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New Cat Aggression: Need help please!

1064 Views 5 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  CaliCeleste
Up until a couple months ago we had three cats. We have Meatball (male, 3) and Toto (female, 2) They are energetic and fun cats. They are very sweet natured. We have Zoey who was a rescue about 8 years ago and she’s very old and definitely seems to be coming to the end of her days sadly. Fortunately we have lots of space in our home so she doesn’t get bothered by the other cats. They have each other to play with so they don’t feel the need to mess with Zoey at all.

My brother in law and his girlfriend recently moved in together. His girlfriend had a cat and he is unfortunately VERY allergic to it. We offered to take her cat, Poe, because we are prepared for cats and I knew it would mean the world to her to be able to come see her cat a couple times a week. She was at a loss as to what to do. The cat is really her only family and she was living in a studio apartment with her. My brother in law literally can’t breathe and his eyes swell up. It’s not a matter of taking allergy meds. It was a bad, bad allergy. Having her cat here doesn’t seem to bother him as much because we have a decently large home so it’s not like being trapped in that studio apartment with the cat, and it’s only a few hours at a time usually. That part of it has been wonderful for my brother in law’s girlfriend, still being able to see her cat I mean. Poe is a two year old female and has been an only child her whole life. I also suspect she was allowed to play very rough. We stop playing with our kittens when they’re young if they start to bite or claw. We are careful to not let them get any bad habits if we can help it. Our adult cats have never, ever, ever bit us or scratched us. We take pride in that because it seems uncommon in other friends’ cats to not play rough. I think that Poe was allowed to do this and it’s become a habit. I don’t know if we can fix that or not now, but it’s the least of my worries, though also related to her aggressive behavior too. So it might all be one main problem.

We took the Poe in at the end of September. I first want to explain that we are fairly experienced with introducing cats (both kittens and older adopted cats) and have only had success stories, so I had no worries about the whole situation, but it’s not turning out well. I work from home so I’m able to be around most of the time. While I don’t think we did anything wrong with how we introduced them, maybe we did? We gave the new cat one of our bedrooms for a few weeks. She was pretty aggressive from the start. I’ve never been nervous around a cat before, but I was nervous of her right away. She growled a lot and just had that “I’m going to attack you if you take another step near me” look. Over time we swapped out toys, bedding, cat towers, etc. to get the cats used to each other’s scents. We also fed the cats on either side of the same door. After the first two weeks we started to open the bedroom door and I would play with the new cat or pet her, while my husband would stick with ours out in the hallway. We would give them treats. Mainly we were letting them see each other and smell each other better, without letting them fully interact, and also hopefully associating each other with the good treats. Eventually we would let her out during the days but put her back in that bedroom at night. We didn’t want anything to happen overnight because they just weren’t getting along super well. We also started to lock her in our own bedroom at night for maybe a week or so just so she could get used to us. She seemed much more gentle with us and would sleep right in-between us purring. I wasn’t sure how that tactic would turn out, but it seemed to be great.

The cats would steer clear of each other for the most part. There was some very occasional growling or hissing, but we would make a loud noise and that would be that. It honestly all seemed fairly normal. No one was attacking at all. It was certainly not going as well as every other time we’ve done this, but I wasn’t concerned. I assumed it was just going to take longer because it was a little different situation with her being an only cat her whole life. I felt like things would keep getting better.

Here we are in mid December and things seem to be getting worse. Now Poe will stalk and attack both of our cats. Zoey is usually off by herself. If she walks past Poe, Poe will swat at her if she’s in a bad mood, but Poe doesn’t ever attack her. So from here on out I’ll just be talking about our other two cats, Meatball and Toto. I assume because Zoey is old, small, and quiet, she’s probably not much of a threat to Poe. Zoey will swat back, but it’s about a swat on each side and that’s it. It’s happened maybe 2-3 times over the last couple months.

So anyway, Poe will literally go after our other cats. A while ago Poe and Toto would actually get into fights. They would be wrestling on the floor and making awful noises. No one ever drew any blood thankfully. They don’t tend to do that anymore, but Poe will still go after the other cats. When she does it to Toto there will be front paws flying on both sides and then it’s over very quickly. They are the two females. I’m not sure if that makes a difference. Toto has stalked Poe a couple times but not many. They actually get physical, but it’s short lived and just some furious swatting, not full out fights on the floor, but still extremely concerning. When Poe goes after Meatball, she runs as fast as I have ever seen a cat run, and then also very oddly low to the ground. She will chase Meatball and they usually head to the basement but Poe just follows Meatball wherever he runs. Then it’s over. I don’t think she makes contact with him. Meatball is our sweet lap cat who is very timid. I assume the reason Poe goes after him like this is because she can. She’s probably asserting some type of dominance. This is a newer thing. When Poe fights with Toto I assume it’s because they’re both trying to be the alpha? For the most part Meatball and Toto don’t really care about Poe. They just ignore her. The only time anything happens is when Poe stalks them and attacks. Meatball and Toto’s behavior has not changed from before we had this cat. They seem the same.

