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, December 31, 2012

And Now We Are 3: Getting Used to Another Cat

Dear Greyce,

When you last advised me, I was having a heck of a time adjusting to Gracie, the interloper, and I became seriously ill. (See previous entries, Newcomer Hampers Sick Cat's Recovery - April 4, 2011; then Re-integration After Disaster - May 6, 2011).

I'm happy to say that's all behind us now and having another feline in the house has become quite fine.

And then . . . .

IT HAPPENED AGAIN! There is yet another interloper seeing refuge. His name is Spike and he is a stray.

Herself is being more careful in this matter, especially since my health was so impacted the last time. And yet her heart goes to Spike who is used to being outdoors, very much wants shelter and for whom there is no room elsewhere.

He started out in a safe room in our home but disrupted everything by wanting to get out. He meowed and cried non-stop day and night and I found this really upsetting. Herself would play with him but it was never enough! So much for Plan A.

As a compromise, Herself gave him the use of a workshop attached to the garage. He has his own area there and it is heated, furnished with toys and the necessities of life. That was fine with me.

Now he goes outside but for a short while (he's a great hunter) and will either come back when called or when he is hungry. So I guess he knows he has a safe place to stay.

To start getting us used to the idea, Herself has brought a blanket he lies on inside the house for us to smell. We sniff it a lot and then walk away.

About two weeks ago, Spike took a walk outside and stared at us through the front door. Gracie reacted like a lovesick teenager, chirping and flirting. Me, not so much. Just looked.

I have seen Spike a few times through the front door when he is outside. I hissed once when we were almost nose-to-nose through the glass (guess it was a bit too close for my liking). Gracie still behaves like a brazen hussy.

Spike has made it known that he would like to come inside the house. Now when he goes outside, he plays for a short while and then comes to the front door to stare at us. He also looks in the back window (into the kitchen) and cries.

What should we do?

Hoping for an answer,

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cat Fights in the Family: For Buddy the Pressure is TOO Much

Dear Greyce,

I'm afraid our holiday season is not a happy one and we are asking for your help. Simply put, our family has fallen apart!

Let me start at the beginning.

About four years ago we settled into a household as a family, that family being Patches (a charming female) who was already an adult and moi, Buddy, just nine weeks old; we live with Herself. Patches is the relaxed and friendly one and I am the more nervous (but friendly) one. And we bonded well.

Three months ago things changed, with the arrival of a new kitten called Max. He started off in a spare room and then was gradually introduced to us. We put up with him.

And then . . . all hell broke loose.

Patches went to the vet to get her teeth cleaned. Upon her return she smelled different. Herself kept Patches in a separate room to adjust to being home. We had a little scuffle. I should mention that on two other occasions many years ago, when Patches came home smelling different I had the same reaction. But after we were separated for a day or so, things got back to normal. Not so this time.

I was sent to the basement (my favourite hang out).  About 10 days after the scuffle, I howled to be let up
but as soon as I saw Patches I attacked her. Back to the basement for me. Another two weeks, another incident (even worse, but I'll spare you the details).

We have been eating on either side of a door that is open a tiny bit. We are fine until we finish our meals. Then I get an angry look on my face and Herself has to close the door.

So all in all, I see my former best friend as my enemy. I think the pressure of the new guy, Max, plus Patches dentistry-at-the-vet smell has been too much for me to bear.

I have been examined by the vet and pronounced healthy. I'm on a food supplement to relax me; it is called Zylcene and is made from a milk protein. And there are four Feliway diffusers at different locations in the house. We have three cats trees and lots of toys. Herself believes she has everything dealt with, in terms of anxiety-reduction measures.

So here is the current situation: Patches and Max are now a tight twosome. They get one area and I get another and then we swap daily  on a time-share basis. I'm okay with Max as well although he makes me a little nervous (being an energetic kitten).

Herself thinks she has broken up our happy family and is beside herself with guilt.

How to we get to be a real family again?

Anxious and anxiously awaiting your reply,

Monday, November 12, 2012

Your Advice Wanted

Dear Readers,

The worst has happened! There is snow, lots and lots of snow where I live. One day it was lovely and the next, the temperatures had dropped and there was a lot of cold, white stuff on the ground. Too cold for my paws! Irritating to my furs! And so I've been cuddled up inside a fleece blanket for a very long time.

I am now resigned to the idea of winter (likely a long one, too), and will get off my blanket and start dealing out advice again. And to that end, I need your help.

I have been writing this blog for some time and it occurs to me that it needs an update is in order. I'm going to trim back on and re-do the labels, try to figure out some way to make reference articles (like the ones I do on how humans are to play properly) stand out, and generally give everything a pruning and update. Any suggestions you have would be welcome.

Thank you,

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Catalyst Council Gets The Cat's Whiskers

Dear Readers,

Imagine calling this Cat's Whiskers!
I've decided that anytime I want to share news about a good resource, I'm going to give it the Cat's Whiskers - inspired by a photo send by an admirer. Yep, it's amazing what Themselves can call plants.

This time the Cat's Whisker's designation goes to the e-newsletter published by the Catalyst Council (, a very reputable organization whose mandate is to promote our welfare. There are all kinds of links and tips. Have a look at a recent video called Cat Carriers: Friend Not Foe.

I've often refurred friends to their handbook, Categorical Care, which can be downloaded from the site.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Three Black Cats Who Don't Get Along: Progress Report

Dear Greyce,

Things have improved since we last contacted you.

Lucky Little Guy's outdoor kennel has been moved closer to where the rest of us hang out in the backyard. And Themselves think this is a great idea. We have all been out in the yard quite a bit. 

Lucky and I have been having a lot of outdoor conversations. I mutter, moan and then charge his kennel. He stops about 2 feet away, turns his back and walks away; then he watches me. 

However I've now been mounting Black Berry - often in front of Lucky. What's with that? 

Back to my relationship with Lucky, we have had some under-the-door paw play when we are indoors. Unfortunately a loud noise scared us both and so we stopped.

Lucky has been putting on weight. Will vigourous workouts help trim his size? Using a food ball has helped, somewhat. I think he really misses running free and climbing trees. Herself did take him out and play chase - which he loved. Does he need more of that?

So Greyce, when do we take the next step in re-integration?

