My cat is jealous of my wife and new daughter??
February 4, 2008 7:46 AM   Subscribe

How do we deal with a cat with behavioral problems? It seems the youngest (2 years old) of our three cats is jealous of our 4 month old baby and my wife. I brought this cat into our relationship with her two other cats. The cats after an initial power struggle get along for the most part.....

Since we moved into our house back in August, my cat (Scarlett) has shown severe signs of jealousy, peeing on my wife's side of the bed, on her laundry.....and eventually in my suitcase, the night before we were to leave for the hospital to await our first child....

Our daughter was born in September, and all seemed fine except for a few smaller isolated incidents....Moments ago, my wife called me at work, to let me know that Scarlett had jumped into the babies new crib, and proceeded to pee all over the blanket and sheets....

I question the need for attention as we shower our cats with tons of love and toys daily. There cat box's are kept clean (every other day they are cleaned out thoroughly); their food and water are kept fresh as well.

After one of our first incidents, I brought Scarlett to the vet as a precaution. They didnt find anything physically wrong with her. They suggested a product called 'Felaway'. We have tried putting tin foil in the crib to keep the cats out...We have introduced Scarlett to the baby and Scarlett seems unaffected if not flatly ignores her.

We are running out of idea's at this point. We can't keep every door closed at all times. Eventually when the baby is using the crib full time (currently she is in a co-sleeper in our room), we will have to keep the door open.

I don't want to give Scarlett away, but outside of a cat therapist, I'm kind of at a loss....Any idea's?
posted by TwilightKid to Pets & Animals (21 answers total)
Use Feliway. I bought mine from Amazon. It works, though you may need to give it a week or two. It's the only thing that kept me from having to give away my cat, who now never marks.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:55 AM on February 4, 2008

well, i have not had a baby (yet) but i have a jealous cat. here is what i did when i got a dog and she started to pee on my couches, beds, chairs and so on: i confined her at first to just part of the house. which worked, but i felt bad as people were not in that area a lot. everytime she was let out she would pee on something within a couple days. i slept over there on an air mattress a lot and then she peed on me in my sleep. so i called a pet psychic. she recommended Dr Bach's Flower Essenses after "speaking" with the dog and cat. not sure if that worked as at that same time i got her a 2nd litter box and gave her only filtered water. this seemed to work, mainly. there were occasional lapses but mainly it was fine. the dog moved out and she still had issues sometimes. so i made SURE i was emptying her litter boxes EVERY day. i think that was the most important thing. my girlfriend moved in with her possessive, bruiser of a cat not too long after and there was one incident so i got the feliway diffusers for the living room and bed room. as long as i replaced them every 3-4 weeks and kept the litter clean, there were no issues. so those two things are what i would do. hard situation indeed.
posted by annoyance at 8:00 AM on February 4, 2008

To respond to the two answers so far, we have been using felaway, to no avail......And can I really assume that changing the litter boxes every day as opposed to every other day is gonna make the difference? Why wouldn't the other two cats be responding weirdly to all of this, if it was a litter box issue?
posted by TwilightKid at 8:03 AM on February 4, 2008

I had a very similar problem with our smallest cat, Sophie, when my first child was born. Sophie peed all over the pantry and ripped up a lot of furniture with her claws. She was just very unhappy because of the new baby in the home. We put her up for adoption and she went to a very nice home with a very nice person who we knew could give her all the attention she deserved. We were too busy focused on our new baby, and the other two cats kept to themselves not needing our attention as much. I did consider putting Sophie up for foster care with a friend but I wasn't sure if she'd be able to deal with going back and forth...and I didn't know if I could orchestrate all that by myself. Sophie was a very sensitive gal. She needed as much stability as possible and besides, I was recovering from a very complicated birth with the baby and I really wasn't sure I could keep taking care of three feral cats in the home (all our kitties were from farms and rather wild to begin with!).

How about asking a good friend to take your Scarlett into their home as a foster parent? It would be only temporary and I bet she'd love a break. I think when she is trying to actually gain entry into the baby's crib you have a real serious situation on your hands and she might not be able to control herself if left alone with the baby. It seems like a ton of extra work too to have to clean up after kitty pee in laundry, suitcases, and in the bed. I think that is her way of gently telling you that she needs a break from her family.
posted by mamaraks at 8:04 AM on February 4, 2008

Many cat-owning parents put up a screen door on the babies room to alleviate the fear of babies and cats interacting unsupervised. That may be something to consider.

