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.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Design to Prevent Cat Fights

Dear Readers,

I'm working on another PAGE, this time on feline design. But there is such good news that I cannot wait to share it. You MUST check out Olive and Pepper's article about how feline design principles were used to help them end their cat fights. 

They live in a small apartment with narrow corridors, ripe for cat attacks. Olive used to corner Pepper who had no means of escape. But that is a thing of the past.

Thanks to interventions by behaviourist Jackson Galaxy  - shown on the Animal Planet program, My Cat From Hell (Season 3, Episode 1) with the important assistance of Kate Benjamin to design a more appropriate environment, they live in peace.

The article will give you a very good idea of how this was accomplished. And you can always download the actual episode from iTunes if you are curious.

Note the particularly innovative use of cat trees that are well-secured WITHOUT the need to drill into the walls. You MUST have a look to see how compact and well-designed this set up is.

As well the article mentions some very sound design principles you should consider in the renovation of your own interiors:

1. Designated cat-only spaces using existing furnishings and a few, inexpensive materials (like landing mats).

2. Using the revolving door concept so a cornered cat has two different escape routes. In a two-cat household, this means that the victim can always get to safety.

After all, what do your purrsons prefurr: cat fights and vet bills? urine sprayed around the walls? or some anxiety-relieving design that takes the need to monitor, intervene, and clean up completely out of the situation.

So have a look at Kate's website which is called Hauspanther. And if you are looking for more, click on Design Ideas at the top and select Environmental Design. Some of these are so enchanting (and such sound behavioural ideas) that it should be a relatively simple matter to convince your purrsons to implement them. (And just a note: I'm not a fan of all the items shown on this site, even if they are appealing to look at. Not everything shown makes behavioural sense.)

For your consideration,

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cat Adjusts to Return of Fellow Feline from Surgery

Dear Greyce,

I wanted to share how we handled Skeeter's surgery. You may recall that Skeeter has an immune virus that has been attacking his gums, causing his teeth to decay. Sometimes, his gums bled. He was scheduled for full extraction surgery. Needless to say, Themselves were very concerned: about his ability to handle it all and about my ability to deal with yet another novel situation - since I don't do that very well. As you know, I wrote you for advice on how to handle his re-entry into the house.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Play Therapy for Anxious, Spraying Cat

Dear Readers,
My advice to Indy the long-term spraying cat continues. So far we've covered the issues of discipline, of medication, and of cleaning and dealing with his most recent pee spots. There will be more cleaning tips later. But today I want to discuss anxiety-reduction measures, starting with play therapy.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Introducing PAGES!

 Dear Readers,

At long last I've taken Herself in paw and insisted that we construct some long-term pages. These entries will be easy to locate and will deal with advice that I seem to give over and over again.

I'm starting with Interactive Play Therapy - some sorely needed advice for Indy, the spraying Siamese - and likely for many others of you with similar issue.

You will find PAGES at the top of my blog. Each topic will be individually labelled (as I construct them). So look for INTERACTIVE PLAY THERAPY beside HOME. Click on it. And read away!

Purrs to all,

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cat Adjusts to New Home: Dash's Update

Dear Greyce,

Just an update from me to let you know how things are going. I've gone from being terrified of new things (like the treadmill) and adjusting to Skeeter and being in a house instead of a cage. So many changes! And both Skeeter and I have been doing very well.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cleaning Items Recently Sprayed with Cat Urine

Hi Greyce,

You asked about the items I have recently sprayed. Well the two new leather couches have been getting doused for the past three months. That wall in the basement behind the sofa has only been marked for a week. Right now because Themselves are away and the Daughter is my caregiver, I get to stay upstairs instead of being confined to the basement at night. Yippee! 


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Using Medication for Cat Urine Spraying

Dear Indy,

On February 8th, I posted the first in a series of entries to help you, a handsome Siamese, resolve your problem with spraying. As you can imagine, it will take some hard work on both our parts (and on the parts of your purrsons) to help you turn the situation around, especially since it has been going on for four years.

Feline urine spraying is considered a social problem because it is usually something in your social environment that requires adjustment in order to address the issue. You require a three-pronged approach: 1) changes to your physical environment, 2) a behavioural modification program, as well as 3) the use of a drug to lower your anxiety and set the stage for your to learn how to cope with the situation that set your spraying off in the first place.

If your problem had just started, it may have been able to be resolved without drugs. And some cats and their purrsons would prefer a non-drug alternative (such as a homeopathic remedy, a flower remedy or an herb). But you have been spraying for 4 years. The longer it goes on, the more likely the problem is to spread.

Since both you and your purrsons are frantic and you have been using a drug, We must deal with the matter of drugs.

Please bear with me as I provide a medication overview for the benefit of other readers, along with specific advice to you.