That's all for now, 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Re-Introducing Two Cats When One of Them Has Been Away: Chloe and Kim

Dear Greyce,

Chloe (left) and Kim
I am having a problem with my litter mate, Chloe. Since I've been ill (and stayed at the vet clinic for 3 days), she doesn't want to have anything to do with me. I admit that when I returned home, I really smelled different - so much so that I needed a bath. 

Herself has done a good job of swapping our stuff (food bowls, water bowls, litter trays, toys) so we can re-incorporate a group smell. We swap location several times a day and we do see each other when passing from space to space. However should Chloe see me, she hisses if I come too close and growls which frightens me. Recently when Chloe started to hiss, Herself hisses back or talks to her and then Chloe is nicer to me. But basically, we felines stare at each other nervously. Chloe won't relax until I'm out of sight. You see, I don't tend to run away. I will watch, follow her and try to play.

We can only be in the same room if we are in our carrying crates - which we hate. Did I mentioned that we HATE cat crates (we have large, wire ones if you are interested). We meow LOUDLY when we are in them. Now Chloe gets a crate and I stay free and then we swap.

Let me tell you a bit about us in general.

We are almost two years old (spayed) and have been together forever. Until I went to the vet clinic, we were best friends. 

I am very gentle, playful and loving. I'm a good hunter and am always the first to try something new: the first to watch, to sniff, to greet you when you come to the door. I'm curious so I like to supervise household chores.

Chloe is playful and somewhat friendly. She loves to explore but hunting is not her strong point. She favours dark places and enjoys cuddles. She is not keen on guests or other animals, though she does tolerate the ones in our household. She loves to play with the rabbits who live with us. She will attack if she hears a loud noise.

We live in a house with three human adults (Herself and Herself's folks) along with three rabbits, two guinea pigs and two fish. We prefurr Herself. Next in line is Herself's Dad. Herself's Mom is not our cup of tea nor are we hers - though she will feed us from time to time. We are fine with the rabbits (as mentioned, Chloe likes to play with them) and ignore the guinea pigs. We do, admittedly, try to catch the fish.

Our usual daily routine is as follows.

We get breakfast when Herself wakes up, unless we are really starving when we will wake her up instead. We eat fish-flavoured wet food (when it is cool out) and dry food (when in it hot out) and we are a bit overweight.

In the morning we get cuddles and a bit of play for about 10 minutes. 

When Herself is at work and if we are hungry, Herself's folks feed us because they are home during the day. We tend to stay indoors, but if our mood and the weather cooperate we go out into the garden. We used to walk about on the leash but are now free to go by ourselves.

When Herself comes home, we get play and cuddle sessions for several hours.

We get dinner in the early evening. Sometimes if we are lucky, we manage to beg a bit of chicken from Herself's folks when they are eating (though Herself discourages this practice).

Usually we sleep either with Herself in her bedroom or somewhere else around the house (like Herself's Folk's bedroom). Of course, now, we don't sleep together because Chloe can't stand me.

We have a variety of toys including a Catit Play Circuit, toy mice with very long tails, sponge balls and pompons. In addition we have a low (two-level) cat tree with hammock in the family room and a much higher, multi-level cat tree in Herself's bedroom. We were used to harnesses and, as mentioned, have wire cat crates.

I would like Chloe to be friends with me again. How can I make this happen?



Dear Kim,

The experience you describe is not that unusual - unfortunately. The typical scenario is that one of two dear cat companions goes to the vet's for an extended period, comes home smelling funny and all hell breaks loose. The cat who was at the clinic (you, Kim, in this case) comes home expecting that all will be well. Of course it may take a few hours to fully relax in comfortable surroundings, but that's about it. However his or her companion (that's Chloe in this case) gets one look - or should I say, one sniff - and it's as if an intruder is invading. The bonds of a strong friendship suddenly shatter!

This reaction has something to do with the way we cats are made. As you know, we have a very good sense of smell and that is a very important part of our world. We need to incorporate any new smells into our territory in order to feel safe - otherwise it could be a sign of danger (like a predator or rival coming to take our food). While we have excellent peripheral vision (great for seeing movement especially at dusk and dawn when our natural predatory instincts come to the fore), our direct and close-up vision leaves more to be desired. And this means we react more to smell than to the sight of our furry friend. And once that association between strange smell and furry friend is made, it is more difficult to break.

Couple this with the fact that we cats are by nature solitary creatures and as adolescent felines we tend to go our own way. Our kind come together in feral cat colonies or in households because there are abundant resources (food, water, safe sleeping areas, etc.) and so, in many cases, they are able to get along without needing to be competitive. But should something happen to break that bond, there is no genetic imperative urging us felines to repair it. And so we revert to our usual sense of hospitality at the sign of intrusion - to do everything we can to get that intruder out of our face and our home.

If we were dogs the situation would be different. If something happens to one dog that disturbs the harmony of even a two-dog pack, they will work it out in the interests of keeping the group intact.

In your household, this is exacerbated by Chloe's natural purrsonality which doesn't take well to other cats (or to other beings not related to the household) and is somewhat skittish. In fact her hisses at you are indications of fear rather than of aggression. She doesn't recognize you and is afraid. The hiss is a warning to back off and that if you don't, she will feel compelled to attack. You, on the other hand, are wondering what the fuss is all about.

Have no fear, Kim, there are things that can be done to help restore household harmony. But they need to be done NOW and consistently. No fooling around with trying this out for a few days and suddenly deciding to take a day off. Otherwise you will be back to square one. And the less consistent you are and the more tardy you are, the less your chances of restoring household peace.

Let's start by looking at what you have done and how it works for you.

1. You stay separated from each other for the most part. This is excellent because it gives each of you a sense of safety and security. I want you to stay separated (except for periods under supervision which I will describe) until the two of you are completely back an even keel. S-l-o-w-l-y we will work on the two of you being able to be in the same space at the same time. But for now, that will only be for short periods and only when both of you can be directly supervised by a human.

2. You switch spaces periodically (at least daily) and that, too, is excellent because it allows each of you to fully incorporate your full territory as shared - rather then reinforcing the establishment of separate kingdoms. Both of you can sniff what the other has left and mark it over by rubbing it with your cheeks. This is excellent (and for that reason, I don't think there is a need to continue switching you food dishes, water bowls and litter boxes - because both of you have access to those areas at different times.)

