Happy house cats battling in garden

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lilynmitz
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Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by lilynmitz » Sat Oct 17, 2015 12:47 pm

Hi all. Apologies for the long post, but I'm really stumped by this one and could do with your help.

We've had Elsie since April this year, and Ziggy since early July. They're around 18 months old, both spayed/neutered, and both were nervous strays before they were in rescue, but they're fine, relaxed and happy with us. They get on well together in the house, with no issues at all, although Elsie is the dominant one, in a low key way. We've kept them in for this long as both took a long time to settle in, given their past histories, but they're ready to go out now.

We started letting Elsie out about 4-6 weeks ago, which went ok. She doesn't stay out long and she hasn't encountered any other cats/dogs out there (mostly she stays in our garden, staying out for 20-30 mins).

Then 2 weeks ago we let Zig out for the first time, keeping Elsie in so we could concentrate on keeping a watchful eye on him. Elsie watched from the window. All went well, until he came back in, and Elsie just flew at him like she'd never seen him before and there followed a week of her beating him up until he had been driven under a bed upstairs. This is the first time I've ever seen her behave like this - she's normally a complete tart with him. Even the initial intros went really well, with no hissing etc at all. She was totally laid back.

We could only assume Elsie is so dim that she thought he was an intruder and was driving him off. We had to put a litter tray and food back upstairs as she wouldn't let him back downstairs. After careful handling with both of them. and lots of feliway, Dreamies, Rescue Remedy and zylkene, we eventually got them on good terms again after about 6 miserable stressful days for poor Ziggy, so we left it a further week before we tried it again, with just Elsie going out on her own meanwhile.

So this morning, we decided to try again, this time letting them out at the same time so she could see it was him. They both went out together at exactly the same time, and literally the second he was out she went for him, tearing round the garden, ears flat, until poor Zig flew back in through the cat flap, with Elsie hot on his heels. I found them in my bedroom growling at each other, then Elsie trotted back downstairs looking like nothing ha happened. I know that as soon as Zig resurfaces she will go for him again and send him back under the bed, and he'll be creeping around on his stomach with his eyes like saucers and his ears back.

This definitely isn't play chasing, it was really aggressive. It's the only time I've ever seen Elsie behave like this.

We're at a loss to know what to do next. Zig is desperate to be going out, but we need to get Elsie accepting him doing so, or he won't want to come back in. Has anyone got any ideas? It's so miserable for the poor lad. I just can't get my head round this one.

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by bobbys girl » Sat Oct 17, 2015 7:32 pm

I can't explain why they are behaving like this but our lot (well the girls anyway) have been together for years and still have serious hissy fits from time to time. They all do it but Gracie is the worst. She will just plough into Purdy or Willow and knock them over, hissing and spitting. If they run, she will chase and whack them. If Purdy tries to face up to her, then it gets really nasty.

Funny thing is, if Tom gets involved, he walks calmly after her and just keeps going. She knows if he catches her she will get 'what for'.

A few days ago OH came in wearing a hat. Purdy shot under the bed and would not come out until he took it off. She was really spooked. You wouldn't think a hat would make that much difference!

There may be a number of reasons for Elsie's behaviour. She might think the outdoors belong to her! It might be that Ziggy smells different when he comes in. Or she might be doing it just to be a stroppy little bag - like our Grace!

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by lilynmitz » Sat Oct 17, 2015 8:34 pm

I'm beginning to think a possible reason for Elsie ending up as a stray in the first place might be that she was badly attacked when she was outside, and having been in rescue or at home with us since, she hasn't got used to seeing cats outside as not being a threat. We'll keep working on them both. We've got them through worse than this. I just wasn't expecting this one. It's a new one on me!

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by bobbys girl » Sat Oct 17, 2015 8:55 pm

Ah,that makes sense!

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by lilynmitz » Sat Oct 17, 2015 9:29 pm

I would add that I'm guessing here, but it's the only thing that makes sense.

