How to merge cats from two well-established households?

My SO and I have been talking about the possibilities of future cohabitation - perhaps not so far in the future, thanks to an increasingly sketchy job situation on my end. I think the largest problem will be our cats.

He lives in a decently-sized house with an older (13?) cat and a young dog (2-3). When he was married there was another cat & dog that the ex took when she left. Oscar (the remaining cat) became much happier and more content when everyone left and he became an only cat. He and the other cat used to fight a lot, and the other cat was so mean (to everyone) she had to be declawed (I know) which resulted in Oscar having to be declawed as well, due to the fighting. My dog and I spend time over there regularly, and Oscar has relaxed about us being there and - dare I say it - likes me now.

I live in a small rental with two cats (5-6) captured from a feral colony (TNRs - that didn’t get released) and my dog (11-12). My cats are well-bonded and fully-armed. They terrorized my elderly cat when I got them to the point that I had to send her away to live with a friend. Not the boys’ fault - she was a drama queen and they quickly learned it was very easy to provoke her. They never attacked her, just did things like run at her and stop while she screamed. Or try to touch her when she walked by. They really like my SO and are much more affectionate and “needy” than his cat Oscar.

I would be moving into his house, and I’m extremely resistant to declawing. I don’t want Oscar to feel like he’s being overrun, and I don’t want him to get hurt. I worry that because there are two of mine that are bonded they may gang up on him and push him around. That’s not acceptable to me.

We’ve decided we need to start the introductions ASAP since my job situation is so volatile, and so far we’ve come up with cleaning out a spare room and bringing mine over for a couple of days and just leaving them in the room with the door closed, then taking them home with me for a few days. Eventually I figure we can have them in the room with the door open but a pet gate separating them. But then what? And what if there is obvious distress displayed by any of them? What kind of introductory time frame are we looking at?

Tips? Tricks? Plan of attack? What’s the best way to approach this in order to ensure the best outcome?

I don’t have any advice for you (and wish you well in your endeavor) but I do feel compelled to point out that this is one of the better username/post title combos I’ve seen in a while. :smiley:

I am now imagining some sort of weird, two-headed, feline octopoid.

I do appreciate the entertainment you both bring while I await a serious answer. Oh, and, thanks for bumping my thread in addition to the amusement. :smiley:

*Now I’m imagining weird, two-headed feline octopoids.

I think your idea is actually a really good start. Instead of eventually using a pet gate that they can jump over, try a cheap full length screen door. Can you trim their claws? That’s also a good step. Just trimming the fronts every two weeks goes a long way toward mitigating damage to property as well as each other.

Two weeks introductory period is the norm that my shelter recommends. That’s for impatient people. The longer you take for the introductions, the better. I’ve seen some take two days, and some take two months. It depends. Giving treats on either side of the door to start is a good way to give positive reinforcement, they can smell each other and get goodies. Even feeding meals can be a good step, keep food and water bowls by the door.

Also, once the new guys seem comfortable and seem like they want to explore, try territory sharing next. So the new guys can come out but the resident cat still doesn’t have to confront them. Put resident guy in a carrier, let the new guys out of their room, and then put resident guy in their room to examine their space and scents while the new guys do the same with the rest of the house. Start with an hour and work up from there either daily or less frequently to start, depending on how it goes. Do the treats/feeding while their territories are swapped, too.

Take heart, even Bill Clinton could not reach a peace agreement between Socks and Buddy. While this was traditional cats and dogs, as opposed to a cat fight, it underscores the point that they are animals and not people.


So the question is, “will they blend?”

I’ve had a lot of cats at various times and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a serious injury from claws. A couple from biting, but none from claws.

Well, that should be to other cats. One of mine decided I didn’t need any skin on my arm. That was fun.

Anyway, I think the best thing to do is to try to bring them slowly together while always allowing each cat an out and lots of hidey holes. In my experience, cats will tend to take over specific territories if they can, and you can encourage that by giving one more attention in one space and another in another space.

Oscar is the one most likely to be upset since it’s his territory being invaded. So be sure to give him lots of attention in the spaces he’s most drawn to. If he has his own area he likes to sleep, try to shoo the others away from it. If he has a bed or a perch, you can evict an interloper, while making sure the interloper has another bed or another perch somewhere else.

My first husband and I had 11 cats at the height of the insanity. There were upstairs and downstairs cats. TV and computer cats. Kitchen and bedroom cats. They very rarely did more than a hiss and a swat, and those were only maybe once a week or so (that we witnessed). They were very good at staking out territory and sticking with it, especially if they got plenty of visits and attention in their territories.

I know some people swear by Feliway or the like. I really have too little experience to talk about that.

I don’t like the idea of two days here and two days there. Cats don’t like being moved around like that.

Separate the cats by a door. Feed each cat on opposite sides of the door. This way they will eventually associate the other cat with feeding time. Which is a pleasant thing to them.

Most cats absolutely hate being moved to a new location. Are yours different? Do you have experience with your cats accepting moves easily? (For example, when you go on vacation, do you put them in a kennel or someone else’s house?) If not, do not try to “help” them by moving them more often than necessary. "Two days here, two days there " will cause more trauma than it will solve.

When you do move to your new house…get everything settled, unpacked, and put away before you bring the cats. For house cats, large objects like furniture, crates, boxes, shelves, ets…are part of their natural world, just like mountains. We all know that mountains do not move…So when you drag the couch across the room, or rearrange the furniture, it is as shocking to them as an earthquake is to us.

