Sadie & Archie

Sadie & Archie

This post was written by one of our adopters, Diana. We have been following her Instagram (@sadie_and_archie) since she adopted Sadie and now she has added a new Ninth Life kitty to her family, Archie.

How We Integrated Our Kitties into a Happy, Healthy Home

How We Integrated Our Kitties into a Happy, Healthy Home

My partner Phillip and I adopted our lovely little Sadie, formerly known as Sushi, from Ninth Life Cat Rescue adoption centre in PetSmart/Oakville. We loved this little cookie right from the start – she is tidy, polite, an award winning sunbather, and highly independent.

Less than three months after adoption, it became very clear our sweet little Sadie needed a furry friend. It was recommended Sadie be an only cat, but after the summer wrapped up and both the humans were working full-time, Sadie struggled to be alone over long periods of time. With Sadie’s best interest at heart, we reached out to NLCR volunteers and foster parents online. We were able to connect with Sadie’s former foster who confirmed our thoughts that she would do well with another cat. In understanding Sadie’s personality and disposition we had a pretty good idea of what we might be looking for, but again, we sought expert opinion and thoughtfully adopted our second kitty, Archie!

This is the story of how two average Joe’s introduced two average kitties – we are not cat whisperers, we do not pretend to be experts, and we made mistakes along the way! But there was nothing so detrimental it could not be fixed quickly and smoothly. It was definitely a process that took time and patience, but it was totally worth it in the end. Sadie and Archie quickly became bonded siblings; it warms my heart to see them so happy, so comfortable, and so respectful of each other.

The biggest and most important advice we received from the volunteers the day we adopted Archie was that the two cats should not see each other for one whole week – and no peeking!! Living in a tiny Toronto condo, we knew from the start we would have some challenges with separate space. For the first few hours, Archie was placed in the bathroom and Sadie was quite curious and intent to know what was behind Door Number 1. We did not feel the bathroom was the best space for Archie over a longer period of time, and since Sadie seemed pretty relaxed, and we made a regrettable and hasty mistake – we built a makeshift barricade in the main area of the condo. This caused tension and stress for poor little Sadie, which we could not understand at first since the two cats could not see each other, right?! Right, but this drastic move created a feeling of fear because not only was there was another cat in the main living area, but also, Sadie’s normal traffic route was entirely blocked. Our normally sweet little Sadie was totally beside herself, hissing, grumbling and acting aggressively towards the barrier. 

Feeling like a failure and a horrible cat-mom, and concerned that I had permanently ruined the new-cat relationship, little Archie was banished to the bathroom while Phil and I did some research online as well as spoke with more volunteers and our veterinarian. 

Here is the Step-By-Step story of our successful integration – I hope it helps you!! The biggest thing to keep in mind is that your situation will be unique, and to listen to your cat! Sadie let us know when she was ready, and we listened. 

It is important to note that quiet hissing is normal; aggressive behavior signals something is very wrong. Someone might not feel safe, physically (scared for safety) or emotionally (fear of replacement and no longer being loved). Please be patient with your kitties and do not rush the process!

STEP 1: CREATE DEDICATED SPACE – Because of our limited space, Archie slept in the bathroom at night and explored the bedroom by day. Sadie had just started sleeping at the foot of our bed a couple weeks beforehand, it was important to not take this precious and safe nighttime space away from her.

STEP 2: CAT PHEROMONE SPRAY IS YOUR SAVING GRACE! – I picked up a bottle of Feliway brand spray which I applied (as per product instructions) to the bathroom door and the bedroom door. The pheromone mimics natural facial scent, which helps to calm cats. Almost immediately, Sadie was chill!  

STEP 3: POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT – We left treats and toys on either side of the door so both kitties would get a ‘warm fuzzy feeling’ about it all!

STEP 4: MEALTIME AT THE DOOR – We placed water and food bowls on either side of the doors, first at a distance. We moved the dishes closer to the doors when the kitties let us know they were ready. Within a few days, the bowls were directly across from each other on either side of the door. 

STEP 5: PLAYTIME AT THE DOOR – Just like with the food and water, we took the time to play with each cat on either side of the door (note, each cat should have their own set of toys!!). It was so important for both cats to have equal amounts of time and love from both of us. As Sadie and Archie got used to the scent and sound of each other scrambling after their own toys, we started to encourage “play” through the crack under the door. We did this by placing string on the floor, which they eventually had a fun tug-of-war with. Our doors also have a large gap so we slid the iPad underneath and the kitties played mouse hunt together!

STEP 6: ROOM-SWAPPING – To transfer the scent of each cat throughout the home. We would place Sadie in the bedroom while Archie explored the main space. We took these opportunities to play and cuddle each cat in every room of our tiny condo. We also ensured there were three (3) litter boxes available, one for each cat plus an extra.

STEP 7: MEALTIME WITH A CRATE – I understand cat owners do not want to put their cats in a cage, myself included! The crate was reserved strictly for feeding when they were ready to advance from feeding behind the doors. We placed Archie in the crate and covered it with a blanket at mealtimes. Sadie’s dishes were placed near the crate, and eventually moved closer and closer.

STEP 8: THE FIRST “PEEK” – We took 6-full days before we did this. It is recommended 1-week, depending on how things go. I have heard some cats require longer while others are fine. Again, take cue from your kitties! When Sadie reached a point of consistent calm-curious, we left peek holes in the blanket-covered crate. This allowed the kitties to see one another and interact safely. We also started to crack open the door from time to time – with supervision! – so they could touch paws and sniff each other. 

STEP 9: THE “BIG REVEAL” – The blanket was removed from the crate and they had the opportunity to interact safely. Bird & Squirrel TV on YouTube kept them engaged but also provided distraction as needed.

STEP 10: FORMAL INTRODUCTION – Around day 9 or 10 we were confident Sadie and Archie felt psychologically safe. Sadie would sit at the door and let us know she wanted to interact with Archie. We took this as our cue to introduce them properly and officially, with no barriers… and it was magic!

Our integration process was not perfect or flawless, but at the moment they first met, there was zero hissing and absolutely no fighting. I am also very proud to point out that claws never came out at any point during the integration process, or ever after! At the time of the first official “meet” I supervised them closely for over an hour, at which time they began playfully chasing one another. Within two days Sadie and Archie were napping and grooming together, and now they are almost inseparable!

Yes, it was a lot of work. And yes, it took a lot of time – several hours every day – but it was totally worth it!! I need to also point out that during this process I was often home during the day. This allowed for constant room rotations and interactions. Many people will not have the luxury to do this, so their process might take longer than ours. Again, the key to success is listening to your cats!! They will let you know when they are ready for the next step.

2 Comments on "Sadie & Archie"

  • Diana says

    Thank you to all the volunteers, to NLCR and to PetSmart Charities for all of your guidance and support… and for making our little family complete!

    Our fur babies were in excellent care until we found our way to each other. You are truly amazing; your hard work and dedication is so appreciated.

    ~ Diana & Phil

    • Grace Robertson says

      Thank you for your kind words – they mean a lot. We are thrilled to see Sadie and Archie so happy with you both.

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