This post tells a personal story. In subsequent posts, I will address some of the details of introducing new pets and dealing with conflicts.
A lot of people ask me how long it will take to reconcile their new or newly conflicting pets, especially their cats or their dog and cats. People would really like a timeline, a “drop-dead” date by which they will no longer have to engage in the complicated ballet of managing multiple pets who do not get along, must be kept separated, requiring two separate routines and extensive demands on people’s time. People would also like to know when they can expect to see progress, and how much they can expect to see, what it will look like, and so on.
I call this process—the process of moving from managing multiple pets who are in major or minor conflict to one in which everything is running smoothly in an integrated household—the road to the “Peaceable Kingdom” (a phrase I borrowed from a client). The truth of the matter is there is no guarantee of the length of this road or the speed of progress. The process depends on the age, personality, and past experience of the animals and people involved, as well as the amount of time that can be spent.
When we brought my parents’ cat Sybil home, she spent about six weeks under the bed, only coming out to eat and use the litter box. We kept the other animals out of the room at first and then gradually introduced her to my cat, Nefertiti. Both young and new to the house, Nefertiti and Sybil learned to get along quickly. The dogs, Bailey and Sydney, had little interest in Sybil, who had less in them. Sybil and Bailey adapted quickly, while Sybil primarily avoided Sydney, the beagle, because she disliked Sydney’s barking that comes along with a hound.
Sybil and Penelope was another story altogether. Penelope was nearly nine years old when we introduced Nefertiti and Sybil into the house. She had not lived with any other cats besides her littermate, George Rex, since we brought them home as ten-week-old kittens. Nefertiti, who was younger and more outgoing than Sybil, made an immediate effort to make friends with the oldest cat. The process involved hissing, spitting, and Penelope with a mouthful of Nefertiti’s fur, but eventually succeeded in a couple of months.
Sybil and Penelope faced a slower road still. Sybil was shyer and, thus, more intimidated by Penelope’s open dislike. It was nearly a year, before the two cats would spend time in each other’s company, and then, nearly always, with Nefertiti as a feline buffer. After Nefertiti and I moved out, it seemed as though the other two cats might never get along. However, gradually, things between them eased. They will probably never have the tight bond that they had with Nefertiti, or the sibling-bond Penelope had with George Rex, but they often sit together now. They may face opposite directions, but they are well aware that another cat is there, and, occasionally, we have even seen them grooming each other!