing. Thanks!
     
  2. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    Hi @JasM88 and welcome :)

    Is the female cat eating normally? No symptoms of any health problems? A sudden change in behaviour should always be suspected initially as being health related. But I am assuming you have ruled out any health problems..

    It sounds as though your kitten is not a very happy boy at present, which is why he is a bit withdrawn. There is usually a big difference in the energy levels of a 5 yr old cat and a 10 mth old kitten and although the female probably enjoys play sometimes, it is probably not nearly as often as the kitten likes to play.

    Bear in mind that the purpose of play is for a cat to practice their hunting skills (toys are their pretend prey) and that a 5 yr old cat probably doesn't have a lot left to learn about hunting (even if she has never actually been outdoors to hunt real prey, :)) Whereas a 10 mth old kitten has a strong instinct to continue to hone their hunting skills.

    The souring of the previously amicable atmosphere between them could be due simply to the female feeling the kitten is intruding into her personal space too much, or too often. And it has made her defensive, demonstrated by her hissing and growling when they "play fight".

    Personally I wouldn't call it "play fighting" when there is growling involved. Growling at another cat is a serious matter (for a cat) and could result in the kitten being injured e.g a scratched eyeball, or sustaining a puncture wound from a bite. I think you should distract them both as soon as there is a lot of hissing from the female (before the growling starts) and separate them to different rooms, so as to take the tension out of the situation.

    Changing the dynamics between the two cats will involve giving the female more spaces to go, to get away from the kitten when she wants to be on her own. This can mean high up places such as tall cat trees, or tops of cupboards with shelves fitted up the walls like steps, to give a safe route up and down. (for safety the slope created by the steps should be no more than 45 degrees) . Or it could mean giving her a room of her own which she can access whenever she wants through a microchipped cat flap fitted on the door. But the kitten could not access it as his chip would not be scanned in. This can work very well. (the female would come and go as she chose, not be shut in her room).

    I think the kitten is probably a bit anxious because he doesn't understand why the female is upset with him. At 10 mths old a kitten is not fully versed in all the nuances of cat etiquette, so he does not yet grasp the concept of respecting another cat's personal space. Also he may think the female is a kitten like himself as they are the same size!

    I think your kitten needs comforting and reassurance from you on the occasions the female cat rejects him by hissing or growling at him.

    You may find if the female cat is happier by being able to get away from the kitten when she chooses, that she'll be fine with the kitten when she chooses to be with him. (Autonomy is important). The kitten will then be happier too. :)
     
    #2 chillminx, Jan 8, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
  3. JasM88

    JasM88 PetForums Newbie

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    Hi @chillminx, thanks so much for your detailed reply. I didn't even consider that he might think she's also a kitten due to their similar size! In your experience, how long would you say it takes for a kitten to learn to respect another cat's space?

    Perhaps we've been too relaxed as their initial meeting went so smoothly - we'll definitely try pulling out the toys sooner to distract him and hopefully he'll be more inclined to play if he hasn't been told off by the other cat yet. He doesn't tend to keep going once she's starting hissing, but kind of sulks and mopes around (it's heartbreaking as they're both lovely cats and we really do want it to work out). He's quite social, so do you think maybe he's just more interested in playing with her than toys at the moment because of how new the situation is still? We did put them in separate rooms the first time it looked more like a fight than play (we put her in the 'safe room' that we set up for her arrival) and she curled up on the chair and went to sleep almost straight away, but he just sat outside the room wanting to be let in!

    Would you recommend that we keep them apart whenever we're not home for another few months yet? There's been no injuries but I don't want to risk it.

    EDIT: Sorry I didn't answer your Qs about the female cat's health. Yes she's eating and drinking normally, using her litter box without issue and has no known health problems. She's not hiding or anything and will happily sleep on the sofa next to him or be on the cat trees at the same time - i even caught him grooming her for the first time the other day. Maybe with the resident cat being a kitten, she's not that intimidated by being on 'his' territory?
     
    #3 JasM88, Jan 9, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2019
  4. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    Hi again @JasM88 - I think that a cat learning to respect another cat's personal space is something that develops gradually, probably from around 12 months onwards. Maybe full understanding of the concept is not learned until around the age of 2 (thinking of examples from my own cats).

    It is possible both cats spend most of their time sleeping when you are out of the house, this is often the case. So there may not be a problem with leaving them together. How do they seem when you get home, if they are left together?

    But again, the ideal would be give the female the option to get away from the kitten if she wanted to, whether you are at home or out. The ability to be able to make that choice seems to be what makes the biggest difference (as opposed to being physically separated by a human without having a choice in the matter).
     
  5. JasM88

    JasM88 PetForums Newbie

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    Hi again @chillminx - I think you're right about the sleeping when we're out.
    I'm probably just expecting too much too soon with how calm they both seemed when they first met. We'll continue to monitor them and be a bit quicker to intervene with toys if we think it's about to go too far again. We'll also look into how we can create a space for her that the kitten can't access as you've suggested, as that sounds like a great idea. Thank you so much for your advice, it's been really helpful.
     
    #5 JasM88, Jan 9, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2019
    chillminx likes this.
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