Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Delicate Process

Introducing a new cat to the household is a delicate process, full of potential mis-steps and unfortunate misinterpretations.  Believe me, I know.  We had a very rough year when we were trying to introduce poor Romeo into the household, and I truly think that he'd still have to be kept isolated from the others if he were still alive today.

Which is why I felt quite a bit of trepidation with releasing Foster cat Mitchell in with our girls.  I probably wouldn't have done it at all, except that he was desperately lonely after Foster cat Patches got adopted.  So we decided to see what happened.

We had one advantage:  he'd lived here for nearly six months under quarantine already, and the cats were already well aware of the fact that he was here. They had his scent, and despite the quarantine, there were a couple of "jail breaks" so they'd had a couple of Mitchell sightings already too.

So we left the guest room door open one day last week to see what would happen.

Nothing.  Well, at least at first.

Once Mitchell figured out that he was free to roam, he sauntered out into the hallway, and stopped cold when he saw Annie.  He made a glad little sound and ran over to her and began grooming the top of her head.  I think that Annie stared at him in stunned shock and silence for about three seconds before she made the "Annie war-cry" and slapped him down.  And then it was Mitchell's turn to stare at her in stunned shock and silence.  (Patches had LOVED being groomed.)

Hmm.  That could have gone better.

But he didn't let that put him off.  Romeo would have turned and run and remained hostile for days.  Mitchell kept trying to make friends.  I could see Annie started to soften towards him, especially since he'd always try to groom the top of her head, an impossible spot to reach herself.

He then tried to approach Charlotte, who predictably made a gargling sound like she'd been possessed by demons.  We split them up really quickly afterwards - Charlotte still hasn't 100% accepted Annie, who she has lived with for two years, so we have no reason to think that she's ever going to be friendly to another cat.  At least Charlotte is willing to "live and let live," as long as she isn't disturbed or annoyed too much.

But Mitchell didn't give up on her either.  He periodically tries to approach her, being as gentle and unassuming as he can be.  Most of the time she drives him away.  But...  I caught them touching noses earlier this evening.  All was well until I saw Charlotte's ears flick back, noticing me entering the room. Then of course she had to save face and snarl at him.  Mustn't let me think that she was weakening.

Bit remains our "hard case," which I expected.  She was Romeo's primary tormentor, following him, stalking him, attacking him from nowhere and making him a nervous wreck.  She was the main reason that we kept him isolated from the other cats... Bit just did NOT know when to quit, and poor Romeo had no knowledge of how to get her to leave him alone.

I was worried about the Bit-Mitchell encounter the most.  After all, if she drove him to the point of a nervous break-down, or made him dislike other cats, the shelter would not be happy with me!  (And I'd feel horrible.)

When she saw him, she started doing the same thing that she'd always do to Romeo, which is to say that she laid her ears back and started slinking towards him, in that predator-tracking sort of way.  She fully expected him to run away and hide. What she did NOT anticipate was for him to chirp at her and bounce happily towards her expecting to play.

Well, this didn't go over very well, to say the least.  Bit seems to be very worried about him, but I think that maybe she's even relaxing somewhat.  We're trying to feed her "gooshy food" in his presence which does seem to be helping.

And...  we're already leaving all of the cats alone together.  Mitchell and Annie hang out together the most, usually on our bed, and I walked in on a mutual grooming session the other evening.  I think that Annie really, really likes him, possibly because he's the only cat in the house that will defer to her.  She's also been the one that has spent the most time with him... the first several days, there was no way we were leaving all of the cats alone together.  But we didn't want to leave Mitchell completely alone because he so clearly didn't like it.  So we'd put Annie, the one who'd reacted the best to him, in with him.  So they've gotten some bonding time.

Anyway, things are moving along much, much better than I thought they would.  I feel like a United Nations peace broker, but I do think that we're through the worst of it and are working towards a smooth integration.  (After which, of course, Mitchell will likely get adopted into his Forever Home, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.)


  1. That is so cool! We still have some difficulties with Kozmo and Nellie. I guess it takes time...
    Nellie's Mom

  2. I love how Mitchell's playful reaction seem shocked them while they were all on guard with him. Too funny!! Not that I need another cat, but I have often wondered how my two cats would react with another one. Nothing I have to worry about for a loooong time!

  3. Mitchell is a brave cat! I have three cats and one grand-cat who comes for vacations, and ONU is often required... Sigh... However, they stick together in case of danger, e.g. A stranger cat trying to invade their space.
    You could say that I should have done better when intoducing them, but two of thm are abandonned cats who choose it come and live with the resident one, the one who makes their live stressful. One became a nervous wreck, the other is still wiling to play... But aon the whole, they seem happy. And are all purring machines.

  4. It sounds like Mitchell is just low-key and laid back enough to get along with all three of the girls! I hope that the peace treaty holds! :)

  5. Sounds like you have no doubts that you'll let Mitchell go when the time comes . . . can't he stay? Puh-leeeze? He is just so fun to read about! And I love him, from the picture the other day! He is so elegant and dear at the same time. Come on -- do it for me. (Easy for me to say.)

  6. Concats....I think sometimes it is about the personality. :) Mitchell sounds like he is just passive enough to TRY to make it work. I know we couldn't ever introduce an adult male here, but the kittens get the grrr for a few days and then the crew just surrenders....again! Good luck!!!!

  7. Fascinating personality dynamics. Thanks for the detailed description!

  8. If only it were as easy to introduce a new cat as it was to introduce a new dog. Sounds like things are going just about as well as can be expected, though.

  9. You are braver than me! Best of luck with them!

    Rubie's mum.

  10. Dear Carnivores -- you are dear, you know that, right? so please take this award in the spirit I intend it: http://catself.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/the-honor-is-ours/