In search of feline harmony
September 11, 2012 11:00 AM   Subscribe

I would like my two very different kittehs to get along. Help?

Around July 4th, I brought in a 10-week-old kitten who had been living under my deck with his mom. Previously. He (Eisenhower) de-feralized pretty quickly and became a mostly-productive member of the household. He is a sweet and snuggly dude.

Unfortunately, he is super kittenish and attacks current personnel (Beatrix) constantly. Beatrix is a very sweet and snuggly 7-year-old who does not slap him down, but rather makes sad noises and retreats. She has not been herself since Eisenhower came inside. She likes him, follows him around sometimes, but then he grabs her flank and bites her and she hides. She used to sleep with me every night but doesn't now that whenever Eisenhower notices she's there, he'll pounce. Beatrix has apparently forgotten how to purr.

Things I have tried: Feliway, locking Eisenhower in a room to give Beatrix a night off at vet's suggestion (he got so upset he cried for hours and barfed), saying no and putting him out of the room when he pounces.

Complicating factors: (1) I work and travel a lot. (2) the cats are now the same size (!), 5-ish pounds.


(1) Can I do something else to help speed the transition? It hurts my heart to see Beatrix so sad. We are still a few months away from neutering time for Eisenhower.

(2) Beatrix is not a big eater and a free feeder whose food is in the witness protection program on a high bureau. She eats two nuggets and departs. Eisenhower is a hoover who will eat all her food once he figures out how to get up there. This will be soon. How do I simultaneously feed a slow and a fast eater when I'm not around to police it?
posted by *s to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: We're on approximately the same schedule, but have the opposite problem in that our older cat attacks the new one (who is also an adult male, though about 3 years younger) on sight, even though we've followed the standard protocols for cat introductions, Felliway, and even a calming collar. What we've found is that older cat will not jump over a mesh toddler/pet gate. So we've got one up that separates the two cats but new cat can still see people so doesn't get nearly as upset. Maybe if Eisenhower is isolated with a gate so he can see people/Beatrix but not actually get to her it might not result in him getting as upset?
posted by Runes at 11:10 AM on September 11, 2012

I think the vet's suggestion of putting the kitten in a room alone is a good one. You might try locking Eisenhower outside of the bedroom, say, every other night, to give Beatrix a break. He will indeed attempt to convince you that the world as we know it is coming to an end, but don't give in and he will eventually get over it (for some value of "eventually", one cat of mine got over it in a day, another took the better part of a month). I put a towel under the door and turned a fan on high so it wouldn't wake me.

I too have a fast eater and a slow eater - I just make sure to give them extra food so no matter how much the fast eater eats, some is left for the slow. Alternately, you can switch to a half wet food diet. Beatrix is more likely to want to eat her share right away. That said, as long as she isn't losing weight, you should be fine.
posted by zug at 11:11 AM on September 11, 2012

Best answer: Here is a special feeder to separate out kitty bowls.

Perhaps you can have special kitty attention time? You allocate a certain time for Beatrix and then you can have play time for Eisenhower?

Also, with a kitten you really do have to exhaust them. Do some play time and get him jumping around really well.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:14 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing extra one-on-one time for both kittehs. If you are not home much, can you have a kitty minder come over once a day for supplemental playtime?

And just give it time. Two months is very short in terms of cat behavior learning curves. Eisenhower will calm down, and Beatrix may learn some assertiveness regarding her food.

They're both adorable!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 11:25 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Did you really work the Feliway? I mean, not a spray or two every now and again, but using the diffusers, plugged in full-time? That really worked for us. Two diffusers in a 1400 square foot house, changed every month, for three months. Worked really well.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:37 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I brought a kitten into the fold, I ended up with a similar dynamic. What worked was serious exercise to try to mellow out the kitten. It helps that he'll chase tennis balls around the house for hours on his own.

Once Eisenhower gets much bigger, that will actually help. Beatrix will find hiding spots he can't quite reach, and use those as base.

At two, the younger cat is still something of a terrorist. But they also genuinely get along 90% of the time. The other 10% of the time, they just have differences in what constitutes fun.
posted by politikitty at 11:49 AM on September 11, 2012

Make sure Beatrix has a few lairs where she can hole up and not be ambushed.

For example, leave the cat carriers out and she can curl up in one and know her hindquarters aren't going to get bit, unlike an open basket.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:07 PM on September 11, 2012

Response by poster: Did you really work the Feliway?

Yes. I've had two diffusers going full time since before I brought him inside.
posted by *s at 12:44 PM on September 11, 2012

Definitely make her some retreats to get away from kitten antics.

We recently added a young kitten (my brother took her in) to our established two-cat household, and she is crazy-go-nuts-university full-time. They sit on her once they get too annoyed, but it really helps that there are two of them for her to split her attentions.