The Range of Medication Options

Many of the drugs used to deal with spraying fall into the category of anti-depressants and were developed originally for human use: they remove anxiety in some way. There is good reason to give an anti-anxiety drug, because anxiety is often a basic part of the problem.

These include:

Clomipramine (a tricyclic antidpressant, brands of which include Anafranil and Clomicalm). I know that this is the drug you take. Did you know that Clomicalm was originally developed for dogs who have separation anxiety? It is now used for cats as well.

Buspirone (a nonspecific anxiolytic/serotonin agonist whose trade name is BuSpar). It is particularly useful for dealing with spraying that is part of intercat aggression, so it might have come in handy when you were having problems with Nixon. It also increases confidence. It is a more expensive drug and it can take 4 to 6 weeks to reach safe, steady levels in the blood. So purrsons will not see results for about a month or so.

Amitriptyline (a tricyclic antidepressant whose trade name is Elavil). It facilitates normal social functioning; but may increase appetite and thirst.

Diazepam is a benzodiazepine whose brand name is Valium. It inhibits anxiety and increases appetite. Some cats cannot take it, because of problems with their livers.  While it interferes with learning and short-term memory, it sure helps you relax.

Nortriptyline is also a tricyclic antidepressant made under the name Pamelar.

And there are progestins (megestrol acetate; medroxyprogesterone acetate) which are used as the drug of last resort because they are associated with a host of potentially serious side-effects. Still they have their place.  Males may respond better to the use of this drug than females.

Obviously this is just a brief overview of some of the drugs used in cases like yours, Indy.

Most drugs have associated side-effects and these are useful to know in advance.  The most common side-effects include:
- Changes in appetite.
- Changes in activity level (notably lethargy) until you have adapted to the drug.
- Interference with or from other medications or supplements, depending on the circumstances.
- Gastro-intestinal upset (vomiting, diarrhea).

It usually takes some time to adapt to receiving a drug and for the first few days many of my colleagues who have taken such drugs find they are somewhat sleepy and uncoordinated. However if this continues for more than a few days, it likely means that the dose is too high and a phone call to the vet is very much in order to adjust it. On the other paw, some of my colleagues noticed no such effects: they were purrfectly fine from the first day. And the lack of a need for a few days of adjustment might be an indication that the dose is too small.

It may also take a while for your blood levels to stabilize, meaning that the drug has been received long enough that now your blood is on an even keel. You need to be patient. You need also to ask your vet what the usual adaptation period is.

Selecting the Best Drug for the Circumstance

It isn't always easy to select the drug that would work best. Different drugs work in different ways. Some are better than others, depending on the situation. But it is often difficult to understand fully the factors in your situation which are relevant. So you must have a vet you trust and have confidence in, to guide you.

Your vet will likely take the following into account:

the basis of your problem, coupled with his or her knowledge about and experience both with feline behaviour problems and with using a particular drug. The ability of your purrsons to specifically and accurately describe the situation is essential (and too often, they themselves don't know what is or is not relevant so your vet needs to be good at interviewing to pull the data from them).

- your health status and medical history because certain drugs may not be in your best interests to take.

- the results of a baseline blood profile to ensure that any liver or kidney issues are identified because drugs are processed through these organs. Some blood results influence which drugs can be safely given. In some cases, the vet also recommends a baseline EKG. (If your are on a drug for more than, say, 6 months, the vet will repeat the medical tests just to ensure your body can handle it.)

Indy, I understand that you have had bloodwork. Good for you!

Two Things You Should Know About Drug Selection

Some of us do well on one drug and not one another; but you really cannot tell that in advance. You may need to try it in order to find out.

That is why you need to know the side-effects and receive any warnings about effects that indicate that the drug is unsuitable. Vomiting is one example. You may need to switch if you experience an undesirable side-effect or if the drug is not working (yes, that does happen). For example, my colleague Tang was taking Clomicalm to deal with anxiety. It did nothing for him. Switching to Prozac gave him the results he needed. Now he is drug-free.

Some drugs can be delivered in a form which avoids a particular side-effect. For example, one of my colleagues (who had to adjust to a new cat companion) threw up on Elavil. But my guess is that if he had received it in a transdermal gel (which bypasses the gastro-intestinal system), this might have been avoided. So it depends.

Dosage may require adjusting. There is a range of dosage for a particular drug (based on body weight), but some of us require a somewhat different dose than was originally recommend.

For example, I happen to be particularly sensitive to certain drugs. During my last bout of pancreatitis the dosage on two drugs I was taking had to be lowered because I was hallucinating and became very vocal and restless; adjusting the dosage in one case, required special formulation (into very small capsules - done by a compounding pharmacy). But it made all the difference and I was able to get the benefits of the drugs without the problems.

