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Introducing two kittens to resident cat.

Discussion in 'Cat Training and Behaviour' started by Grinchy, Aug 23, 2020.


  1. Grinchy

    Grinchy PetForums Junior

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    Hi everyone. I’ve been lurking for ages on this forum, but I’ve decided to bite the bullet and register and ask for some advice and find out about your experiences with cat introductions.

    I have three female cats: an adult cat, Buffy (5 yrs) and two kittens, Ferius and Kellen (10 weeks old). The kittens have their own lovely room. Three litter trays, toys, cat fountains, cat cube, cat trees, extensive catification of the wall space etc. I’ve really tried to make their base camp comfortable, fun and cosy. They’ve settled in well and enjoy their space.

    As for the cat introductions, I’ve followed the Jackson Galaxy approach (from his book Cat Mojo and advice from his website and videos). The kittens were born to my brother’s cat, so I was able to visit them and rub their scents onto socks and bring them back to my cat.

    The kittens have been here for two weeks now and this is what I have achieved so far:

    - Feeding other side of the door a couple of feet apart

    - Site swapping
    - Scent swapping
    - Feeding either side of baby gate one foot apart each side but covered by blanket
    - Feeding either side of baby gate one foot apart each side with blanket lifted up a little every feeding
    - Feeding either side of baby gate one foot apart each side but no blanket covering and in full view of each other


    I’ve had mixed results with the last step because sometimes Kellen becomes curious about Buffy’s food and runs to the gate. Buffy responds by hissing and going back to her eating. I started giving Kellen wet food today, and this has stopped her going up to the gate.

    I’ve also tried moving to the next stage which is playing in the same room, but at opposite ends, but this has not worked yet. Buffy becomes aware of the kittens and refuses to play or she runs towards them, so we have reverted back to focus on the feeding ritual.

    When I started this process, I was very positive and pleased with the progress of all cats. But today, I was in tears at my failure to get ‘play time’ to work in a meaningful way. I just feel that there’s no progress beyond the feeding either side of the baby gate in full view stage.

    I’d be grateful for any advice you can give me that could help make the introductions successful. Also, I’m curious to know how long it took your resident cat to stop hissing at a new cat(s). How long were your new additions isolated from your resident cat before they could mingle safely with the resident cat?

    Thank you.
     
  2. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    Hi @Grinchy and welcome :)

    I do like some of Jackson Galaxy's ideas and find them helpful and effective. But other times he has me flummoxed with some of his suggestions, as they seem to be out of sync with what is normal cat behaviour and therefore I see no point to them. However he is a kind and well-meaning guy and I don't want to be too critical of him, if he is one of your heroes. :)

    I am not a fan of feeding cats, who are strangers, their meals near each other. Cats are solitary hunters and prefer their own space for eating. In over 50 years of having my own cats I've always provided separate eating spots at least 10 feet apart. The cats conveyed to me this is what they wanted. It has applied to cats who are siblings and even more so to cats who are strangers to each other. Having no choice but to eat near each other can cause cats stress.

    I am sorry I don't really understand the purpose of getting the cats to play in the same room, at opposite ends. Play is mock-hunting and hunting is a solitary activity for a cat. So it would not be natural for an adult cat to play with toys while there are two strange kittens intruding in her territory. The adult would be much too wary to consider playing (hunting) wth the kittens in the room.

    Play between kittens is how they learn cat social etiquette and also survival skills (including learning how to hunt) and as they have each other to help them practice these skills they are not bothered about the adult cat, as long as she leaves them alone, does not hassle them. I expect if she wanted to play then they would be Ok with that, but it is much too early in the introductions for that to happen, IME.

    Eventually once the adult and the kittens are integrated, the adult may be happy to play with them e.g. games of chase. Or even to play with toys while they are in the room. But that is likely to be a long way ahead. (about 6 months to a year away, IME)

    I would carry on as you have been as it seems to be working for you, but go a lot more slowly. The older cat needs lots of time to adapt to the newcomers and needs to go at her own pace, Dhe also needs plenty of quiet places she can go to get away from the kittens e.g tall cat trees or shelves up to tops of cupboards and a fleece to lie on.

