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November 18, 2017

Older Cat Adjust to New Home

Pillow, an older cat is adjusting to his new home and life. He’s the cat I inherited when my mom died recently. To help make the adjustment as stress-free as possible for him, I brought home the beds and blankets he favored at my mom’s house. Pillow is ignoring them, preferring to shoehorn himself in a small table that I converted into a cat bed. It is circular with a little wicker frame around the edges, barely big enough for him to curl up and sleep in. It also stands about 4 feet high—perfect for viewing the sunroom and the kitchen.

Pillow's new bed

Pillow’s new bed

When Pillow isn’t favoring his table-bed, he enjoys sleeping in his carrier. The carrier is always open, available to him and is complete with a comfortable towel and a favorite banana toy. Sometimes he nibbles on treats as he lounges in the carrier. As evidenced from the pictures, Pillow continues to enjoy his meals to the fullest.

Pillow loves his cat carrier

Pillow loves his cat carrier

Pillow and I have established a routine that includes hobnobbing while I eat breakfast and drink my morning coffee. He sits on a stool next to me, never begging or trying to grab my food. He is a great cat. Part of our morning ritual includes my grooming him after breakfast. When he lets me detangle and de-mat his fur without complaint, he is given special treats—making what could be traumatic into a pleasant and rewarding experience for both of us. The daily grooming sessions are becoming easier every day. Pillow, being a Maine Coon with fur that easily mats, needs to be groomed at least once a day.

Pillow has adjusted well. It is about time to start introducing him to the rest of the gang—one cat at a time. I share my home with Bengals and a large, male Savannah. Bengals and Savannahs are highly energetic cats, who love to spend their days climbing, running and playing. They are not calm, mellow cats. Pillow, a portly cat prefers napping—the exact opposite of my other resident cats.

Jenniyha loves to play

Jenniyha loves to leap and play

Although I live with more than one cat, I will concentrate on introducing Pillow to Sudan, my male Savannah. Sudan will have the most difficulty adjusting to a having another male cat in the household. Because the Bengal girls will be a little easier to integrate with Pillow they will meet him after he is introduced to Sudan.

Portrait of Sudan, my Savannah Cat

Sudan, my Savannah Cat

A four phase approach

I will introduce Pillow and Sudan to each other in as stress free way as possible, following the four-phase approach detailed in my book Naughty No More!.The two cats will be encouraged to share mutually enjoyable experiences while they remain separated from each other. Although this may sound a bit strange, cats can start to build relationships without meeting face-to-face.

During the first three phases of the introduction, the cats will be kept separated from each other, Pillow in the sunroom and kitchen, while Sudan and the girls stay in the hall, office and bedrooms. They will only be allowed to switch rooms during the last phase of the introductions.

Cat pheromones

The first step will involve building social skills through doing scent exchanges and basic clicker training. Cats have scent glands on different parts of their body that produce pheromones—some are friendlier then others. The pheromones that are produced by the sebaceous glands on cat cheeks, are sometimes referred to as the friendly pheromones. Cats often say hello by approaching their fave people and rubbing their cheeks and head on them, marking them with their scent. I will use these friendly pheromones, along with clicker training, to encourage good will between Sudan and Pillow.

Clicker training—not just a dog thing

Clicker training is not just for the dogs—it is for all animals, no matter the species. It is a reward-based training technique that has its roots in classical and operant conditioning. Clicker training is based on the premise that animals will repeat behaviors when their actions are immediately reinforced.

It is easy to clicker train cats. Two essential tools are needed—the first is something that the cats love. In clicker-speak, this is called a primary reinforcer. Both Pillow and Sudan are very food motivated, they live for treats. The second tool is a device that always does the same thing whenever it is activated. This will become the secondary reinforcer. I use an iClick clicker. If one of the cats had hearing challenges, I would have used a quick flash from a flashlight as the secondary reinforcer.

iClick clicker

iClick clicker

After assembling the tools, my next step was to pair the treat with the click so that Pillow would have a positive association with the sound. After the click is paired with the treat, it will become a powerful communication tool that will let the cat know when he is doing a desired behavior. Since Sudan was already a pro with the clicker, I focused on training Pillow.

Pillow was a fast learner. It was easy to pair the click with a treat. I started by clicking once and then immediately giving him a treat. After he inhaled the treat, he looked up at me and I repeated the process, clicking and treating him again. It took ten repetitions until Pillow made the connection between the click and the treat. Years ago, when Sudan was introduced to clicker training, he made the connection between the click and the treat after the fifth repetition. The sound of the clicker is now a powerful communication tool for both cats—alerting them the instance they are doing a desired behavior.

The three of us are ready to start phase I of the introductions.

Help for cat behavior problems is available

For help introducing cats to each other, as well as other cat behavior challenges, contact Marilyn to discuss scheduling a consultation.

 

Stress Free Introductions: Phase 1

01.27.13  Phase I involves scent exchanges. Pet each cat’s cheek with separate soft, small towels and then place each cat’s pheromone-laced towel in the others sanctuary room in order for them to investigate the scents at will. Do scent exchanges twice a day, each time with a clean towel.