In your case, Indy, the prolonged lethargy and loss of your coordination of your hindlegs when you started Clomicalm suggests the potential for dosage reduction - which is what your purrsons have done. In any such case, monitoring by your purrsons and close discussion with you vet should be able to resolve issues like these.

Medication Options: What Form Will Work Best for You?

While many drugs come in (or can be made into) various forms, most are dispensed as pills. Why? Because it tends to be the most common and thus least expensive form. But that doesnt' mean that it is the best form for you.

You rely on your purrson to dispense the pill to you. But not every purrson can easily pill a cat. And if every time you are to be pilled your anxiety rises along with that of your purrson, or you struggle, or you spit the pill out, what then is the point?

Indy, I know you are pilled and that you do not particularly enjoy it. Read on and figure out if there might be some other option you would prefurr.


Attention felines! If this is your chosen option, make sure your purrsons know how to pill you properly. Otherwise they will find the pill on the counter or the floor later in the day. Or they may find their arms shredded as they attempt to prop your mouth open.

In my opinion, your vet or a member of the clinic staff should show your purrson how it is done. Your purrson should have a chance to practice - under the supervision of a good piller. There are videos that can help. Click on Pill video 1, Pill video 2 and Pill video 3.

Another option is to hire a vet tech (say from your clinic) to come to your home and help. I made arrangements for this when I had to take Famotidine (a pill for acid reflux that needed to be split). Over the course of 10 days, a vet tech came to my home to teach Himself how to do it, including sharing her 'trick' of giving me about 1/2 ml of water in a syringe by mouth immediately after I had swallowed it, to help wash the pill down.

The first two days, Himself watched while she did the deed and described what she was doing. Then he started to try, under her supervision. Slowly he gained confidence because the tech was able to give him immediate feedback so he could correct what he was doing. And before the week was over, he was able to manage on his own. This made it far less stressful for both of us.

Because he was no longer anxious about pilling, I behaved like a purrfect lady. And once he got good at it, I wasn't even able to spit the pill out or otherwise hide it! Something in which most of us have great expertise. When he was anxious, I must admit to squirming, dancing around and generally being a brat. But with confidence, he relaxed and then, so did I. Besides with confidence, he was much faster, too.

So fellow felines, if your purrsons are not comfortable with pilling, I would suggest that they consider pilling lessons.

Many purrsons will try to put the pill in your food in the hope that you won't notice. This isn't always effective because pills taste 'funny' and are sometimes bitter and then we refuse to eat. Pills that are split or crushed are often the most easily rejected because they are so bitter. And some pills should NOT be taken with food (which the vet should tell you in the first place). If it is okay to do so, have your purrson put the pill in a very small amount of wet food and ensure you are hungry so you will eat it up.

Pill pockets  (from a pet supply store; some vets carry them too - a package is usually less than $10.00). As the name implies, these are pockets made of a soft snack food into which the pill is inserted to make it yummy on the outside. The key is to use tweezers to stick the pill in the pocket so your purrsons' fingers don't have ANY of the pill smell on them - because we cats are very sensitive to smell and that would cause rejection; then the purrson should use fingers (NOT those tweezers - which would have pill residue on them) to close the pocket.

When I was ill, I tolerated a pill pocket if my medication is given in the morning when I'm really hungry. And I got Himself to remove a little of the pocket because it is too large for my discriminating palate.

Pill Splitting: Sometimes the pill is too big and needs to be reduced in size.  Save yourself a pile of trouble and get a pill-splitter at the drug store. They are not expensive and they cut beautifully (compared to using a knife which often leaves a jagged edge or shatters to whole darn thing.)

Transdermal Gels

This is a gel applied to the skin on the inside of the upper ear where it is easily absorbed into the bloodstream. It is gently rubbed in by your purrson (who needs to wear a rubber glove or disposable finger cot, to s/he doesn't get a dose of the drug as well).

Many colleagues prefurr this method if they hate receiving pills (or their purrsons hate pilling). And it is a good way to avoid gastro-intestinal upset (like vomiting and diarrhea) because the drug doesn't need to pass through that part of the body before being absorbed into the bloodstream.

A gel is likely to cost more than a bottle of pills. But unless family finances are so tight that your purrsons have to choose between using a gel and paying the mortgage, this can be a good way to go - unless you absolutely detest having your ears rubbed. I vote for selected a compounding pharmacies that dispense this in a pen-like container that clicks out an exact, pre-measured dose so it becomes easy to give.


Some drugs come in liquid form that can by syringed into your mouth. The liquid is drawn up in a syringe (without the needle) and squirted into your cheek pouch (rather than down your throat). This is best under the following circumstances:
- the dose is small,
- you are comfortable doing this,
- the liquid is either tasteless or has a pleasant (to felines) flavour.