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by greenkitty » Sun Oct 18, 2015 8:28 am

It does sound like a fear aggression related to the garden, you may have to take the treats outside to try and reinforce its not a bad place, maybe some play too with something like Da Bird to distract her? I can't think what else it could be if there are no other animals around to upset her.

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by lilynmitz » Sun Oct 18, 2015 9:50 am

She is very cautious in the garden and doesn't stay out for more than 20 mins, but she's not exactly wide eyed. I'm not sure distracting her outside will make a difference, cos as soon as she sees Zig, in the next nanosecond she's on him! But you're right, it doesn't take much to trigger a fear response. She's just had a little trip out, and were going to distract her as Zig goes out and as he comes back in, and hopefully she won't realise he's been out. Fingers crossed. We're going to have to do this a bit at a time.

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by bobbys girl » Sun Oct 18, 2015 10:44 am

What would happen if you sat outside with a cup of tea, Ziggy playing happily at your feet and the door open? Do you think she would come out to investigate the fun?

I know my lot are so nosey, they hate to see someone getting something they are not. :lol:

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by Crewella » Sun Oct 18, 2015 12:35 pm

Gosh, that really is a difficult one, and you're one of the people on the forum that I think of as being good with behaviour advice!

It's a bit extreme, but I'm wondering if you could borrow a couple of crates and try putting them both outside for a short time near each other so that they can get used to seeing and smelling each other out of doors safely? It might give you a chance to do treats and the whole positive association thing for a few weeks before trying them 'free range' outside again.

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by lilynmitz » Sun Oct 18, 2015 7:13 pm

Well, we chickened out a bit today. We let Elsie have her trip out this morning, then Pete entertained her in the living room and I let Ziggy out. But poor lad, he was so upset by the pasting she gave him in the garden yesterday that I couldn't persuade him to come out through the open door for ages. He tiptoed around very cautiously, lurking in the undergrowth, waiting to be pounced on, poor lad. He didn't go into the field this time, the sheep were more than he could cope with, then the neighbours dog was out in the next garden, then when the neighbour started chatting over the fence he had a complete nervous breakdown and fled for the cat flap. Luckily Elsie was still in the front room and oblivious to his outdoor venture, so she was ok with him, although she wasn't happy about being shut in the front room (despite all the attention and playtime she got) and biffed him anyway as he went past (for which she got told off).

After yesterday's awful spat in the garden, to our surprise they both recovered very quickly, and have been reasonably ok together today. So I'm still fairly convinced that Elsie had been traumatised by another cat outdoors sometime in her previous life, and is just attacking any cat in the garden, regardless of it being a harmless familiar lad like Zig. She's fine out here on her own, although she sticks very close to the house and keeps coming back to check we're still here. Now poor Zig is scared of being outside too as a result, so this is going to be a long road, building both their confidence, to the point that they can co-exist outside, in the happy way that they coexist indoors.

I don't think either if them would cope at all with being crated, so I don't think that will be helpful in this case. And I'm certain at the mo Elsie would just beat the bejabbers out of Zig if he was out there with me! But slowly does it, we'll get there.

Cats. Who'd have 'em?!

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by snootycow » Mon Oct 19, 2015 2:19 pm

Hi there,

I think the distracting technique someone mentioned earlier might work.
I don't know if anyone here watches 'My cat from hell' on TV but it's that kind of thing the guy suggests when one cat attacks another indoors, so I would think it should translate to the outdoors too.
Sooner or later (hopefully) Elsie will be completely uninterested in poor Ziggy outdoors, leaving him to get on with important investigating :)

Would love to know how you get on.

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by lilynmitz » Mon Oct 19, 2015 5:40 pm

We didn't get a chance to distract Elsie, she was on him in a split second! If it wasn't so distressing to watch, I'd have described it as an awesome reaction time! She's far too highly strung about this for distraction to work at the moment, but I've got a few strategies up my sleeve:

1. Let her out more on her own so that her general confidence about being outside builds up so that she doesn't freak so readily (she had a nice little explore again today in the sun, but it takes her ages to pluck up the courage to go out without me looking after her)

2. Next let Zig outside and keep Elsie in but let her see him out there, then hide her away as he comes in, and then reintroduce them. She's so dim she may not make the connection of the cat outside being the same as the one that's just come in.