3. There is, however, a problem when the switch occurs - for if Chloe sees you when the transfer happens, she is far from amused. I want to work on that (as I will describe, below).

4. You have a bit of supervised time together to see how you can get used to each other. You haven't told me how long the session is. And I don't have a clear idea of what causes the session to end - discomfort? aggression? your purrson thinking that enough is enough? Mainly you stare at each other and frankly this is not a good sign and requires an immediate remedy. This is the area we need to work on, a lot. Again I will give you the details below.

5. You have tried crates (at least crating one of you). While it is a great idea, it needs some further refinement for success.

6. You have an abundance of solitary play toys and a bit of play and lots of cuddles from Herself. Yet you, Kim, just told me by e-mail that you are starting to pull your hind fur (a possible sign of stress). There is room for improvement here. Again, see below.

My Plan for You

1. Continue maintaining separate spaces in which to live (that is, spend most of your time). You must be in separate spaces when you cannot be DIRECTLY supervised by a responsible purrson. ("Directly" means that the purrson is in the room with you and carefully watching.) This arrangement must continue for some time. Check in from time and time and we can figure out when you are ready to be together all the time.

2. Continue time-sharing the whole territory, that is, switching spaces daily. Note that the number of times a day that the switch occurs is not as important as the fact of switching daily. Tell Herself not to stress out about how often in a day she can do the switch. Sometimes we cats tell our purrsons that we want to switch (by meowing or scratching at a door) and that is a good a signal as any - as long as there is a purrson who can respond to your request. Otherwise, switching at a consistent time of the day (say, every late afternoon) will help you establish it as part of your routine and give you a sense of security.

From the house plans you sent me, I understand that there is no door (or other barrier) at the stairs that connect the two floors of your home.

Would it be possible to erect a barrier of some sort? In cases such as yours, some people have made a door out of small-hole lattice or mesh to separate the areas; it allows for visual contact (eventually, though the lower bit is covered by cardboard at first) but not physical contact. (Barriers that are less than full height can sometimes be scaled by cats, so are not recommended unless both of you have difficulty climbing - in which case a tall baby gate might suffice.)

The only reason for asking that you think about this is that it would allow each of you access to a fair-sized area: one of you could have the bedrooms and bathroom upstairs while the other has the family room, kitchen and conservatory. Now if it is not possible that is fine. It is just a thought.

Note also that it will be a while (read months not weeks) before it will be safe for you and Chloe to share space unsupervised. Please do NOT tempt fate!

3. Consider a different method of switching spaces.  If Chloe still gets upset when she see you, Kim, when you are switching spaces, ask Herself to try a different tack. For example, say she is planning on moving you from upstairs to downstairs and you are currently in Herself's room upstairs: Have her move you to either the Bathroom or the Folk's Room (both upstairs) and close the door. Then bring Chloe to Herself's Room and close the door. Then take you downstairs. Then open up whatever upstairs space for Chloe is desired. That way, neither of you get to see the other when spaces are switched. Yes this is more work for Herself  BUT it lessens the stress on you two felines.

4. Have daily supervised time together. I am not clear about how often and for how long you get to be in one another's presence. And from our various e-mails it is not clear whether or not one of you (Kim) continues to stay in the wire crate when this occurs. So bear with me as I go through various items.

First and foremost, being in each other's presence should only happen for short periods of time. You want it to be short and sweet so you both get the idea that this is a positive experience. The usual course is to start with a few minutes (one or more times daily). S-l-o-w-l-y work up to 20 minutes or more by increasing the length of a session by 30 to 60 seconds, each time. If you have several such sessions in a day, do NOT increase by more than 2 minutes total in a day; otherwise you could have a setback where one of you becomes overwhelmed.

Should that happen, end the session immediately and make sure there is a good break (of at least several hours) before trying again; AND shorten the next period together by a few minutes and start working up again.  In other words, you go at the pace of the cat who is having the most discomfort (sounds like Chloe but could be either of you).

So let's go over the details of how to do this.

Keeping A Safe Distance: When you are together, it is best to start out (and you are starting out) in such a way that you cannot get close to one another physically. This will keep each of you safe and help build confidence for both of you. In other words, you start out at what is considered a 'safe' distance from each other (a distance at which neither of you reacts negatively to the presence of the other).

You need to be confined or tethered so that neither of you can get close enough to the other to cause discomfort or possible harm. Since you used to have harnesses, would it be possible to have each of you on leash and harness for these sessions? If Herself could recruit another purrson to help, this could be quite easily done. One person would hold the leash for one cat. And both of you cats could be kept at a distance by controlling the leashes. Use a large room if at all possible, and start by being the greatest distance from each other than is possible - while making sure both of you are in the room, of course. 

If it is not possible to enlist the help of another human, then Herself is on her own. I would suggest then, that she harness and tether the cat who is most likely to approach the other. I believe that is you, Kim. At least this way she can encourage you to stay (relatively) in one place and give Chloe lots of space.

Now, if the harness and leash thing is not going to work, you can resort to those wire crates. But again I suggest that only one of you be crated (as you have said) and the sessions be kept very short because your tolerance for confinement is limited. There is no point in keeping you in the crate past the time you can handle it. In fact, it is much better to reduce the time you are confined in the crate to at least a minute BELOW your tolerance limit; that way, the experience remains a positive one.

It seems to me that right now, you may be in a position that both of you are not confined and not tethered when you are meeting and Herself is serving as referee. I'm not confident in this approach at this time. But if Herself finds those methods too onerous AND believes she can keep you apart (without leash or crate) then she is in a better position to judge (because she is on the scene). However do urge her to follow the rest of the instructions below.

Keeping the Sessions Positive: I recommend the use of play and/or treats when you are together - even though you are quite a distance apart. You need to have positive associations with being together.

Play: How about some toys that engage you? I know you have mice and balls. How about having Herself throw one your balls or mice in a direction AWAY from your feline companion, so you can chase it? (Skilled humans can throw 2 toys - one for each cat so you both can go madly off in directions away from one another.