Many liquids are bitter which defeats the purpose! But some drugs can be flavoured in cat-pleasing varieties (like tuna or chicken). You need to make sure that if it is specially compounded, that the flavour is one suitable for cats and not children; what self-respecting cat would want orange? You need to make sure BEFORE you go this route, that the flavouring completely masks the taste of the drug. Otherwise your purrsons will complain that its a pain under the tail to dose you. And you will likely squirm and foam at the mouth on receiving it.

I receive Meticam (an anti-inflammatory) by liquid and it is delicious because it tastes like honey. Meticam is best taken with a small meal. So I get a few treats beforehand, then the syringe, followed by a few treats as a reward. I find this to be most satisfactory.


Some drugs come this way but unless you have a member of your household who is a nurse or doctor, don't bother. Many vets won't allow needles to be dispensed unless you have a chronic condition that requires them and your purrson is trained in their use and disposal. Diabetic cats who require daily doses of insulin are often the ones who receive their drug in this way.


Some drugs come in a patch that is left on the skin for some time - just like those nicotine patches for purrsons who want to quit smoking. The drug releases over a longer time period. Some cats who require long-term pain medication receive it in this way.

It is very important that the patch be placed in such a way that you cannot pull it off. In your situation, I doubt that it is worth it - even if it was available.

In short: Drugs often come in more than one form. You need to select that one that is best for you - especially when using a drug that you will be taking for some time. And most drugs used for your problem are given for 6 to 12 months. My colleague, Moby, who was a champion sprayer of 17 sites in his apartment was on Clomicalm for an even longer period. The good news is that spraying is a thing of the past in his life. (See my entry, No More Urine Spraying! Moby's Update, of 3/3/11. You can follow Moby's whole story by putting his name in the search box on the left of my blog.)

Vital Information BEFORE You Take Your Drugs Home

Your purrsons should have all the information about this drug that they could possibly want. Remember: knowledge is power. I have put a checklist of things to ask about at the end of this entry.

Remind your purrsons that if they are at all uncertain  about the seriousness of a particular behaviour or symptom from the drug, they should call the vet ASAP! Better safe than sorry. The purrsons who procrastinates about this could be putting you in danger.

Remember the essentials: Right drug. Right form of it. Right dose - consistently given. And don't forget: If you try one drug and don't get results (after a suitable time period), don't be afraid to try something else.

Monitoring and Follow Up

I have already talked about monitoring in my previous entry. You need to keep records. Your purrsons  might think they know whether or not the drug is working - of course, they will have a general idea. But it is far more helpful to keep daily records of your spray frequency at each of your spray sites. You will be amazed at what evidence they provide.

Of course, your vet will want you to keep in contact. Many vets want you to touch base about every 6 to 8 weeks. In fact, many dispense drugs so that you only have enough for this period and have to request a refill. It is a good way for them to keep tabs on the situation.

Long-term use of a drug usually means that the vet will want blood work, to ensure that your organs are handling the drug well. The frequency of this depends on your situation (on you, the drug used, and your vet).

Weaning You Off the Drug

At some point, you may decide that you no longer need the drug. You MUST consult with your vet about a weaning process. Going cold turkey is not a recommended way for all drugs. Often your system needs to adapt to a drug-free state and you do this by systematically reducing the doses and/or frequency.

This is a veterinary matter. It is essential that you receive guidance from your vet on this.

Reasonable Expectations

Drugs are not a panacea. They are not magic. They cannot cure your problem by themselves. What they do is reduce the anxiety so that you can learn to manage your situation in a more appropriate way. But without changes to your physical environment and a behavioural program, the drug is unlikely to be successful. You really need all three. I say this because many purrsons use drugs as an excuse not to do the rest of the work (the cleaning, the space modification, and so on). Frankly, that is a recipe for failure.

Special Advice for You, Indy

Okay Indy, now that you have read this far you have a good overview about drugs and their uses. As I understand it, you have taken Clomicalm for some time. I have no idea how long 'some time' is. And I have no idea about what advice your veterinarian has provided.

I do know that you do not enjoy being pilled which is why I suggest you consider the possibility of receiving the drug in another form.

I do know that you receive the drug about once a week on an as-needed basis, as determined by your purrsons. I assume your veterinarian knows this and is in agreement. However I am concerned because I have never heard of this frequency of dosage being used. That doesn't mean it is wrong. It just means that in terms of my experience, it is unusual. For all I know, there may be special considerations.

What I fear is that by receiving the dose on such an ad hoc basis, there is little opportunity for it to be effective. It would not have the chance to stabilize in your bloodstream but would rather go up and down like a yoyo. I gather it gets you to 'chill out' because that is what it seems to be used for in your case. But exactly how is it affecting your frequency of spraying?

