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, August 2, 2010

Introductory Disaster

Dear Greyce, I am a 14 years old Burmese-cross and managed to tolerate another of my species in my home until she died last year. All was going well until Herself returned from a trip - with another cat!  I was furious! I gave Herself the cold shoulder for several days.

When I finally consented to acknowledge Herself, she rewarded me by letting the intruder out of her separate room on a leash. You’d think the hooligan would be grateful but instead she attacked me. Himself pulled her off me and took her back to her room. I ran under the bed of my room.

Since then, I have not been feeling my best and I haven’t used the cat litter. Will this nightmare ever end?

You’d think they’d get the message but over the past two weeks they have persisted. They continue to bring this intruder out on a leash. We hiss and then I retreat to my room. To add insult to injury they have given her a name similar to mine: Lola.

Wait for it Greyce, it gets worse: Last night they decided to let the hooligan out without her leash. She pounced on me hard. They broke it up. Again I hid under the bed.

Believe me Greyce since that pest came into my home, I have been feeling unwell. While I’m youthful for a senior, I do have problems with my kidneys and my urinary tract and thus have days when I am not feeling my best. Did I mention that the intruder is a two year old Bengal? To add to the problem, they really don’t want to give this hooligan back though to their credit, they are afraid that I may not defend myself and will end up badly hurt. Why me, Greyce?

What are our chances of making this work? Lula

Dearest Lula, My heart goes out to you. You are in a difficult situation that is not of your own making. My first inclination would be to open the front door and let the intruder find her way back from whence she came. However your humans seem to like this hooligan and therein lies the problem. Chances are that they want to find a solution that would enable both of you to stay in the same home.

Impossible? No.

Difficult? Absolutely.

Don’t fret, Lula. I will try to make this work for you BUT your purrsons are going to have to commit to a fair bit of work in order to make it happen. There is no quick and easy fix here. So they’d better be prepared for a strong commitment to you and that terrorist in a fur coat. If they don’t have the gumption to stick to my plan, if they get impatient and want to take shortcuts, or if they decide to pick pieces of the plan and meld it with advice from others, then I wash my paws of this mess and encourage you to continue to pee wherever your little heart desires until they can’t take it anymore!

Enough of my rant, let’s get down to work.

I'll start with the facts.

1. You are the senior cat not only in terms of age but in terms of length of residence. In any plan, priority (with very few exceptions – none of which apply here) is given to the senior cat. You are the boss. It is your territory that has been invaded.

2. Now let’s give your purrsons heart attacks:

A full introduction depends on a number of factors including temperament, age, and health. From my understanding, none of these factors is in your favour. You have a history of not getting along well with a feline companion. Indeed many Burmese are known to adopt the motto, Be reasonable. Do it my way! You are quite senior and thus less adaptable to change (as are we all as we age). And you are unwell and have chronic problems. Any change to your territory (and the entry of this invader is a BIG one) can trigger stress reactions to make your problems worse. Not using the litter box is a demonstration of this fact and may only be the tip of the iceberg. For this reason alone the introduction process must be slow, proceed in small increments, and go at a pace with which you are comfortable. Obviously what is happening is going at the speed of light as far as you are concerned. They need to slow it down – A LOT! And they need a proper introduction plan (which I will provide).

I have seen some cats who are ready to accept a new member in matter of days and others who take a great deal longer. When cats ask me for a timeline, I say to allow yourself UP TO one month for every year of the oldest cat before one can expect full integration of a new feline into the household. Yes, in your case this could be up to 14 months before you and the intruder could safely be left alone, unsupervised for a long period of time. Now before this rule-of-thumb triggers off a series of e-mails to me from all the cats whose integrations took far less time, let me say that I am presenting you with the OUTER limit as a guideline. For example, the plan I provide would take six weeks before the end of Phase Six BUT in your case, it will likely take considerably longer. For long-term success, everyone in your household needs to let YOU call the shots on how much time each phase will take.

3. At all times, safety is paramount. Compliment your folks on having the presence of mind to provide a separate room for the invader (and keeping her in it at times). But this leash business has got to stop. I assume she was on leash and harness and not just a leash attached to her collar? Regardless, your humans are letting her far too near you and cannot control her. And the idea of letting her have free access to you is a recipe for disaster.

4. To be fair, the newcomer didn’t ask to come into a home with an already resident cat. And she probably doesn’t like it any more than you do. At least you have that in common. And you both deserve a chance.

The Plan

Direct your folks to the blog entry, May I Present? Another Cat! (January 14, 2010) in which I offer my cat introduction plan for humans. They can just click on the label Introduction – New Cat on the right side of the blog.

In your case, I want your folks to disregard Phase Five of that plan involving a leash and harness. It is too risky given their difficulties to date. A Bengal is very intelligent, energetic and physically adept. She will give them a run for their money. In your case, replace it with Phase Five involving the use of a LARGE dog crate – in which the newcomer could be housed when you are together (complete with small litter box, water dish, shelf or bed, toys and possibly some food.). That way she could be left in your presence for longer period of time (starting again with small periods of a few minutes and slowly working up to 30 minutes of more) without being cramped. And you would be purrfectly safe. This would enable you to get increasingly used to her presence (and would enable your folks to leave the room for short periods without worrying about your safety). HOWEVER, please contact me before you begin this step so we can work out the details in advance.

Don’t Forget

In implementing this plan, make sure your folks give you and your counterpart individual attention each day. Your counterpart will need vigorous intellectual and physical exercise. They may wish to consult my entries on play or refer to Bengal Cat Games for inspiration. I suggest they indulge you in the ways you know best – whether this is with a play toy, some petting or just some company. Consider having them learn Meditative Stroking (blog entry accessed through the label, touch) which could help you relax.

Installation of a Feliway diffuser in the room you use most will help you re-establish a sense of comfort. Normally I advise this for the newcomer but in your case and especially if funds are limited, I suggest it be installed for you, instead.

Since you are not using your litter box, they should check with your vet about the desirability of having your urine tested, just in case you have developed a stress-related infection that requires treatment. Since you have had a history of such issues, I assume your folks are aware of the many measures they can take to entice you back to the box. But if they’d like some advice in this regard, please contact me again with more specifics: box (number, sizes, type – covered or not, locations), litter type (scented or not, clumping or other), measure they have taken, etc.

Last but not least . . .

I notice that you have both been given similar names. And I’m sure your humans meant well by this. However it will only serve to confuse you both about whom is being addressed. For this reason, encourage them to provide a different sounding name for your counterpart. I’m sure you can think of several.

In The Long Run

If you don’t already have one, have your folks start saving for a large cat tree and/or cat shelving to keep your counterpart occupied and out of your way. Right now this would be handy for her separate room. But later on, it would be helpful in your shared space – once you are ready to really share it, that is. Have them consult my entry, What to Look for in a Cat Tree if they need advice on this matter.

If they are following the plan as I have instructed, then reward them with a purr from time to time. And when warranted, don't hesitate to resume your use of the litter box. In any event, please keep me posted on your progress. Best wishes, Greyce

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