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I've never had a problem in the past introducing new cats to my home. It helps that my first three cats all lived to ripe old age and with the exception of introducing the youngest to the elder two when he was just a kitten, I'd not had to deal with stroppy kitties getting all emotional and stroppy about their territory. When my two eldest cats had both been put to sleep, we found ourselves in March this year down to just the one cat, our elderly Maine Coon tom, Rocky. For the first time in 18 years we were a one-cat household and it just didn't feel right. Within a week two new kitties, a mother and son, came home from the cat shelter to keep Rocky (and us) company. As the younger lad strode right up to his new big brother and kissed him on the nose, it was clear that they were all going to get along just fine.
Sadly in June Rocky went the way of his sisters, the vet acknowledging that his life had been happier and prolonged by having Pandora and Bagheera to entertain his last few months. Again I felt that two kitties was one less than ideal so we volunteered to take another cat from the shelter. Wendy, the lady who runs the excellent Kit Cat shelter in Northampton, knew how seriously we'd taken our responsibilities to the first two cats and called to offer us 'first refusal' on a 2-year old pedigree Burmese that she'd just been asked to re-home. We asked if it was a boy or girl and were told it was still too traumatised for her to find out. This was a cat with some serious emotional issues to deal with. He'd been abandoned by rental tenants who did a moonlit flit with their rent unpaid, leaving the cat to fend for itself. It took several days before it calmed down enough to be distracted by a bowl of food whilst Wendy lifted his tail and confirmed he was a neutered male. She kept him for a couple of weeks whilst we went on holiday and claimed to have calmed him down.
When Baloo came to us from Kit Cat all hell broke lose. I'd not really done my homework and hadn't realised how massive Burmese males are; he's about the size of a koala rather than a cat and you have to brace yourself when you pick him up. All my assumptions that cats from the Far East were dainty little skinny things with big ears went out the window. He's massive and as dainty as a rhinoceros. Talk about aggressive – this was a cat that needed an ASBO. Baloo must have been an only cat in his former household and appeared to believe that our two little Siamese-cross cats were there for his amusement. If they so much as twitched, he chased
Pictures of Feliway
ASBO kittie looks like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.
them. Cue two very stressed and unhappy cats who weren't amused at being pursued by the elephant of the feline world and more swearing and fighting than a Liverpool hen-night.We tried all sorts of things to get them to get along. Wendy advised covering the scent glands on their necks and bottoms with Johnson's Baby Powder, the theory being that once they all smelled the same, they'd get along. I tried, really tried, but I think they were about to call the RSPCA and get me locked up for touching their bottoms. Baloo was put into segregation – he had his own bedroom with en suite litter tray which kept things manageable but wasn't addressing the problem. We tried putting them together in controlled spaces – Baloo in the shower with the others wandering around the bathroom. Slow progress took place as he was let out of the shower and they sniffed one another. "Success!" we thought until the moment they got out of the bathroom and Baloo thundered down the corridor after whichever cat took off first.
Little Bagheera was taking the brunt of the attacks whilst his mum looked on disdainfully. The poor little fellow was so scared that he'd started running away from me and my husband and hiding behind the freezer and was too stressed to eat. We bought a large dog cage to put Baloo in so they could all be in the same room with Baloo behind bars whilst they got used to each other. This resulted in a very irate Baloo doing impressions of a Tazmanian Devil and some impressive 'Dirty Protests' that would have not been out of place in the H-blocks of the Maze Prison. Baloo could be found lying in his litter box swearing at the other two and us.
My husband was determined not to give up on Baloo but I really did think we'd go crazy before we got him to assimilate. I had been sharing my kittie-trauma with other members of a review forum when my appeal for suggestions brought me a recommendation to try the Feliway diffuser. I was told that it was recommended for any kind of stressed-out cat situation and was based on creating a calming comforting smell for the cats which was said to work in a wide range of situations. Within just a few minutes I'd ordered a Feliway Diffuser from www.petmeds.co.uk for about £18. By that stage if someone had recommended holy water, I'd have been on the next plane to Lourdes with an empty coke bottle.
It felt like it took a lifetime for the parcel to arrive due to the Post Office getting up to their usual tricks. It was a week before the little bottle of potential life-saver arrived on the doorstep by which time I was several inches beyond the end of my tether. Baloo had progressed from attacking the little cats and moved on to attacking me and my husband AND the little cats.