If this frequency of dosage is because the pill is too much for you, then please, please talk with your vet about a more reduced dose (or another drug) that you can handle on a daily basis.

Remember even if you take a pill, the dose can be reduced by compounding. That happened to me. I started on one-quarter of a pill (the smallest dose available) but it was too much for me. So it was compounded to cut even that dose in half, into very tiny capsules. And that made a huge difference for me.

Now Indy, I do understand that dosage is a veterinary matter. I am not a veterinarian. And even if I was, I am not your veterinarian. But you deserve a drug whose dosage and medication frequency helps you turn your problem around. And because of your special circumstances, I ask that you check with your veterinarian  - yet again. Just to be sure.

And as promised, that checklist I mentioned, follows below my signature.

I wish you the very best. Stay tuned for the next installment of my advice to you - in the next few days.

Purrs from Greyce


1.      What form(s) does this drug come in? (e.g., tablet, capsule, topical gel, liquid, powder, injectable – if pilling is an issue).

2.      What changes can be expected, with using this drug? How long does it usually take before I should be able to notice some change?

3.      How long does it usually take before my body will have fully adjusted to the drug? During the intervening period are there any symptoms to watch out for (e.g., lethargy, changes in appetite)?
4.      What are the side-effects? How common are they? Will they last while I am on the drug or only until s/he I get used to it?

5.      Should I call you if I notice any side-effects? Is it important that I call as soon as I notice them?

6.      How often should I receive this drug (e.g., daily, twice daily, etc.)?

7.      How do I administer this drug? Ask the vet to show you and well as tell you how – whether it is a pill, a liquid, a gel or whatever.

8.      Can I crush it and mix it in food or a treat? Note: some can’t be crushed because the pill is too bitter; others must be given on an empty stomach; still others must be given with food to avoid stomach upset.

9.      Is it okay to use pill pockets?

10.    Is there anything I should NOT be taking, while on this drug (e.g. herbs, homeopathic remedies, supplements, specific food treats)? NOTE: You must tell you vet about all the supplements you may be taking - like fish oil, or extra fiber, or flower remedies. Many purrsons forget to do this on your behalf, but these can affect pharmaceuticals and they way they act in your system. Make sure you tell your vet in advance. And if you get the urge to add something to your routine later, make sure you ask your vet before doing so.

11.    Should it be given with food? Sometimes it’s O.K. with food or if you have just eaten something. Others have to be given on an empty stomach which means you cannot leave the food bowl down between meals.        

12.    What should I do if I miss a dose?
13.    What should I do if I accidentally overdose? Example: You upset the bottle and eat more than one pill.

14.    What should I do if another pet gets the drug, instead?

15.    What follow-up is required? When?

16.    How long will I be on this drug?

17.    How do I take myself off this drug? Note: It can be very dangerous to go off a drug cold turkey. Consult with your veterinarian FIRST, to keep you safe.

18.    Who should I call if I have any questions or problems?
19.    Who should I call if I have any problems AND the veterinary clinic is closed?

20.    Is it okay to start the medication at the beginning of the week? That way if you notice side-effects you can easily contact the clinic during regular hours (since many have limited weekend hours).

Friday, February 8, 2013

Cat Sprays Walls and Furniture. What Can Be Done?

Dear Greyce,


Themselves are at their wit's end because of my interior decoration efforts over the past four years. According to Themselves my habit is driving them crazy, damaging furniture and impacting social visits. You see, Greyce, I enhance my home with urine - a lot of urine - in a lot of places. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Helping Cats to Get Along

Dear Readers,

Sometimes problems come in threes: Three feline families, three cats per family, and none of them happy about it.

Lucky Little Guy
There are Raffiki and Black Berry, senior cats with chronic ailments who feel their home has been invaded by a rambunctious young stray male, Lucky Little Guy. As far as Lucky is concerned, he'd love to have the run of the house. And he'd like to pounce on Raffiki. On the other paw, Raffiki wants to have nothing to do with him. Both senior cats prefurr to stay locked up away from harm.

Gracie and Tom
There are Tom and Gracie who are having to adapt to the presence of another rambunctious young stray male, Spike. You may remember Tom. He was a stressed out and very ill adult who had great difficulty adapting to his young companion, Gracie, over a year ago and got seriously ill as a result. Thankfully we got him back on track and he and Gracie now live companionably - though he'd prefurr that she not follow him around like a shadow. Meanwhile Spike would like to have the run of the house but neither Gracie nor Tom can cope with that at the moment.

Patches and Buddy
And then there are Patches and Buddy, adult cats quite happily ensconced in their home, only to have it disrupted by the arrival of a rambunctious young male kitten called Max. To make matters worse, Patches went for dental surgery only a few weeks after Max's arrival. When she returned, Buddy did not recognize her! (A common reaction of his, but too much at that moment.) And so his relationship with both his beloved Patches and young Max has been teetering.