I strongly recommend a fishing pole type toy because it can be set in motion, catch you attention and sharpen your hunting skills. It is in excellent work out and fabulous distraction tool. Consult my entry, Three Black Cats Who Don't Get Along (posted on August 14, 2012) and scroll down to the last third of the entry which deals all about how to play with humans properly and the kinds of toys to use.
for information on the range of such toys (and examples) as well as how best to play with them (with your purrson).

How about introducing a cardboard carton in which, for example, Chloe can sit/hide when things get a bit much?

Treats: A food treat can just be some of your regular kibble if you prefurr or it can be something special that you really like. In moderation, I would prefurr the use of a delicious food treat - something special that is only given out during these sessions together because that would encourage you to participate. It may mean cutting back a bit on your regular feeding, in order not to gave weight excessively because I know that at least one of you have weight issues. For that reason, treats are my second-level prefurrence (compared to play which is my first).

Studies have shown that cats who eat together are better able to be together. So that is why I suggest that a portion of your feed could be saved and used at this time. If both of you will eat in each others' presence it is a good sign. Note: I'm not suggesting that you have your complete evening meal together, yet. Instead try a small portion while being kept at a safe distance from each other. For example, being given one or two treats at a time (with an upper limit for the entire session). Try this option several times to see if it will work. It may only work for one of you, and that's fine too - especially at the start.

Knowing When to Intervene: I am concerned that the two of you engage in staring contests. These look harmless from a human point of view. In actual fact I call them 'the silent cat fight' because the humans around think that all is well but you two know that, in fact, you are exchanging all sorts of threats. No wonder you are both nervous!

Because it is so easy for humans to misread what we cats are saying, it is essential that Herself master cat signalling (cat talk). That way, she will know when one of you is up to no good, or has an level of aggression that is about to surface AND then she can nip it in the bud.

Have her consult any and all of the following:
Some books - 

Know Your Cat: An Owner’s Guide to Cat Behavior (by Bruce Fogel).
Understanding Cat Behavior (by Roger Tabor).
100 Ways to Better Understand Your Cat (by Roger Tabor).

Entries from Amy Shojai's blog -
This will help Herself understand what the two of you are saying to each other. Then she can intervene at appropriate times.

Appropriate Intervention: There are several ways to intervene.
a) Distraction through play. Just follow the advice I've given on play, above, by consulting that entry about Three Black Cats..

b) Distraction through food treats. Just follow the advice I've already given on treats.

If these two (above) methods are not working in a particular instance, then use one or more of the following:

c) Distraction through one, sharp "No".

If that doesn't work go to the next level below.

d) Distraction through a cat separator (as described in the "Three Black Cats" entry I mentioned above).
The separator is used to either break up staring - if other methods don't work - by putting a portable, temporary barrier you cannot see through between the two of you. It can also be used to keep the two of you apart, when one of you approaches the other and that other cat becomes uncomfortable. It is very inexpensive to make (even cardboard will do) and very easy to use.

e) Removing one of you from the scene without rough handling or sharp words or eye contact. Simply be removed in a matter-of-fact way and be done with it. Cool off in a separate room by yourself. Don't attempt another session for at least an hour or longer.

Note that I have not said to hiss back, to touch roughly (or even at all), to yell, to spray with water or any of the countless so-called disciplinary measures often used by humans on cats. I say this for two reasons: 1) We cats respond much better to positive rather than negative discipline. It's much easier to deliver and to learn from; and 2) The two of you (and likely Herself as well) are stressed as it is. Negative discipline will just increase anxiety levels, making it far more difficult to learn anything useful. I hope you get the message.

AFTER you have increased the time you can comfortably be in each other presence for about 20 minutes, start to decrease the distance. Start by moving about one foot closer. And then proceed in six-inch increments every day or so - as long as you both handle the decrease well. If not, go back a foot and have several more sessions before trying again.

5. Separate Play Sessions

You are all under a great deal of stress. The best way to mitigate this is through play sessions. You are at a stage where solitary play is no longer sufficient (if it ever was) to lower your arousal levels sufficiently. You MUST have interactive play. In the absence of a cat partner, your partner MUST be a human. Again, please refer to the entry I've already mentioned (Three Black Cats) and carefully read over and implement the section on play. To begin with, I'd like Herself to engage each of you separately (and that means when you are NOT in the same room together) for an interactive play session, every day for at least 10 to 15 minutes (or until you tire out). This is in addition to whatever interactive play takes place when the three of you are together.

And Now . . .

Okay, you now have your marching orders:

Get Herself to do that homework on cat signalling - pronto.

Amend your time together so that you are kept at a safe distance and have plenty of positive distraction to make it a pleasant experience. Keep it short! - and then lengthen as confidence builds.

Remain together only when you can be directly supervised. Continue to time-share space, with separate quarters for each - for now.

Start those daily, private, interactive play sessions with Herself.

Do keep in touch and tell me how things are going.

Purrs and whisker kisses,

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Can Stray or Feral Cat Be Adopted?

Dear Greyce,

It's Chocho again. As you know, I am a rescued cat (just past being a kitten really because I'm, at most, one year old). Because of my injury I was rescued and had my leg amputated. And I'm now in an apartment with an older cat (Shushi) who doesn't like me at all. And I know you have already written about how to get Shushi used to me (in your blog entry just prior to this one), so I won't bother you with that.

My question for you is:

What are the chances of me becoming comfortable living in a household? My purrson read that it is impossible to tame a feral cat (unless a very, very young kitten) and so she is worried. She wonders if I should stay in an apartment with her or she should find me a home with a yard or some other arrangement.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cats Trying to Get Used to Each Other: Shushi and Chocho

Dear Greyce,

I am a very beautiful, 7-year-old, spayed female who is used to being queen of the castle (apartment, actually). I am independent and not overly affectionate; but I do enjoy having my head and back stroked.

I tend to be reactive (that is, a bit jumpy).

Until recently, I've lived with Herself, Herself's Mother and Herself's Brother (the latter who doesn't have much to do with my care). From time to time we have had feline guests because Herself is involved in cat rescue. But now is another matter entirely.

Less than two month ago, a feline stranger arrived. He was in rough shape because he needed to have his leg amputated. Apparently he was a stray and was found wandering about the streets minus a front paw with a bone sticking out! Of course surgery was essential. And now he is in my home and expects to stay there!