Also consider that chances are the cat isn't jealous. So often people attribute some emotional problem to cats because they think of them too much like humans. It COULD be jealously, but likely its something else. I would recommend the vet, but you already did that. Still, did they do a urinalysis? If not, have them do one. Also, if the cat isn't fixed, be sure that is done.

Also keep in mind, you should have one litter box per cat, plus 1. So you should have at least 4 litter boxes. Also try different litters (not all at once!) some cats get fussy about their litter for no good reason at all. There are a variety of different types a cat may take to. Even if traditional litter doesn't work, trying things like old towels or newspaper in a litter box. It doesn't have to be permanent, but just long enough to figure out if litter is the problem, and to get the cat back to normal litter.

Also, don't forget "cat attract" litter and additive. Its a little spendy, but I've heard nothing but good things about it helping to correct outside the box urination.

Finally, if it turns out it really is behavioral, you can have antidepressants prescribed for cats. They are apparently quite effective, but make sure you eliminate all other possibilities, or you'll just be wasting time.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:12 AM on February 4, 2008

Ack, sorry for the string of also's.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:14 AM on February 4, 2008

Although I used it in a different situation, I can also attest to the magical effects of Feliway. I can't tell from your question whether you actually tried it?
posted by lalex at 8:16 AM on February 4, 2008

The doctor did do a kidney and urinalysis, and found nothing physically wrong with her. She is fixed as well. Generally she is a very sweet cat. A bit stand-off'ish at times. There is a definite change in personality when my wife tries to pick her up. I can pick her up and cradle her like a baby for the most part. If my wife tries that, she squirms and cries to break free.

We do have four litter boxes, and we are using arm n hammer pine litter which the cats seem content with....

In our laundery room, my wife and I have separate piles of clothes. Scarlett, last week, pee'd in my wifes basket, but not mine, which led me to think that it is a form of jealousy.

Like I had mentioned, I give her a ton of attention, and play with her as much as she will allow before she runs to go do her own thing.

My wife is home all day with the baby, so there are people in the house along with the two other cats ( 9 and 12), who she plays/fights with daily.

I think another trip to the vet is in order, and possibly the cat anti-depressants.
posted by TwilightKid at 8:23 AM on February 4, 2008

This is your baby you are talking about, get rid of the cat.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:25 AM on February 4, 2008

Newsflash, BobbyDigital, pets are not inanimate objects to be discarded indiscriminately. The OP is looking for solutions to his cat's current problems, not a heartless "get rid of the cat" comment. The goal is to AVOID that.

TwilightKid, have you considered that Scarlett is acting out because she's not "the baby" anymore? She went from living alone with you to becoming the youngest of three cats and now her position has been disrupted again. Would it be possible for you to spend a little one-on-one time with her every day without the other cats (or the baby) around? She may miss all the uninterrupted attention she used to get from you.

Also, listen to kittens for breakfast -- that stuff really did work for him.
posted by at 8:35 AM on February 4, 2008

BD, the bluntness of that comment makes me think that you may not be a pet owner. If Scarlett had scratched her, hissed at her, bit her, or had any sort of violent tendency towards the baby, we would get rid of her.
Scarlett has not shown an inkling of being a physical threat to the baby. Not in the slightest. Her problems have been purely behavioral.
All things considered, after we explore every possible option, if we can not find a solution, then we will look into a foster home
posted by TwilightKid at 8:39 AM on February 4, 2008 said what I wanted to say to BD before I could hit 'post'. Haha....That was exactly it. I had Scarlett since she was 5 weeks old. It was me and her till I met my wife, and we moved, and turned her life a little upside down. I do happen to spend one on one time with her, almost daily. I have been a pet/cat owner my whole life. Not a day goes by, where i don't seek her out before i leave for work for a kiss on the head, and I always seek her out when I come home at night as well...

I kind of agree with you in that I feel that she thinks that she isn't 'my baby' anymore, and is acting out....If cats are capable of that type of bond with their owner.

