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Unread 09-01-2009   #1 (permalink)
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Question Kitten-Kitten Intro - Dominance vs. Aggression?

My cat (India) of 15.5 years passed away in April of this year. So, I have been a single cat owner for many years. About 2.5 weeks ago, I adopted a male kitten (he is almost 4.5 months old now, his name is Finnegan). A little over 1 week ago, I adopted a second kitten, a spayed female (she is about 5 months old now, her name is Caitlin).

I have done the basic slow introduction between the two of them. I originally had each of them in their own room. After about 2 days, I started feeding them on either side of the door to Caitlin's room twice a day - so, they would eat their wet food and then paw at each other under the door. No problems there (no hissing, growling, etc). I did that for a few days and then moved to feeding them on either side of the door with the door cracked open about an inch. They would eat and then sniff, paw, and interact with each other through the door opening. Again, no hissing or growling. During these first two phases, I also would occasionally switch rooms on them - so, they could be in the room that the other kitten had previously been in and get used to each others smell (as well as the two rooms). On Sunday, I put our large dog crate in Finnegan's room and had Caitlin in the crate for several hours so the two could interact through the crate door and ventilation slots. After having her in the crate for a few hours, I switched them so Finnegan was in the crate and Caitlin had the whole room to roam.

Last night, after another uneventful feeding with the door cracked open, I put the two of them together in Finnegan's room - both loose. Caitlin at first played nicely with Finnegan. However, after a few minutes (and about 3-4 play interactions), she started hissing at him. Then, it became hissing and growling. She would still initiate play with him and he would also still initiate play with her. Regardless of who initiated it, she would play with him briefly and then start hissing and growling. I also noticed that there were several times when she had her ears really pinned back (and flattened on her head) and it seemed like she was "playing" rather hard (ears pinned back and what seemed like a firm bite on Finnegan). Finnegan never made any noise to indicate that he was hurt and he was not deterred from playing with her (although, he would pause, and then sneak up on her and play again). After some minutes of this type of interaction (maybe 20-30 minutes?), I separated them and put them back in separate rooms.

So, here's my question - how do I tell if Caitlin's behavior is the more typical "establishing dominance" behavior compared to actual aggression and behavior indicative of a cat that is not going to get along with other cats?

I adopted Caitlin from my vet, and they told me to expect her to want to be alpha and that there would be hissing and growling as she established her dominance. However, what I see in Caitlin seems to be more than simple dominance, but I am not certain as I have never had two cats. I have had Finnegan longer, so if I can't get Caitlin to play nicer, she will have to be returned to the vet for someone else to adopt. I will then try to find another kitten that does get along with Finnegan.

Any advice or tips would be greatly appreciated!! I would prefer to keep Caitlin, but will return her if this behavior continues and can't be resolved. Thanks!
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Unread 09-02-2009   #2 (permalink)
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Hi there, well you seem to have done everything exactly right. I haven't been in this position as when I introduced by two they hit it off straight away.

There may be others who can offer more practical advice with experience - but mine would be to give it longer than just over a week, Caitlin is still feeling her feet and may just settle down when she feels more at home.

You could try using the Feliway plug ins that others here swear by - they help to reduce any stress that the cats may be feeling.

Best of luck!
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Unread 09-09-2009   #3 (permalink)
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Default To be honest...

It can take much longer than just 1 or 2 weeks for two cats to get along. Conflicts like that are likely to happen with any kitten you bring in. The fact that they are playing and are young are good.

It does just sound like dominance scuffles that you are describing, so just keep doing what you are doing and I would give it a couple months at least, so long as she is not really hurting him. Sometimes they may get too rough while playing, and one of them with yelp, kittens dont seem to know boundaries very well. IMO, if she was a cat that was aggressive and 'not going to get along with other cats', she wouldnt be playing with him at all(Though as an adult, this could mean she wouldnt take quite as well to another kitten in the future). He isnt in the corner cowering, and like you said, he initiates playing with her too, which is also a great sign.

As for the hissing/growling and then playing on her end, I definitely dont think thats something to get rid of her over, but I'm not sure the real meaning behind that besides dominance. Or saying "I dont know you that well yet" type of thing,. I'm sure someone else can help you better with that exact behavior. Mine do that, but only when playing gets too rough. I have 3 males though, just introduced one of them as a kitten, but the one female cat I have isnt taking to him very well. The two boys I already had are mostly fine with him though.

I'm not really sure if putting one of them in the crate to interact is a the best idea though, mine seem to associate the crate with "new cat" or "going somewhere" and, although they will play in it if it's just sitting open, if it's closed they get defensive. But maybe it doesnt matter with kittens because they dont associate it like that yet. Doesnt seem like a natural setting for them to interact, though. But like I said, I'm not entirely sure.

When I brought my female siamese in, she was 5 months, and the male siamese I already had was 6 months. His personality changed to being more submissive, unfortunately, and he didnt like her, but now they are pretty much joined at the hip. She doesnt take well to any other animals besides him, though.

Generally, kittens will get along better and faster than adult/kitten, but it can still take much more time than this. I'm sure they will end up getting along just fine, just be patient.

Last edited by tankgirl; 09-09-2009 at 12:57 PM.
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Unread 09-09-2009   #4 (permalink)
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Default Update

I want to thank everyone for their replies. I appreciate the support and advice.

I do have an update - things are definitely getting better. Since my first post, I continued to put them together for small periods of time working up to longer periods. Yesterday was the first day that they spent the whole day together and it went fine.

Caitlin (the female) doesn't hiss/growl nearly as much anymore. Most of the time, they co-exist nicely and have fun playing with each other. Every once in a while I will still hear her hiss, but that is it. They seem to be doing well together and she doesn't prevent him from eating or using the litter box. She also will leave him alone for periods of time (while each is sleeping or just hanging out). So, to me, it seems like they are doing pretty well together, and I am calling their introduction a "success." Over time, I hope that she will stop hissing entirely (it seems likely given some of the other stories I have heard about cats eventually becoming "inseparable."). I am just happy that they seem to be getting along (for the majority of the time). They seem much happier together than apart - since they now have someone to play with throughout the day and night!

Thanks again for the advice and help.

-Christina (plus Caitlin and Finnegan)
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Unread 09-09-2009   #5 (permalink)
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That's great to hear, you must be very relieved! I'm sure that they are on the way to becoming good friends
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