Holy jealousy, batman!
August 9, 2007 7:08 AM   Subscribe

CatFilter: Help me make my cat less jealous of the new kitten.

A month and a half ago I adopted Georgia, a 12-month old kitty from a rescue. She is friendly to me, likes some affection, has lots of energy, but she can also become easily skittish and scared of her own shadow (she runs away when guests are over).
Her nervous energy mostly means lots of playing action. She just loooooooooves to play. She will entertain herself for hours just zooming around the house. But she also gets bored and so we thought hey, why don't we adopt another kitten? Then they can play with each other and she may stop waking us up at 4 in the morning.

I did plenty of research and found all the tips I could on introducing new pets into the house. I was well-prepared for the cat soap opera that was going to take place in our apartment. We got Orwell, a 5 month old male kitty, a week and a half ago. (fyi: he is extremely stuffed up from a URI and we have him on antibiotics). We did the whole scent-famiiliarization process and confined him to our room for the first several days and then slowly brought them together through treats and food. But even early on, Georgia decided she did not like Orwell, and kept attacking him. Now I know she was just showing Orwell who's boss, and he has relented, and has shown through his body language that he understands he's bottom cat, but she kept on attacking him. I kept trying to distract her through treats and play but I don't want to endlessly feed her treats, and she completely ignores the play.

Then I noticed the pattern.

She doesn't pay much attention to Orwell if my boyfriend is around. My boyfriend can fuss over Orwell and Georgia couldn't care less (he also makes sure to give her plenty of attention but she runs away most of the time). But if *I* give Orwell the slightest bit of attention (or if he even walks remotely in my direction), she goes straight into attack mode. This is ass because he is sick and needs to be taken care of, but a routine is being set into place where I come home, give her plenty of attention, finally go and see how Orwell is doing (many a time his face needs to be washed because of his cold, or he needs a steam bath from being so stuffed up) and as soon as I'm done with him she goes over and pounces.

She is easily distracted by the sound of the treat bag and so now whenever she goes preying I just shake the treat bag, but she forgets that at a certain point and then goes and attacks anyway. We got Feliway 2 days ago to no effect. I found some some forums where people reported their cats mellowing out mere hours after plugging in Feliway, but the product says it could take a week or longer.

Is there anything else I can do to calm down poor, jealous Georgia and still manage to give Orwell the attention he needs?

Oh and taking him into a separate room does not work at all; Georgia realizes what's going on and meows outside the door. I feel like I'm stuck in a cat love triangle.
posted by Menomena to Pets & Animals (7 answers total)
It just takes longer sometimes. My cat hated my kitten for at least 2 to 3 weeks and it took about 2 months for the hissing to stop. Now lurve each other (although there's still some hissing now and then).
posted by kimdog at 7:12 AM on August 9, 2007

Once Orwell gets healthy, he will defend himself a little better. Cats can take months to get used to the presence of another cat though, so be prepared for lots of hissing and fur flying.

So my advice is this: Get a squirt gun and shoot the big kitty with it whenever she attacks the new guy. Not exactly bringing them together, but it may prevent Orwell from getting injured and/or neurotic. Oh, and maybe separate food bowls for now? Again, it's not exactly bringing them together, but it may make life more tolerable until big cat can tolerate small cat.

As an aside, I once brought a new cat (3 mos. old) into a home where there was a well-established Queen cat. She literally scared the crap out of him the first time we introduced them; I thought it was just a turn of phrase, but it really happens!

Good luck.
posted by Mister_A at 7:36 AM on August 9, 2007

I'm not sure if the same psychology works with cats as with dogs, but I don't think rewarding aggressive behavior with treats is as effective as using a noise or water to discourage the negative behavior. I'd be sneaky though, try to not let the cat know the water is coming from you and she won't hold it against you. She'll think the new cat is protected by magic. :P

The behavior may also be increased because the new cat is sick, there are weird mediciney smells and (not to be new-agey, but I don't know how else to put it) the aura of sickness around the new cat, that has to be scary to the old cat.

In my various living situations, I've blended my cats in with other cats and it has always settled down within a couple of weeks. Give them both love, they are going through a tough time.
posted by Jazz Hands at 7:56 AM on August 9, 2007

We got a new kitten last Thanksgiving and added her to our pet family of a 6 year old cat and 9 year old dog.

The first 6 months were tough, but with Feliaway and lots of petting equally, the kitties are friends!!!
posted by k8t at 9:59 AM on August 9, 2007

I think giving the older cat attention is definitely good, but I think you also need to discourage the negative behavior instead of rewarding it. Make it clear that being overly aggressive is a no-no.

It might take her a while to get the picture (especially since so far, she's attacked him and been rewarded with treats), but that might help.

We had indoor/outdoor cats and we used to punish whichever of them attacked the other by tossing them outside. It took a while but they eventually got the picture.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:17 AM on August 9, 2007

Thanks for all the answers and suggestions.

I know it's all a matter of time and it could take weeks or months. But it can be hard to deal with (I'm stressing out over it too), and I want to minimize the amount of stress for all of us, as much as possible, until they figure it out. I know I should just leave them alone to figure it out, but I also want to give them some attention. So it's hard achieving a balance.

I've been clapping (without her seeing me) and she sometimes stops, sometimes doesn't.

It's true that I shouldn't be rewarding her when she gets aggressive. This is why if I am distracting her I sometimes resort to clapping, because with the spray bottle she can more easily see it's me, and it's only a matter of time before she realizes me + spray bottle = punishment, and I've read that negative reinforcement doesn't work with cats. Though of course people have commented here and elsewhere saying they've been able to weed out behaviour problems with the spray bottle.

For those who've had success with Feliway, how long after did you start noticing a difference?
posted by Menomena at 11:04 AM on August 9, 2007

Our cat's a greedy little brat, so when we got the kitten, we'd let him look at her while feeding him treats. If he got too fussy about the kitten, we'd shut her back in her room and he wouldn't get any more treats. He also loves to go outside on a harness, so in the first week or two, when he got very stressed, we took him outside more often. We didn't do it as a punishment or a reward, but just as a way for him to calm down.

We also did the thing where, initially, we'd tend to the kitten behind closed doors. The older cat *hated* that, and somehow he clued in that he could be patient and watch, or he could be cranky and excluded.

I don't know when the Feliway started working, but the day I unplugged it to see if it made a difference was *the* worst day ever and resulted in a huge vet bill to treat the older one's stress-related eye herpes flare-up.

We've had our kitten for about 2 months. The older one isn't thrilled, but he's calming down. We never, ever yell at him or spray him with water for fighting with the kitten - they aren't fighting hard enough to hurt, for one thing, and they have to learn boundaries, for another.

It just takes a long time.
posted by arabelladragon at 12:32 PM on August 9, 2007

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