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.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Hissy Cat Victims Gets Clarification: Felice

Dear Readers: I'm experiencing some format problems so there may be bigger spaces between paragraphs than I'd normally like; and sometimes no breaks at all. My paws have been unable to correct these and Herself - being human - is not capable enough. Please bear with me! G

Dear Greyce,
I've made sure Themselves read your blog entry about me. At least now we are all on the same page, so to meowspeak. The great news is that Himself is now at home, on holiday from college. We have been snuggling a lot! 
I may have already mentioned that I do NOT like been shut in a room alone. I detest it and meow loudly to express my dissatisfaction. I always attempt to claw the door open. From time to time, I figure our how to get the door open. I think it is when Himself shuts it but doesn't completely engage the latch.But I must admit that I do quiet down after a while. Raisin also sticks his paw under the door sometimes, when I am in Himself's room; I don't care for that at all.
Of course, what I would really like is to live with Himself and no other cats and have the run of the house.
We go outside together but he keeps a very close eye on me. We sleep together every night he is at home. 
He keeps a close eye on me when we walk around the house with my tormentors present, but I was attacked one when his gaze left me. So I am getting more nervous about walking about the house even if my tormentors are elsewhere.
Herself suggested shutting those others in a room while I wander the house. Is this a good idea?

You had asked for more information about the fights and so here goes. As I said, the fights happen at any time and any place. Somehow I always find myself in a corner where I cannot escape. I don't know how this keeps happening.

I think it began - at least with Raisin, when I would hiss and growl when he came into my presence. He would take it as a signal. But now, he goes after me whether or not I make noise. When Raisin is the offender, Herself calls him sharply by name, picks him up and relocates him. She tries to distract him with a toy or some such. She has also used the water squirter and while it works, he soon returns to the matter at hand. If he attacks me, he is put in a closed room for about 10 or 15 minutes. 
Rufus usually ignores me when Raisin is bothering me. They seem to take turns. When Rufus viciously attacked me (and also clawed Herself when she intervened), he was put outside.

Soon I will go to the vet and we will discuss medication. I have always been quite temperamental even when I was a kitten - though I can be incredibly affectionate at times. It is like I'm bipolar. I don't want to be on medication but am hoping it will help.


Dear Felice,
Thank you for the added information. Every detail helps.
You ask if the other cats should be put into a separate room - door closed - when you wander about the house with Himself. My answer is YES a thousand times YES!!!!! 
At this point, no one in the household has enough control over the situation to truly keep you protected. You all need to establish a calm routine and you, my dear, need the confidence that if you explore the house no one will suddenly corner and bully you - regardless of whether or not Himself is around.
You see, Himself, like so many purrsons, is probably well-intentioned but has not completely grasped the fact that he cannot leave his gaze from you even for a second.
I know this and I will tell you how: I had a pet sitter who took me outside. She was given explicit instructions to watch me carefully (or I would bolt through the slats in the fence and go next-door). She decided that looking after me was similar to watching a baby in a playpen - especially since I was on leash and harness and so she brought her flute along to practice. As soon as she started to play, I took it as my signal to bolt. The leash was out of her hands in a flash and she had a merry time getting me back in the yard. "But I only moved my eyes away for a moment!" she said. Was she surprised.
Even parents of small humans have similar experiences. It is why the toddler who was left just for a moment is found in the middle of the street or in the wading pool or some such. So NOT a good idea.


Rather than asking humans to stretch their capacities, I prefurr to use environmental measures. The measure I like in your case at this stage in your household relations, is called time-sharing. As I have explained before, it means that you are kept SECURELY in one part of the property while the others are kept SECURELY away from you at all times. In this way, you will have confidence that there is no one waiting to attack you, regardless of where you are. And things can settle down.
This always requires that the spaces into which you are secured are well and truly secure. If there are doors that do not latch completely (and believe me, you are not the first to experience this), then Himself needs to install a hook-and-eye lock (which might allow you to open to door about an inch - but no more - if you really tried) or a sliding-type lock  on the outside of the door, that he can attach when he leaves. This means he would close the door as securely as he is able and THEN put the lock on. No key is required, so it is very easy to open and get you out whenever it is suitable to do so.
Purrsons who look after cats that cannot get along often find it easiest to divide the house into sections which can be secured; and then to rotate the cats through the sections daily (say, even half-day or so) so no one develops an exclusive territory. Of course, we cats all object to this and meow loudly. But if we all have access to water, kibble, toys, places to look out, and a litter box AND if our purrsons ignore us, we will soon settle down.
So, the three keys are this:
The First Key

