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.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Feline Early Morning Wake Up: What's A Cat to Do?

Hey Greyce!

Remember me, The Cat Detective? (See Keko Turns Detective, entry of 1/015/10). My peeing problem is solved (thanks for the advice) and I have great news. I have a cat wall! It is a small wall that is covered in carpet from the floor to the ceiling. It’s lots of fun to climb up all the time. And I’m told that Themselves find it quite amusing to watch me.

I’d love to say that things are going well, but . . . “We” have a problem: My very early morning (according to Themselves) energy.

I like to rise around 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. When I slept with Themselves in the bedroom, I thought it was a fine idea for them to rise with me. In fact I insisted on it. So what did they do? Stopped me from sleeping in the bedroom!

I pounded at the door. They covered it in tinfoil to discourage me. I no longer pound on the door. But I surely meow.

The good news is that I now get wet food in the evening, since I very loudly demanded an early morning feeding. We Bengals get hungry, you know.

They play with me a lot (that’s A LOT according to them, but as far as I’m concerned it is barely adequate); and we do get some extra play time in right before bed. And I get a small spoonful of food just before the bedroom door is shut.

So what’s a girl to do? Meow at the door relentlessly, I say. And I do . . . until Themselves finally rise.

It seems that my idea of a reasonable waking hour is quite different than theirs. What do you suggest, Greyce?

Looking forward to your suggestions,


Monday, December 20, 2010

Using Harnesses to Re-introduce Companion Cats: Yoshi & Taro

Dear Greyce,

Months ago we wrote you because we were no longer getting along – after a trip to the groomer. We have carefully followed your advice on re-introductions, time-sharing space on a separated basis with contact through a slightly-wedged door.

I am getting braver at approaching the wedged door especially if lured there by treats. I’m curious about Taro. While he is aggressive, he is less so than before. He'll yowl a little once if I’m on the outside of the door and he still gets antsy when he knows I am there. Usually Themselves can distract him enough that he will behave.

However a few times when I have come right up to the door, Taro would run towards it and scare me away. But as I said, I am getting braver and I usually come right back.

I figure we have passed a milestone because there is no hissing or growling or anything like that.

Why is Taro so disturbed by my presence? I am not in the least aggressive to him. Sometimes when I am on the outside of the wedged door, I just lounge with my back paws out to the side and my front paws tucked in. Occasionally I’ll look inside at Taro. Meanwhile he paces around the room looking distressed. Good thing that he is easily distracted with toys!

My biggest problem, Greyce, is that this has been going on for months during which Themselves have been training us to harness. I guess we're stuck at the harness point.

Here’s the deal: We can tolerate putting the harness on without much difficulty. We can put up with wearing them – though we don’t like it. We crouch down while walking and occasionally flop on the floor and roll around with the harness on. Sometimes we try to chew them off.

Taro is better with the harness than I am. He'll play with the harness on but does sometimes get distracted by it. I mainly just lay down; but I will walk around if enticed with treats.

Are we ready for the big time? How should be proceed?



Thursday, December 16, 2010

Shy Cat Starts to Swat More Assertive Cat Companion

Hi Greyce,
I've been filled with so many questions that you have taken many blog entries to reply.

One last item: My shyer companion, Skeeter, has on occasion taken a swipe at me (like I sometimes do to him) for no provoked reason. Is this a sign that there a battle to come? 

We still get along quite well, though when I am having a bad day or start to hiss at him, he does avoid me.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Introducing Cat Afraid of New Things to a New Person

Hi Again Greyce!
It's me again. And I have yet another problem. You see it's the holiday season and Themselves are likely to bring some new purrsons in for a visit. I don't 'do' new situations well, as you know. Please help!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Introducing a Noisy Appliance to a Cat who is Scared of New Things

Hi Greyce,
I have another question for you. As you know I get VERY VERY anxious when I’m dealing with something new. I get VERY spooked and the effect lasts for a LONG time.

You mentioned that I need to work on becoming more resilient. I plan to take Star of Bethlehem flower remedy. What else do you advise?

Worried about this,


Dear Dash,

I want to give readers a small bit of background first: In our first written contact (which I did not share with readers), you were terrified of the treadmill. And I mean, TERRIFIED. I instructed Themselves to stop using it and cover it up. And it took you a lot of time to even go back near it and try to explore it – even though it has not been used. I’d also suggested a flower essence to help with your resilience – and I’ll get back to that later.

Principles for Introducing You to Something New

Let me review the basic principles of introducing a cat to something new, particularly a cat such as yourself who is anxious and has not been used to what would be termed “normal household items” in your world.

1. Introduce the new thing slowly.

2. Slowly means at your pace (NOT your purrsons’).

3. If the pace is too fast for you, you will show it – usually by dilated pupils, fur standing on end, pacing, cowering, trying to hide, etc. If this happens, they MUST stop; back the process up a bit and proceed even more slowly from there.

