2 Older Cats Fighting since new kittens have arrived....Help

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larkie71
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2 Older Cats Fighting since new kittens have arrived....Help

Post by larkie71 » Wed May 21, 2014 7:36 am

I have two cats at Coco (5 year old Burmese) and Tilly (4 year old Bombay). I got these two cat together aged 1 and 18 weeks and they bonded extremely well along with my other Lark, who was a moggy :-) Coco was more in love with Lark than Tilly, but all got on very well. Sadly, Lark passed away with bowel cancer aged 9 last August and during the past few months Coco has been over grooming herself and after speaking to my vet I decided to get a new cat and ended up 10 days ago with two Burmese kittens aged 14 weeks, Flora and Ruby.

Stupidly I briefly allowed the kittens to see Coco and Tilly before I put them in their safe room and Coco starting hissing at Tilly. I calmed them down, then half an hour later a full on fight. I separated them and whilst I was in the kitchen both girls got into the garden (primarily house cats). This was at 8.30pm and it took me until 4.30am to find Coco under a bush and bring her in. She was very afraid so I kept her and Tilly apart under Sunday. I fed them together, then again full on fight - Coco hissed and growled, then Tilly who is slightly larger and stronger, attacked throughout the house. Very stressful and scary. The kittens throughout all this are happy as larry :-)

In despair I spoke with the breeder and she said I needed to stop the hissing and suggested I get a large crate and place Coco and Tilly in here, changing them every 4 hours or so. I commenced this last Monday evening (12th May). Gradually the hissing stopped and by Friday I was able to feed them together and chaperone one around the lounge to ensure no fighting. I haven't been able to leave them out in the same room together unsupervised, however they will sleep on separate sofas as long as I am on one and my partner on the other, to ensure no fighting. We had a minor fight on Saturday, which was a little set back. On Monday evening, Tilly (she is very vocal and quite demanding at the best of times) just looked so annoyed and was aggravating Coco regardless of who was in the cage.

Then last night, I fed them together and also played with them together for over half an hour. No hissing or growling. Hurray I thought, until both cats sat with me on the sofa. Coco was cleaning herself then Tilly starting biting the back of her neck. I stopped her, then she did it again but even harder to the point Coco was afraid an curled up in the corner.

This morning same thing, fed them together, then Tilly wants to pounce on Coco and attack her neck. I adore Tilly as she's my baby, but the way she is now attacking Coco's neck, I don't like her!

Please, please any advise here would be greatly appreciated. The very thought of introducing Tilly to the kitten just scares me.

many thanks

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Jacks
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Re: 2 Older Cats Fighting since new kittens have arrived....

Post by Jacks » Wed May 21, 2014 8:40 am

Oh dear, Larkie - what an awful time you are having. I will think about this but wanted to get a reply off quickly... I'm wondering when you had the three cats, who was the dominant female? Sounds to me like maybe Lark was, and that now she has gone there has been some anxiety around who is going to be top cat, even though you had no overt aggressive behaviour, and this resulted in Coco overgrooming. Tilly, I would suspect, feels strongly that SHE is to be top cat. Any time a cat is added or subtracted in a group dominance issues will arise - how they are handled depends in part on the cats, but there are things you can do to help it...

I would suspect that Tilly - on meeting the new feline arrivals - now is going overboard to establish her dominant position. The trouble is she is doing it by intimidation (overt aggression, neck biting - which is a dominance thing). I have seen the neck biting occasionally between my two youngsters, and the perpetrator is the youngest, who would like to be dominant but isn't. She wouldn't DARE do it to our top cat, who would put her in her place but defends her from the new arrival (a boy) who she (top cat) whacks regularly for good measure, so he will know his place... He in turn stalks and attacks the youngest if I let them alone together, in order to move up the heirarchy... Complicated.

At the moment all I can think of is to keep the kittens separate at the moment until Tilly calms down - when she has, then put THEM in the cage so she can see them without being able to attack. In the meantime she, Tilly, needs to be fed first, petted first when you arrive, get treats first and be played with in front of other cats. You need to try to keep calm and placid in your tone, with lots of positive vocal tones, rather than getting upset, which raises the temperature. There is advice on the forum about heirarchies.

I'm hoping others will have ideas - and I suggest you try Googling for cat behaviourist forums and websites, about establishing dominance in a household. Sounds like it's going to be hard work but you've already made progress, based on the sofa incident. ((Hug))

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Re: 2 Older Cats Fighting since new kittens have arrived....

Post by larkie71 » Wed May 21, 2014 9:21 am

Yes Jacks, Lark was 'head' cat and Lark bless her if Tilly tried to do anything wrong would merely put a paw on her head! Tilly is the one who greets people first and is a little bolder at times. It's the neck biting that worries me especially as a friends cat was attacked by another on the neck and died. x

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Re: 2 Older Cats Fighting since new kittens have arrived....