I ripped open the parcel, hurriedly checked the instructions, worked out that the diffuser was exactly like an electric air freshener and popped up to Baloo's bedroom to plug it in. The instructions informed me that it could take up to a week to take effect but it was clear that Baloo was intrigued as soon as it warmed up and he headed over to rub his face on the diffuser. We left him in his room for a few hours before moving him and the diffuser down to the kitchen where my husband 'supervised' a few hours of contact time with the other cats.
I won't claim it was instant or magical but over the next few days, hubby and the kitties all started to calm down and the chasing and swearing got less frequent and less aggressive and gradually we let them out into the rest of the house. After two weeks the little cats were sufficiently calm to be allowed to play outside again because up to that point we'd confined them to the house because we were worried that they'd run away from home. One week later Baloo finally got let out into the garden – somewhere he'd only previously been after he leaped out of his bedroom window to go exploring. We've now found that a good run around the garden seems to be particularly good for exhausting all three cats and leaving them with insufficient energy to continue being stroppy. A tired kitty really is a more peaceful kitty.
I'll never really be able to say to what extent the Feliway worked its magic and I can't rule out that they didn't all just eventually get bored of fighting, but I suspect that knowing we had the diffuser made us humans calm down and the pheromones meant that the cats benefited from a greater sense of calm and security. I've recently ordered another three refills for the diffuser and we'll keep them going for the next few months but already home is a much calmer place for all concerned. That's not to say that we don't still get attacks especially when Baloo does a vertical take off and lands on Pandora with all the grace of a bulldozer, but Bagheera is no longer frightened of his big brother and the chasing these days is more likely to be playing and less likely to be all-out attack. Yes they still fight but Baloo hasn't been having it all his own way.
So how does it work? The technology is based on synthetic 'feline facial pheromones' – not something to say too quickly or too often. Or to be precise, it's a 2% solution of the 'F3 fraction of the feline facial pheromone'. When cats are happy and feel safe they rub their heads against furniture, curtains, walls, you, your handbag, the corner of your laptop and just about everything in their surroundings. This isn't just about acting cute – it's their way of marking everything with their own scent and it makes them feel calm and stress-free. When something upsets the cat's normal surroundings – like bringing a new pet into the house, taking a cat to the vets, getting an intruder cat breaking into their home, or even when they spot you've got your suitcases out and they realise you're about to go on holiday, the kittie panic button can get pushed and they 'come over all peculiar'. Some stop eating, others start peeing in strange places or scratching the furniture or go into a corner and just plain sulk. If you've got cats, you'll know exactly what I mean.
Using the diffuser is simple and instinctive. Remove the cap off the bottle of liquid, screw it into the diffuser and plug it in to an electrical socket. Ideally this should be one close to the floor and with no furniture above it to block the flow of the oil vapour that carries the pheromone vapour. Only cats can smell it so you won't have to worry about odd cat-sweat smells in your home. It is suggested that anyone with really bad asthma should check with their doctor if they've had problems with diffuser products in the past since the mineral oil that's used to carry the pheromone is similar to that used in electric air fresheners.
If electrical products aren't practical for you – for example, some cats seem to take great delight in peeing on electrical sockets – then Feliway is available as a spray product. This may also be more appropriate when you want to take a cat to the vet and can spray the bedding in its carrier to calm it down or for dealing with scratching, where you can spray directly on the area under attack. However for calming down general stressful situations, the diffuser is recommended as more suitable.
So finally I'd like to say a big "Thank You" to Four Paws for her recommendation. I seriously thought we'd never get the cats to accept living together and I really worried that one or more would pack their bags and leave home or that Baloo would have to go back to the Kit Cat shelter. I can't imagine that Pandora and Baloo will ever be best buddies and start cuddling together but they've learned to tolerate each other and the fighting and swearing are much more manageable.
never had this problem as I only ever had one pet at a time (except when I had stick insects)
. . . ♥ jesi ♥
hiker 31.10.2009 15:58
Interesting. The OH has always had cats in varying numbers (three currently) - all adoptees who have simply chosen to live with him, one way or another. His method has always been to "let them sort it out for themselves". Harsh...but it does seem to work. And various permutations have all come to terms relatively quickly. Lx
paulpry118 25.10.2009 22:41
Glad everything has calmed down. I know what it feels like to have cats that hate each other. We had two females that used to fight constantly then all of a sudden a male cat turned up on our doorstep and decided to moved in, he took charge and the girls settled down.