These families have a lot in common. They all have purrsons who love them dearly and wish ever so, that everyone would get along. They have visions of a happy cat family filled with pet and purrs. And yet I'm sure if the cats had their way, each of the triad would come to an understanding and the vanquished one would be forced out of the house.

And there's the rub, because they are all indoor cats with no possibility of escape. Besides they all live in winter climates where fending on your own as a stray would be precarious.

What to do?

Almost without exception, cats introduced to other cats too quickly do not get along. We cats know this and we know this well. It's the purrsons in our lives who don't seem to 'get it'. Their idea of a suitable pace is usually far, far faster than some of us can handle.

Even when we give them plenty of evidence that we are not happy, they ignore it - either because they miss the subtle signals by which we usually communicate or because they think we should just work it out amongst ourselves (with no options to leave the house!). So the problem simmers, and simmer and slowly get out of hand.

Usually by the end of the first month, the honeymoon is over. There are fights. Some cats hide. Some start to spray. And others get so stressed they get sick. Even the thickest purrson will understand that there are problems when the yowling starts, the fur flies, and there are trips to the vet to deal with puncture wounds.

They say things to each other such as,

"Why is this happening?" they wonder. "We love them dearly. They have everything they need. Why can't they just get along?"


" Does this mean that (insert whatever name you wish) has to be re-homed? I can't stand the thought of him/her leaving!"


"I must be a bad cat purrson."

Have no fear, fellow felines. Your purrsons are not bad, though they may feel guilty or angry or just confused. They are ignorant in the true sense of the word, meaning that while their intentions are good, they just don't know any better. And that is where I come it, because I can provide you with information to share with them, to try to get them on board.

General Principles for Solving this Problem

Regular readers of my blog will note that  my advice on this matter tends to go along the following lines:

1. An explanation of the importance we place on our territory.
2. Education about the ways in which we communicate.
3. Anxiety: How it works with us and what to do about it.
4. How to step back and start over.

So let me take each of these and expand.

 1. An explanation of the importance we place on our territory.

Educate your purrsons about territory and its importance to us. Take it from me; most of them haven't a clue about why we get anxious when it is disrupted.

Here are the key points to emphasize:

We are territorial animals. In the wild, unless we live in a feral colony (with abundant shelter, food and water), we will tend to be solitary. We establish individual (though overlapping) territories sufficient to support ourselves and only ourselves. Our territories can be huge or small (depending upon our purrsonality, sexual status and the availability of key resources). We patrol our territorial several times a day to ensure that it is secure.

Our territory is so important that we may go without food or sex or proper sleep if it is under threat; it  is our MOST important asset. A change of food source, litterbox location or water bowl sends off an alarm. Change could mean a change from abundance to scarcity! And this is especially so, if a new cat enters the territory and attempts to settle in.

Okay, I can hear your purrsons now. "But we introduced Fluffy, a new baby kitten, and everything went so well."

Well that depends. The biggest chance of a quicker-paced introduction involves a very young kitten (because we adults are pre-disposed to be more accepting of them) and a household where the rest of us tend to be friendly to our species and laid-back. Then the process of getting to know one another will be relatively quick. But that doesn't happen that often.

Usually our first thought upon the entry of such an invader if of  THREAT! Our next, to get rid of the invader or, if we feel very vulnerable, to hide. This is the context within which introductions to new cats in the family have to take place.

Just because we behave so like our wild ancestors, some purrsons think we should get over it. But as you know, they are territorial beings too. Just last week, Herself got her knickers in a twist because someone else took 'her' parking space in front of our home; and we don't even have a car! And lots of people who attend meetings return to the same spot after taking a group break; wow, do they get bent out of shape if someone else is sitting in 'their' seat. And let's not get started about how distressed some get if something they value (like a picture or even a mixing bowl) gets moved from its regular place by someone else.

Solving the Problems with Territoriality

There are several ways to deal with territorial issues.

- Put the newcomer in a safe and secure space, to start getting used to the new home. It takes a lot for a newcomer to get used to the location of everything, to incorporate household smells into his or her smell profile of friendly things, and generally to get the lay of the land. That is why I recommend starting in a safe and secure space and only when adjusted to it, to start to explore the rest of the place - beginning with small amounts of time and small amounts of space.

- We all feel better if resources are abundant. And so with the arrival of feline number three should also come the arrival of an extra litter box or two - distributed throughout our territory rather than put along with what we already have. Ditto, an extra water bowl or two and an extra feeding area and things to scratch. A few more toys are not out of order.

