An opinionated feline in Edmonton, Canada who lived with a retired cat behaviourist, Greyce provided behavioral advice to cats in need until her death in July 2014. Because her entries are useful even today, the blog remains posted.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

How Do I Get Princess Sissi Under Control? Suzi's Series 5

Dear Greyce, As you know, my prime tormentor is Sissi. So I am surprised at all the advice you have given about Jack (in your article, Suzi's Enemy: Bully Cat Jack) and yet you have not mentioned how to deal with her. And before you do so, let me give you some more information.

First as you well know, Sissi likes to attack me. At times we have had other female cats live with us. Sissi never bothered them. And she doesn’t bother the males. Just me!

Second, I have to sit very still or she will attack me the minute I get up and move. When I have been lying down in a place for a while, she will go over there and sniff it when I leave. When I am sitting still, she stares at me intensely. She never hisses or growls.

Third, when I use the litter box, she lies in wait for me behind the door and jumps just as I leave the room!

Fourth, Sissi behaves when Herself is present. For example, if I am sleeping on the sofa beside Herself and Sissi wants to be there, she climbs slowly and finds her place. But the minute Herself turns her back or leaves the room, I’m in for trouble. One day I was lying on the sofa next to Herself and Sissi was lying at her feet. So we were some distance from each other. When Herself went to the toilet, Sissi attacked me. Herself heard the fight and by the time she returned, Sissi was sniffing the place where I had been lying and I had a very badly scratched eye.

Fifth, Sissi never attacks me when she is eating. She can eat next to me without even looking at me. I can even try to steal some of her food and the only thing she will do is eat faster; she does not attack. Sissi just loves food.

So now that I’ve given you all this information, will you please help me deal with Sissi?

Dear Suzi, I know it seems as if I’m avoiding Sissi but really I am not. As I explained in my article, Suzi's Time-share Doubts (4/26/10), the first part of my plan is to keep the two of your separated for a while so that you can regain some badly-needed confidence. Trust me, this is very important.

In the meantime, I have focused on Jack for two reasons. First, he could use the help either to make him more adoptable or to make him more acceptable to you and the rest of the cats in your household. Second, it is a good idea for Herself to practice dealing with Jack’s bad manners and successfully re-training him BEFORE she has to deal with the relationship between Sissi and yourself. When Jack becomes more of a gentleman, it will be easier for Herself to focus on the problem between you two girls.

But I still have some ideas about Sissi. Let me take each of your points, in turn.

First, you’ve told me that Sissi likes to attack you and only you. It’s true that in some households some cats do not get along. And some take a dislike to one cat in particular. This is the same for humans. Sometimes Herself might meet a purrson she just doesn’t like, even if that purrson is a nice human being. That just happens sometimes. However I don’t think Herself would punch that purrson in the face – which is the equivalent of what Sissi is doing to you. So in the longer term, what I hope we can achieve is that Sissi and you learn to tolerate each other.

Second, you get attacked the minute you move. And even when you sit still, she really stares at you – no hisses, no growls. Basically, Sissi is very aggressive while seeming (to a human) to be a purrfect lady. She has frozen you in one place and keeps you there by direct stares – one of the most aggressive signals a cat can give. She doesn’t hiss because hisses are for cats who are scared and saying “Go away. I don’t want to fight but I will if I have to.” By staring so intently, Sissi is saying, “You make a move and I’ll beat you up. I am not only Princess, I am Queen of the house.” And while growling can be associated with some forms of aggression (or can be related to other things, too), Sissi has no need to growl when she has you under control by other means.

Third, she jumps you when you use the litter box. While you have two, large litter boxes, they are in a narrow, storage room which gives you no alternate means of escape when you know she is guarding the door. We will need to address this later when Sissi and you are allowed to be together again. Feel free to remind me of this, if I should forget.

Fourth, Sissi behaves when Herself is present. This is great news, because it means that Sissi will listen to Herself. And that means that once Herself has fully mastered aggressive cat communication and how to intervene, she will be able to re-train Sissi.

Fifth, Sissi loves food so much she never attacks you when she is eating. This is important news because it tells me about something that can be used to motivate Sissi to behave properly. Also from what you have told me about Sissi in general, I know that she needs more stimulation. And for a food-driven cat, one of the best sources of stimulation is a feeding puzzle. These come in many forms: 1) round balls that can be filled with dry cat food and need to be handled in order for the food to fall out (bit by bit) – such as the Play-N-Squeak Call of the Wild or the Slimcat Treat Ball click here; 2) drum toys that operate in a similar manner (such as the Pipolino or; or Feeding Frenzy ) , and 3) Cat Activity Fun Board ( ) which is a more complex puzzle.

If Sissi is fed dry food, then a portion of it could be used with such a toy and it would provide her with intellectual stimulation (as well as nourishment).

But before you use your catnip allowance to buy a toy for Suzie, ask Herself to consider making a home-made one. For one that rolls, she could use a tube from toilet paper or waxed paper, make some holes in it that are large enough for dry food pellets to fall out of, then put some dry food pellets inside and fasten the ends closed with tape. Or she could make something similar to a Peek A Prize ( ) by taking a small cardboard box, making holes in it that a just a bit larger than Sissi’s paws, and taping the ends shut; she can put food pellets in through the holes and Sissi can keep busy trying to get them out. It makes her work for her food.

Now if Sissi eats only wet food, let me know and I will provide some suggestions for that.

Be patient, Suzi. Herself has a lot of work to do before she can get you and Sissi back together.