After losing my cat Domino to cancer, I missed having a feline companion and decided to buy a pedigree cat for the very first time after owning moggies. I had always loved the look of Ragdolls and knew that they had a reputation for being gentle, loving and friendly so my husband and I set off to visit a few breeders in the area and returned with an 8 week old male, chocolate point Ragdoll kitten. I will never forget the car journey home of nursing this tiny bundle of fur and blue eyes who was on his first ever adventure. He was as good as gold and sat curled up in my lap, occasionally looking up at me with those vivid blue eyes and emitting the tiniest of miaows. We arrived home at last with our new kitten but there was one small
problem awaiting us…
…….Our existing cat Ginger! We took Ginger in as a stray about 12 years ago and he and Domino got on really well right from the start. Ginger, a beautiful fluffy ginger tom, was also adjusting to not having Domino around and my husband and I were actually terrified to introduce the new kitten to him. We did finally managed to integrate the two cats and what follows is our experience of this and advice.
I am no expert on this and it took my husband and I several months to feel relaxed enough to have the two cats together in the same room! We were very nervous about the older cat harming the kitten, more so because Ragdolls cannot fight or defend themselves like other cats. We did it very gradually and it was easier because the older cat likes being outdoors so we could separate them if need be. It will take a little while and they need to establish a pecking order where the existing cat needs to feel like he/she is the boss as it’s territory has just been invaded!
What we didn’t do which is worth mentioning at this point is that as soon as you bring the new cat home in a basket, keep the new cat in the basket and put it in a room for a while where the existing cat can choose, of its own accord, to investigate the new feline on its own terms and not feel threatened. Also, the new cat will be safe from harm inside the basket. Make a lot of fuss of the existing cat with talking, patting and soothing behaviour. Maybe even give the existing cat some food, treats or a favourite toy to play with to make him/her still feel loved and important despite the new feline guest!
In the first few weeks it is probably a good idea to keep the cats separated and provide a safe, warm and comforting environment for the new cat where he/she has a hidey hole if need be where it can feel secure away from the existing cat. If you don’t have a separate room and are short on space, an alternative is to use something like a baby gate to secure an area of the house for the new cat. It is equally important to make just as much of a fuss of the new arrival as well as it will be feeling a bit nervous about the other cat. Kittens, in my experience do not have as much fear of older cats and just want a play mate! Every day for a little while though, put the new cat in its basket in a shared area with the existing cat and go through the procedure mentioned above. This stage is all about getting the existing cat used to the presence of the newcomer safely. I have been told that male cats tolerate female cats better than a fellow male and I would agree with this as Domino, our previous female cat, who passed away, got on famously with Ginger.
We were also advised to plug in “Feliway” which is a product that contains the synthetic version of the naturally occurring facial pheromones of cats. This creates a calming environment for the cats and can reduce stress, aggression and urine spraying in the house. (I personally am not convinced it is that effective and it is not cheap) but some people and most vets swear by it. Check out this link about feliway. You buy the plug in part which goes into any electrical socket and the separate refills which contain the liquid. If you have a large house you may need more than one and the electrical point should ideally be free of barriers such as shelves and tables and in an area free of draughts to be most effective.
The next step is to introduce the two cats with the new one out of its basket, under your supervision, gradually. This, is probably the most difficult stage which requires a lot of patience, persistence and your ability to allow the two cats to have a bit of a confrontation until they sort it out. By this, I mean that the existing cat may snarl a bit and take a swipe or two at the new cat but as long as there is no imminent danger whilst you are supervising, let it go for as long as you can as they absolutely need to go through this stage. I was worse than my husband during this part of the introduction and I could barely stand to be in the same room at times but even although there was a lot of noise, hissing and pawing, at no stage did Ginger, the older cat, inflict harm on Merlo. Obviously, your existing cat may be more aggressive but just intervene when you think it is getting nasty and a good, harmless weapon to have on you at this precarious stage of the feline relationship is a water spray bottle which you can spray on the cats to separate them if need be, safely.
This stage is the longest and can be the most difficult but please trust me by persevering as they will sort it out in time under your observation at all times. If, at this point in reading this guide you are getting desperate like I was and full of disbelief, let me share with you a bit more about what my husband and I went through at this difficult stage.
I love cats and have never had a kitten as demanding and difficult as Merlo – could it be because he is a pure bred ragdoll who is not so easily integrated and adaptable as moggies? I can honestly say that he is the most selfish, noisy, challenging, disruptive, destructive, annoying and unloving cat I have ever owned. The only reason I purchased a ragdoll cat was because, apart from their drop dead gorgeous looks, I was led to believe that they were very docile and loving. I desperately wanted to love this kitten yet the negative behaviour far outweighed anything else he was displaying and I began looking for ways to sell him to a new owner which broke my heart. My husband and I were so close after about six months of sleepless nights, to finding a new home for Merlo which would not only allow us to get our lives back on track but also Ginger, our other cat, who was completely avoiding coming inside. I can only tell you that we were at the end of our tether and completely distraught at this stage. I remember having to drive to work after yet, another sleep deprived night of Merlo being troublesome and me barely being able to stay awake at the wheel during my 50 minute drive to work. Yet, neither of us could bring ourselves to actually take that step because we both felt so strongly that although Merlo was not what we had expected, he was ours and he deserved our love and a safe and happy environment to grow up.
At the lowest point in all of this I took Merlo to the vet, again when he was about 9 weeks of age and told my veterinarian, through tired sobs that we could no longer cope and were considering adopting him out to a loving home. Our vet was an angel that day and she suggested that not only was Merlo displaying a young kitten’s playfulness but also as he was not desexed at this stage, he was displaying a primal urge to find females to mate with and we were dealing with a double dose of teenage unrest during the night. She immediately had him desexed and we went from there.
About one to two months later, we noticed that Merlo has calmed down a lot and stopped demanding my attention every half hour by scratching my legs to shreds. Ginger must have sensed this as well and he wanted to come into the house again so Ginger actually forced us to continue to help him be around Merlo and he seemed to be more tolerant of the kitten and almost, at times, indicated that he was enjoying playing with the youngster. Ginger came in more and more and eventually Merlo got bored with trying to annoy the older cat and the two of them ended up doing their own thing. One final strategy we adopted was that Ginger loved to chill out on our ironing board which was also safe by its height from the young, adventurous kitten who couldn’t climb or jump up there. This proved to be Ginger’s safe haven and it was a Godsend for us. He was happy to be around the kitten most of the time in the end but when he had enough of the chasing, he jumped on the ironing board and was left alone.
It is only now that I am thankful for our persistence and not giving up as Merlo has become a beautiful, quiet, settled and much more loving cat now that he has outgrown the kitten stage. He does not shred my legs or pin board any more and comes up for lots more cuddles and kisses. He is independent and amuses himself. He no longer terrorises Ginger to the point where he does not want to come inside. He sleeps until he hears us stir in the mornings and only then jumps on the bed for a scratch under his chin.
Life is good now with our feline companions and my husband and I cannot imagine not having Merlo in our lives. Hang on in there if you can and it will get better if you have time to persevere.
I found Lesley online through her blog from on of the Google Alerts I have set up on “Ragdoll cat” – and when I saw her artwork, I was so impressed that I asked her to quote re-doing the banner for Floppycats.com. The banner you see today with Trigg and Charlie was done by Lesley. I love it and thank her for her talent.
Do you have a Ragdoll cat? Would you like for she or he to be featured on Floppycats.com like Merlo? Please read our guidelines for Ragdoll of the Week here and then feel free to contact us and submit your kitty’s story and photos.