Cat intro gone bad what do I do now? - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
 
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-06-2006, 12:00 PM Thread Starter
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Cat intro gone bad – what do I do now?

I got a 1.5 year old unspayed (for now) F, Mischa, as a companion for my 4 year old neutered M, Mr. D. They had two weeks in the house together with her in the basement and him in the rest of the house. Intros through the door and cat carried seemed very positive so I let them meet two nights ago. Initially it seemed very good – no hissing or growling, just very cute face-sniffing and affectionate head-butting. Then she started to chase him, which he didn’t like even though it seemed friendly (she was scampering rather than dashing after him), so I put her back in the basement for the rest of the evening. The next day again they seemed fine, then the chasing began and quickly progressed to outright attacks. Mr. D was left with what is surely a painful scratch between his upper lip and nose and at least one other scratch on his side. He seemed pretty traumatized.

Now the old cat, Mr. D, is terrified of the new cat, Mischa, and the new cat seems to attack the old cat on sight. I don’t know what to do. Mischa seems to be afraid of nothing – loud noises don’t get her to stop chasing Mr. D (and in fact make things worse for Mr. D since he’s scared easily) and she doesn’t even slow down when I squirt her with water. I’m pretty sure I can work with Mr. D and get him to be less afraid of Mischa, but I have no idea how to keep her from attacking him. And at this point each time she goes after him I’ll lose any progress I’ve made in getting Mr. D over his fear.

I’m guessing I’ll have to start all over with the introduction process and go very slowly. One mistake I think I made the first time was not letting Mischa explore the house before meeting Mr. D. So I think I’ll put Mr. D in the basement for an hour each night and let Mischa upstairs to explore. Another idea I have is to get a harness for Mischa so that she can’t get at Mr. D until I’m sure she won’t attack him, but that still seems risky.


Any suggestions? Will Mischa stop being so fierce after she’s spayed? I feel terrible for what I put Mr. D through and I really don’t want to traumatize him any more, but I think he’ll do better in general with another cat in the house.
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-06-2006, 12:40 PM
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One of the things you can do is to get a Feliway plugin - it will relax both kitties and make Mischa less aggressive, and Mr. D less fearful.

Do you know if the attacks are triggered by anything? Some things to watch out for:

Mischa sitting in the middle of the hallway/floor blocking access to the food/litterbox/window/cat condo/people.

Timing of attacks related to food/litterbox/window/people/cat condo - or anything that may be viewed as 'good territory' from the cat's perspective. If it is related to one of these things, add more litterboxes, feeding stations, perches or separate the cats when you are giving them one on one attention.

Early signs of a chase/attack - Mr. D will be walking carefully, taking a path around Mischa instead of going past her. Dilated pupils, stalking/pouncing poses, staring between cats, aggressive/defensive body posture from both cats. If you are quick, you can head off a chase at this point with punishment, or redirection to a treat/toy. If both cats understand the word 'treat', that can be used to distract them too. Or, you can mimic cat language by casually positioning yourself directly in Mischa's way, making direct eye contact as you do so. Don't get between the cats once they've started fighting or running!

Work with Mischa on a leash, or in a controlled situation so that you can distract her with a treat or toy even after she has taken an aggressive pose, since she does not seem to respond to punishment. Reward and praise loudly every time she disengages from the attack in response to your treat.

If you can afford to do so, place cat condos (or any other 'attractive' territory points) clustered at different areas of the house - the more territorial cat may spend all of her time trying to patrol/guard these items and will leave the less appealing 'floor' territory to Mr. D. Cat Condos are very expensive though, so you could explore things like window perches, empty bookcases, or a poster on this board has a 'tupper-lair' made of plastic storage shelving.
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-06-2006, 01:01 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the quick reply, sefaleth! I did get the Feliway plugins -- one in the basement and one upstairs -- when I first brought Mischa home from the SPCA about three weeks ago, so whatever good they'll do they are theoretically doing.

So far my experience with Mischa attacking Mr D is just one very bad episode and several less severe ones. The bad episode occured when Mischa came into my bedroom as I was playing with Mr. D. Mr D hissed at her and slinked under the bed (he sleeps with me at night so he's very comfortable there) and Mischa sniffed around my desk and hamper a few minutes and then went under the bed, tail puffed out, and, before I got a good grip on her, immediately attacked Mr D. Mr D was scared of her but wasn't growling that I could hear or agressively postured.

The other attacks seemed to be the same -- Mischa just pretty much launching at him on sight no where near food or litter boxes. One other occured while Mr D was under the bed, the others (less severe, possibly just playing) while he was in other rooms of the house. She just seems to mind her own business mostly but if she finds him somewhere just goes at him immediately.

The cats still have separate feeding stations and litterboxes both on different floors of the house.

