Happy Cat Month - Happy Multi-Cat Week | Lola The Rescued Cat
Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Happy Cat Month - Happy Multi-Cat Week

September has been declared Happy Cat month from the folks over at Catalyst Council, and this week is Happy Multi-Cat Week.  I decided to share my experience with my cats, because in the beginning we were not a happy multi-cat household! But with patience and determination we got there.  (I’ll make a disclaimer here; I do not claim to be a cat behavioral expert in any way, I’m just sharing what worked for me and my experience.)

Lexy was an only cat for eight months when I decided she was lonely during the day and would be happier with a friend, so I started to look for a companion for her.  A month later I found Lola’s photo on Facebook. I thought I would start the introduction process as soon as possible, so I brought a towel that Lexy had been sleeping on to the vet (Manhattan Cat Specialists - the best vet in NYC!) where Lola was being medically cared for and asked the tech if it could go in Lola’s kennel.  It was advised against because Lola’s immune system was still compromised. On the flip side, it was also not advised to bring anything from Lola’s kennel home to Lexy.  So there went that idea!

When Lola came home I kept her in the bathroom for a week (mainly because she was still on medication).  Lexy was not happy with this intruder, to say the least.  She would sit and growl by the bathroom door at night – a growl I had never heard from her.  Lola wrote in her book that she thought Lexy wanted to eat her, and I agreed with her! During that week I showered Lexy with attention when she wasn’t near the door.  When she was near the door and sitting nicely, I showered her with more attention and treats. (I’m a Behavioral Psychologist by trade, and I figured the underlying principles of positive reinforcement probably don’t change much when working with animals.  I still don’t know if I’m right! But I followed my instinct.) When she sat by the door and growled I silently shooed her away with no other positive attention.  

When Lola’s medications were finished and she was ready to meet the world, I rubbed washcloths on both of their faces and let them smell the others’ scent.  The next day they changed places – Lexy went into the bathroom and Lola roamed the rest of the apartment.  I did this a couple of times, and Lexy didn’t mind snacking on Lola’s food.  (One morning during the switch Lexy got locked in my closet.  Don’t ask for more details, please. Just know it was a scene out of Seinfeld!) 

Then came the day for them to see each other.  I let them peek at each other through the bathroom door and Lola’s inner big cat came out. She growled and swatted and growled some more.  I brought Lola out in a carrier but it appeared she felt trapped so that wasn’t a good idea.  I brought her back out to the living room and sat her on my lap.

I don't like that thing. 

As you can see, Lexy was not thrilled. This was not what I had in mind when I thought about her having a friend. Lexy was not a happy cat, and I was dismayed.

These “visits” didn’t last long at first.  We started with 15 minutes and then worked our way up to being out whenever I was home (or when my boyfriend came over to babysit.) 

Lexy: Hi! I'm Lexy! Lola: I don't care.
Lola’s and Lexy’s roles reversed rather quickly, with Lexy becoming the more subdued one, and Lola becoming the aggressor.  I still did not have two happy cats!  During this time I made sure I continued to shower them with love and attention in all settings.  Whenever they were in the same room with each other and were calm, I gave them treats. (I made sure not to give them treats at any other time.)

serious cat
Treat, schmeat.  I don't trust that cat.

I also played with them using interactive toys.  Their level of participation went from zero to being very involved.  Feeding them together wasn’t an option because Lola would only eat in the bathroom, which isn’t very big.  Needless to say, patience was a virtue during this time! At one point it got so bad that I cried to my boyfriend because Lexy was so unhappy. When he told me he would take Lola if it wouldn’t work out my heart broke. I couldn’t let Lola go, but I couldn’t continue to have two unhappy cats. I was determined to make this work! It took time and some insight, I guess.  I met both girls on their comfort level, and let them work on their timeline, not mine.  It took several months but lo and behold, we had a happy, peaceful household!

cats in window
A brief moment of sisterly love.  My favorite photo of my girs.

Lola and Lexy aren’t “best friends” (mainly because Lola prefers people over cats), but they live peacefully and enjoy their games of tag in the middle of the night and hunting things only they can see. 

Do you see that Lexy? 

I know Lexy appreciates having companionship because I no longer hear her crying at the door as I’m walking up the stairs to my apartment door.  I may not be an expert, but I’m glad I was able to be intuitive enough do know what would work best for my girls. 

Do you have a mulit-cat household? What worked/works for you?

Would you like to comment?