Set aside one room for the new cats. After you have moved in, and the house is stable (no boxes to unpack, no furniture to move)…then bring your cats to their new home : this room, which will remain closed for two days. And before you put the cats in the room, make sure the food dish and litter box are ready and will not need to be moved… Don’t bring the cats, and then start running around the room dragging a 10-lb sack of cat litter, tearing open new bags of catfood, running in and out to fill the water dish, etc…
Remember–stability is the key.
…The new house will be scary, and full of new smells, which is very disorienting for a cat. (One trick that everybody recommends, but doesn’t seem to work with my cat–is to leave some of your own scent with her. Wear a T-shirt for 3 days before you move, and leave it alongside the cat’s bed in the new house.).

Spend at much time as you can with the cats in their new, closed room. But don’t aggressively approach them or try to pull them out from wherever they hide, cowering in fear. Just sit quietly in the room with them, reading a book or whatever.

There will be much hissing through the closed door, as cats on both sides try to figure out what’s going on. After a couple days, open the door and see how the cats react to each other. Be gradual, take it slowly…and post pics!!! :slight_smile:

Be careful when merging as one cat may overwrite another. Be sure to choose no whenever prompted.

Don’t expect them to share a litter box. You’ll soon discover the damp, stinky corner of carpet that the loser of that turf war has adopted as plan B.

Dammit, why doesn’t this board have a “Like” button? :smiley:

Best advice we received was number of litter boxes should = number of cats + 1

wait - so if I have 2 cats and 2 litterboxes - it will spawn another litterbox on its own? or is this an attempt to explain where kittens come from?

1 litterbox = 1 cat + 1 litterbox?

2 litterboxes = 3 cats + 1 cat?

I’m not quite getting the feline catmatics here, + one What? what happens if you substitute in a dog?

You still need one litter box per cat, but the dog will understand it as a tootsie roll distribution scheme.

Or else one of the litterboxes will surreptitiously devour one of the cats.

My husband and I went through this a year and a half ago. I had 2 cats with claws; he had one cat without claws. His cat is friendly and likes other cats in general; my cats have been buddies from kittenhood and had never encountered other animals.

I highly recommend using Feliway plug-ins. They really helped reduce the anxiety of my cats, who were moving into another cat’s home. We discontinued their use after a couple of months.

We have a 3 story house (basement, main floor, bedroom floor). At first, we put my cats in the master bedroom to insulate them from the moving of furniture. They stayed there only 1-2 days. Then we kept them on the top floor using a baby gate. That worked for only a couple more days before they learned to jump it.

At that point, we let them see my husband’s cat, but in a controlled environment. They could already smell him, so they weren’t surprised.

After that, we rotated the cats in and out of the basement on a daily basis (because the basement had a door). This got them used to using food bowls, water fountains, and litter boxes that smelled like the strange cat. This part went fine.

Then we tried controlled introductions. The cats would be able to see each other, and would get a treat at that time. We did this for maybe a week before removing the gate. Even now, the cats get treats together at night. We think this really helps them get along because they are in proximity to each other when a positive event occurs.

Then, for many months, we would allow the cats to roam the house together freely when we were home and awake, but would segregate them when we were asleep or gone. There were a couple of fights we considered “serious” because the declawed cat got scratched on the face, and he retaliated by biting. We would separate them when tensions escalated, and allow the aggressor back out of the basement only when he calmed down.

Finally, they learned to get along well enough that we would not segregate them at all. But it took us 8 months to stop any sort of segregation, so it was a long process. But segregation became less and less necessary over that time. Only the first few months were onerous.

Our pet sitter says she has never seen a household “blend” so well, though, so be prepared! I really like Pam Johnson-Bennett’s books about cat psychology. Reading those was helpful, especially in understanding how long the process could be.

Even today, though, our cats are not “best buddies”. My cats do tolerate my husband’s cat very well now, though. My girl does not like my husband’s cat to be too close to her (she growls), but there have not been any serious fights in many months, and her “personal space bubble” is getting smaller and smaller over time. They will now share a couch, and have even started to play a bit recently. Also, my husband’s cat has learned to give her a wide berth. My boy and my husband’s cat play sometimes. Occasionally, this will get ugly, with growling/cornering, and we will have to break it up (usually by calling one of the cats away). Again, as time goes on, they are learning to respect each other’s boundaries better and better. We did not declaw my cats, but do keep their claws trimmed. My husband’s cat compensates for no claws by biting, which my cats learned early on.

The bigger your place, the better off you will be. The cats will need places where they can “retreat” from each other. Lots of litter boxes, food stations, and water fountains will help. Make sure food sources and litter boxes are not located in a spot with only one “escape route” because then they will associate those places as being spots where they can be “cornered.”

Another thing you might look into (in the same vein as Feliway) is one or more of Jackson Galaxy’s “spirit essences.” He’s the guy who does the “My Cat From Hell” TV show and he’s quite active online with cat behavioral advice, helping shelters, and such. I haven’t actually used any of them but a lot of people seem to think they’re worthwhile, and he’s got formulas for all sorts of cat issues. A bit pricey, though (but then again, so is Feliway).

All the advice on introductions is good. Longer is better. It will help if you trim all the involved cats’ claws on a biweekly basis, or have the vet trim them (at least once a month). We are first-time cat owners of an older (but very loyal/sweet/desiring to please) cat, and we learned to trim her claws ourselves within a couple of days.

It helps to have the right tool for the job. Don’t use human clippers. If you have a less tractable cat or a weak stomach, it may be impossible to trim them at home. But the right vet will do it for a relatively small fee.