    And all the feline resources need to be increased considerably to provide for 3 cats instead of one. This will reduce the competition and the resource guarding that is fairly common in multi-cat households.(Feline resources = water bowls, litter trays, scratch posts, scratch pads, cat beds, toys, resting spots etc)
     
  3. Grinchy

    Grinchy PetForums Junior

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    Hi

    Thank you so much for your comprehensive reply. I'm so grateful for the long and considered response.

    I agree with you regarding the playing in the same room aspect. It's not making sense to me or my adult cat.

    Buffy is very relaxed and curious at feeding time, now. She approached the gate twice to see what the kittens were doing. No hissing.

    I'm not sure what my next step is now in the introduction process.
     
  4. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    If Buffy is fairly comfortable now with the kittens' presence, the next step would be to open internal doors (or remove pet gates) and let all 3 cats have supervised time together doing their own thing.

    A bit of hissing is fine (it's only a warning) but if there's growling, yowling or bullying, then separate Buffy from the kittens again and start over next day with the direct supervised contact. The desensitising process can take quite a while I've found, before it feels safe to leave the adult cat and the new kittens together unsupervised. But Buffy sounds pretty tolerant so the process may be quicker. :)

    I'd probably continue to keep the kits separated from Buffy at night for the time being.
     
  5. Grinchy

    Grinchy PetForums Junior

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    Thank you very much for this advice. I'll start this process on the weekend.
     
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  6. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    I hope all goes well :)
     
  7. Grinchy

    Grinchy PetForums Junior

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    Hi,

    I have an update...

    Buffy has been very relaxed eating near the kittens. She's eating with them sideways on and only looks up once and then again when she's finished. She also walks away to groom.

    However, we had a bit of a drama today. The kittens escaped from my room and Buffy saw them. She hissed at them. They made themselves all big and puffy and she ran away!!

    Will it cause an issue going forward?

    Many thanks in advance for any help and advice.
     
  8. Grinchy

    Grinchy PetForums Junior

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    Thanks for your reassurance.

    I am now looking ahead to the next stage and I don't know what to do.

    Do I make them play in the same room? Do I bring a kitten into the room where Buffy is.

    I don't know what my next step should be after shared feeding time.

    I've seen lots of articles but they're vague and there's no tangible steps to help.
     
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  9. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    @Grinchy - It sounds as though the fright was mutual - the kittens puffed up their fur and Buffie ran away. It doesn't sound too serious tbh. I think you may be lucky enough to have 3 cats who do not like confrontation with other cats.

    However Ferius and Kellen ( great names, I see you are a Spellslinger fan! ;)) are still small at only 10 wks old and Buffie must seem enormous to them and quite a threat as she is a stranger :)

    As for the next step :- are the kittens still confined to their safe room? Does Buffie have the rest of the house to roam?

    When I am introducing kittens to adult cats I progress things forward by gradually introducing the kittens to the rest of the house. e.g. if they are installed in a bedroom as their safe room I let them out of their room after a couple of weeks, to explore the landing and stairs. I close the bedroom doors (apart from the door to their safe room) and I erect a barrier at the bottom of the stairs so they can't get any further. During this period you would shut Buffie in downstairs so she has no access to the stairs and landing. Because this is the kitties time for acclimatising themselves to a new area.

    The kitties would be put back in their safe room after a few hours, and the barrier at the bottom of the stairs removed so Buffie has access to the area again.

    It usually takes about 4 days before the kittens are fully familiar with the stairs and landing, and ready to move on to the next stage, which would be access to the hall. And so on, adding one area at a time, after every few days, until the kitties feel confident in their surroundings.

    Don't be in a rush to give them access to the whole house, they are small still and you don't want them getting overwhelmed. . But until such time as they have access to more arras of the house they can't really have direct contact with Buffie because it would be her territory and too scary for them. They need time to start to "own" the territory themselves.

    I never carry kittens to where the adult cats are, nor do I take the adult cats to the kittens. For the introduction to be successful all the cats need to be allowed the autonomy to be in charge of when and how they choose to approach each other, or be in the same space. You can facilitate Buffie meeting Ferius and Kellen face to face but you should not engineer it. Let them be in control. I hope that makes sense.
     
  10. Grinchy

    Grinchy PetForums Junior

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    Hi Chillminx,

    Yes I'm a huge Spellslinger fan :)

    The kittens have explored the whole house. They get time in my room and Buffy gets time in their room.

    They roam the downstairs area when Buffy is out of the house.

    The kittens are very confident around the house. They play, explore, sleep. They're very keen to leave their little room all the time.