Why New Things Can Be Scary

As you know, your territory is the most essential element to your well-being. And you need to explore it, patrol it, and scent mark it on a regular basis to reassure yourself that it is in good order. Changes to territory signal to us cats, a potential change in our resource base; and the mere thought of a sudden lack of food, or water, or safety is enough to send even the most assured of us into anxiety-mode.

When a new thing enters your territory, you need to have the chance to adapt to it and incorporate it. In other words, you need to make it your own. That way, it becomes a part of your normal territory rather than something to get worried about.

The thing most of us cats find most bothersome about appliances and electronic items is the noise they make. Other than the dreaded vacuum cleaner, most of these items stay in one place so we don’t have to worry about them chasing us.

Getting Used to a New Small Appliance

Suppose the new appliance is a blender. I doubt that you will be using it to make your own mouse shakes. Purrhaps you are not even allowed on the counter. However if the appliance is portable and there is a chance you will encounter it, I recommend the following:

1. Get used to the box it arrives in, before it is unpacked. First, put a spritz of Feliway spray on all four sides of the box and wait a few minutes before you encounter it. That way the Feliway will have had the chance to do its job. And when you meet that box, it will smell familiar.

2. Once you are used to the box (no longer react to it) – and this may take a short while or maybe even more than a day - they can unpack it. You can watch. That way you may even get to play in the box from which it came!

3. When ‘the thing’ comes out of the box AND IF it is safe to do so (remember Feliway is flammable), they can give it a spritz of Feliway. Again they need to give you a chance to explore it – assuming it is safe to do so (that is, that it is not something which sharp bits you could be hurt on, etc.) That is more than enough for one day thank you very much.

4. They, of course, will want to operate it. Assuming it makes a noise, I suggest they take all necessary precautions which means they have to introduce you to the noise is makes VERY SLOWLY.

There are two ways to do this: A) with the actual thing in action, and B) with a recording of the thing in action.

A) Getting Used to the Sound of the Actual Thing in Action

The first time they operate it, you need to be in another part of the house. If it is upstairs, you should be downstairs with the door closed. This will muffle the sound.

Someone should be with you to monitor your reactions. I don’t advise that purrson to hover over you like a clucking hen, all worried, or you will worry too. Instead that purrson should be in the same room as you are, either playing with you, petting you or purrhaps just reading or watching TV.

The other purrson should start the appliance BUT only for a FEW SECONDS and then stop. Your monitor can be on the lookout for any stress reaction: dilated pupils, fur standing up, cowering, attempting to hide, etc.

Assuming there is little or no reaction, they can then proceed to the next step – which is to repeat this LATER – at least one hour later. They can try this say, up to 3 times a day, with at least an hour (if not longer) in-between.

Assuming you are okay with this, then the next round (the next day or in a few days) could be to increase the length of the sound – say from 3 seconds to 5 seconds.

The idea is to repeat the sound, with a goodly interval (at least an hour) in between, and to SLOWLY increase the period of operation.

Once you are okay with the noise and they have reached the normal length of the thing’s operation, then they need to repeat the whole process with the door open (between floors) so you can hear it better. Again they start with a few seconds of sound and a long interval of rest; and slowly work up.

And if you have the courage to be on the same floor as the thing when it is operating, then they may need to repeat the process again.

B) Getting Use to a Recording of the Thing in Action

This option may be easier for your purrsons to implement IF they have a tape recorder or whatever modern piece of technology these days does the same thing. Basically they can record the sound and then play it to you.

Just like in hearing the actual thing in operation, someone should be with you to monitor your reaction (and to distract you if they can).

Start with the lowest possible volume. Stop it at the 3 second spot to begin with. Slowly work up the period of exposure – at low volume. In other words, just like with the other methods – start with 3 seconds of sound up to 3 times a day at intervals that are at least an hour apart. As you adapt, they can slowly increase the volume and the length of the interval.

The key to all of this is to take it at your pace. They must monitor your reaction. If you do not appear to be bothered, they can continue. If you are bothered, they need to go back a step and proceed more slowly.

In either case: they don’t have to work with you on this each and every day. I assume most such appliances wouldn’t be operated on a daily basis anyway. And I don’t want you to get used to a particular time of operation and then start to expect to hear the sound at that time.

Using Flower Essences to Help

You had also mentioned the use of a flower remedy. I know you had used Rescue Remedy (also known as Five Flower Remedy) before we consulted and I’d suggested Star of Bethlehem.

I have seen many (but not all) cats who have taken such remedies become more resilient. The cat who best shows this is my friend Christmas Blessing (shown in the photo). He was terrified of many things. After over a month of taking Star of Bethlehem he became much more resilient.

Flower remedies take time to work, so don’t expect that a few drops of the stuff will suddenly give you the courage to face the noise. I had suggested the remedy largely to help you recover from the traumas you had endured in your past life, in order to help with your resilience.

In any event, let me know what appliance you need to get used to and how it goes.

And when it is to be the dreaded treadmill, let me know BEFOREHAND and I’ll tweak the plan with some specific, essential details.

