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Hi, I have 6 cats (5 boys, 1 girl) in a large house. They have been living together for about three years and generally get along (though the girl likes her space). One of our boys, Reese, though has been harassed by one of our other boys, Nikki, since last year when we lost our 7th cat and simultaneously Reese had minor surgery. However, Reese was able to handle himself and overall it was highly manageable and they just stayed out of each other's hair.

However, in the past week or so Reese is being severely abused by another one of our cats (Nikki's biological brother, Baby) and is also being hit by the girl, Seisu and also by Nikki. Seisu and Nikki hit him and chase him away if he tries to go into a room that they are in. But Baby actually looks for him in order to hit him (and has repeatedly slashed his little nose). He blocks him from the litter and the food (and we have these in various locations)

Reese is so scared at this point that he won't go to the food nor the litter -- even though we have various location for food and two locations for littler boxes (we have 6 HUGE litter boxes for them). He even pooped on the floor the other day b/c he didn't want to venture to the litter ... he gets hit every time he tries. Reese is sleeping with me on the bed but Baby still has tried to attack him there and it wakes me up during the night.

I believe I know what has caused this problem. 1) we are expecting a baby in less than a month and had the house in complete disarray for two weeks (painting, moving furniture all over, closing off parts to work on, etc). This really stressed them out, disrupted their routine and sort of dislocated them from their favorite locations in the house, and 2) Reese had a vet visit recently just for a checkup.

What I don't know is how to fix this problem. I can't keep escorting Reese to the litter box to avoid him going elsewhere (I take him to it twice per day and he uses it) nor can I keep bringing him food and having food all over the house (outside of the designated areas). More importantly, I can't protect him from being hit all the time (he hides all day now). AND the (human) baby is coming very soon so I'm worried about them being alone in the house for the days I'm in the hospital and about still having this problem between them going on when I'm post-partum.

Unfortunately, we cannot separate them because we don't have any rooms available to put one of the cats in (the old "cat reintroduction room" is now the nursery) and using the cage for more than half a day is torture on everyone and, when I tried it for half a day it seemed to make things worse. I've also tried herbal remedies in their water but that's useless. I give them plenty of playtime (Reese is not participating as he is too scared).

How can I make Baby (and Seisu and NIkki) less agressive toward Reese? Why have they chosen Reese as their punching bag? How can I make Reese less fearful and more assertive (is it possible that they may not beat up on him so much if he was less of a coward?).

Thank you, thank you to anyone who can offer some advice.
 

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Really, it does sound like separation and re-introduction would be best. Reese needs a safe haven. Do you have a bathroom he could stay in for a few days?

Play therapy (www.littlebigcat.com/index.php?action=nlarchive) might be very helpful for the aggressors, who need a more acceptable way to express their hunter energy.

Flower essences such as Peacemaker or Ultimate Peacemaker can be very helpful. (www.spiritessence.com). Also, think about the calming pheromone Feliway, available online or at pet stores. The plug-in diffuser works great.

I'd add one more possible reason to your list: surgery. You mentioned that Reese had a minor surgery. Coming home from the vet, a cat will look the same but smell different; a lot of other cats will react negatively. My theory is that they think it's a "pod-cat" (for those of you who remember "Night of the Living Dead") -- he looks the same, but isn't! 8O Also, it is an instinct of many species to drive off a sick member of their clan so it doesn't attract predators. While cats are not "pack" animals, they do form colonies, so there may be some social rules like this that are operating.

If these simple solutions fail, a consultation with a behavior expert (I recommend my partner Jackson Galaxy--720-938-6794) can give you an action plan, and even more important, it will give you hope that the problem can and will be solved!

BTW we have an article in our free library on getting ready for a new baby: www.littlebigcat.com/index.php?action=l ... w&item=013. Again, flower essences can help with this, especially in a multi-cat home. "Space Invader" was formulated for just this sort of situation!

Cheers,
Dr. Jean
 

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Jean, thank you for replying - I'm so desperate on this issue.

The issue we have with separation is that we have no rooms available in which we could adequately set up Reese (seems like you feel Reese is the one that would need to be given a separate space as a safe haven rather than "punishing" Baby by having him be separate). We do have a basement in which he could be quite comfortable, however, that's where the bulk of the litter boxes are (we also have two upstairs) and therefore, all the other cats would be displaced. I'll discuss with my husband and see if we can figure something out. Here are some questions though: would a cage be okay? (we could put food and water there but no room for a litter box, which makes me think this would be cruel to make him go on newspaper right in there). Wouldn't separating Reese take away his power to mark territory and give Baby the sense that he "won" and that he now owns the rest of the house? Is it a totally bad idea to force them to interact by having them be in a room together for a while at a time? (They seem very afraid and uptight when I tried this for a few minutes so I didn't pursue it in fear that I was doing the wrong thing).

RE: Play therapy -- I suppose I should do more of this. I give them tons of attention during the day, but the play is always hogged by our other cat, Nikki. He doesn't let anyone else play with the toys so I may need to give Baby some alone time in a separate room where Nikki can't interfere. Tough to give them all some alone play time where they can actually get the toy without Nikki jumping all over them (playfully).

RE: Flower essences -- Other than Feliway, I've tried a bunch of these and they haven't worked. I'll head to Petco tomorrow and grab some as I believe they have it there.

RE: Surgery -- That was actually last year. It definitely made Nikki antagonistic toward Reese and their old friendship was broken at that time until this day, which I find sad, however, Nikki was never terrible with Reese just sort of stayed out of his way -- unlike Baby. Baby and Reese were actually good friends until a couple of weeks ago (but there WAS a vet visit for Reese, though it was just his annual checkup/ vaccination)

I think I will give Jackson Galaxy a try. Is he able to do phone consultations without meeting the cats? (sees by his area code that he is not in my area).

Thanks for the article on bringing home a baby. It definitely concerns me that they will undergo more stress in the near future since they are already so on edge. Also, I keep worrying about how to keep Reese safe while I'm away at the hospital giving birth ...
 
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