    Thank you for your reassuring advice regarding the next stage of the process.

    I'll try what you suggested this weekend.

    Thank you for help.
     
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  11. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    @Grinchy - excellent! I didn't realise the kittens have explored the whole house and are confident and comfortable in their territory. So you have achieved a lot already :)

    So yes, the next step is to provide opportunities for the kittens to meet Buffie without any barrier in the way. But supervise, so you can step in if there is any aggression from anyone.

    A bit of hissing is fine - just a warning from one cat to another.

    Please let us know how things go. :)
     
  12. Grinchy

    Grinchy PetForums Junior

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    Thank you for your advice.

    Buffy and the kittens ate today with the baby gate 1/3 open.

    Buffy looked up a bit more, but other than that, no dramas!
     
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  13. Grinchy

    Grinchy PetForums Junior

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    6am feed update! I left the gate half open. Buffy only looked up twice.

    Ferius finished first and walked off to groom.

    Then Buffy finished. Instead of walking off, she crossed the baby gate into their room then stopped!

    I pushed Ferius' bowl a bit closer to her. She ate, looked at Ferius, and hissed. Then backed off and left.

    All this time, Kellen was a few inches from her!

    The best thing was the reaction of the kittens. Just as stunned as I was!

    I'm so happy and pleased that Buffy made some progress to come into their room.
     
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  14. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    @Grinchy - well done Buffy! This is good news :). I am so glad she had the confidence to go into the kittens' room.

    The hissing is Buffy saying to Ferius "Mind your manners kitty, I'm watching you!" :)
     
  15. Grinchy

    Grinchy PetForums Junior

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    Thanks for your support.

    I have an update:

    5pm feed. The gate was open half way. Buffy went completely into the kitten room to eat Ferius' food. I put more kitten food in it and she took her time to chomp it whilst I played with red dot with the other two.

    All was well. Buffy ate, walked off, hung around. Walked into my room. Ferius dashed for it into my room. Buffy hissed. Ferius went into submissive posture Buffy ran to hide under the bed.

    So apart from Ferius running at Buffy, all went well.
     
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  16. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    Sounds like things are going well. :)

    What does Ferius think of Buffy eating his food I wonder? ;)
     
  17. Grinchy

    Grinchy PetForums Junior

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    I don't know if she cares because she walked away. Or if she, had time to process it because I kept her occupied when Kellen finished eating.
     
  18. Grinchy

    Grinchy PetForums Junior

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    Another Buffy update!

    The kittens were playing in the sitting room and Buffy was asleep in the conservatory.

    One of them ran into the French doors and woke Buffy up! I got the toy out and starting playing with them while Buffy watched.

    She sat at the doors as if she wanted to come in. So I let her in!

    She kept her distance, sniffed a bit, sat low to look at Ferius under the sofa.

    Then she went to the exit of the sitting room and sat there for ages as I played with the kittens

    My housemate gave her some treats and really praised her

    When the kittens were done, I ended their playtime. Took them up.

    Buffy was sniffing around the sitting room. We played with the toy then finished with treats.

    I can't believe that Buffy wanted to come in and watch them for ages!!

    No hissing or aggressive behaviour from any of the cats.
     
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  19. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    @Grinchy - Excellent progress! Good for Buffy! I am so pleased to read your update. :)

    I think Buffy is probably a very sweet-natured cat -- is she ? :)
     
  20. Grinchy

    Grinchy PetForums Junior

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    Hi all,

    Hope you are all well and having a good weekend.

    A Buffy and kitten update...

    We are now at the point where they can all eat in the same room or play in the same room or the kittens can play and Buffy watches them.

    The problem now is the kittens... They don't respect Buffy's boundaries.

    For example, two days ago, they were eating at opposite sides of the sitting room. Kellen crossed the sitting room to approach Buffy and her bowl. Buffy gave a warning hiss when Kellen backed off. Ten minutes later, she grabs Buffy's tail! Buffy hisses and swipes.

    Today, Buffy was eating in their room and I was playing with them. Suddenly I heard Buffy hiss. Looked down and Ferius had come close to watch her. A few minutes later after Buffy had gone downstairs, the kittens went downstairs and Ferius ran at her. Hiss and swipe from Buffy.

    So I'm not sure what can be done. They want to play with her and be friends, but not getting the first warning hiss.
     

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