  1. That was a lot of work... but it did pay off! My human has frequently lived with cats that did not get along or who weren't the best of friends. The cat before Sparkle and the cat before her never liked each other and only coexisted begrudgingly. When Binga came along, she and the cat before Sparkle didn't like each other. Boodie and Binga were almost instantly friends, although Binga takes out her play aggression on her. Sparkle was never great pals with Binga and Boodie, but she didn't particularly dislike them either. Me? I love everybody! I play with both Binga and Boodie and think they are really cool!

  2. Wow, that was a tough set of introductions! We're super lucky in a way that Newton got sick shortly after he arrived. The other cats, who hated the little orange terror, accepted him once he was subdued and ill. It would have been a much rougher introduction otherwise. Ashton was injured and kept to herself, so she also didn't have to work out dominance issues early on. We don't recommend adopting sick or injured cats just to make adoptions easier, but we really think their transitions were easier as a result.

  3. Our mom was a social worker before she became disabled and thinks it is so cool that you are a behavioral psychologist. You did just the right thing - introduce the kitties slowly, on their own timetable - and gave lots of positive reinforcement. That's always the adive our mom has read when it comes to introducing kitties. :) We are glad that Lola and Lexy get along now and that everyone is happy.

    When Carmine came to live here, Lita was NOT happy at all. It took some months for her to get used to Carmine and all of his kitten energy, but she did learn to live with him peacefully. They aren't best friends, either, but they are both quite content now and even lay near each other sometimes. :)

  4. We are happy that your girls eventually came to an understanding with your guidance. We bet they like each other a lot more than they let on! :)

    the critters in the cottage xo

  5. I am glad you didn't give up and now they are friends.

  6. I can empathize with that story 100%! My Sassy girl cannot stand any of the other cats. She is aggressive and a biter - combine that with the fact that she is FIV+, and we have a recipe for disaster. Therefore Sassy has had to be kept separate from the others. We've been working with her though, and she has made some progress. Using some of the same and similar methods to what you described in your story, Sassy can now be out of her room with Sophie. Sophie is so laid back and easy-going, I could put a T-rex in the room with her and she wouldn't care. That makes her the perfect introductory kitty, as she won't approach Sassy. If she does get a little too close for Sassy's comfort, Sassy hisses and growls and makes such a huge fuss. But in the almost 2 years we have had Sassy, she has gone from not tolerating contact of any kind whatsoever with the others, to being able to be out with Sophie for a couple of hours at a time (begrudgingly). Patiences is a virtue, that's for sure!!! ;)

  7. You did a great job introducing one to each other step by step ! We're glad Lola and Lexy go along now ! Purrs

  8. hay ewe gals......we rememburr bout sum oh thiz frum your total lee awesum book.....we iz buzzed happee ya can chillax two gether now, best as ya both see fit ♥♥♥

  9. Austin is an only cat (technically)! But since he brought the tabby Tigger home with him for a visit about 7 years ago, he does tolerate, even likes, him, but I wouldn't introduce another kitty to the house at this stage!

  10. I've never had more than one cat at a time but I hope to change that one day!

  11. Dat's pawsum. Fanks fur sharin'. We of course have more than one of us here and it wasn't peaches and cweam in da beginnin' eever. But mommy sez she just dusn't have da patience or da room fur long drawn out meowllos and meetins' so fings here went much faster to get to da happy sisfurly moments. Have a gweat day.

    Luv ya'

    Dezi and Lexi

  12. Well, the mom says she could write a book on cat introductions. Let's just say that for us, it hasn't gone well...at least with Zoey and Wally who just don't see eye to eye, no matter what.

  13. This can be so difficult. There are so many situations where kitties just won't get along, no matter what. I think of Zoey and Wally above and Precious (Brian's Home) although I know they're hopeful and are still working with her. I've heard of others too. Then there are other situations, like yours and ours and others in the comments where time and patience are key. When Annie came to live with us, we had two senior kitties. They didn't like her but they weren't violent or mean to her. After they passed away, Annie changed and came out of her shell and became a much happier kitty. Then, a little over a year later, Pierrot moved in. She hated him but was also scared of him. She was miserable. After six months, she went on Prozac for five months and that made a huge difference. She became more confident and less terrified of him and therefore happier. She still growls and hisses at him most days but she's not scared of him (usually) and will be in the same room with him and sometimes in the same bed.

    You did wonderfully with your two girls! You were so patient and worked tirelessly to help them live together happily.


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