Chocho (his name) is less than a year old. He is a black shorthair and will soon be neutered. He has his own room (with food, water, toys and litter box) and mostly tends to hide during the day. Oh, he will come out if there is food but will leave at the first sign of movement from a purrson. At night he plays, eats and uses the toilet. He loves food (wet, dry or treats) - unlike myself who is very particular. And he is talkative and becoming more so.

He is frightened of people. Herself knows this so she talks to him softly and leaves a radio on to keep in company when he is alone in the room; purrhaps this will help him get used to human sounds. At first he didn't want to be touched. But now he lets Herself stroke his back. She thinks it is because she put a Feliway diffuser in his room and that has helped him become more comfortable.

Everything was fine until Herself decided that I should meet Chocho. At first, we were separated by a mesh door which separates the apartment from the balcony. I am only allowed out on the balcony when I am supervised, so I am safe. When we got to the point that we no longer reacted to the sight of one another, Herself and the vet decided it was a good time to open the door and let us have more interaction.

When that happened, I stayed where I was. I was not about to go and greet the intruder! Chocho approached, chirping at me like I was a long-lost friend. Well, I would have none of that. I crouched and started to flick my tail. Then I hissed at him and so he retreated (thank goodness).

Herself decided to arrange these meetings between the two of us, every morning and every evening. I continue to hiss and he got more anxious.
Now he knows that if he stays away from me, we can both just lie down and look at each other - for up to 20 minutes - before retreat.

Well Greyce, the problem is this. I read your blog entry about introductions. And I don't want to use the cat carrier method of getting us in closer contact. Either does Chocho. We both HATE the carrier!

What do you advise?


Dear Shushi,

It may be difficult for you to understand, Shushi, but I do think that Chocho wants to get to know you better. He is probably attracted to your beauty, in addition to the fact that you are the only other one of his kind in this home. I'm sure he could use the guidance of an older woman to help him adjust to his new situation.

At present just keep on with what you are doing. Don't try to do more. You can do less (that is, revert to staying behind the screen door) if either of you becomes more anxious.

My reasons are as follows:

First, Shushi, you are a reactive cat, which means you get jumpy. You are also much older than Chocho. And you are the resident cat (that is, the first cat to live here). That means that any introduction to a new cat must go at the pace at which you are comfortable.

Chocho is younger and thus more resilient (even though he has had a hard life). He is also eager to make friends with you which suggests he will be willing to take you on your terms, as long as everyone understands what those terms are. 

Now Shushi, you are 7. The general rule is that it can take about one month for every year of the oldest, resident cat's age, to properly introduce another cat. You have several months to go!

Second, the purrson who needs to understand this the most is Herself, who is likely not used to the subtle ways of cat communication. When the two of you lie down and stare at each other, you are speaking quite clearly and loudly - just in a way that humans cannot hear. I believe your staring matches are likely a subtle form of aggression with the loser of the contest retreating at the end of the battle. Of course there is no fight, so the human thinks everything is going well.

I have assigned some homework on cat signalling for Herself - namely reviewing blog entries by another purrson, Amy Shojai, who knows a lot about cats. She has a series on cat communication for humans starting with  (you can click on the rest from this entry - eyes, tails, etc.). And it will help Herself understand what you and Chocho are saying to one another.

Third, whatever the current situation, Chocho is likely to be neutered soon. He will be under stress with the operation and recovery. You want him pretty much fully recovered before we advance the introduction process. In fact, I'm sure that for the first few days, he might be most comfortable just confined to his room, with visits from Herself, of course. So for now, let's just hold steady at the level you are at comfortably now.

Fourth, the only thing I want to introduce now is the concept of distraction. I would prefurr that we break up these staring matches because I would rather that one of you not intimidate the other. Instead I'd like you to realize that being in the presence of the other might be quite pleasant. AND I would also like Herself to use a method which will help Chocho keep at a respectful distance from you, that is, a distance at which you feel comfortable. Usually, to keep you both at a decent distance safely, I recommend the use of leash and harness, or cat carrier, or some kind of separating device. From what you have explained to me (privately), I do not think we can try these right now. Both of you are so skittish (and detest carriers) that I think they would stress you out even more. And that would not be a good idea.

So what I recommend is distraction. When one or both of you is distracted, you don't have time to stare at the other because you are busy doing something else. It will also keep you at a safe distance from each other.

New Rules for You

Rule One: Choose Distractors That You Like
- a favourite toy to keep you occupied. Possibly introduced or thrown near you (and away from the other cat). If both of you like toys, be sure that each of you has a toy nearby so you don't want to go after the other's one.
- Herself using a fishing-pole type toy either in the air or along the ground.  Is there another purrson who could help keep one of you occupied while Herself plays with the other?
- placing a food treat near you (one treat at a time). I know this will work for you Chocho but not you, Shushi. And that's fine. Purrhaps there is something else that will interest you (like a toy), Shushi. And if not, purrhaps you will just be relieved that Chocho is occupied by something else so you don't have to be so watchful.

Rule Two: Use a Cat Separator If  Things Get Out of Hand
Once Herself has mastered cat communication, she will be away of any signs either of you are giving that you are uncomfortable with the process or ready to start a fight. She can intervene with distraction - in advance - so that you can retreat safely and still end things positively.

Suppose one of you is about to get up to no good. One of you is approaching the other, and the other is showing signs of discomfort. Or there are yowls. First try distraction. Second Herself can try one short, sharp, "No". If those fail, use a Cat Separator.

A Cat Separator (described in my recent entry, 3 Black Cats Who Don't Get Along) can keep you apart and guide one of you to safety. (Note: In that entry I suggest Corplast but I'm not sure Corplast is available where you live. Strong cardboard is also suitable for a Cat Separator.)

Rule Three: Keep Sessions Short. Work Up Slowly.
Keep the sessions short and work up very slowly. Sessions that are too long can be stressful and can result in a build up on negative behaviour. No one needs that. A session of 20 minutes (which is your current time) is sufficient right now. Try to incorporate distraction. If it works nicely, Herself can s-l-o-w-l-y increase the session lengths by no more than one-minute per day (that is, Day 1 - morning 20 minutes, evening 20 minutes; Day 2 - morning 21 minutes, evening 21 minutes, Day 3 - morning 22 minutes, evening 22 minutes). But frankly lengthening the sessions would be better left until after Chocho has been neutered (unless his neutering is delayed) - because his recovery will take a bit of time and you will have to re-start with shorter sessions again, just so the two of you get used to everything once more.

