When we lost Willow, one of our sibling pair of two-year old cats, earlier this year, her brother Xander was devastated – as indeed we were.

Xander in the garden, head of black and white cat framed by leaves

Xander in the garden

Always the more needy of the pair, he became even more attached to us, vocalising more than usual, and several times while curled up he would suddenly begin to chase his own tail, whirling in frantic circles. His usually throaty double-purr seemed thin, and he took to hiding under a kitchen cupboard whenever the doorbell rang, as he used to as a young kitten.

Since we both work full-time, we had originally chosen a pair of cats so that they could keep each other company. Xander and Willow were from the same litter and had never been separated before; while they would often roam independently, they still played together, groomed each other, and curled up in a slumbering heap of blissful fur at the end of almost every day. Her sudden absence was hard for her brother, and it seemed as though however much attention we gave him, it could never compare to a real grooming/sparring/sleeping partner.

Xander, black and white cat, lying watchful in the garden

Watchful Xander

While our grief eased and the holes in everyday life, rent by the death of a beloved pet, began to slowly fill in for us, we still worried about Xander, and over the weeks began to contemplate finding him a new companion. We could never replace his sister, nor would try to, but perhaps another accomplice was just what he needed; this sad kitty who had never been alone before.

Some weeks later, we visited the rescue centre where Willow and Xander spent the first months of their lives. We were considering a female cat younger than Xander, so as not to appear much of a threat to him, but at least six months old. There were bundles of mischievous kittens tumbling and chasing everywhere, but we steeled ourselves to their kittenish charms, and fell instead for a young nursing mum, barely more than a kitten herself at only about 8 or 9 months old, whose litter were soon to be rehomed. She had been rescued from a notorious area of a nearby town, presumably last year’s Christmas kitten, kicked out once the novelty had worn off and left to fend for herself in a large community of abandoned cats and roaming toms, with obvious consequences.

Silhouette of cat behind curtain

Faith on the windowsill

Just over a month ago, with her kittens weaned and rehomed, Faith came to live with us. A sweet, friendly cat, she proved to be full of confidence and curiosity, quickly pushing the boundaries and settling in easily, with one slight exception: Xander.

Faith, black and white cat, in the garden

Faith in the garden

Introducing a new pet to an existing one was a new experience for us, and has proven to be rather more stressful than we hoped. This was partly due to the initial logistics of trying to contain one eager-to-explore cat indoors to settle in, while the other retained freedom to come and go, and supervising interactions to keep both cats calm. Faith’s previous bad experiences (her early behaviour suggested that she was used to being kicked, though she already appears to trust moving feet and legs more!) have left her evidently very wary of other cats. Xander also proved to be more shaken up by the arrival of another cat than we’d expected, with copious sulks and plaintive complaints initially, but over the weeks, with lots of reassurance, his confidence has returned.

Black and white cat stretching in the sun

Xander stretching in the sun

We have followed a gentle path from exchanging scents on bedding to gradual introductions, though it has been harder than we imagined, and for a few days Xander seemed so stressed, and Faith so inflexible towards him, that we almost considered returning her and giving up the idea entirely, but little by little progress is being made. She still hisses at him on four encounters out of every five, sometimes with a swipe of her paw, but he has stopped responding in fear now, instead appearing to ‘raise an eyebrow’ at her histrionics and carry on, with both cats continuing to show more and more interest in the other.

Faith the cat outside, surveying the sky

So we have faith, so to speak, that things will continue to improve between these two, and they may yet end up better friends than we might have hoped. She is rediscovering the delights of being a kitten, albeit a big one, and is playful and happy; she accompanies us out into the garden every time we open the door then races back to the house before us. I think she is going to be another good gardening cat…

Xander watching Faith: cat poised on the edge of the lawn

Xander watching Faith

Faith: cat standing on grass

Faith watching something…

In the past week, as things have begun to settle, Xander even seems to have regained something of his former self, despite Faith’s over-zealous defence systems still kicking in: the distraction, it seems, is working. Now if only she would stop waking us up each night in the small hours, calling for attention downstairs…

18 thoughts on “Faith

    • Thanks Mark. We hope so too. Xander is indeed neutered, and Faith has now been spayed. He’s the softest thing, no threat to her at all… One of these days she will trust him – I hope!

  1. a difficult journey for all of you, I can imagine how Xander would be as when my children were children we had 2 cats from the same litter for the same reasons as you, we were out all day, children school me work, they to were brother and sister if something had happened to one of them when younger it would have been devestating to the other, a third cat did join us he was a stray that looked like one of our cats and people kept bringing to us as they thought we’d lost a cat in the end he stayed no one claimed him, they lived happily but things were a bit rough at first and he was never as close to the other 2 as they were to each other which is understandable, you are both very sensitive and caring people to give so much thought and caring to these cats, if only more people were like that instead of the ones who kicked Faith, it can be hard for recued animals to trust just as it is with people who suffer at the hands of others, all best wishes and thoughts, Frances x

  2. What beautiful cats they both are. I love black and white cats. I was told in general they seem to have a harder time being adopted. I have a friend who has adopted four. I think your story will have a happy ending. Thank you for sharing it.

  3. Having once introduced a young cat to a more mature cat your experience sounds most familiar. It took time but we did all eventually get there. Slowly the mutual suspicion lessened into tolerance, before slowly morphing into what seemed to be genuine affection. I hope it works out Sara – Faith looks a fine cat.

    • Thanks Anna, she is a lovely girl, when she’s not cuffing him round the head! At least there don’t appear to be claws or teeth involved, and things seem to be settling from time to time.

  4. Oooooo – been there, done that, and it did work out well in the end. I even caught them curled up together, though they did look embarrassed about it (possibly because I summoned everyone to see). I think it will work out – fast forward to, oh, about Christmas and you’ll probably discover something similar. Just pretend you’ve not noticed…

    (I love Faith’s white chin. How could anyone have abandoned that? Grrrrr.)

    • She has such delicate white tiptoes as well as that stripy chin. So pretty. Glad to hear that you had a happy result, fingers crossed a wintry night will find them huddling together in front of the fire with all that has gone before forgotten…

  5. Hi Sara, never having had cats, I had no idea that mixing them could be so difficult, though it makes sense. I hope your two settle in to being good companions in time. I admire your patience and gentleness with them, they are lucky to have you.

    • I’d never introduced a new cat to an existing one before, so it was a bit of an eye-opener for me too, and much harder work than we’d anticipated!

  6. I’ve also been though this with my cats (sadly the oldest of which was run over when we moved to our current home 5 years ago), although I’ll be honest and say they were never the best of friends, they grew quite quickly to tolerate each other and would happily sit on the same chair at the same time (but rarely touching!) so I hope your two can work it out. It’s always tricky introducing a new pet – we’d love a second cat but the one we have is so old we’ve decided to leave her be and wait until the inevitable happens (which I will be devastated about when the time comes). Bethx

    • We accept that may be the case with ours, that they may just come to tolerate each other, but still we hope they will genuinely become close. I don’t think we’d have tried if he was more than a few years’ older, or if he had flourished when we lost his sister… Hope that yours has a good few years left in her yet! x

      • Absolutely – I think with Xander so young I’m sure he’ll settle, our Smilla is 15 now so practically on a zimmer frame! Hope all goes well and you all recover from such a sad loss. Bx

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