Sunday, October 2, 2011

Turn for the worse

Taken a week or so ago. They would not do this now.
I tend to write ahead a few days -- I'm sorry if the timing of these posts about Newman are confusing. Just a few days ago I was writing humorous stuff about Newman and Red Kitka. Now things have changed, and the posts don't accurately represent the timing of all of this.

Will it shock you to hear that there is now real drama with the cats? I'm worried about Newman and Red Kitka. In the last few days, the overtures have turned into chasing and more agression. The fights are brief but intense. Red Kitka is hiding much of the time, and there is tension when they are in the same room. Bob is beside himself. Newman continues to be loving and wonderful with us.  When he sits in my lap, my heart just breaks.

We're continuing to monitor and trying to encourage good behavior. Bob has agreed to give Newman time, but it upsets him to see the cats fight. I tell myself it has only been three weeks, but really there has been no change in about a week. In fact it seems worse, and RK seems to expect the agression and avoid it by making himself scarce.

I feel physically nauseous when I contemplate taking Newman back. He is a good cat, and I truly don't see how he could live in a roomful of cats and the shelter yet not be able to live with our little, non-agressive cat. Newman clearly thinks he is in heaven, he has no idea what his behavior means to his ability to stay. I can't contemplate taking him back -- I just can't -- but Bob has a say in this too, and his words are "Red Kitka was here first." 

It's funny how things like this can become so larger-than-life. I'm not stressing about Darfur, the economy, or great injustice. I'm losing sleep over my red cats...


  1. When we brought Grover in from outside, he was a big aggressive and played hard with our existing girl cats.

    There are a few things we did. We work from home, so not all may work for other people.

    1) Grover wasn't allowed to chase or harass the girls. If he did, he got 'time out' for 3 or 4 minutes in the downstairs bathroom.

    2) Grover had his own room and was locked in there at night. This gave him a space that was all his, and also gave the girls a chance to relax and sleep without him.

    It took a while, months, until he learned that being a bully to the girls wasn't acceptable. He still tries to play with them, but is respectful enough of their space that fights don't happen.

    You may try separating them at night to let Red Kitka have some space to relax and not hide.

    I don't think it's impossible to integrate them, but it may take a bit of human intervention to remind Newman that he is not Top Cat.

  2. Can you figure out a way to give them some "common" space but also give each some private space to retreat to? I'm not sure how to do this exactly - if Newman is always the aggressor maybe give Red Kitka a place to go as a retreat and let him come out if he wants to visit with Newman?

    I would also try the Feliway diffuser - we had some marking going on with our 5 that seemed territorial in nature - it has helped.

    My experience is that it takes adult cats the longest of any household pet to adapt to a newcomer. Even with our 3 who are litter-mate siblings, there is the occasional squabble - and they have been together since birth! They all do have different "zones" they tend to "control." One has the barnyard area and pastures, one has the front yard and driveway area, two have the front porch, one has my daughter's room and neighboring art studio/guest room, etc. etc.

    They all have to share the main living space in the house - living room/dining/room kitchen/laundry room with cat/dog door - but they have worked out their territories and mostly respect the boundaries. It does take time though. We will allow the warning behaviors but break up any actual fights with canned air. The hiss sound seems to work better than a spray bottle filled with water and there is no wet mess involved.

    I know it is upsetting - but my guess is that things will settle down if you can create some separate spaces. The interesting thing about our cats is that among them they def. had some personality conflicts but when we got the newest Corgi pup a year ago suddenly the cats all bonded together as a united front against him! And they all do get along better now, even a year later.

  3. I very randomly stumbled on your blog but I just wondered, have you ever tried Feliway for cats? it's a plug in pheromone diffuser. The link:
    We had a cat that used to lick herself raw, and we started feliway and it really helped. It's supposed to help cats in various stressful situations. It's pricey, but for us it helped. Maybe it's worth a try?
    Good luck.

  4. To each his own little universe. You are not worrying about those things and neither is Newman. Of course he is also not worrying about being sent back. Could you do some supervised visits, where you and Bob each cuddle a cat within sight of the other cat?

    We had a (very) large rabbit when I lived with my parents. The two cats despised the rabbit, but learned to tolerate him. Petting and giving attention to all of them together seemed to help, although it took time. Just imagine two cats and a rabbit lounging on the rug together. Sure I knew my big cat's opinion "I do not like him" and my little cat's opinion "What rabbit?", but they did learn that he was a part of their new life situation. It also helped that they did not have to share food stuffs.

    Your red kitties will get there.