Rule Four: Stop A Session At the First Sign of Discomfort - Even If Your Time Is Not Up
If either of you shows signs of discomfort and distraction is not working, the session MUST end immediately. Also there may come a point where the length of the session is making you weary. At that point, cut back on the length of the session by a few minutes (more if needed) and slowly increase again. Don't worry, this is the recipe for success. And going slowly is better than going too quickly.

Rule Five: Make Sure Your Purrson Relaxes
You are fortunate to live with a kind and caring purrson who wants the best for both of you. But I fear she may been so concerned about what is happening between the two of you that she is becoming stressed as well. Remind her that before she starts any session with the two of you, she should remind herself to relax by taking slow, deep breaths (10 of them is a good number). And any time she feels herself becoming tense (or one of you is tensing up) she should remember this slow, deep breathing and do it again. This will help keep her breathing and posture relaxed (and these are important cues for your cats that assure you that all is well).

I have asked you (privately) to provide me with more information on your routines and habits, as well as the way your place is furnished and laid out. When I receive it, I will advise you on ways of reducing your stress (even when you are not in the same room). Such stress reduction (and confidence building) is an important part of the overall action plan.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Monday, August 20, 2012

Molly Cat Pulls Out Her Fur

Dear Greyce,

I am a 13-year-old spayed female with a long but thin grey and white fur coat. I have been a fur-puller - hind quarters are my specialty - for several years. I pull and eat my fur and then vomit up hairballs. And it  is getting worse.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Cat Who Eats Too Much: Kitty's Story

Dear Greyce,

I'm an 11-year old, long-haired beauty with a problem: I want to eat all the time and it is getting me into a lot of trouble.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Queen Nina Accepts the Feline Newcomer

Dearest Precious Greyce,

Our latest developments are the greatest (see entries of June 17 and July 30, 2012 for background), even though they were triggered by Asjas being in heat. When that happened, I became extremely grumpy. So Themselves decided to do the deed:  isolate Asjas completely once again and have her spayed.
The operation got her all quiet and subdued for a grand total of 3 days. During this period Themselves scrambled the kingdom a bit. Asjas moved into the main bedroom with Himself. I slept on the couch with Herself.

This worked wonders to get Asjas into the household routine. She is now adjusted to the day/night hours dictated by Themselves and does not keep the entire household awake at night while chasing and slamming toys into walls anymore.

However those three days have passed and she is back to her chatty, chirruping self. So much for peace and quiet during the day! 

To Themselves' surprise, my mood has lightened so that I'm back to normal as I've gotten used to the idea of having the interloper around. I have progressed towards accepting her to such an extent that on the weekend Themselves decided to let Asjas roam the house, while they kept a watchful eye and allowed us to control our interactions with less interference from Themselves. It was wonderful.

Saturday morning I followed Asjas everywhere and made sure I knew exactly what she was up to. She teased me a few times and I hissed and chased her a little (not really showing any intent to do real bodily harm), And after a while I realised that as long as I react she is going to keep teasing me; so I stopped reacting. This led to her giving up trying to entice me into a chasing game. 

Instead she occupied her time with moving her toys from her previous room to her new one. Themselves could not believe their eyes when they realised that she had moved all the toys she could over the barrier from her old room to her new one! 

We were both totally exhausted that afternoon. So Themselves decided to give us both the peace of mind to go to sleep and isolated us again for a few hours. They also still keep us apart during the night and when they are not at home.
On Sunday things went even better. I had calmed down enough to allow Asjas to roam freely without following her all the time. I simply went back to my old routine and only payed attention to her when she entered a room I was in. I even played along with the chasing game a few times.

We spent a few seconds both lying on Themselves' bed; but when Herself ran to get the camera, the fire ants in Asjas' fur stirred again and she gave chase. 

(Herself and Asjas even have a chasing game of their own in the mornings: Asjas will stalk Herself while she brushes her teeth, give her a light touch and turn around and run while Herself gives chase; then Asjas turns around and chases her all the way back to the bathroom, just to start the entire game again.)

That afternoon Herself toyed with the tigers' whiskers a bit more, by allowing both of us to be present while she plated our food. (We have been eating about 2 feet apart without the barrier for a while now.) As I was telling and showing Herself just exactly how hungry I was and how long it has been since I had anything to eat, Asjas entered and started telling and showing her as well.

Herself could not believe her eyes. We were both so fixated on getting our message across and getting her to hurry up that there was no sign of hostility towards each other.

 Precious Greyce, Themselves are totally convinced that we would not have made this progress without your advice.

With all the respect and a thankful heart,
Queen Nina


Your Majesty,

Your letter says it all. And I am purring with pleasure.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Three Black Cats Who Don't Get Along

Dear Greyce,

We are three black cats who don't get along. It's complicated: You see, some of us do and some of us don't - some of the time. So let's begin at the beginning.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Victory over Cat Urine and Intercat Aggression: Minou's Marvellous Makeover

Dear Greyce,

It has been a few months since we got your advice. (See entry The Urine Marking and Cat Fighting Combo  of April 5, 2012). As you will recall, I as peeing a lot, fighting with Cassie, my feline companion, and Themselves were about to deal with a kitchen renovation and add to another potential tail-grabber to the family. It's been a busy time.

Despite your advice to board us during the kitchen renovation, Himself was adamant that we stay in the basement by day and be given free reign by night to check out the day's progress. We made it through three weeks of demolition and reconstruction with only one (yes, just one!) peeing incident in the basement and one peeing incident in the kitchen when the contractor left one of his drop cloths on the floor. He said this has happened before, so no doubt we smelled the other animals and felt the need to mark our territory. And that is why I don't think that particular incident should even count.

Herself ordered the Anti -Icky-Poo and the pre-treatment on-line to remove the residue of any previous cleaners used and well as residual urine. She cleaned every spot we have ever peed on and it seems to have worked as we have not peed in any of these places since! Well worth the $60 they paid, especially compared to the hundreds they previously spent on cleaners. 

Himself also removed some of the trim and baseboards I had peed on, cleaned and sprayed underneath them, then replaced them with new pieces.