3. Do this a lot!!

4. Eventually Let Elsie see Zig come in and stand by for a very fizzy reaction!

5. When she can cope with this, let them out together and stand by for another flare up just in case. If Zig will let me, I'll hold him on my lap in the garden while she's outside to start off with, although I don't think he'll put up with this for more than a few seconds! If that doesn't work, revert back to steps 1 to 3 as necessary.

I'll be doing a bit more research into other tactics as well (thanks Ria!) and will let you know how it goes. I never seem to get the easy cats?!? :roll: I think these difficult blighters see me coming and just make a B-line for me! :-D Or Someone Somewhere Upstairs has a strange sense of humour :lol:

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by bobbys girl » Mon Oct 19, 2015 6:20 pm

lilynmitz wrote: I never seem to get the easy cats?!? :roll: I think these difficult blighters see me coming and just make a B-line for me! :-D Or Someone Somewhere Upstairs has a strange sense of humour :lol:
No, He just knows how good you are at this sort of thing and can cope with it. ;)

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by Crewella » Mon Oct 19, 2015 8:15 pm

Absolutely agree with Sue, if anyone can sort this out, it's you. Sending calm and positive vibes, good luck! xx

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by lilynmitz » Tue Oct 20, 2015 6:41 am

Thanks Sue and Helen. I'll do my best. :-)

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by lilynmitz » Wed Oct 21, 2015 12:21 pm

They trashed the kitchen last night. We're now on Defcon 3.

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by exlibris » Wed Oct 21, 2015 10:16 pm

Another 'my cat from hell' trick is to feed them at the same time on opposite sides of a door. They'll have positive associations with each other's smell and treats.

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by snootycow » Thu Oct 22, 2015 1:59 pm

Would it be possible to have Elsie outside first and keep her otherwise occupied with toys/treats etc. whilst Ziggy ventures out unnoticed?
It may be easier than trying to distract her from scratch when Ziggy's already outside and she's making a bee line for him??

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by lilynmitz » Thu Oct 22, 2015 3:59 pm

They're pretty much fine when they're indoors, but at the moment there's no way I can let Zig and Elsie out at the same time. The second she spots him she's on him, and mostly she won't leave the garden. One big worry is that she'll chase him away from the house and/or won't let him through the cat flap when she's back first and he tries to come in. I think for now we can only let poor Zig out while Pete distracts her indoors, but let her out at least daily so her confidence grows.

The irony is I don't think she'd mind being a housecat, but Ziggy really wants to go out, and she won't let him! The longer this goes on the more I'm convinced that she got beaten up really badly outdoors by another cat before she came to me. It's possibly how she ended up on the streets as a stray. She'd been a pet before that, as she'd recently been spayed when they found her. She's a very gentle delicate little cat really, but is very aggressive in her self defence!

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by lilynmitz » Sat Oct 24, 2015 1:11 pm

Well, still no progress. Elsie is getting a bit more confident about going out, although she only stays out about 25 mins. So we thought we'd let Zig out this afternoon. Pete had Elsie corralled in the front room, I managed to get Zig to the cat flap and tried to encourage him through it so it would register his micro chip (failed), gave up, so opened the door and went out to encourage him out. Cat sits looking wide eyed and refuses to come out. Decided not to force him (not least because it had started to rain), and gave up. Released Elsie, who was fine, but Zig gave her a lot of nervous glances.

So I guess he now associates going outside with Elsie beating him up! Honestly, what can you do with these two?! He'd love to go out, but he's now a bag of nerves about it, and Elsie is presumably very happy with the state of affairs. Poor little Zg though....

