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Old 10-24-2003, 03:23 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Need some advice about dominant/submissive cat behavior

Hi everyone, I’m a first-time poster. I’m hoping you may have some ideas to help me with a kitty problem. We have 2 cats, Kayla & Ripley, both female, both 3 years old, from separate litters. We adopted them at the same time and they were the same age, but from different shelters. After an initial adjustment they got along fine, cuddled together, etc.

Over the past year or so a definite hierarchy has been established. Kayla is the definitely dominant cat. While they both usually play together and get along fine, Kayla is increasingly demanding of sole attention from me and my husband. She has basically taken control of the upper floor of our house which includes our bedroom and the living room where we spend a lot of our time. If Ripley tries to come upstairs, Kayla will jump out, startle her, and chase her downstairs. When we try to control her behavior she stares at Ripley until Ripley just runs away anyway. We do reprimand her strongly when she does it, but “No!” to a cat just doesn’t seem to make much of an impression on them.

It is heartbreaking because Ripley spends most of her time in the evening downstairs in the kitchen or in the basement by herself. We try our best to encourage her to come upstairs and give her lots of attention when we’re downstairs, but I’m hoping there’s something else we can do. I’ve heard that cats are actually more comfortable when they have a dominant and submissive cat established, so I’m afraid that taking action that’s too drastic may cause more problems. And the cats get along at other times, its not unusual for me to come home and find them sleeping somewhere together, they groom each other, etc.

Oh, I should also mention that this behavior is much worse when I’m around. Typically, if only my husband is home, the cats will both hang out with him in the living room together without a problem. Kayla still patrols the bedroom though. Kayla is kind of “his” cat, while Ripley is more “mine”. They seemed to each pick a favorite person when they were still kittens. The only thing I can think of is that Kayla wants to be #1 with me and my husband. I don’t know what to do, and I’m worried that Ripley isn’t getting the love and attention she deserves. Any ideas?

Thanks,
Nikki
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Old 10-25-2003, 11:35 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Lots of cats can be like this, either it's an entire floor, a room, or just a particular person.

I've had this problem between Asim and Isha since I got them at about 4 months old, but in the past 6 months (they are now almost 4 years) has gotten really bad.

I've tried a bunch of different things, and yes, Asim does have anxiety and depression issues this has been diagnosed by many doctors, and it would be a good idea to get your dominant cat into the vet to rule out any on going health or behavoral issues.

At any rate, what I do here, if Asim really starts going at it with Isha, I'll throw something loud in their direction like a can of pennies. Generally this will scare asim off of Isha, and allow me enough time to get to him say "No Asim" scoop him up and then put him in the bathroom for a short time out (about 3-5 minutes). Not so much as a punishment, but to just give him some time to chill out. And then I let him back out and act as if nothing had happened.
I have put him on some calming tablets for 5 days and then 2 days break, this has helped a little. With everything I have noticed a decline in severity and frequency of his dominance issues towards Isha.

Along with you taking the little one for a trip to the vet, give him some time out in a room alone, invite the other cat upstairs to hang out with you and do what he/she please's with out fear of the other cat.
You don't just have one cat to try and take care of, you have 2 cats, one whoms dominance and insecurity issues you need to handle, and the others to handle her submissiveness and to not become so scared in her own house hold.
Eventually your submissive cat might run at the mear site of the other cat, no matter where they are downstairs or up.
Let Ripley sit on your lap often (about half and half for each cat) enjoy petting her and showing her affection, but don't like Kayla bully her out of your lap, she can wait her turn Kayla will need to understand that you are going to give BOTH of them attention no matter what Kayla wants.

It can be a longer and complicated process that's the short and skinny of it.
But as with any behavorial changes (or increases) it typically warrents a trip to the vet to make sure something else isn't going on.

Are both of your cats spayed?
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Old 10-25-2003, 01:40 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Nickle P, while i was reading your post, I was thinking of you getting a 3rd cat, only this time a (neutered) male. Males, will take over the position of dominance, regardless of how many females there are around. This will do several things; First it will break the female dominance problem. Secondly, he will probably make friends with both of your cats. Thirdly, this will allow another kitty a loving home. If you can take care of two cats, adding another will create little inconvenience. Most shelters will allow you the option of keeping a cat or not. If this idea doesn't work out, you can alway return the cat. But I have a suspicion that you will love the little male just as much, if not more, than your current females. I have both genders in my menagerie, and I believe the males are more loving and predictable than the females. Among my four most favorite cats, 3 are males.

.........wayne
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Old 10-25-2003, 02:26 PM   #4 (permalink)
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That's a shame. Why don't you take Ripley to bed with you so that she gets extra love until the problem is solved.
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Old 10-25-2003, 02:51 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Wayne: Not completely a bad idea or anything for Nickle P to consider. But I think getting this dominant cat seen by the vet first to rule out anything and work from there should be the first step.
Besides males don't always put things in line. In my case I currently have 2 males and 1 female, and Asim rules the roost FAR to aggressivly at times, specially over the female, and less so over the other male.

I've gone through enough adopted and foster cats to say that I have never witnessed a time where bringing a male into the home eshtablished things and put everyone in their places.
But I do agree with you, that I tend to feel males are more attention giving and demanding, I prefer them to the females generally.
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Old 10-26-2003, 08:59 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Thank you for your input everyone.

Angelzoo, yes both are spayed. In some ways I'm glad to hear that other cats behave this way, but of course I'm sorry that you've had similar problems. The cats were both to the vet about 4 months ago, but you're right - especially since the behavior is intensifying, another trip to have Kayla checked out wouldn't hurt.

I gave Kayla her first time-out last night since I was in a position to scoop her up right after she chased Ripley. I think that's a great idea - I can't believe I didn't think of it before. I do believe that cats are extremely trainable, and will eventually "get the point" in most cases. We also tried keeping Ripley upstairs with us without Kayla, but she continued to be timid. I know it will take some time, but I'm glad to have a plan of action now, thank you!

Wayne, how I would love an excuse to bring another little one home! I'm going to keep that in mind in case the other interventions don't help.
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Old 10-26-2003, 09:18 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Nickle P:

Yes, I too feel cats are highly trainable.
My Asim and Isha, as young kittens learned many things.
My bedroom at the end of the hallway was completely off limits, took a long time to get them to understand this, but about with in one month of CONSTANT training, and never letting there be an exception to the rule such as (ohh ok, you can come in this one time.)
It got to the point where they would come running down the hall way after eachother playing, just going at full speed, and then they would dig their claws in, stop dead in their tracks right when they got to the open door way of my room, it was a funny sight.

It will take sometime, and I hope it works out for the best.
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