If I had written this post just a few days ago, I would’ve had a very different story to tell.
Luckily, I ran out of time and it took these few extra days because there’s been a twist.
First off, you guys are so sweet. So many people have asked how Newt is doing with the new kitten. I know I’ve primarily highlighted Ripley’s relationship with Coop because, well, her relationship with Newt was pretty tenuous and slow-going.
As you know, Newt is finicky. She’s particular. She’s just Newt. When we decided to adopt Ripley, we were nervous about how she’d do, but we actually had decided to adopt Ripley because Newt was starting to be a bit… um… even more… quirky. In other words: Newt was behaving like an asshole. Just a straight-up meanie. For instance, she bit us in the ankles all day every day for no reason except because we were walking in her vicinity.
We suspect that she felt jealous of Violet and also uncomfortable as Vi has gotten more mobile and more vocal. I did a ton of research and found sort of a general theme of this behavior caused by a new baby is one of the few (if not only) circumstances in which many experts recommend adding a second cat. That’s an oversimplification of the results of my research, but the basic gist was: baby + Newt’s bad behavior + Newt’s personality + our schedules and a new cat just made sense.
Then we spotted Ripley, and it was all over for all of us.
I picked up a few cat behavior books and talked to two cat experts, our vet, and a couple friends who are bonafide cat people.
The consensus was clear on the Newt + Ripley intros: Do it as slowly and safely as possible. Create a communal scent (that is, trading items back and forth so that their scents can co-mingle… with Coop’s, too). Introduce them first with food from a great distance behind gates, then slowly decrease the distance during meal times. Finally, allow super-duper short interactions, but separate them as soon as either one seems nervous.
And we did all that for about five weeks. Newt hissed a ton at first. Ripley hissed a ton at first. Then they kind of stopped hissing, so we moved onto the interactions, and the hissing started back up. We did that for another week to week and a half.
Then, Ripley went for her kitten wellness visit at the vet’s office last Friday.
The vet asked how they were doing, so I told her our whole plan, where we were, how they were acting during each step, and so on. Bless her, she didn’t judge, didn’t say a word, just listened, and then said, “You need to let it go.”
Then she kindly, gently explained: We had done enough. We needed to now step back and allow Newt to set her own boundaries. Ripley will learn better from her than from us.
I called John on the way home and relayed that instruction. “I am NOT comfortable with that,” he said. “But OK. Let’s try it.”
On Friday afternoon, I returned home from the vet, opened Ripley’s crate, and… stood back.
There were some super tense moments that night. Like, when they both squeezed under our bed while hissing and swatting at each other.
But then they were kind of just like, “OK.”
It was like they both shrugged, decided on some general rules of engagement, and moved on.
With one exception: Ripley reallllyyyyy wants to cuddle with Newt. That’s unacceptable to Newt, and it’s the only time Newt hisses at her these days. And, if Ripley persists in trying to snuggle with Newtie, Newt growls and ends it real quick.
How are they doing now?
I don’t think this all would’ve unfolded like this if we had just thrown them together on day one. Newt is far too particular for that. But I do think we were maybe being a smidge more cautious than we had to be in the end? But, you know, I prefer to err on the side of caution when it comes to these guys.
I’ll close with this: I’m grateful to have wonderful friends who know so much about animals. So, after a few days of the “let it go” method, I took a video and texted to a friend with a single question: Is this normal? She texted back: Yep. 🙂 I don’t know what the official name of this is called, but we’ve deemed it Catball because Newt and Ripley form one ball of cats and roll around the house like a cat tumbleweed.
So, I leave you with this: Catball.