At the front entrance where we always peed repeatedly he did the same. And for good measure they placed a SSSCAT sprayer that has a motion sensor and scares me away with a spray of air if I get too close.

Himself has been keeping on top of our litter box cleanliness and Herself now consistently buys the litter which has worked well for us and minimized odours (Catit Multi-Cat Litter).

There are fewer places for me to corner Cassie and fight because of the new kitchen layout, as well as Themselves giving us each our own eating spot. And they separated our water on its own, away from our food.

They are still using Feliway on each of the two floors we are allowed on and this seems to help. We are still barred from the bedrooms.

Overall things are pretty good. Even new Baby Himself hasn't caused us any noteworthy stress. And all of the visitors who come to adore him give us lots of extra love. It is nice having Herself home everyday, too.

So thanks again for the great advice.You seriously saved me!

With gratitude,


Dear Minou,

I am purring with delight at the thought of a much happier household for all of you and most particularly for Cassie and yourself. Keep up the good work!

And readers, please note that I added links to the products Minou mentioned because inquiring cats will want to know.

Whisker kisses,

Monday, July 30, 2012

Update on Nina and Asjas: Kitten to Cat Introduction Process

Dearest Precious Greyce,

You will recall that I summoned your assistance to deal with the relationship between my companion, Asjas, and myself, went from bad to worse. (See Introducing Kitten to Scared Cat: Nina & Asjas - June 17, 2012)

Things are improving between Asjas and myself. We have reached a point where one of us is able to explore the rest of the house while the other is kept busy in another room behind a closed door.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Celeste the Cat Deals with Construction Noise

Hi Greyce,

You've already given me recent information on what to do with my peeing at the edge of my litter box (see Peeing Outside the Box: Celeste's Problem) and now I need your advice on another matter. My neighbourhood is headed for a lot of construction activity on the street in front of my house, and I'm concerned about how to handle it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cat Pees Over Side of Box: Celeste's Problem

Hello Greyce,

My photo says it all. I am lovely and quite beautiful. Frankly I bring joy to my folks - 2 adult humans with whom I live in a quiet household.  I am a 5-year-old spayed and declawed calico only-cat.

My problem is with my litter box(es). I sometimes pee over the side, rather than in the box. And this is bothering my folks.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Re-integrating Cat Friends at War: Lily and Misha

Dear Greyce,

We are lovely young cats, ages 1 and 2, who have been close friends since the younger (Misha) arrived at age 2 months. For the past few months our relationship has faltered badly.

It all began when Misha spent 2 days at the vet's being spayed. When she returned, I didn't recognize her; she smelled funny and wore a stocking (to prevent her from picking out her stitches). I was scared of her and became aggressive. She was scared by my behaviour. I'll spare you the details, Greyce, but it was awful.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Weaning a Kitten From Biting Humans: Sir Winnie's Story

Dear Greyce,

This must be your time to advise Siamese-cross cats, for I noticed that I'm not the only one of us to want your advice. My problem is that I bite people.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Introducing Kitten to Scared Cat: Nina and Asjas

Dear Greyce,

 I am a Thai look-alike (that's Applehead Siamese-cross in North American) of 8 years, spayed and of the female purrsuasion. From the time I was a kitten, I  developed an extremely strong bond with both Himself and Herself and have ruled a household in which Themselves have catered to my every whim. That was the life! However . . . those days are over! An interloper has arrived and I am at a loss about what to do.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Now I Wear A Dress: A New Elizabethan Cat Collar

Dear Friends,

As luck would have it, I had to have a lumpectomy to remove a suspicious-looking growth above my left flank. Now I have a shaved patch and a long incision closed up by staples. I do hope to regain my fur before the summer is over.

Now I Wear A Dress
Until I have my staples removed (in about 10 days) I have to wear a dress. It is a soft, fabric version of an Elizabethan collar.

Some of you might remember those horrid, hard plastic things that limited out vision so we bumped into furniture and make are whiskers unusable. They were miserable! My friend, Ben, calls them cones of shame.

Now, thank goodness, most times we can get away with this new kind. I call it a 'dress'. I have freer movement but cannot get at my incision. Themselves have to groom me because I cannot look after my furs.

I have mastered a new kind of walking by hopping up on each stair and then walking along its complete width before taking the next step. It takes time but it works.

Alas I am not allowed out to explore the front or back yard for fear I will get dirt in my wound. But I am camping out by the screen door in hopes that my sheer will can cause it to open.

I will keep you posted,

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Quelling Anxiety in Cat Feeding Frenzy

Hello Sheffy, Mimoza and Cherry,

Just following up on my promise (made in the previous entry, Feeding Frenzy, to give you some suggestions for dealing with pre-meal anxiety:

Suggestion #1: chamomile. This is probably your easiest, most inexpensive remedy to try.

 There are two ways to receive it:
a) Get your Herself to purchase some good-quality chamomile tea and brew up a strong cup. When it has cooled she can offer it to each of  you in a bowl or saucer. Some of us love it that way. And this might keep you occupied while she is preparing your food.


b) Alternatively, she could just use 1/4 teaspoon (no more) of the dried herb (taken from a teabag, for example) and gently rub it between her fingers until it is a fine powder. Then have her mix it into your meal. Obviously it won't settle you before the meal but its calming effects could carry you past your dinner.

Suggestion #2:  Rescue Remedy (a general stress remedy) OR Agrimony (a remedy for anxiety) one of the Bach Flower Remedies .

Either  is available in drops (often sold at health food stores and some pharmacies) and you can receive it as follows:
a) have a few drops added to your water (not as effective as I might like);

b) have a few drops added to your food (fine as long as you are okay with it). Start with 1 drop once a day, then go to twice a day, then go to 2 drops twice a day, etc. until you work up to 4 drops twice a day. This helps Herself to monitor your reaction because it may be quite effective at a lower dose (or you might find it a bit overwhelming and need to cut back).

c) have Herself rub a drop or two into the top part of the inside of your ear (no, NOT inside your ear, just on the inner ear flap so it is easily absorbed. Again, start with 1 drop once a day; then go to 1 drop twice a day; then increase to 2 drops, twice a day. Because it will be so readily absorbed into your body this way, I'm not convinced you need to increase the dose any further. You might like to receive this prior to meal preparation, but make sure Herself gives it to you when it best fits her schedule (because we don't want her stressed!).