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by Jacks » Tue Nov 17, 2015 11:01 am

Poor Zig!! I don't know how things are going but I was following this post and hoping for some improvement for you. From the sound of the random passing whacks Elsie needs Zig to know she's dominant, but the fury she exhibits when she meets him outdoors is totally disproportionate. Sounds almost like you need to do introductions in the outside! If you had a cat run that she could use whilst he explored the garden (or vise versa) she might eventually get the idea that he's not a threat and not challenging her in this new domain. The more she attacks him the more primed she'll be to doing it, and the more afraid he will be, and his cowering behaviour will then trigger her animosity as well and the pattern will be established and difficult to break.

In the main my girls and Mr Socks are fine outside - with the exception of Lara. She is still scared of him, and we've monitored the situation inside carefully so that he hasn't actually physically attacked her for a long time, and if she stays positive and calm he will often ignore her (although I don't leave him free roam of the house at night just in case). However I suspect that if they were both outside he would go for her as quick as anything, and she would be terrified and has (in the past) gone for miles. She was drawn to the outside but at the same time petrified of encountering him, so on letting her outside she would crouch, growl and hiss and then bolt for it. These days for that and other reasons I don't let her outside at all and she's returned to a happy, playful cat.

I do hope you can sort out what's going on for these two - as others have said, if anyone can, you can... but it doesn't make it any easier to deal with. I have to say that the Lara and Mr Socks issue, although not resolved, is so much better than it was a year ago, so careful management and time does seem to help...

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by lilynmitz » Tue Nov 17, 2015 5:15 pm

Hi Jacks, to be honest I haven't really addressed the issue at all lately. They get on so well in the house, so long as only Elsie is going out, there isn't a problem, and all is sweetness and light. But it's really hard on Ziggy, who would love to go out. ( Letting him out is further complicated by the fact that his micro chip isn't working properly so I'm going to have to get him re-chipped as it won't register on the microchip cat flap, but that's another issue).

Your experiences make quite depressing reading, as Elsie chasing Ziggy away, like Mr Socks and Lara, is precisely one of the things that worries me most, and it sounds like you've never really been able to stop this. You're right, the more it happens, the more both of them are pre-conditioned to it, which will result in more extreme reactions. Alternatively, Elsie may realise she's being stupid and doesn't need to do this to Zig, but tbh I don't think she's going to make that connection. Ziggy is very unlikely to stand up for himself, he's a very small and nervous little cat. He's had a really tough early start in life, which left him scared of absolutely everything until his fosterers started sorting him out. He's come on so well since he's been with us, but we have this last wretched issue to sort out, and who would have thought a cat as cute and fluffy as Elsie, who loves all other cats indoors, would be such a monstrous diva outside?

We're kind of resigned to the fact that we will have to monitor their excursions and only let them out one at a time, which will be a real shame in the summer, and hope that Elsie will at least stop beating Ziggy up when he comes back in.

The next step I guess is to get Ziggy re-chipped, and start letting him out on his own, and see how Elsie behaves when he comes back in. We will have to make sure she's not by the catflap when she does, or she'll shred him on re-entry, and he may just run off again. It's all very worrying, and very sad for poor Zig.

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by Crewella » Tue Nov 17, 2015 7:09 pm

It is a real shame when you get stuck with a situation like this, as you are well aware sometimes the best you can do is just 'manage' it and try to minimise any fallout. I so wish I could think of something helpful. xx

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by lilynmitz » Fri Mar 11, 2016 5:00 pm

I thought i'd give a little update on this. It's been a looooong journey! 6 months later and we're finally making progress, of sorts.

I decided to work on Elsie first, building up her confidence in the garden, so she feels less anxious when she sees another cat out there with her (luckily there are very few other cats in the neighbourhood at the moment). She still only stays out for 20-30 mins, and often only for 5 minutes, although she then asks to go straight back out again! :lol: She seems to want to keep coming back to make sure we're all still here. She will go out 3 or 4 times a day if the weather's nice, usually one 30 minute trip and a few quickies.

