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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 10-05-2018, 04:24 PM Thread Starter
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Help anxious kitty in multi cat home

Hi, I’m looking for advice acclimating an anxiety prone cat to a home with 2 other cats. My fiancé and I are in a unique situation in that we are renting a home from a friend at a reduced cost in exchange for allowing her 2 mature cats to live there as well: Henry (16?) and Izzy (10) We also have a cat of our own, Zuzu (5).

The other cats are mellow and have been very tolerant of Zuzu. They lived with a 3rd cat before and seem curious but sort of unconcerned by her presence. The issue is that Zuzu is very defensive toward the other cats (won’t let them get near; hisses and growls). A couple times one of the other cats managed to sneak into her sanctuary room and she freaked out (lots of noises and hid, but no fighting). She has also peed outside the litter box in her sanctuary room a couple times. Ugh. What can we do? Does it just take a lot of time, or are there ways we can ease her anxiety? It’s been almost 4 weeks.

Here’s some history that may be relevant:

Zuzu is a bit of high maintenance kitty. We adopted her as a young adult and she previously had kittens and lived with other cats in foster care. She’s very sweet and loving, but also very alert and on guard. Easily startled. She’s also prone to separation anxiety and was diagnosed with FLUTD after several bouts with UTI symptoms and peeing outside the box after we had been gone for vacations. Since then she has been doing well on a Rx diet (Royal Kanin Urinary+Calm).

In advance of the move I read up on cat introductions and we followed a lot of the best practices for introducing a cat to a new environment with other cats. First we moved our stuff in and got acquainted with the resident cats. We installed multi-cat and calm pheromone diffusers. A week later we moved Zuzu in and set her up in a sanctuary room (our bedroom). She adapted shockingly well to the new space and seemed right at home. We kept her there for a week and did sock/smell exchanges. Then let her explore the house without Izzy and Henry there (they go outside). Eventually we introduced them and things seemed to be going ok. The residents were curious but not defensive. Zuzu didn’t like them getting too close, but we were able to feed them in sight of each other. Eventually we let Zuzu have access to the whole house when we were home, but kept her separated in her sanctuary room anytime we left, or didn’t want to monitor them. We had a couple experiences when all three cats were on laps in the living room and peacefully coexisted.

We figured things were right on schedule and continued giving them all lots of praise and treats when in the presence of each other. However, Zuzu was still reacting strongly if another cat got too close. We decided to dial things back and last week I created a cardboard “screen” to put in the doorway of the bedroom. It has holes she can see out, but not put her head thru. I thought this would help her view the other cats without feeling like they were ‘in her space’. However, she still hisses at them if they approach. Last week we also noticed she was peeing next to her litter box (on towels we were using as a litter trap over the carpet; we’ve since put down a plastic chair mat and she stopped). Also, whereas she was happy in her sanctuary before, now she cries to go out (but then freaks at the other cats). It’s Iike her anxiety is increasing.

One other thing. Zuzu is a ‘leashed’ outdoor cat. She’s not allowed to roam, but can go outside under supervision. We give her a long leash anchored on a center point and she can roam the back yard at her own pace. About week 2 we started taking her outside. She loves it and runs to the back door whenever she’s out of her room. She’ll even tolerate the other cats a bit if they won’t get too close. What’s worth noting is that there are a lot of neighborhood cats that walk through the yard. Zuzu has always been very defensive of her turf, so she doesn’t like this. Could seeing these other outdoor cats be making it harder for her to accept Henry and Izzy at home?

If anyone has strategies/suggestions or tips for an anxious drama-queen kitty, I’d love to hear them. Thanks for bearing with this long post!
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 10-08-2018, 12:23 PM
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A lot of her reactions to the other cats sound to me that it's just the way she is, whether it's genetic or otherwise. Have you tried any diffusers like "Feliway"? I haven't used them, but other members have reported good results, and others ineffective, so it depends on the cat I guess.
There are other remedies to try: Bach Flower Essences.

A vet can provide anti-anxiety medication as well.

Also an additional litter box in another location of her "sanctuary room" may be helpful. Hope you find something for Zuzu soon.
All the best!

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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 10-08-2018, 07:44 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks, catloverami! Yes, we've tried both kinds of diffusers -- the one that's supposed just be calming (feline facial pheromone) and the one that is supposed to help them get along with each other (mother cat pheromone). If it's working at all it must be subtle. Will consider the Bach remedies -- I've heard of them.

We started trying a new strategy recently to get Zuzu to spend more time in the main part of the house (instead of always retreating upstairs to her room). We put up a baby gate in my home office which has a half wall separating it from the dining room (we put sticky paws on the top of the half wall, so the cat's don't jump up). Zuzu get's fed here and we move her litter box down during the day. Hoping that having her spend the day with me there, where she is more aware of the other cats on the other side of the wall/gate, might lessen her anxiety about them. She still sleeps in our bedroom (the sanctuary) at night. Not sure it's working, but giving it some more time. So far we've had to keep a sheet covering the gate, or she will hiss as soon as she sees the cats. Hoping we can drop the sheet in a few days or a week. fingers crossed....
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 10-09-2018, 10:39 AM
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Did you write it has been a little over a month? That's not a long time for a cat to get acclimated to a totally new surrounding let alone a multi-cat household. As long as she isn't regressing or becoming hostile just stay the course. Revisit it in a couple months and maybe try an anti-anxiety med if she doesn't seem to be settling in better. Are the other 2 cats basically acting the same throughout? Because at least there's that! Cats don't use calendars. Just keep doing what you're doing and good luck!

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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 10-11-2018, 03:26 PM
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Also same problem with my cat, but for me its the oldest cat who is anxious and i have a now 2 year old cat who likes to go into my older cats room and they would make sounds and hiss at each other .

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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 10-11-2018, 04:57 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks, DizzysDad. She doesn't seem to be regressing. Zuzu still acts like her self when she's alone with us. The older of the other two cats seems to be acting the same - curious, but not aggressive. The younger, female cat, seems to be getting more hostile/reactive to Zuzu's defensive hissing/growling. I've seen her lunge and swat at the gate and she has a pretty intense stare (one reason we have a sheet covering the gate). Before we put it up she was spending a lot of time in a cat tree at the bottom of the stairs to our bedroom and I wondered if that was a guarding behavior aimed at Zuzu. That is one reason we put up the gate -- to give Zuzu a bit more 'territory' in the main part of the house. Do you think that will work? Or are we just setting up an inevitable turf war?

Last edited by marie73; 10-11-2018 at 09:41 PM.
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