This is a short
article about how we had success in getting three cats to peacefully
coexist. We hear about this challenge often from our friends and
customers, so we hope this is educational and that it helps lift your
spirits and gives you hope if you're dealing with such a challenge in your
In addition to this article, you
should also read the article
How To Introduce A New Kitty To Your Household.
DooDoo Voodoo Founder
We rescued an ear-tipped female
cat from the woods in front of our home. In fact, we believe that
someone in the local animal-welfare community deemed her friendly enough to
be a housecat, and knew that we'd likely find a place for her in our home,
so they dropped her off at our wooded property. That's just
conjecture, but we feel it's probably true.
Well, she wasn't exactly all
that friendly at first. It took a l-o-t of work to get her to trust
us, and there was a significant bite involved that required some medical
attention (for me, not her), but we finally got to be good buddies. It
took hours of my sitting on the ground and on our brick steps outside in the
cold, as well as many hours of throwing scraps of food on the driveway in an
attempt to lure her into our garage. I was finally successful, though,
and once we had coaxed her into a hallway, she proved to be quite the lover.
She and I had become so bonded
that I really wanted to make her a housecat (versus living in our private
rescue facility with our other cats, virtually all of whom are
special-needs.) Having had three decades of experience at introducing
new cats, we set to work and expected the usual success.
At first, we kept her secluded
in a guest bedroom, then a bathroom, then another bedroom, then my wife's
office, which has glass French doors. The latter allowed our other two
housecats (both special-needs rescues) to see the new kitty, whom we'd named
Tipper (due to her ear-tip). This went pretty well, as all along, we
had been swapping towels and pet beds so they could all get used to each
But when the time came to
finally open the office doors and let the meet each other in person, well,
it was instantly World War III. Both our housecats, Gracie (the
short-haired gray female, who is our alpha cat and has a bit of a
personality) and Wendy (the long-haired Tortie, who has a lover's
ballistic. They were very violent with Tipper, and
even displayed displaced aggression toward each other. It was
horrible — for all of us.
pulled out all the tricks we'd learned over the years, including feeding
"calming treats" in an effort to mellow out the girls. We even upped
Gracie's dose of Paxil a bit (she's been on an exceptionally small dose for
years), but to no avail. Never ones to give up, though, we kept at it,
doling out kindness in a communal way whenever the opportunity presented
itself. One thing that really seemed to help these three was "brushing
parties," in which we'd brush or comb them all in a group. (We
recommend rotating-tooth combs for long-haired cats, by the way, as they
don't pull the fur as much.) We also slowly began to feed them little
individual plates of wet food in the same room, moving the plates closer
over time 'til they were practically eating off the same plate.
Slowly, there was a tiny bit of
softening on the part of Wendy and Gracie, but not enough to consider the
But then we discussed the matter
some more with our vet and she said there had been some good success
reported lately with using Buspar (a human drug) to help timid cats get over
their fear and become more confident. We agreed to give it a try at
the lowest dose possible.
Tipper tolerated Buspar well,
but the lowest dose didn't seem to
be cutting it, so we upped it a bit, sometimes even only on alternating
days. This seemed to help Tipper become more adventurous and
self-assured, but at the higher dose she was also sometimes a bit manic, so
we backed it down.
Now Tipper ventures out of the
kitchen & sunroom area where she used to stay full-time, even going upstairs
and downstairs to different rooms. Sometimes, she'll even sleep or
just lie, relaxed, on one
of the beds upstairs, which is a real joy for us to see. She still
considers the sunroom and kitchen area to be her home-base, which is fine with us as
long as she feels as if the rest of the house is hers, too.
These days, it's very rare for Gracie
to ever lash out at Tipper, though she still does it once in awhile.
When Tipper is full of confidence and doesn't cower for Gracie, things stay
pretty even-keeled. But when Tipper acts afraid, Gracie capitalizes on
the fear, and decides to go after Tipper like prey. We keep encouraging Tipper
to stand up for herself. In fact, I'd love to see her womp on Gracie one time,
just to let Gracie know that her sporadic aggressive behavior is not going
to be tolerated.
Tipper and Wendy get along
pretty well now, even licking each other's heads once in awhile.
They're not buddy-buddy to the degree we'd like them to be, but now they
more than tolerate each other. That's a big change, as Gracie's lousy
attitude had really rubbed off on Wendy; she was to the point of horribly
The crowning achievements were
when we got the girls to all lie on our guest bed together, then, months
later, when we saw them all spontaneously lying together on a pet bed in the
morning sun in the sunroom off our kitchen.
The house is much more
harmonious now, both for the humans and the animals. Life is good.
We are hopeful that by hearing
this case study, you'll gain confidence and hope with regard to introducing
new cats to your own household of existing cats. Stick with it, never
let 'em see you sweat, keep the brush & comb handy (and perhaps a Zoom
Groom, which they also love)...and one day you, too, will be taking pictures
like these and saying to yourself, "Boy, I remember when those two hated
These photos are © Copyright
2009, 2010 Eric Smith and may not be reproduced
or pasted into websites without the expressed, written permission of the
Please do not steal them, but do feel free to link to this page if you think it
can help other animals.
Here are photos we shot back
when Tipper was living in our yard and woods, then once we coaxed her
inside. Early-on, during the feed-her-in-the-driveway period, we made
the mistake of trying to nab her and get her into a pet carrier to take her
to the vet. That didn't go well, as I didn't wear the special gloves
we normally use for handling feral cats (which she turned out not to be, but
was THAT day!). I got very badly bitten and had to be on Augmentin for
10 days. My hand swelled up something fierce and there was a time when
it got a little scary, even for an old pro like me, who's been bitten many
times over the years. I ultimately healed, though, and forgave her for
biting me. It was our fault, as we shouldn't have tried the brute
Middle pic: makeshift
feral shelter, which only lasted like one day 'cause a wild animal pooped in
In the 4th picture from the left, she's crying for her wet food.
