Integrating Cats-Free Mingling
How to Integrate Cats, Page 4
Limited and Full-time Free Mingling
by Margaret Schill
Be sure to read and apply the previous steps before allowing the cats to mingle together.
After you read this article, if you have any questions, post on the W. V. Cats forum at http://wvcatsforum.tuxedocatwebs.com.
As things go well with the Longer, Carefully Supervised Visits, and even get better and better, you can reduce how much immediate, direct supervision you do, such as by going to another room to do some chores or some other activity. But, do not yet leave the cats alone when you are not home or are asleep. Some cats will wait until the people are out of sight before starting up with another cat. You need to be able to hear any sounds of a problem.
You also need to do some unexpected spot checks on the cats, to get a feel for how they are getting along when you were not around. For example, if you find one cat cowering in a corner hissing, that lets you know another cat had intimidated the hissing cat, either intentionally, or unintentionally. (Remember, hissing is a defensive sound, not an aggressive sound.) You would then separate the cats, by moving the calmest cat out of the area. Do not try to pick up a cat that is displaying crouching, fearful, defensive, forceful hissing behavior, or you will probably make the cat more upset and may wind up getting scratched. Leave the upset cat alone to calm down.
When two or more weeks have gone by and every spot check you made found the cats being truly fine together, perhaps sleeping happily near each other, you didn't hear any sounds of fighting when you were in another room, and when you were around all the cats, there were no signs of any problems, it is now time to try free mingling full time.
Fully integrated and comfortable with each other-most of the time. The orange cat sometimes chased the white cat so fast that it made the white cat seem nervous and decide to hide under the bed for a bit. But, they never fought and the white cat often chose to hang around the orange cat.
Just let the cats have free access of the whole house and each other all the time after all the above has gone well. When cats sleep near one another, eat happily near one another, and haven't had any fights or times of one cat intimidating the other to where one cat cowers and hisses, they can be considered safe to leave alone together full-time.
However, there still can be some problematic moments where you will need to intervene, even when the cats have lived together seemingly fine for a few years. On occasion, one cat gets into a pestering mood, and won't back off when the other cat gives hissing or even growling warnings, perhaps along with some swatting.
When that happens, try walking up to the cats and firmly tell the pest to stop, saying something such as, "Be nice Fluffy! Leave Sweety alone!." Sometimes that is all that is needed for the pestering cat to stop and walk away. If that is not effective, putting the pesky cat in another room for a short while, or in another area of the house, will be needed to break the tension. This is not a "punishment". It is helping to prevent one cat from being bullied or intimidated by another, (even if the one cat meant it as play, but to the other it was not), and preventing a physical altercation.
In the case of a one cat pestering another cat in a manner that seems to be due to wanting to play, or maybe one cat just got bored and feels like stirring up some action, it is not enough to just separate the cats. The energetic cat will need some alternate way to "play off" his/her energy. An energetic cat requires and deserves to have it's needs met and may have been trying to do so by "pestering" the other cat. Interactive play with a human with a fishing pole type toy or streamer toy might then be done. Or, roll a cat ball to be chased over and over for a few minutes.
Some people think the "pest" just winds up being rewarded for being a pest, and may be encouraged to aggravate the other cat as a signal to make the people start playing with him/her, but that is not true. That might be true if the ONLY time you play with the cat is when he or she was bothering another cat. One should engage cats in interactive play at various times.
Things are different if one of the cats is acting in a non-playing, clearly aggressive manner towards one of his/her housemates and won't quit. This sometimes occurs with cats who have gotten along when one cat gets riled up by a stray cat outside, and is redirecting aggression onto the housemate. Or, sometimes one cat has reached social adulthood (at about one- four years of age) and gets carried away with trying to let the other cats know he/she is now going to be the "boss". In that case, the cats should be separated, but no playing with the aggressor for a while. Just calmly put the aggressor in another room that has a litter box, water, a scratcher, and something comfortable to rest upon (or the other cat if the aggressor is too roused up and might scratch or bite you.) Leave the cats separated for a good hour or longer, depending upon how aggressive the interaction was. Hopefully by then, the aggressor will have calmed down. If not, keep the cats separated longer. Sometimes a whole day of separation might be needed.
Do not think in terms of "punishing" the aggressor. Think more in terms of trying to understand why the aggression occurred, and in terms of trying to get the aggressive cat calmed down. Attacking housemates due to redirected aggression from seeing stray cats outside is not a cat being "bad". It is a cat feeling very threatened, maybe scared, and defending itself. Sadly, the cat got mixed up with who it is defending itself against, by attacking the housemate. As odd as it may seem, that cat actually deserves some pity for having gotten to feel so stressed and threatened, even if he/she did attack the innocent housemate.
In the case of one cat having reached social maturity and trying to assert itself over the other cats, again, that is not a cat being "bad". That is a natural course of events. However, when things get carried away, the aggressor needs some help calming down and learning to not get so wild. Some amount of letting the cats work things out themselves is needed, but one does not let it go on to the point of one cat getting "beaten up" or terrorized, or two evenly matched cats getting to the point of really hurting each other in a frenzied, all out vicious battle. Neither will do much to "settle" things peacefully between the cats, and likely will set things up for things to go downhill between them and stay bad.
If things do wind up going badly between cats who had been getting along, reintroduce them, according to the integration steps, starting back on step one. For further understanding about aggression between cats who had been getting along, read:
Selecting a new cat to match a current cat:
In the case of multi-cat homes, EACH cat needs to have gone through the introduction steps with the new cat.
It is sometimes erroneously thought that when the resident "alpha" cat accepts the new cat, the other cats will "fall in line" with acceptance. This is NOT true
Cats are not pack animals like dogs and do not follow a strict hierarchy, following the leader. Cats are independent individuals, and each decides to accept or not another cat.
Often, it turns out that the "non-alpha" cats are the ones to quickly and relatively easily get along with the new cat, since they are not very concerned with being the "alpha cat". So therefore, they don't feel a newcomer is much of a threat to their position.
What are often termed "alpha" cats are frequently more high strung, territorial cats who really have some fear behind their aggressiveness towards other cats. When such a cat sees all his other housemates feeling fine and content with the new cat, that can help make the "alpha" cat feel it's ok. Not always, though.
Cats Getting Along
Galen and Minerva
Vayna and Kikeli
Sparky, Milo and Peaches
Ranger and Evan
Sammy and Thomas
Lestat and Bowie
Other Articles about Introducing Cats
Human Society of Silicon Valley
"Bringing Home a Playmate for Fluffy: Introducing a Cat to a Cat"
"Adding Another Cat to Your Household"