A break from kitten craziness helps, as does some of our undivided attention. It's pretty easy to pet kitten because she's tiny and cute! But then our older cats feel threatened.
posted by bookdragoness at 1:08 PM on September 11, 2012

Best answer: We took in a 3 month old boy at the beginning of the summer and our resident 5-6 year old lady was most displeased. Your comment about current personnel forgetting how to purr really gets me - it felt the same way for us. She had a few weeks of real moodiness and anxiety, and then one day she was just... better. She demands affection from us again, and tells the baby when he's being a pain. She's calmer about his antics and he's slightly less of a pill.

We did two months of a feliway diffuser and the humans are split 50-50 on whether it helped. We also spent a lot of time playing with the baby to get all his energy out and keep him from attacking his new sister. For a little while I had a laser on me at all times so I could divert him if he seemed like he was stalking her for a pounce. I would also close myself in the bedroom with the lady (one of her favorite rooms) for dedicated play time, which wasn't easy with him howling at the door. It killed me that I couldn't play with her because as soon as I jingled a toy at her, he would come running. And then one day, I was playing with him, and she was watching from the doorway – and then she made a run at the toy, and he backed off. And now they take turns.

Definitely get current personnel some lairs. Ours became much happier when she realized she could get onto the dresser but he couldn't.

I wish I could offer you something more than an "it gets better." Instituting a "play before feeding" regimen, per Jackson Galaxy, made a big difference in terms of getting the baby's crazies out. But we had recently switched the lady to scheduled feedings, so she was ready twice a day to clean her plate. Sometimes I had to lock the baby in the bathroom for ten minutes while she daintily finished everything, but after I put a large cookbook next to her dish, in a corner, so he had no angles of approach to her bowl, I was amazed at how smoothly things started running. I don't know if this kind of change is too much for current personnel, or suits your busy schedule.

It does sound like Eisenhower is a little fiercer than our youngster was, vis a vis biting, but I got ours a dog toy and will sometimes have it "wrestle him" so he gets into a frenzy of biting and fighting with the stuffed animal rather than another being. Also: catnip banana. Nom nom nom.

I'm still diligent about putting the lady's food down first, petting her first when I get home, etc - I don't know if this helps her, but it helps me! When the kitten first arrived, she clawed her way into our bedspring and yowled at me. Today she summoned my partner to the couch with chirps and promptly settled into the lap for purring and petting.
posted by Theophylactic at 4:14 PM on September 11, 2012

Both are beautiful kittehs, but obviously the only solution is going to be to send Beatrix to meee!

Seriously, get a baby gate so Beatrix can have her own space. If it takes two, one stacked on top of the other to keep the lil' monster out, then use two. I would keep Eisenhower out of the bedroom at night with the gate(s), myself, since Beatrix seems to be so upset and very self-effacing and shy.

In addition to providing a room for her, why don't you get some hidey-holes that E. can't access? Something like this with the small entrance, or this tree would give her a place to get away from him when they're in the same area. You don't even have to spend much money--get a few cardboard boxes and put fleecy or fake fur material, or a cut up old blanket down inside them. If you want to get fancy, make it heavy cardboard and glue carpet in. If you don't like the look of boxes laying around, glue material or put contact paper on the outside. Putting a box under the bed and behind the couch makes these places doubly secure. You can build your own cat tree out of wood or heavy cardboard carpet rolls. Go to once of the carpet warehouses--cut them to length and line or cover them. Make your tree high enough that the kitten can't access.

Things will get better with time. Meanwhile, wear out the lil' monster with play, and spend plenty of quiet time with Beatrix to soothe her. Try a Feliway collar if she'll tolerate one.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:15 PM on September 11, 2012

In case this helps to give you heart, we went from Grade A Trouble Kitten three months ago to ginormo-baby patiently waiting to lick petite-lady's bowl.
posted by Theophylactic at 4:23 PM on September 11, 2012

Response by poster: Report: Tiring Eisenhower out was a good idea, worthwhile even though it kept me up super late. Keeping Beatrix in my room at night was a good idea. (I'd dismissed it out of hand because cats (and Tonkinese cats in particular) lose their minds if you close a door, but she was sufficiently attention-starved that she didn't care.) They played patty-cake through the door. Eisenhower had run of the house, aside from my bedroom, and didn't cry. Beatrix purred! For a few seconds, anyway.

I will try putting a book on the bureau to keep Eiser at bay for a little longer.
posted by *s at 8:21 AM on September 12, 2012

*s: " They played patty-cake through the door. "

Ah yes. The classic game of "Cat on the Other Side of the Door" game. Everyone wins that one. Except the carpet. The carpet tends to lose that game.
posted by radwolf76 at 8:30 AM on September 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

« Older Please eat, son!   |   The waiting is the hardest part Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.