New cat integration without doing everything as recommended

I’ve had Charlotte for almost a month now. She is the cat we took in when a friend moved and was unable to take her along (please save your judgment!).

The plan was to foster her until a barn (she was an outdoor cat) or an indoor home could be found for her. After only 2 days of being in the cat playpen in the garage, Ted (my husband) declared that her name is Charlotte and we were going to keep her.

Charlotte on the couch in the foyer
Charlotte on the couch in the foyer

Slow new cat integration

So, we moved her from the garage into the foyer and closed the kitchen door to separate her from the other 8 cats. The foyer is large with 2 windows and a small upstairs area and connects to the kitchen.

The first week we didn’t try to do any integration. Thinking that Charlotte was going to go to a barn, my friend had her spayed at Humane Ohio through their Trap-Neuter-Return program (it’s much cheaper than going to a full-service vet, and Humane Ohio had a grant for the outdoor cats making the cost only $10).

While she recovered from the spay surgery, I spent time with her. She is very friendly. And we took her to my regular vet to start on vaccinations. There were not any signs of fleas on her, but we treated her with Revolution just to be safe. And to be even safer, we treated all of the indoor cats too (fleas in the house suck).

Charlotte was with 2 other cats at her previous home, so we thought she might easily integrate. Well, that didn’t work out! She was upset seeing the other cats through the cat door, so we covered it up so they couldn’t see each other.

Eventually, I cracked the kitchen door open a tiny bit. Charlotte hissed and growled! It was then that I realized the process was going to be slower than I wanted it to be.

On one of the walls at my day job it says:

There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.

Well, I was ready to push Charlotte onto the elevator! Cats are territorial so integrating an adult cat takes much longer than a new kitten. I asked around for shortcuts, and there didn’t seem to be anyway. To learn more, I got Jackson Galaxy’s book Total Cat Mojo: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat.

I skipped to the chapter on new cat introductions which turned out to be a longer and more detailed version of Jackson Galaxy’s blog post: The Do’s and Don’ts of Introducing cats. I haven’t done everything as he suggests.

We didn’t switch to scheduled feeding

Jackson suggests getting the cats on a feeding schedule (instead of free feeding) so that the new cat and the other resident cats can be fed at the same on opposite sides of the door.

Well, that felt like too much work. And the kitchen door is thick and closes tight (there isn’t room to “play paws” under the door.

I did try feeding them the wet food at the same time by the door, but neither Charlotte nor the other cats seemed to realize that the other was there.

Door cracking was not a good idea – scent swaps first

I learned from the book that the cats should be able to smell the other cat before they see each other. Oops. At first, I used a towel to rub on the faces of the indoor cats. They didn’t seem to like that. After reading some other blog posts (I can’t find it now), I switched to using clean socks.

Charlotte wasn’t that interested in them. I think she ignored them instead of smelling them. I also switched out food bowls and a cat bed. With the foyer being large, it was easy for her to not smell the items. I don’t know if she did or not for sure.

The next step was doing a room swap. This is, of course, easier if you only had 1 cat before adding the new cat. For the first swap, I put Charlotte in the carrier and put her in the bathroom. I stayed with her for an hour or so. She growled at the new smells!

Charlotte in the cat room
Charlotte in the cat room

The next time, I put her in the cat room (our room with cat shelves in it). Charlotte growled and seemed scared of everything. The other cats were not allowed into her area at this time. This swap lasted about an hour.

Oh, and Charlotte grew to hate the cat carrier and was starting to resist being picked up. The only time I was picking her up was to put her in the carrier!

The next two room swaps were longer. And either my husband and or I picked her up and held tight and ran her into the room instead of using the cat carrier.

These swaps were somewhat successful as she stopped growling when smelling the cat window seats (and she even manage to take a nap on one).

During these swaps, the other cats were allowed into the foyer (her “basecamp” as described by Jackson Galaxy.

Letting Charlotte into the main house

I had planned another long room swap for this week and get the room set up with her litter box, food, and water. But Charlotte kept meowing at the door like she didn’t want to be trapped in a room (like a typical cat!).

This was in the afternoon when the other cats are usually taking naps and so they were not on the other side of the door. I let her out. She smelled the carpet and walked a bit before encountering Kilala. Charlotte growled. Kilala didn’t react. Charlotte than walked back to the foyer without exploring the house.

During that short time, three of the other cats had gone into the foyer. I knew for sure that Taco was up there, but not about the others until later. So, Charlotte sat on the same step for hours and growled if any cat approached the steps (from either side).

Jake or Elwood looking puzzled
Jake or Elwood looking puzzled (I can’t tell them apart most of the time)

I didn’t want to leave home with the other cats in the foyer. None of the other cats have every growled at Charlotte. The three trapped cats, Violet, Taco, and Buster had to be carried out to get past Charlotte! So that felt like a bit of a setback.

Today, after breakfast when the cats are a bit less active, I opened the kitchen door to let Charlotte come out if she wanted to. She didn’t come out at all yet, and it’s been about 5 hours.

She’s been sleeping upstairs on the couch. The other cats seem to remember what happened yesterday and haven’t gone to the upstairs of the foyer as far as I know. At least one of them used Charlotte’s litter box though!

The new cat integration takes time

I am confident that eventually, Charlotte will integrate into the house with the other cats. It’s taking longer than I want it to, but that’s okay. There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.

‚ÄčDo you have any cat integration tips or tricks?

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Heidi Bender is the writer and founder of the Joy of Cats. She enjoys sharing cat information and providing helpful cat tips. She considers herself a cat lady and currently cares for eight cats.

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