Notice the tail in the air,
which equates with trust. Middle pic is after wet food & calming treat
(big snooze). Far right: going back into the woods for the night
before the time when she was finally able to be coaxed into the garage.
I'd often go out after dark to coax her out of the woods for some treats or
more wet food. I'd stand at the edge of the woods talking to her and
could hear her meow in response from within the woods, then here she'd
Finally in the house, relaxing
on a cat tree, then stared at by Gracie once in the office. I think
one mistake we made was letting Gracie see us bond with Tipper out in front
of our house. We should have blocked her view or put her away, as this
viewing just caused jealousy we then had to overcome.
Two baby gates vertically so the
other (older) cats couldn't jump over & into the office.
Feeding all three girls
together, on opposite sides of the baby gates to help them each associate a
warm fuzzy with the other cats. We thought this was really
helping...'til we took down the baby gates and WWIII started. Even
sweet, old Wendy (the Tortie) turned into a demon. Normally this trick
Various pictures of a much more
confident and relaxed Tipper once things settled down.
The left pic is early-on; the
right one is months later in July '10. Finally. But then
the next day, Gracie had Tipper cornered in a closet, so life's not all
peaches and cream just yet. We'll keep working on it.
UPDATE: Sadly, Gracie
passed away, so we were left with just Wendy and Tipper. Instead of
this drawing them closer together, though, it seemed to drive them apart, at
least for a number of months. Some of this could have been due to the
apple cart having been upended by Gracie's passing, which totally changed
the dynamic in the house. It took quite a long time for sweet old
Wendy to quit beating up on Tipper, but it finally subsided and Wendy began
to lick Tipper's head again, illustrating to us once more that you should
never give up hope that two cats will begin to get along.
Sadly, Wendy passed away, so we
were left with only Tipper. BUT...before Wendy passed away, another
kitty began hanging around by our front door and camping out in our woods.
We spent many weeks feeding her, attempting to get her to let us pet her,
etc., but she really played hard to get.
Tipper would watch us through
the windows on the front of our house, and would exhibit a mixture of
curiosity and disdain. She got to the point, though, where we both
commented that Tipper seemed to be looking forward to seeing her "buddy"
through the windows.
She seemed to somewhat enjoy
being the only housecat, but then we both began to notice that she seemed
needy and lonely, so it was our hope that we'd be able to get the new stray
into our home. This took a lot of doing, but we finally managed to
first issue we ran into, though, was that the kitty (who we kept
sequestered, away from Tipper and Rocky, our rescued little dog) wouldn't
use our litter boxes. It's not that she'd pee and poop everywhere
else; she just wouldn't go. So Julie went outside and collected grass,
twigs, some clean dirt, etc., and we mixed them in with a number of types of
litter that are purported to attract cats. Here's a photo of the
litter boxes all lined up. At first, she wouldn't take to this
arrangement, but then the kitty, who we'd named Ashley (due to our
cancelling a trip to Blue Ash, OH, to stay home and catch her), began to use
the litter. Slowly, she developed a favorite box, but we began to bit
by bit remove the twigs and leaves, then blend the litter with our usual
DooDoo Voodoo cat litter. She ended up fully litter box compliant.
Except for when we finally
introduced her and Tipper. WWIII again. Tipper seemed not to be
able to make a connection between Ashley in the house and Ashley when she
was hanging around outside. This caused a great deal of distress for
Ashley, who definitely wanted to be Tipper's friend, so Ashley expressed her
displeasure by jumping up on Tipper's favorite couch and peeing on it more
than once. Thankfully, DooDoo Voodoo totally handled the situation.
Ashley did her part in fitting
into the household pecking order, though: she played the submissive
kitten role very nicely, always deferring to Tipper. But Tipper got
extremely depressed and withdrawn, even though we were showering her with
kindness and making sure she knew she was the alpha cat. She spent
many months sleeping on a particular couch. It was quite sad to see,
as we had had high hopes that Ashley would become Tipper's new buddy.
This behavior lasted months and months, but slowly, as we kept working very
hard to get them to trust/like each other, we began to see Tipper soften.
They'd still get into disagreements from time to time, but then we noticed
that Tipper would sort of follow Ashley around and vice versa. It was
really cute to see.
Then Ashley started licking
Tipper's head...and Tipper let her. She never reciprocated, though.
This continued a couple months, then we began to see them lying closer and
closer together, so we got the idea to put down a double-wide pet bed in one
of their favorite spots to see if they'd both get in it. Within a
couple hours, here's what we found:
[Sidebar: Ashley, shown
on the left, with Tipper being on the right, exhibits many of the late
Wendy's particular habits, as well as the late Gracie's particular habits.
It's uncanny! We're convinced that Ashley is a combination of Wendy's
and Gracie's spirits.]
This situation with Ashley and
Tipper once again illustrates that you can ABSOLUTELY help two sparring cats
to learn to get along...and that you absolutely expect them to get to the
point where they not only tolerate each other, but actually like each other.
Don't give up the ship.
Shower them both with kindness. Don't scold. Reinforce one of
the cats' alpha status, but help him/her realize that when the secondary
kitty is around, it means even more attention for the alpha. Soon, the
alpha will begin to associate the secondary kitty with good feelings, not