Im setting up another doctor appointment, and will try out every viable option out there....Giving her away would break my heart.
posted by TwilightKid at 8:44 AM on February 4, 2008

This might be overly simplistic, but have you tried creating a deliberate positive association with the baby? Each time that the cat comes into the room with or generally near the baby, try to reward her with a tiny treat (if there is something she goes for and isn't finicky). As with dog training, use tiny nibbles, it doesn't take a lot, and the rule goes double for cats. Just make sure you don't give her treats outside of the the interaction with your baby until you see if the association improves her behavior.

Consistent positive reinforcement while exposed to the baby might help. I can't imagine it would hurt.

Also, here's another reference for similar problems.
posted by FrotzOzmoo at 9:03 AM on February 4, 2008

When this happened to a friend the vet told her that they were anthropomorphizing the cat by thinking it was competition or anger over the baby being there, and that what was actually happening is that this new, very strong and somewhat threatening SCENT was in the house and the cat had to immediately cover it up with her own scent. While this wouldn't apply to much to the cat causing damage in other parts of the house, it might account for some of the behavior; in that case, the feliway might definitely help.

I think the positive association trick mentioned above would be a great way for her to not think that scent threatening/dangerous, though.
posted by luriete at 9:53 AM on February 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

I've got to agree with BobbyDigital. Get rid of the cat.

A few years ago I watched helplessly from a distance as our cat hunted our four-year-old daughter up a tree and sank it's teeth into her arm. No, it didn't have rabies, just a real bad case of jealousy. She'd spoken of it being mean to her before, but I hadn't really believed her until I saw it. It left deep punctures in her forearm, then ran.

Yes, we did get rid of the cat. I'd have chopped it's head off on the spot if I'd been able to, but we gave it to a friend who lived in the country away from other people.
posted by anadem at 10:18 AM on February 4, 2008

I agree with the positive association thing. That might be enough to do it. You might want to contact a vet that specializes in behavioral issues as well.
posted by bolognius maximus at 10:38 AM on February 4, 2008

Anadem, your less than helpful glee in mutilating animals is noted. However the OP specifically said there is not aggression toward the baby or the wife. The cat is marking inappropriately. The OP has also specifically said he's looking for alternatives to giving the cat to someone else.
posted by 26.2 at 10:41 AM on February 4, 2008

I was a bit blunt, I did not meant to imply that you should tie it up in a sack and throw it in the river. Find a friend, or use a service to get it into a new home more appropriate to its personality.

Even IF it never behaves aggressively towards your child, which is a big IF considering its behavior you are still potentially putting your baby at risk due to its new hobby of using anything it associates with your spouse or baby as a toilet.
posted by BobbyDigital at 10:48 AM on February 4, 2008

One of my cats had an inappropriate peeing issue and after having her checked out and trying different things, the vet prescribed her Paxil. We had babies and this was happening at least once a week for a couple years, almost always on my clothes or my side of the bed. I did not feel right giving her away and I didn't really like the idea of dosing her but we had to do something, I was fed up. Well, it works. It was obvious at least some of the peeing behavior was anxious behavior. She is friendlier now as well. If you can't figure out anything else, it's an option.
posted by Melinika at 10:55 AM on February 4, 2008

Outside of her choices of urination, she is your basic normal house cat. Affectionate at one point; aloof at another....Hardly a reason to simply find her a new home. I agree with you in that my daughter is my number one priority and her safety is all I care about, but at this point, the cat has given me ZERO reason to believe that she poses a physical threat to her well being.
posted by TwilightKid at 10:58 AM on February 4, 2008

I am going though the exact same thing right now with one of my three cats.

We have a five and half month old, and at about four months, the cat decided to pee on the back of a brand new ( and expensive) rocking chair. I ended up having to call professional cleaners out. and then he did it again. So after getting it professionally cleaned a second time, I now have the back of the chair wrapped in two heavy trash bags and topped with a bunch of towels. So far, so good.

I also took the cat to the vet after the first instance, and they gave me a script for prozac. I can't tell if it is working yet.

To keep the cats out of the babies room, we did the screen door thing, and it works pretty well. We can see and hear what is going on in the room, but the cats can't get in.

Hopefully things will be better now, as I really don't think I can get rid of him.
posted by brent_h at 10:36 PM on February 4, 2008

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