Post by greenkitty » Wed May 21, 2014 9:24 am

It does sound like Tilly is unsure of her standing in the hierarchy and is trying to assert herself over Coco, unless they are full on fighting I would try and leave them to sort this out themselves, only intervene if it looks like things are getting out of hand.

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Re: 2 Older Cats Fighting since new kittens have arrived....

Post by Jacks » Wed May 21, 2014 9:30 am

Oh, I forgot to say, if aggressive behaviour starts you could try to distract, maybe with a sharp clap and then a toy, laser mouse or something? Don't wade in with your hands and don't use food as a distraction or you might end up encouraging bad behaviour. Treats can be a reward if they've done something peaceably together, or Tilly has stopped being aggressive and turned to play. Play will then be rewarded.
x

I rewarded my top cat with strokes and praise when she had flown at the boy to defend the little one (justifiably in this case) and observed that for the next couple of days she really got into flying at him indiscriminately... Now I'm rewarding her with praise and strokes when she walks past him peaceably when he's just existing... She'll still fly at him if she thinks he's going for one of the little ones, but she doesn't need my praise to motivate the behaviour! Even strokes and praise from a loved human can affect the way cats interact with each other.

Tilly and Coco will be happier once they've sorted out their dominance issue. As Greenkitty says, it's not necessary to avert every attempt at dominance or you might give the wrong signal. However I note your concern over neck biting - Burmese are big cats, aren't they - and very powerful. I'd certainly try distraction if this happens.

In terms of dominance, our boy is perfectly happy being submissive as long as he gets his food and love; it's the establishing of top place that can be a painful process.

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Re: 2 Older Cats Fighting since new kittens have arrived....

Post by larkie71 » Wed May 21, 2014 2:56 pm

My partner is at home today and both girls have been good apparently. They have eaten together and then sat on the same sofa and washed each other for a while. He said there was no attacking and all has been good. Whenever he has left the room he has put one in the cage to avoid any issues.

So goodish day but I am sure I will have issues later!!

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Re: 2 Older Cats Fighting since new kittens have arrived....

Post by larkie71 » Thu May 22, 2014 5:38 am

We take a positive step forward then two back! Tilly was smelling Coco and then decided to bite her bumb. So it is Tilly who is constantly if getting the chance biting and running after Coco.

Will this stop and how do I stop it? The only way I can at the moment is supervision then separation. All advice is greatly appreciated x

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Re: 2 Older Cats Fighting since new kittens have arrived....

Post by larkie71 » Sun Jun 01, 2014 9:44 am

Update - cat therapist says give the kittens back and work in the relationship between coco and Tilly. Breeder says the relationship has broken down so keep coco and the kittens and re-home Tilly who is doing the attacking.

Tilly is in the cattery as she was hard to handle and the cattery owner suggested coco go to the cattery which she did last Thursday. They are in the same pen and whilst timid getting along no hissing and fighting. The owner has suggested I take in the kittens tomorrow get the used to it and the smell then on Wednesday she will introduce the kittens herself in a large family pen and see how it goes.

I am worried, I'm confused by all this conflicting info can someone please give me their opinions?

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Re: 2 Older Cats Fighting since new kittens have arrived....

Post by Jacks » Sun Jun 01, 2014 10:13 am

Oh dear, how confusing for you! Sorting out problems between humans is hard enough, and you can ask them what it the matter and reason with them - with cats this is not possible, so you have to consider a number of possible strategies which might be helpful.

Sounds like the one you're going with at the moment is to limit the environment and force them to tolerate each other's presence, within a supportive atmosphere. The fact that they were friends before will probably mean this has a reasonable chance of success as in a new limited environment there are none of the home issues which might prove triggers (attention seeking, interaction with you, dominant positions in the home) and there are so many opportunities to hide, stalk or ambush that simply aren't available in a cattery. Cats tend to 'hunker down' when in the limited environment of a cattery anyway, so this may well help with bonding in a rather counter-intuitive way. They are forced to confront the proximity of the other.

It does sound like there is progress at the moment between Tilly and Coco. All I would say is that check with the owner of the cattery that she thinks they're ready to be introduced to the kittens - it may be a few more days are needed. I would trust the owner at the moment - she seems to have an idea what she's doing, and you can only really employ one clear strategy at a time - otherwise the cats will be confused, never mind you!

I really feel for you and this is a brave move you are taking. Cats are primarily instinctive animals and what you are looking to do is condition good positive behaviour, not destructive behaviour. Take a deep breath and trust that you are doing the right thing - you'll drive yourself mad otherwise - and let's hope the strategy sees improvement. We're all rooting for you and the cats!

x

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Re: 2 Older Cats Fighting since new kittens have arrived....

Post by larkie71 » Sun Jun 01, 2014 10:21 am

Thanks Jacks the kittens are now 17 weeks and just mini coco and Tilly, to have them all home together and happy is all I want. If all goes well next week then the thought of brining them all home is wonderful yet scary if they don't get along but one step at a time! x

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