Sadly though, Ziggy had got to the stage that he had given up even wanting to go out, as he just associated it with getting beaten up by Elsie. He's so little, and so gentle, he's at the bottom of every possible heirarchy, and "cute and cuddly" Elsie makes sure he doesn't forget it with random wallops from time to time, but he just seems to accept it and recovers within seconds. I think it upsets me more than it does him. For him, that's just the way the world is, although 98% of the time they get on just fine.

Anyway, now the weather's improving, when Elsie's out exploring I just sit with him by the open french windows, and mostly he won't even put a paw on the threshold, let alone go out, even after about half an hour. He did stand on the step outside for 2 seconds a couple of times, but turned tail and came straight back in again.

However, today, we have a bit of a break through. Zig could see Elsie busy mooching around at the end of the garden, so after about 10 minutes of plucking up courage, he took his chance and snuck out, going straight back in again after 2 seconds, then a couple of minutes later, he'd step out for 3 seconds, and finally, after about 10 mins of this, he stayed out for a whole minute! He didn't get further than 6 feet from the door, but it was a big step for him! Then Elsie spotted him....uh oh, and started heading towards him. So I gave her a wagging finger and "don't you dare Elsie", and she sat down and just watched him from a distance. Luckily he saw her coming and went back in, but amazingly when Elsie did come in after him, she didn't beat him up! Yaaay! Dreamies all round!! Later on, she was lounging on the sofa and Zig was by the open door, and this would normally be enough to get her to launch her fat bum across the room and batter him, but no, she just blinked her eyes at him and stayed put.

I won't let them out together unsupervised until I'm certain they're not going to get into an almighty punch up or Elsie chases him off into oblivion, as she can be pretty unpredictable and he spooks so very easily. So we've still got a long way to go, and I'm sure there will be some spectacular relapses, but I think we're getting there. Meanwhile, Zig looks extremely pleased with himself. :D

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by greenkitty » Sat Mar 12, 2016 11:17 am

Feels amazing when you finally have a breakthrough doesn't it?! I hope they continue to head in the right direction x

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by Crewella » Mon Mar 14, 2016 12:36 am

Definitely progress, well done! :)

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by lilynmitz » Tue Mar 15, 2016 1:03 am

He's back to sitting by the open door again, sometimes putting one foot on the threshold outside for a few seconds, but at least it's his choice now. Elsie mostly ignores him, which is a small improvement at least.

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by lilynmitz » Tue Mar 15, 2016 1:22 pm

Woohoo, both cats in the garden today! Elsie in a holding position at the top, Zig getting bolder exploring the patio and steps, keeping one eye on the opposition, but ...oh no... Elsie's moving down field, and they've passed each other without realising on opposite sides of the shrubbery. So now Elsie's by the door, and Zig's up in the garden, his route home blocked by the Ginger Ninja. Has he seen her? Not yet. Has she seen him? No, but Zig spots his dilemma. What will his tactics be? Run for it? Sneak in the long way round? Sit it out till she moves? No, he's going for the dangerous option! He creeps round in a flanking movement past the azalea bush, down through the hostas, and towards Elsie for a final break for the door. Too late! Elsie spots him, she crouches, he sneaks, he dashes, straight past Elsie and IN through the door! Back of the net! The crowd roars! Elsie hisses and swipes as he goes past right under her nose, Zig flies in and straight up the stairs, and he's back on the reserve bench again. Half time. Dreamies all round on the landing. :lol:

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by meriad » Tue Mar 15, 2016 2:19 pm

Elsie so reminds me of my Monty - any other cat in any doorway that he may want to pass gets a hiss, and if it's Harry then that hiss is usually accompanied with a swipe or two.

Anything else he's fine - but let it be a doorway and Monty becomes Grumpy cat

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Re: Happy house cats battling in garden

Post by lilynmitz » Tue Mar 15, 2016 3:11 pm

They really are a strange bunch sometimes! :lol: :lol:

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