1) Divide the house into secure sections. Sometimes this means you being put in Himself's room and them having the rest of the house. For right now, I would NOT advocate them being put in Himself's room when you have the rest of the house. You are far too nervous for that - and if you smelled them in your secure space I think it would make the situation worse. So when you wander about, they need to be locked up elsewhere - for now.
In some households, the layout is such that it is easy to divide the space into larger sections. In some households, purrsons have installed a door at the beginning of a corridor to bedrooms, for example. And that means that one section consists of all bedrooms and possibly bathroom to which the sequestered cat(s) would have access; while the other section would be the rest of the house.
Many such purrsons have installed a door with a hardware cloth screen 'window' (which I described in my previous entry to you).

Hardware Cloth 'Window' in Door
My colleagues Raffiki, Black Berry and Lucky Little Guy use this approach with good results. My colleague, Kahlua, who lives with many cats (some of whom don't get along) uses a fancier French door  (with shatter-proof glass-type panel(s) that humans think looks nicer) instead of the hardware cloth approach.
With either form of door you can have visual access and slowly adapt to each other's presence before any attempts at meeting in the flesh are contemplated.
In some households, this division becomes permanent. It depends.

The Second Key
Whatever the set-up, a time-sharing routine becomes important. This means allowing all of you access to the entire house (but a section at a time). So for example, you may be in one section during the morning (and Rufus and Raisin in another); and then you all switch in the afternoon and maybe again in the evening. The schedule very much depends on two things: a) the requirements and abilities of your purrsons, and b) whether or not one or you cats very much wants to switch. For example, sometimes when my colleagues are ready for a switch one of them will begin to get a bit 'antsy' and start to meow and paw at the door when his purrson is around. That is the signal to do a change. Sometimes they are quite content to stay in one section for quite a long time. Routine is always helpful to cats. In this case, it can be helpful to humans as well, because it makes everything much more sedate and predictable.

The Third Key

Now changing from section to section is a bit of a deal because we need to keep everyone safe. In your case, it could be as simple as carrying you (either in a crate or in a purrson's arms) to a safe place and then letting the others into the other section. For example, suppose your home is divided into two sections: one is the bedrooms with a door shutting off the corridor and the other is the rest of the main floor. If you are carried into the bedroom area I suggest you be put into Himself's room and the door be securely closed; then purrsons can make sure Rufus and Raisin are well and truly out of the bedroom area and can secure the corridor door - at which point Himself's bedroom door can be opened and you can have access to the bedroom/corridor entire space. Right now, this seems to make the most sense to me.

The Paw Under the Door
Right now you don't like Raisin putting his paw under the door. Just ignore him, dear. Eventually you will get used to it and may even return the favour. This would be a very good sign indeed.

Going to the Vet

I know you are leery about medication. And, of course, you are under no obligation to take it. 
I suggested going to the vet for two reasons: 1) to ensure that you are not in any pain (or do not have any undetected medical condition that might be exacerbating your situation with the other two cats); and 2) to determine if a course of anti-anxiety medication might help you face your situation in a more relaxed and calm manner.
If you do choose to take medication, I also suggested that you and your purrsons determine the best way in which to administer it - a ways that is easiest on all parties and thus most likely to be successful. For example, some medication can be reliably made in gel form to be rubbed on the inside of the ear and cats who hate pills often find this acceptable. Others who adore Pill Pockets find that the best way to take pills (as long as purrsons are careful to follow instructions and not get pill residue from their fingers on the outside of the Pocket). And some purrsons are such confident pill-ers that the cat in question accepts the pill without fuss. It all depends.

So my dear, don't hesitate to ask for more information if something I have written in unclear to you. And in any event, please keep me informed of which alternatives you have chosen in the suggestions I have made.
Whatever happens, repeat the following to yourself many times a day: 
I, Felice, am a wonderful cat. I am intelligent. I can do this. I can!