When Cat Introductions Go Bad

“I will name him George, and I will hug him, and pet him, and squeeze him” 

My blog is mostly about Crochet, but I’m also a crazy cat lady. This post is about our attempts to adopt a sweet, affectionate, loving cat who hates our other cats.

We went to Pet Smart one Saturday to pick up some cat food.  Since we don’t get out much anymore due to the pandemic, we took a drive to the Petsmart, about 45 mins away in a large shopping area.  When we got there, we saw that they had the cats for adoption.  This was the first time we saw them out since the Pandemic started.  My husband and I always love to look at the cats for adoption.  We weren’t planning on bringing any new cats in currently.  We already have four.  

Marvin has been my husband’s cat since he was practically newborn.  He was found at his apartment dumpsters one night.  His brother was already dead, so my husband took him in, and raised him as a bottle-fed cat.  Pumpkin and Petunia (Tuna) are brother and sister and we took them in after my husband’s mom passed; they were her cats.  Tuna has Stage 2 Kidney disease and we really thought we were going to lose her earlier this year, but she’s a tough cookie and keeps holding on.  Marvin, Pumpkin, and Tuna are all about the same age (about 13 years old).  We adopted Nathan Jr. in December, he’s just over a year old now and is very much still a kitten in many ways.  He’s innocent and sweet, but also a little bit of a spoiled brat at the same time.  We’ve lost three cats in this past year (Sammy, Tabitha, and Oliver) and we’ve been wanting to build up the cat brood again. Nathan Jr. (we just call him Nathan) is the first of the next generation.

George’s adoption day.

While at Petsmart, my husband fell in love with George (Adoption agency name was Ludachris, but we renamed him George, aka Georgie and Georgio, so far).  George is an all-black cat listed as 1 ½ years old.  We always said we wanted to adopt a sibling pair after Tuna passed and that we didn’t want to bring in any more cats until she passed, but George gave my husband a lick, so it was all over. There was also another little all black female kitten.  Her daintiness reminded me of Tabitha.  So, we decided to try to adopt them both.  I thought George might be the perfect age for Nathan; Nathan has a lot of kitten, play energy that the other cats don’t enjoy very much.  I also feel that Nathan needs a playmate.  Unfortunately, the little female was already adopted, but we were approved to adopt George.

We adopted George on August 25 picking him up that evening after work. He was so sweet and affectionate, we loved him so much.  When we first set him up, we put him in the guest room and my husband slept with him the first night.  George had used the litter at least once (old litter box with regular dust free litter) that first night/day.

Up until this point we were calling him Lou.  But he never really responded to Ludachris or Lou, so my husband suggested George and it made me think of the Bugs Bunny cartoon, so he became George.  Anyway, we kept George in the bedroom area the next day.  The bedroom area includes our bedroom, my husband’s office, and the guest room which is also my office (we both work from home).  The bedroom area also has two bathrooms and a hallway, and it has a door that separates it from the rest of the house. We decided to leave Tuna in with us because she is old and would not go after George and we thought she’d just stay away from him, which she did, but this was our biggest mistake.

Tuna spent most of the morning under the bed in my office.  This is her den, and she often goes and hangs out there.  At some point while I was in a meeting, I heard a commotion.  George and Tuna were batting at each other.  We broke it up and he left my office.  This probably happened about two more time.  After the second or third time he actually swatted at my husband as he tried to break up the fight.

A few times the cats were at the door with each other and George would hiss or rush at the door.  And a few times Nathan would stick his paw under the door and George would hiss and swat at it.

My husband noticed that George had peed on the bed.  The interaction with Tuna must have upset him.  It was a strong odor, very concentrated.  We chalked this up to just some stress.

After work, we let him out and let him walk around the living area with the other cats.  Things were going ok at first.  But Pumpkin and Nathan kept following him around.  George would growl and hiss at them wanting space.  A few times Pumpkin came up to sniff him and George swatted at him.  Things were getting tense with the cats.  We decided to have George sleep in the guest room again and keep the cats separated for the night. This time I slept in the room with George while my husband slept with the other cats.

George sitting on my chest the first night sleeping with me.

We kept George in the bedroom area again the next day and let him out at lunch.  The cats started to really stress him out.  Pumpkin tried to sniff him again, nose to nose, and got swatted and batted at.  George was trying to lay down and relax, but Nathan started to stalk him.  Finally, George had enough, and he chased Nathan through the house and into the basement utility room.  Nathan was cowering under a utility cart.  I tried to separate George and he swatted at me, by I was able to separate them and get him out of the utility room and close the door.  After about 15 mins I was able to lure Nathan back out from under the utility cart, but he was very worked up and scared.

We separated George again, and this time he peed on the guest bed.  That bed did not have a waterproof mattress pad on it.  Shoot!  We decided to keep the cats separated and let George have some time to de-stress before trying to introduce them again.

I had a hair appointment this night, so I had to head out after work.  On the way home I stopped at the pet store and picked up some Feliway and some Nature’s Miracle Urine Destroyer.  I also got George a Teddy Bear toy.  When I got home, I stripped the bed, and I scooped the litter for George.  I thought maybe if he had some fresh scooped litter, he would be less likely to pee on the bed.  Just after I scooped the litter, George pooped on the bed.  Right there in front of me.  I was kind of frozen.  Part of me wanted to grab the poop right away.  I should have grabbed him and put him in the litter or scolded him, but I waited until he was done to clean it up.  This was pretty upsetting. Oh, and the mattress was bare because I hadn’t remade the bed yet. Ugh.

I decided the next day that we would need to work on de-stressing him before trying to introduce him to the other cats again.  We were determined to stick it out and work it out.  I had talked to the adoption agency and told them some of the things that happened and asked if they had any advice on what he liked, anything to de-stress him. I read the Jackson Galaxy method for cat introductions and started feeding the cats on opposite sides of the door. It seemed to be going ok.  He was sweet and affectionate with us, just a perfect little love bug.  The hissing and rushing of the bedroom area door were slowing down.  We thought things were gong to work out.  But on Saturday morning we saw that, he had peed and pooped in the guest bed again.

George sleeping on the guest bed behind me, while I work.

We talked it out and decided pooping in bed was just crossing the line. Even after things seemed to be getting better, we just weren’t sure.  I thought perhaps I’d go out and buy fresh new litter boxes and give him all clean fresh litter.  But then we just thought it wasn’t working out.  So, I called the adoption agency, and we took him back.  We were heartbroken.

The heartbreak lasted for the weekend.  I cried a lot.  My husband depressed; he was really bonding with George.  Then on Sunday, my husband said, “I forgot about the special litter (Cat Attract)!  We should have tried that!”  He wanted George back.  He didn’t think we tried enough with him.  I thought long and hard about it. On Monday I wrote an email to the adoption agency, pleading our case to try again.  They called me later that day and we talked, and they decided to let us try again.  This time I was going to use the Jackson Galaxy method and try to stick to it as close as possible and take it slow! I signed up for the Cat Introduction mini classes via email, basically 6 emails:

Class 1: Proactive preparation
Class 2: The importance of base camp
Class 3: “Other side of the door” feeding
Class 4: Initiating visual access
Class 5: Eat, Play, Love Part 1
Class 6: Eat, Play, Love Part 2

Nathan loves the Cat Attract so much that he will roll around in the litter.

2 thoughts on “When Cat Introductions Go Bad

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