    P.S. The rabbit had his own litter box and used it flawlessly. ;)

  5. I have a friend who successfully introduced a new room mate's cats into her household by initially keeping them in a separate room. Later on there were stages of feeding them side by side in their crates etc. I hope something works out for your red cats.

  6. Dang it! I think you should give it a bit more time, maybe. I'd hate to see him have to go back too.

  7. Don't let those hard time beat you down ! They'll get along at some point. Sometimes cats need a long time before they get along well.
    I had a particular one who was so upset with the coming of a new kitten that he "sulked" for a whole month. He finally accepted the other cat and both were good buddies after.
    Your two probably need some time too.

  8. I'm sorry you're still having trouble.

    It sounds to me like maybe Newman is acting dominant because he thinks he's in heaven. And Red Kitka knows the rules, knows to be nice to guests, so he's not challenging what he thinks of as your rules. We had a similar problem when we introduced our new cat to his older brother.

    I don't know if this will work with your cats, but with ours it helped to knock the new guy down a peg once in a while. For example, if the new guy drives old guy off the sofa, and settles down himself, playfully shove new guy off onto the floor too. Or pet his head thoroughly. Cats who are establishing dominance but not to the point of aggression will lick each other's heads - the way a momma cat would a kitten. If your red guy sees that the new guy isn't top of the heap, you are, he may be more comfortable holding his ground.

    Any chance you could put them in separate rooms for a while?

  9. I wouldn't get so dramatic about it right now. These are two adult cats--adjusting to each other takes time. Cat arguments always sound terrible and dramatic, but they are little more than dominance displays that will eventually peter out.

    I had two cats that lived together, but were never "friends." Eventually, they learned to respect each other's turf and live respectfully with one another. Yes, there were tussles in the beginning and here and there throughout. But when one of the cats was ill, the other cat made peace, cutting out his old tricks and treating her gingerly. When she died, he showed clear signs of mourning, although, as I said, these two cats were never more than civil.

    Give it time.

  10. Phooey. I've had issues like this in the past. Most of the time the two cats learned to avoid each other. Red might appreciate someplace high up where he could retreat to get away from Newman.

    There is an article here with some information:

    I'm sure you can find more ideas on other sites. I'd hate to think Newman has to lose his new home.

  11. three weeks is hardly enough time to see if the cats will get along. When i married and we merged our two cats we had similar problems. and worse - the dominant cat willie would ambush the less dominant cat naomi when she was using the litter box causing all sorts of havoc. we found peace by providing a litter box and feeding area for naomi that willie was not allowed in. Eventually they were able to cohabit peacefully but it took close to six months.

  12. I have cats and have introduced new adults into the group...I know exactly how it can be. If you give it time, they will inevitably find a way to get along, though they may never be friends. Is it possible for you to introduce a third cat? Preferably a young one. If this cat is subservient to both older cats, it may diffuse some of the tension. I have had this experience. I also agree about the separate spaces. I have two cats who DON'T like each other--one has the barnyard, one stays up near the house. They don't fight to speak of...because they try very hard not to intersect.

  13. I agree with the poster who made a comment about you asserting your dominance over Newman. I had a similar situation with the introduction of a young cat back in 2007. Some people might find my discipline too much, but whenever she went after my old cat I picked her up by her scruff and put her in time out. I made it a very matter-of-fact exercise - no anger, but no tolerance, either.

    I set up a separate feed area and litter box for her and only let her interact with the old cat when I was around, and the second she went for him, I went for her, and put her time out. She also had to spend her nights in time out, which she absolutely hated. (Time out was the dining room and kitchen, btw, which I can close off from the rest of the house.)

    It took about three days, but she eventually stopped showing aggression toward the new cat. For me, the message was - This is my house, I am the alpha cat, and I will not tolerate this behavior in my pride.

    She has not given me - or the old cat - any trouble since. Now, I know that this kind of human intervention doesn't always work. And I was just winging it - I'd never dealt with that kind of behavior before. I handled it the way my gut told me to.

    All that said - during those days, and then a week or so afterward, when I kept watching for a regression - I was so worried and anxious about what would happen. I was lucky, in that a good friend who was currently cat-less was willing to take the young cat. But she was already a part of the family by then. So even with that safety net, I was still upset about the prospect of losing the company of our otherwise sweet little girl. I feel for you - having your animal family upset is a horrible feeling. (As an aside, the young cat did become the boss cat, but she is now a benign monarch.)