And most importantly, give some consideration to important aspects of feline interior design - sufficient viewing perches, sleeping areas and monitoring sites. Many households (in spite of my harping) still have far few levels on which we cats can arrange ourselves. For many of us, being off the ground is a way to reduce the stress of feeling crowded by an additional cat. And if there are more than two of us, we do better if those off-the-ground sites are staggered at different levels. That way, either the most confident or the most frightened of us can go to the top level (scared cats tend to like either very high places or places on the ground behind things) and the rest of us can arrange ourselves accordingly.

Unless we are very, very good friends, we prefurr staggered levels in the cat class system. That way we each have our place in relation to everyone else. And that is why I'm in favour of cat trees, cat shelving systems and more than one of each in every home. They don't have to be fancy or expensive. They just have to do their job.

Behaviourist Jackson Galaxy refurrs to feline interior design as Catification and there are lots of ideas on his site. Also check out Hauspanther by clicking on "Design Finds" for inspiration. And there is my entry, A Cat Tree for Every Cat (2/7/10).

2. Education about the ways in which we communicate.

Your purrsons need to know about cat signalling systems so they can tell when we are are about to become angry, or frightened, or anxious. Distraction (through the use of a "no" or a hand clap or a wand toy, etc.) is such a wonderful way of breaking off the potential for aggression. But it will only work if they catch the subtle signs before things start to blossom and get our of hand. And knowing when one of us is just starting to get uncomfortable is an excellent way of telling when an introduction session should come to an end. In other words,  if they do not know how we communicate with each other, they cannot intervene appropriately and we are left to fend for ourselves.

Purrsons think they largely communicate by speaking - except for the younger generation that thinks that texting takes its place. Both are wrong.

Over 90% of human communication is non-verbal (which is why e-mails, texting and Facebook entries can so easily be misunderstood). Humans rely on physical distance, pupil size, facial expression, head tilt, eye contact, posture and a host of other cues - only they are not that conscious of doing so. When speech and body cues do not match, the purrson gets an uneasy feeling but cannot quite say why.

So let's face it, fellow felines. We are dealing with people who use sophisticated systems themselves but haven't got a conscious clue about them. Don't forget, these are the same people who visit France and get upset when the French don't speak English! If you live with these kinds of purrsons, you will have your work cut out for you.

We cats have a sophisticated communications system which seldom requires vocalizing (unless humans are involved). Ear position, whisker position, pupil size, tail manner, staring, posture and proximity to another feline are solid cues about what we are thinking; not to mention purrs, meows, and yowls. But for many purrsons, we have to get to the yowling stage before they notice something is wrong. So do yourselves a favour and swat them silly until they read and understand some key resources:

As many of you know, I am a great fan of photo books that capture cat communication. Check out relevant cat books by  Roger Tabor and by Bruce Fogel  (which you can order or likely get from your library). Tabor
is famous for his careful studies of the feline world. Fogel is a well-respected veterinarian.

I like Tabor's Understanding Cat Behavior and his 100 Ways to Better Understand Your Cat. And I enjoy the photos in Fogel's Know Your Cat. Both authors are prolific writers and have many other relevant books from which to choose.

Raffiki Recommends the DVD
Also Raffiki strongly recommends Tabor's video, Understanding Cats (dvd) because it so clearly shows what feline aggression looks like and how we hunt (to give our purrsons better ideas on how to play with us).

Amy Shojai has at least three entries (likely more) of interest on this topic:

3. Anxiety: How it works with us and what to do about it.

Every day our anxiety levels go up and down because we are wired to be predators. Increased arousal (anxiety) gets us off our butts and out to hunt. And even though our food comes from a can or a bag, we still think as hunters. And once we have hunted, we eat and then relax because our arousal level lowers.

If we don't get the chance to reduce our arousal level, it stays up. After a while (days or weeks) we can be so fired up that even something relatively small can set us off. We become reactive, meaning that we over-react to whatever comes our way. And then problems start.

Solving the Problem of Anxiety

If we don't get hunting opportunities, then we need to simulate them through predatory play. Such play involves another party. If we are matched in purrsonality and energy level, then we can take turns being victim and victor with a feline companion - often several times in a play session. If not, then we need help.

Not the so-called well-meaning help of solitary play toys; in the absence of live prey we need things that move and behave like prey. That is why I've taken such pains to describe appropriate kinds of toys and most importantly how you need to train your purrson to play with you.

Because most people get their ideas of appropriate play from commercials that are designed to show off the toy rather than demonstrate a proper play session, they think that just waving the toy in front of you (which usually triggers our defensive reactions) is all there is to it. They need to learn that this is not enough before we give up on them.

Daily interactive play sessions are one of the best and least expensive ways to reduce anxiety. But there are others.

Alter the design of your home to increase abundance, offer staggered levels in three-dimensions thorough cat trees and shelving, or closeoff areas so time-sharing can occur between cats that are still getting to know one another. I've already outlined this in discussing territory.