Introductions the Happy Way

01.13.13  Introducing cats to each other in a stress-free fashion can takes months and should never be rushed.  There are 3-4 phases to the process. Throughout the introduction, the cats should be kept separated from each other. Each needs their own sanctuary room where the other is not allowed until the final phase of the introduction.

Soon Back in the Racks–Naughty No More!

Naughty No More!

Naughty No More! by Marilyn Krieger, CCBC

My book Naughty No More! has not disappeared. My publisher sold about 1/3 of the inventory to Pet Smart last August and then ordered a second reprinting. The book is scheduled to be back in the warehouse around October 20th. I have no idea how that equates in Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble time. Meantime it has been kind of fun as well as somewhat disturbing to see someone trying to sell a used copy of Naughty No More! on Amazon for $900… that’s just weird. The good news is that soon, it will be back on Amazon for a reasonable price. Thankfully, it is available in all flavors of e-book. After my book is back up on Amazon, I wonder if that used, dog-eared copy will still be offered for $900.

Introducing the New Cat to the Resident Cat

I’m inspired to write a blog about how to properly introduce cats to each other since so many people do the introductions too fast and in a way that results in stress and aggression.

Introductions can be done with a minimum of stress. They need to be done slowly, it can take a month or longer to properly introduce cats to each other. Cats are territorial. It’s too much to ask any cat to accept a stranger into her house without proper introductions. People are the same way. We don’t react well when an uninvited stranger walks into our home. Neither do cats.

The newcomer needs her own room where she can be safe, away from any other animals. This will be her safe room, her sanctuary. It needs to be comfortable for her, with food, water, bed, cat boxes, a window to look out of and toys. The other reason she needs to be confined away from your resident cat is safety. Whenever bringing in a new cat, ALWAYS keep it completely separate from the other animals. There are diseases that can easily be transmitted to your other cats. In fact, I highly recommend keeping water hand cleaner handy. Use it after you interact with the newcomer. Too many diseases are so easily transmittable.

So… to those of you who think it’s an OK thing to put a cat in a carrier in the center of the room so that the cat “safely” meet the other cats… it is not OK, it is not safe. It also very scary for cats to be in a carrier for hours or days and it’s inhumane… I’m segueing again. Sorry…

Back to introducing cats. The goal is to encourage the cats to have positive associations through mutual activities while they are separated from each other. I’m posting some excerpts from a page that I give my clients on how to introduce cats to each other. I’m being slightly lazy because I need to post next about the 35 Bengals in need… now 45…

Judge by the cat’s responses in each phase to determine the length of each of the phases detailed below. There is no typical time frame. Every cat is different. If there is howling or hissing or any other signs of aggression, prolong the phases. Cats should remain separated from each other throughout the introduction process described below:

1. Twice a day: Use two clean socks or rags. Gently pet the new cat’s cheek with one sock, transferring pheromones onto the sock. Repeat, using the second sock on the resident cat’s cheek. Place each sock where the other cat hangs out, but not under their food, near litter boxes or in their sleeping area.

Socks must always be clean.

2. Continue pheromone exchanges. Also, 2-3 times a day, feed the cats delicious treats or regular meals simultaneously, separated by the closed door. Try feeding close to the closed door. If, at first they either won’t eat or display aggression towards each other, back the food away from the closed door to a comfortable eating distance. When comfortable with the distance, move the feeding stations closer to the door until they are eating next to each other (separated by the closed door) without displaying aggression.

3. Continue the activities in Phase 2.

Twice a day: Continue to pet cheeks with socks. Instead of putting the socks where the other cats sleep, inch socks towards feeding stations. Use clean socks or rags each time.

Twice a day: encourage non-threatening interaction between the cats. Use a toy with something cat-intriguing on both ends. Position the double-ended toy under the door so the cats can play tug of war. Before play sessions spray Feliway spray on the bottom of the door. Don’t leave this toy out if you can’t supervise the play.

4. Continue the activities in Phase 3, separated by the closed door.

Change locations for a few hours every day, putting the resident cat in the newcomer’s room, allowing the newcomer to explore another area of the house.

Twice a day: Continue to pet cheeks with socks. Instead of putting the socks where the other cats sleep, pet their cheeks with the socks that have the other cat’s cheek pheromones on it.

5. Continue the activities in Phase 4, separated by the closed door.

Introduce cats to each other without the benefit of a closed door: Open the door to the confinement room. When door is opened, feed one cat at a distance from the room at the same time the other cat is being fed in the confinement room. The cats should be able to smell and hear each other and if possible, see each other. Gradually increase time the door is open by one second at every feeding time. Supervise! At any sign of aggression, divert the cats attention and close the door.

Watch the body and eye language and the locations the cats choose to occupy. Check for fur rippling, ear positions, fixed stares, pupils dilating, pounce postures, etc. If all OK, gradually extend their times together, supervising them

Once a day: Use clean towels. Pet the resident cat’s back and sides with a towel. Pet the new cat with another towel. Then exchange towels, petting each cat with the other’s towel.