If you like this, then she can extend the remedy by diluting it as follows:
- get a small dropper bottle (a one-ounce or 30 ml size) from the pharmacy and clean it well;
- adds good quality water (spring water, never distilled and never sparkling); even good quality tap water will be fine.
- fill it with water to the neck.
-  add 4 drops of the original remedy and gently shake the bottle.
It will last for a week in the refrigerator this way; after that, any unused portion can be thrown out.
This is a great way to extend the life of the original remedy (and thus reduce the expense) and does not affect its ability to do the job.

So think about these and let me know what happens.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Feeding Frenzy

Dear Precious Greyce,

We are eating machines who gulp food down. We would eat everything and all the time, if we were allowed. We raid our companions' bowls. Themselves cannot eat in our presence because we get on their plates and nothing can stop us. If they try to eat standing up, we just jump and climb on them to get at the food.

Other than that, we are very affectionate, cuddly, playful and energetic. Herself says we are just purrfect. And we agree. But when it comes to eating, we are like small tornadoes.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Urine Marking & Cat Fighting Combo

Dear Greyce,

I am a beautiful, 9-year-old, spayed female with a complicated problem: I pee all over the house and I fight with my feline sister, Cassie. And this has been going on for a long time.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Keeping Cat Safe from Cats Outdoors

Dear Eli,

Finally I get to the last installment of my advice to you! This time, I'll deal with roaming cats.

As I recall, there are several toms who have the nerve to visit YOUR property. And this can be of concern, since you like to attend to your toilet needs outdoors via your own purrsonal cat door.

I've offered advice about roamers before, particularly about discouraging them (see, for example, my entry, The Invading Stranger). But that advice applies largely to North American situations where the cat in question is an indoor-only cat and is bothered by the visual or olfactory presence of another of his species.

In your case, the very methods I would suggest could backfire, that is, they could end up being used against you as well and thus make the use of the yard quite distressing for you. You wouldn't want to wander about and suddenly be sprayed with water or come to a favourite area and find it sprinkled with awful citrus smells, for example.

However, I do have a few suggestions for your consideration.

The first is an electronic cat door ( click here for an American site or try one of these for the United Kingdom Cat Flaps or Infra-red Cat Doors ). If there is a strong possibility that one of the visitors might very well try to enter your home, then you best lock the door. An electronic cat door can do this. Keyed to your collar, it allows you to open and close the door by your very presence near it. But others, who lack the key, cannot. As long as you don't decide to play host to a party of cats by standing near the door while they let themselves in, all would work well.

The second is a cat enclosure, a dedicated, safe space for your purrsonal use that cannot be broached by others. Such things are ideally directly linked to a cat door or cat window of your home. An enclosure would be ideal for your favourite outdoor lounging area (inclusive, of course, of your toilet). You would, of course, still see other cats but they would not be able to get at you. If interested, consult my entry: An Outdoor Room for Cats. And if Themselves and you wished for more outdoor experience, that could be provided in other ways.

Sorry that I could not be more helpful in this regard.

I do wish you the best,

Sunday, March 18, 2012

New Cat Introductions: A Plan for Eli

Dear Eli,

When I last responded to you, I promised to get back with ideas about introducing you to a new cat companion, assuming that Themselves would be bringing one into your territory in the not-too-distant future.
So here goes.

First and foremost, follow my entry, May I Introduce . . . A Cat! It is a slower-than-most introduction process because I find most humans to be in too much of a hurry and thereby they set the stage for future trouble.

So take my advice and go slow. You are the resident cat and the elder, and thus you set the pace for the process. Tell Themselves to be patient. The newcomer (likely a kitten or very young cat) will be more adaptable.

Other than following these instructions, there are only three things to keep in mind. First, you need unrestricted access to important parts of your existing territory to the extent possible. This means that if the living room is a key viewing area for you, it should not be the newcomer's domain. Instead the newcomer should be set up in another, safe room. And second, you will need assurance. So at least one of your purrsons should commit to giving you sufficient daily attention of the kind you desire - regardless of how tempting it may be for both of them to focus on the newcomer. Besides, this will be a good way to monitor your status so that the process proceeds at a pace you can handle. And third, the best time for a newcomer is when things are stable in the household - no renovations, no emotional crises or anything else to turn everything off-kilter.

That's it for now, dear. As for you question on roaming cats, I should be able to get back to you much more quickly on that.

Purrs to you,

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Eli the Cat: Unhappy? Lonely?

Dear Greyce,

I have a lot of questions for you:
1.  Am I normal?
2.  Is there anything you can suggest that would better my situation?
3.  Do you think a new kitten is a good idea . . . for me?
4.  What should I do about those toms who come into MY yard?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Cat Disturbs Person At Night: Truman

Yo Greyce,

Truman here - and in the photo too.
I'm a big guy with a small problem: At night when we are all together (feline and human) I create a disturbance.

Purrhaps I'm not used to sleeping on a nice soft bed. You see before I got to my present home (which is quite lovely), I was shuffled around for three years and eventually sent to an animal shelter

When I joined this household, we all started sleeping on the bed together. Oliver (my feline companion) curls up next to Lady (my purrson). But during the night I tend to get on and off the bed and I have stepped on her when I want to get on to the other side. She gets impatient with me - not to mention that she doesn't like being stepped on. So now I'm relegated to the (admittedly large) bathroom. 

Other than that I'm a pretty nice guy - clean, cooperative, eager to learn, and I get along with everyone.

Any advice that would help me get used to being on the bed at night without creating a disturbance would be appreciated.

With thanks in advance,

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Re-integrating the Nervous Cat: Sinbad's Case Continued

Dear Greyce,

Tent Basket on Top of Drawers

I hope you haven't forgotten me - the cat who left home because he was overwhelmed by all the changes in it? (entry: Cat Leaves Home On Purpose)

As requested, here are some photos of the cat furnishings at home. To the left is my covered cat basket (some people might call it a fleece cat tent) which sits on top of a chest of drawers in the corner of the hall to the master bedroom. 

Cat Tree

To the right is the cat tree. The scratch pad is of no interest to me as I prefurr to use the real trees outside. And neither Bella nor I are much interested in sitting on the top level. It is located in the living room at the corner of two walls.

Best to you,