Sounds like putting Mischa on a leash is the best next step. I'm pretty good at reading cat body language so I think I'll be able to tell when Mischa is ready to attack. Now I just need to come up with a treat she likes -- she turns her nose up at Mr D's favorites.

I'll think about the kitty condos, but the house is pretty big with quite a few nice window sills, couch tops and other places that I would think would be as desireable as a condo.

Thanks again!
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-06-2006, 01:14 PM
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I can appreciate your situation. When I adopted my cat Pepper, she used to charge at Snickers and he would freak out, hiss, and run. She seemed to want to play, but his defensive reaction made her start charging after him every time she saw him

I agree with Sefaleth about looking for triggers. Certain situations may be getting Mischa overstimulated or territorial, so look for any patterns that precipitate the attacks. She's also still young and playful, so I'm sure he looks like fun to chase.

When my cats had a blowout, I learned that speaking to them calmly, in a low but firm voice, helped alot. I noticed that if people around them were excited that they became even more wound up. I learned not to grab them or agitate them but speak calmly until I could get to one of them and remove them from the situation.

I would usually separate my two for a couple of hours at least to allow them to calm down. Before bringing them back together, I would put a drop of vanilla on the back of each cat's neck (including my 3rd cat) to equalize their scents. Then, I would bring them together over a meal of their favorite food (with plenty of space between them ), giving them lots of praise.

Snickers still gets mad at Pepper for chasing him sometimes, but he rarely hisses at her out now. Hopefully, with help from you and time to adjust, he will see that Mischa is just having a go at him in fun.

Owned by Pepper and Pumpkin RIP Snickers 8/22/00 -- 11/28/06

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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-06-2006, 06:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by D's_mom
So far my experience with Mischa attacking Mr D is just one very bad episode and several less severe ones. The bad episode occured when Mischa came into my bedroom as I was playing with Mr. D. Mr D hissed at her and slinked under the bed (he sleeps with me at night so he's very comfortable there) and Mischa sniffed around my desk and hamper a few minutes and then went under the bed, tail puffed out, and, before I got a good grip on her, immediately attacked Mr D. Mr D was scared of her but wasn't growling that I could hear or agressively postured.
Sounds like you have a good handle on the situation. You might want to keep an eye on the under-bed area, see if that is a bit of territory that inspires fighting. My boys, who have been behaving for the past week, had a fight last night over the space inside the chest of drawers (I'd taken out the drawer for 2 minutes, I swear!)

The circuituous, sniffing, oh-not-interested approach is also something to watch - it is the feline equivalent of a cautious advance. It is harder to tell if you cannot see the second cat, but it is an early warning sign especially if the second cat is tense, swivelling to keep the first cat in view, and not moving from the spot.

Have taken note of the timing of the attacks? A trigger can be the sound of the cat crunching kibble, or scratching in the litterbox, but may not result in an attack till 5 minutes later when the two cats meet.

The other possibility for a trigger is you - or attention. Cats can get possessive over people, especially if you notice the outbursts happening near you or your hubby. This one can be hard to work around, depending on how much time you have to spare and the kind of relationship you have with your cats:

One option is to give the aggressor a timeout and the cold shoulder even after she has 'vanquished' the competition. Resist the urge to go comfort Mr. D as it will provoke the competition for attention even more. Only pay attention to her when Mr. D is in the room.

The other is to spend lots and lots of time playing and grooming Mischa until she is 'funned' out and itching for some alone time before introducing her to Mr. D - that way she is more relaxed about not getting all of the attention, and may see him as a relief from all of the fussing.

The third option is to develop an iron fisted, absolutely rigid, ritualized schedule for greeting/attention giving to each cat, enforced with timeouts, hissing, scruffing and treats as necessary. This is dependent on whether your cats see you as the dominant animal in the group, and whether you can get them to defer to your order of greeting them.

Hopefully you'll be able to work it out. Yoshi, the little stinker, has learned to tattle on Mac by mah-OW!ing and running to me or my husband when he's had enough.
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-09-2006, 02:13 AM
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Not sure if this helps, but try getting a lazer pointer, have one person hold one cat and yourself hold the other.

Then start playing with them. We noticed when we introduced Cleo to Tink and they were in the hissing growling stage, when we brougt a toy or the lazer pointer into play with both of them close to each other, it took their attention away from each other and onto the toy, while still accomplishing them being near each other without hostile feelings being generated.

Again though, not sure if this is bad or good advice, but it worked for us.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-09-2006, 10:03 PM
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All great advice above. It appears that Mischa has now claimed status as dominant cat in your household and Mr. D has ceded that rank to her. So I think as long as you treat her as the dominant cat, there's less reason for her to be aggressive toward Mr. D. There is no such thing as being "fair and even-handed" with a group of cats, much as we'd like to. They don't understand the concept.
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