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.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Time-share Doubts: Suzi's Series 2

Dear Greyce, I am worried about your suggestion for time-sharing space in my household in your article: Stuck in the Kitchen (4/21/20) - even though I like your idea of a place to keep me safe and secure from those bullies. The problem is this: When Sissi is confined to a room she cries to get out. It is very distressing to Herself and she would really worry if Sissi was kept in such a room for hours at a time. I thought you should know this.

Also you might want to know more about our current schedule. When Herself gets up in the morning, she puts everyone else in a locked room so I can climb down off the kitchen cupboards and use the litter box. I have about a half hour of peace before the rest of the cats are allowed to join in. During the day (from 9:00 to 18:30 while Herself is at work) all of us cats have the use of the entire apartment. (If we have other rescued cat guests, they stay in our special guest room). After Herself returns from work, she confines Sissi, Rijko and Jack (around 19:00) for about two hours, so I can use the litter box and so Koko and I can play together. After that, everyone has the use of the all the space for the rest of the night. You probably know that means I stay in my safe place up above the kitchen cupboards for most of the time because, Greyce, I really am the household victim. Sissi attacks me. Jack attacks me. Sometimes even Koko corners me and starts hitting me and I cry for help; he thinks he is playing but I am scared.

Sometimes on the weekends, Herself lets us sleep with her. I climb on the radiator and wait until everyone is settled and then take the last free spot. At this point I don’t have to worry about Sissi because once she is asleep, she sleeps deeply and won’t bother me.

Sometimes only Koko and I get to sleep with Herself; even then I first climb on the radiator and join them after about 20 minutes. It just goes to show that I am behaving like the victim, the cat who defers to everyone else even when it isn’t necessary to do so. Do you think Sissi should be allowed in the bedroom with us at these times?

Dear Suzi, Thank you so much for this information. From what you have written, you are already experiencing a form of time-sharing at two, distinct times of the day – times when you have space to yourself without the presence of the bullies. I understand your concerns about the kind of time-sharing I proposed; and knowing how distressed Sissi becomes (and how Herself reacts to that) is very important – even though I’m sure you’d prefurr that Sissi move out!

It is always important to know your reaction to my advice because I can then try to make it more suitable for you. So let’s get started with the first part of your special plan. I am going to take two things into consideration: 1) that because you are a stressed, victim cat who lacks confidence, you very much need security and safety; and 2) that there are four other cats in your household each with individual needs; I will try to address their needs too, in this as well as in further blog entries.

Under the circumstances here is what I propose: How would you (and Koko if he wishes) like to stay in the big bedroom for most of the day – since you have pleasant associations of sleeping with Herself? If so, ask Herself to open the curtain so you can perch on the radiator and look out the window. And I’m sure Herself could leave you a few balls or mice in the room so you could play as well. To make it an ideal sanctuary, you will need a litter box in this room so you could use the toilet whenever you need to. Now not every human likes this idea, but I am suggesting it for the time being; it IS important. You will also need some fresh water so you can take a drink when you need to. Put the Feliway diffuser in this room for a week, to help you get comfortable with this new routine. (I will talk more about the Feliway diffuser in another blog entry.)

In other words, what I’m now suggesting is that you make the bedroom your main place, especially during the time Herself is away. The other cats have the rest of the apartment. Usually I would suggest the reverse: that the victim cat gets the use of the biggest space and the bully get a smaller one. But your situation is special because there are so many cats in a relatively small space and because of Sissi’s reaction to confinement. Because of you temperament, I think it would be more suitable for you to have the bedroom instead. Koko can make the choice of whether or not he wishes to stay with you or join the others; sometimes he may and others, he may not; that would be up to him.

Herself can still keep your usual schedule with regard to times you and Koko have the use of the main part of the apartment (while the other cats are confined) - in other words, your half-hour morning time and your two-hour evening period. This will allow you to enjoy the larger area and also give the other cats time to explore the bedroom if that is where they usually go at this time; that way everyone is to kept up to date on the scents in all parts of the territory.

So for now, Suzi, I’m suggesting that you take over the bedroom (which you’d share with Herself at night) and Koko can join you when he wishes. This will keep you protected without you having to stay still on top of the kitchen cupboards all the time. You will be free to wander around the room, sleep on the bed, look out the window, use the litter box, have a drink of water, and play with some toys – knowing that the door is closed tightly and no one can disturb you.

And I do recommend that you and Koko should sleep with Herself at night – keeping the bedroom door closed. And the other cats (Sissi included) should NOT join you. The whole point of this is to build up your sense of confidence and security.

Tell Herself not to worry; this is not a permanent plan. It is just the first step of a larger plan to help you and the other cats to get along. I am not going to fill you with information about the next steps in the plan because I want you to concentrate on this one. Try this out for a few weeks and let me know how it works. We’ll take it from there.

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