When we first started letting Poe roam the house on her own, she would come lay in our lap and cuddle. She also slept with us at night for a little while which was so sweet, this was after we had locked her up with us for the last few nights of being locked up at night. This has not happened in a month probably. She is actually an extremely brave cat. She is afraid of nothing. She doesn’t jump or flinch at any amount of noise which is crazy. She just opens her eyes and maybe turns her head to look where it came from. I know she hears fine, but it’s just weird how little she cares compared to every single other cat I’ve had or met. When she’s sleeping on your lap you can open her mouth and eyes, you can move her into any position, and she just stays asleep. It’s really weird. Lol. It’s cute though! I bring that up in case it happens to mean something though. When petting her at any other time, she would let you for a little bit and then get annoyed as cats do and start to and scratch. I just walk away at that point.

Recently she is so aggressive that if you even walk to close to her she swats at you. If I even come near her, her tail starts to look angry and she will start to growl. I cannot pet her at all anymore except for when I’m making dinner. It’s very weird. I generally feed the cats in the morning when we get up and again maybe an hour or so before I start cooking dinner. While making dinner she will come into the kitchen and rub on my legs and make the cutest meow. I don’t understand what she wants at that time. She’ll let me pet her a little at this point.

I’m at a loss as to what to do. She’s clearly unhappy almost all the time. She is terrorizing our other cats and she has turned our hands into pin cushions. Another thing to note is that she licks herself furiously when she’s upset, which is almost all the time now. I had a cat in the past who did that when he was angry and the vet said it was an anxiety issue, which makes sense. So, I definitely think she is super anxious. Before we took this cat in, we got all of the cats to the vet just to be safe. Everyone was in good health. Poe actually attacked the vet at that time and the vet prescribed some type of Kitty Xanax to her. I wasn’t there with her. This was before she moved in to our home, but we do have this medication for her. The vet had told her that it would be good to give to her for the move and other high stress events. We haven’t given her any since her initial day when she moved in. I’m not sure if it’s age to keep her doped up with it or not. I will obviously check with the vet prior to doing that, but if anyone has any suggestions or experiences with this, please give them to me! I feel bad for her, I feel bad for the other cats, and I need some help!
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So you had a nice little cat family of Meatball, Toto, and Zoey (and 8 yrs. is not "very old" but still in prime yrs.) that all got along well. Then the introduction of Poe into this household, a cat you describe as an "only child her whole life". t If she was handraised as a kitten and didn't grow up in a cat household with other cats, then she never learned her socialization manners of bite/claw control/reading body cat language, etc.. which is a CRUCIAL DEVELOPMENT PERIOD for kittens between the time they are born and 11-12 wks. of age. Biting hard and using claws is what she has learned. So every cat is a stranger to her, and it's likely she will stay the way she is. So what to do? To have a peaceful household, I would keep your three cats together, and let them has the run of the house for part of the day, and then put them away in a room with door closed, and let Poe have the run of the house. Switch them from rooms by the lure of treats----then they will go willingly. The way things are at present is a constant aggravation to Poe and it's keeping her in hyper state of anger. Your other cats are getting "beat up" and upset with her aggression. I don't think it's fair for them, or for you and your husband who are having to be constantly on guard and the referees! This leads to a lot of stress! and no one wants that. Love Poe for who she is, but keep her separate from Meatball, Toto and Zoey. Try this switching rooms for a week and see if the cats are more relaxed and happy. That's my suggestion, because I really don't think you can change Poe's behavior. If you need to get Poe a new home, she should go into one where there are no cats. All the best and give us an update.
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Thanks so much for the response! I’ll definitely try that out, although I think that happens somewhat naturally already. During the day Poe comes out a lot and the other cats are asleep upstairs. Can’t hurt to try this out though! Anything to help! Thank you!

Also, Zoey is very old. We aren’t certain but probably close to 20. We rescued her 8 years ago and she was already quite old at that point, not a kitten. They guessed her 8-10 years old at that time.
Your're welcome! As far as your brother-in-law's allergy to Poe. The thing with cat allergy is that it isn't dandruff that causes the allergic reaction, but the saliva on the coat from the cat licking it. So another thing you can try is when you know he's coming to visit, is to ruffle and wipe down Poe's coat with an old towel that has been dipped in very hot water, wrung out, and immediately rubbed all over Poe's coat. Also, bathing the cat is helpful as well, tho a lot of cats unless they're used it can put up a big fuss that makes it hard to restrain them from dashing off and bathe at the same time. I had to train my show kittens from a young age to get used to having baths, as it's necessary to have their coats looking the best before a show, and most came to really enjoy a bath or at least tolerate it well. Some cats will put up with a hairdryer to blow the coat dry, but others detest the noise.
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So, I definitely think she is super anxious. Before we took this cat in, we got all of the cats to the vet just to be safe. Everyone was in good health.
Have you tried multicat pheremones---Feliway or one of the other brands?

Did your vet check Poe's thyroid? Hyperthyroidism can cause aggression, though it sounds like that's probably not the problem here, or not the entire problem.
I haven’t tried the pheromones. I had heard about that a long time ago, before we took her in, and forgot about it. Thank you for reminding me. I’ll do some research and try that out too. We did not have Poe checked for her thyroid. Well, we didn’t take her in, it was her former owner, but I know it was just a normal wellness check and vaccine(s), so I’m assuming there was no need to look into that. That being said, they did say she was a little on the plump side! Lol. So I know sometimes weight can fluctuate with thyroid issues as well. I’m to the point where I’d like to take her in. I was considering it so I could ask about the Xanax type pills they gave her; whether it was safe to give her those often or not, so I think here soon I’ll make an appointment. Thanks again for the info! I’ll look into the pheromones!
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