CatFilter: I know this question has been done to death but... three cats, one apartment, two microconflicts. What is to be done?
posted by Keter to pets & animals (8 answers total)
Due to an emergency housing situation that demanded a quick move, I recently moved in with a long-time friend's lovely boyfriend who needed a roommate with some urgency as well. I have been living in this new apartment for a month next Friday. However, one issue we were aware of going into the arrangement was that he already had two cats in his apartment--Belly (5 years, alpha-male) and Lenny (5 years, significantly beta-male) who are brothers. All cats are fixed/neutered/spayed, and all cats are very friendly toward people. If it weren't for the emergency need for the move, I would probably have figured out a different arrangement to avoid having to do cat-melding. A test run of having her come over seemed to provoke some aggression that then fell into a relatively stable state. My father, who I'll consider a lay-expert in cat-dom, assured me all would be well.
Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Lenny, the beta-male brother cat, has become absolutely terrified of leaving the kitchen. He in fact sleeps on the kitchen table all day. The instigation to me posting this question was my roommate texting me to say that Lenny had begun to urinate behind the table, probably in distress. This isn't a sustainable situation, and I feel terrible and horrible about what our presence here has done to this cat. Moving out again is 100% not an option.
Primarily, Lenny is afraid of my cat. My roommate and my friend claim Fiona is being aggressive (vs. curious) which is not my perception-she pokes her head up on "his table" but never hisses or even meows, but of course I am biased. (To be honest I wonder if she just wants to play--my cat is about three years younger and while not hyperactive is still youthful, and definitely has about 100% more energy than either boy cat). Regardless and more importantly, my cat's presence alone (seeing her across the room) seems to terrify Lenny. Lenny would apparently be an occasional target for Belly before we moved in, so has been on the bottom of the pecking order for some time. (He actually tried pretty aggressively to get Fiona when I first moved in, a battle which my cat "won," perhaps apparently with lasting effect). I am willing to do cat-discipline on what interactions I do see between Fiona and Lenny.
As a side note: Belly, the alpha-male cat, aggressively harasses my cat Fiona, but in a way that's definitely decreasing and becoming slowly better in a way more typical with what I've experienced with cat-integrations. They aren't buddies by a long shot--and occasionally get into ultimately nonthreatening tousles and hisses initiated by Belly--but have begun to be able to, say, get pets on opposite sides of me without flipping out, or sleeping close to each other on different vertical levels. I don't think they'll ever be friends, but I've seen a consistently upward trajectory of toleration since I moved in. I am less concerned about this as it seems to be getting better on average (and, importantly, my cat isn't behaving oddly or reflecting stress/trauma).
MeFi, I need your cat conflict resolution tips! Is there any way to convince Lenny the cat that my cat is not a threat? Any chemical means (getting them all high on catnip with each other?) or behavioral means (spraybottle? tricking Lenny into thinking he's won a conflict so as to feel dominant?), patterns of sequestration/integration? I am willing to try anything; my cat and I are in some way guests and I was done a kindness to be able to move in, and I don't want the apartment to become unlivable for one of the original cats.
* My roommate cut all of the cats' claws so they aren't terribly efficacious as weapons at present (perhaps for worse in Lenny's case?).
* I have tried using FeliWay (both the spray and the diffuser), to no apparent effect. I just put an order out for those kitten-pheremone collars (SentryGuard?) as a last-ditch.
* Fiona currently spends about at least 8 hours a day sequestered from the general cat population, sleeping with me.
* There are already food/water stations on opposite sides of the apartment.
* There is currently only one litter box, in a bathroom on the other side of the apartment from the kitchen. It isn't terribly practical to put a litterbox anywhere but the bathroom. I have heard the 1+(number of cats) litterbox rule before. I don't think we could have four litterboxes, but it might be possible to add one more as a sacrifice to peace in our apartment, maybe a small one in the kitchen. Does this really make a difference, do people have experience with increasing litterboxes correlating with behavioral improvements?
* I will be leaving the city for good in approximately 8-9 months, so there does not need to be friendship, merely peace in our time.