  14. Anon, that is exactly what we're doing -- well, not by the scruff of the neck but by whatever means necessary. At one point I'd just gotten out of the shower, and I had a towel around my head, and Newman went after RK. I whipped the towel off and flicked it at him. One minute he was chasing RK, the next he was running from a damp towel. We have a squirt bottle. He times himself out, running upstairs to the room we kept him in when he first came here. We have to come and bring him downstairs or he'll stay there "for the duration."

  15. I haven't had experience with bringing a new cat into a household with an older one - but have done so with dogs. I know that I was scared about their getting along in the beginning - and think my feelings may have telegraphed themselves to the animals.
    I say give it more time - afterall, he did get along at the shelter.

  16. I've fostered cats for a couple of years and agree that introducing adults to adults is the most difficult.

    I second (or third) the Feliway -- it definitely helps. Also keeping them separate for awhile, even if it's only at night just to give them each their own space.

    Be patient. They may never be friends but they will start to tolerate each other soon enough and it might evolve into more.

  17. I would not recommend using any sort of punishment techniques in cats. If punishment is used it must be done in such a way that the cat in no way associates the punishment with your presence (e.g., by use of boobie traps, remote devices). Cats are solitary hunters - unique in that they are both predator and prey animals. They are not "group" animals like horses and dogs that have a distinct hierarchy, and therefore have no context for physical punishment. Any sort of negative influence from you will only add to Newman's stress level and could cause even more problems in the future.

    Instead, address the underlying cause of aggression. Often aggression is the result of real or perceived competition for resources (remember: your affection and attention is a resource - just like water, food, litter box, climbing space, scratch posts, etc).

    Feliway is a great idea. More ideas here (I know how much you love research!). The following are great sources:

    Indoor Cat Initiative:

    Denver Dumb Friends


    Cornell Feline Health

    My two cents.

  18. Thanks Catvet,

    We have been wary of doing much more than "distracting" the cats but lately are taking more active steps. Good advice about never associating the punishment with the humans.

    I'd heard about not punishing cats but never knew why. Thanks!

  19. CatVet has good source ideas, and I throw my weight behind Feliway, too. It was an investment, but worth it.

  20. My two lived together for 15 years and they would have moments when they would seemed to be fighting to the death. I think some cats just like to fight rough.

  21. Boy that is a hard spot to be in. I sure hope they work it out so your house is peaceful again! I am not experienced with cats so I have no advice for you, just good wishes.

  22. Newman reminds me a lot of the older cat I adopted a few years ago. He and our current cat didn't really get along for ... months? Somewhere along the line they started tolerating each other instead of dominating. Now they groom each other all the time.

    Also second the Feliway, we tried it when addressing some behavior problems and it seemed to help. Can't hurt to try. Spray it on a bandanna around their neck.

  23. I'm not sure if there is cat-cat introduction advice, but the Leerburg website has some good info on introducing a new animal into the household safely, including dog-cat at the very least. I just can't remember if he covers cat-cat.

    Good luck... many commenters have given good advice

  24. I used clicker training to get my cat and dog used to each other when I got the dog last year. My cat was already a clicker cat.

    After teaching my dog about clicker training, I started to click her for just sitting still while in my cat's presence--instead of acting agressive. Within a few days, she learned that acting passive around her was highly rewarded. My cat then relaxed around her and joined the rest of the household. Now, she allows the cat to attack her--and she just walks away. (I have clicked her for that, too.)

    Cats are terrific clicker animals, and it may work. (Most people think cats can't be trained, but they can be with postitive reinforcement.) Once he understands the concept, you can reward him for proper behavior.The more rewards, the better. It can work. I have done some amazing things with the clicker with my cat, dog and horses.

  25. I do find it's challenging, and territories is the only thing I've found that works. Don't give up, though. They can find a way through, but only with time.

  26. We had to rehome one of my cats with my mother, and he ended up being the aggressor even though he was entering the home. They tolerate each other (seven months later) but they may never be friends.

    My cat had been with a brother and had to fight for position a bit. The other cat doesn't appear to know how to fight back, even though he outweighs my cat by several pounds.

    I think the "space away from Red Kitka" and possibly the use of Feliway may help your situation. They also need more time, and RK needs some special attention from you so he doesn't feel usurped.

  27. I'm new to your blog and way behind. But, is Newman neutered? I've found that some shelters do not do that. And intact males are aggressive brats to other kitties. Or, if he is, was he neutered in the last couple months? Because, in that case, just like with horses, it takes time for the hormones to really calm down and leave the body.

    I also recommend a Feliway diffuser, or several throughout your house. They also make a collar now too. Perhaps if Newman wore it, he could just be a chill, mellow dude.


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