Good luck,


Monday, December 13, 2010

Cat Peeing From Over-Excitement or Anxiety: An Update From Dash

Hi Greyce,

Since you last wrote about me (Small Bits of Urine - A Big Problem for Dash on 11/17/10), I have been making progress. Themselves are getting much better at noticing my behaviour and while my scent marking (urine on the stairs) continues upstairs, the frequency has changed. Instead of day-to-day, I have gone for a week or more without feeling the need to mark that spot.

So I am doing well even though I continue peeing outside the litter box at times, mostly in the basement where Skeeter and I stay when Themselves are not home.

There seem to be three triggers:

1. Herself notices that some of my urine spots are fresh when she gets home. She thinks I become really over-excited at hearing the garage door open (signaling her return) and then I just pee.

2. Sometimes if we have been in the basement all day and beyond our usual dinner time, accidents will happen too.

3. Sometimes it is just a sign that the litter boxes are not to my liking. You may remember that we have two basement litter boxes: one on the landing and one on the floor. Skeeter used to use the one on the floor; but he started to use the landing one as well and it would fill rather quickly.

Good news though, both are now downstairs and next to each other. I use both: one for urine and one for feces.

By the way, Themselves also leave us out for most nights (instead of keeping us in the basement) and I either sleep with them on the bed (Skeeter is there too), or I stay on the same floor in my most favorite cat bed. So slowly I am adapting.

Thank you again for your help,


Dear Dash,

It is always good to hear of your progress. I'm going to write about those three triggers for peeing outside the box and offer some suggestions. But first, my dear, ARE making progress. Congratulations on having Themselves improve their observational skills. Careful observation is the first step in gathering the clues by which they can help you adapt even more.

Since the beginning of our consultative relationship, I’ve remarked that you are a most anxious cat. And I do know that it was unlikely that you had household socialization at the proper time in your kitten hood. So developing into a more resilient pet will continue to be your life challenge. Nonetheless you have made significant progress.

You mention three triggers for peeing outside the box when you are in the basement.

1. Over-excitement on Herself’s return. That just shows how anxious a cat you are. Some of us become so happy or relieved that our purrson has returned that we just lose bladder control. Believe me, it can happen to humans, too.

I wonder if Themselves make a fuss over the two of you, both when they leave the house and when they return. If they are doing this (and it would be understandable), then they need to modify their behaviour a bit. Some of us just get so emotionally excited that it becomes a stressor.

I hate to mention it but dogs (yes dogs) with separation anxiety, often react (get stressed) by their purrson’s departures and arrivals. The solution in both cases is to diffuse the emotionality around the going and coming into the home. This simply means that instead of making any fuss when they leave or re-enter, they need to do so is a less emotionally-charged way. For example suppose when they return, they immediately go downstairs and greet the two of you and pet you and cuddle you and dance with you and give you treats. Wow! But that ‘wow’ would be to much for you. Much better if instead they just said, “I’m home” and opened up the basement door to let you come up. And then just went about their chores.

Ditto when they leave. If they are giving you special cuddles and whispers and the like, they are inadvertently having you focus on the fact that they will be gone; and that can be anxiety-provoking. Instead ask them to consider giving you a home-made food puzzle to keep you occupied, then say ‘good-bye’ in a nonchalant way and close the basement door.

Let me know if this is relevant and if the proposed solution is helpful to you.

2. Dinner being late. Yeah, I get it. Any deviation from your expected schedule makes you anxious. It sounds to me like you are wearing your telepathic cat watch and when Themselves are late, you worry that they have been bagged by a predator!

If this is problematic, they MIGHT consider an automatic feeder with a timer, so that dinner can happen at the same time every day and thus becomes less worrisome for you. If you decide to go this route (and is the ONLY an option NOT a directive from me), keep in mind your fear of novelty (which I will address in a separate blog entry) in introducing you to this device.

Another option is to have them start to vary their return times (starting with a five-minute variance) but that is likely too difficult in logistics for them to manage at this time. However, if you are interested in how this would work, let me know.

3. Litter box cleanliness. It sounds like their observational skills are improving. Congratulations for getting them to move the boxes so that you and Skeeter can use the boxes properly. And do make sure they keep to a regular cleaning schedule. A daily clean is what I advocate. Even though I live without the presence of others of my species, I insist on a daily clean so I don’t have to navigate over aromatic lumps and bumps while I attend to my needs.

And as for peeing upstairs. It sounds like that issue is getting under control. I do think much of that is related to over-excitement. You need to have those good workouts and yet be helped to return to a calmer state at the end of them. It’s like doing aerobics at the gym; at the end you need to slow down and stretch or you will continue to be so wound up that you aren’t fit to live with! At least that’s what I understand purrsons go through.

Keep up the good work,


Thursday, December 2, 2010

An Indoor Cat’s Guide to Winter: Tips for Play, Tips for Digestive Matters, and Tips for Handling Your Fur

Hello Everyone,

It’s time for some tips on weathering the winter - 9 in total, one for each of our lives
- 3 tips about toys and playtime,
- 3 tips for deal with digestive issues, and
- 3 tips for handling your fur.