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

Thursday, 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,