Many purrsons prefurr to sit on the sofa and have you sit on or beside them. Nice for them. Not great for you when you are uptight. At the very least, get them versed in some form of touch therapy (meditative stroking, Reiki, Therapeutic Touch or massage).

And if you need extra help, there are anti-anxiety medications (and non-pharmaceutical calmatives)  and Feliway.

Speaking of anxiety, one of the contributing factors is your purrsons' anxiety levels. Tell them to chill. They need to know that we are excellent readers of their moods. Faster heart and respiration rates, changing body odours, postures, and changes in voice pitch and speed can all tell us that they are uptight. If they are going to work with us, they need to relax. Have them take some deep, regular breaths to cause their bodies to relax, and make sure they read the resource materials to get their confidence up.

On interactive play, consult my entry, Three Black Cats Who Don't Get Along (8/14/12) or
Cat Stalks Human: Tux's Trials (December 11, 2011). Both contain detailed descriptions of the rationale behind and method of implementing the necessary play sessions.

The Feliway entry is What Good Is Feliway? (4/30/10)

On touch, go to my entry, Lifting the Sadness - The Healing Power of Touch (1/28/10) or Meditative Stroking - Touch That Can Heal (1/20/10). 

4. How to step back and start over.

Since you are in a confined system, that is, one in which you are not free to leave if and when you choose, you must go back to square one in your introduction process -  with the newcomer sequestered in a safe and separate area, and start over, s-l-o-w-l-y.

I've outlined a typical series of steps in my entry May I Present? Another Cat! (1/14/10)

When more than two cats are involved (like one newcomer and two residents) then the steps need to be modified, depending on the ages and purrsonalities of those involved. And each family has its idiosyncracies and special needs.

For example, Max, Patches and Buddy live with two purrsons but one is out of town for long stretches. This means that Herself must manage on her own, so advice involving two purrsons will be more difficult for her to implement. We have to get more creative and offer one-purrson solutions here.

Tom wants to be alone
In Tom, Grace and Spike's home, Tom has greater-than-usual difficulty accepting new things and is easily stressed. So it is very important that things proceed at an even slower pace in order for him to feel comfortable. In his case, letting him be and working on getting Gracie and Spike acquainted takes priority.
In Raffiki, Black Berry and Lucky Little Guy's household, the cats get along better outside (where Lucky has an enclosure); but the Canadian climate means this is not an option for almost six months of the year. Inside the house, Raffiki and Black Berry refuse to come out of the bedroom when Lucky is upstairs, even if Lucky is in his very luxurious cat apartment in the living room.

Forcing them to come out is far from easy, because the senior cats have illnesses that can be made worse by stress and because the open plan of their home makes it easy for them to hide elsewhere. Besides, their purrsons are reluctant to force anything, having has to intervene in too many cat fights.

In this situation, one of the best things they can do is to pool their catnip allowances to hire someone to cut an opening in the bottom third of the bedroom door and securely line it with hardware cloth - so they can start establishing visual access with Lucky, without having to have physical contact with him. It would start with the opening being fully covered over (with, say, cardboard) and then, as all cats get used to it, raising it an 2.5 cm (1 American inch) at a time; letting everyone get used to that before moving it up yet another inch - until all is fully revealed. This gives everyone a chance to adapt to full visual access and yet no one can harm the other because their paws won't fit through this extra-thick screening.

You can gather than theirs will be a slow process. But moving slowly in the right direction is much better than not at all.

So as you can see, while each family is asked to follow the same set of guidelines, the way in which they are implemented varies with the household. Besides purrsons often lack the confidence (or know-how) to understand when we are truly ready for the next step in the introduction process, and so they like to e-mail me just to be sure. And sometimes there are setbacks and everyone needs re-assurance of how to get the situation under control.

So while you are reading the blog entries, know that many times they are the result of more frequent e-mails back-and-forth to settle the details with the respective households.

And if you are interested in following the adventures of the three cat families in this entry, here are the blog entries about them to date:

Raffiki, Black Berry and Lucky Little Guy
Three Black Cats Who Don't Get Along (8/14/12)
Three Black Cats Who Don't Get Along: Progress Report (9/18/12)

Tom, Gracie and Spike
Newcomer Hampers Sick Cat's Recovery (4/4/11)
Re-integration After Disaster: Old and Young Cats (5/4/11)
And Now We Are 3: Getting Used to Another Cat (12//3112)
Getting Used to a Third Cat: Tommy, Gracie and Spike (1/14/13)

Buddy, Patches and Max
Cat Fights in the Family: For Buddy the Pressure is TOO Much (12/30/12)

Keep your paws crossed that there are happy endings for each of these families. With knowledge, patience, and consistency, such integration usually works.

Purrs and whisker kisses,