My Pet World: When New Cat Housemates Aren’t Warming Up
Sunny vs. Lucky and a lunging Lab
In this issue of ‘My Pet World,’ pet advisor Cathy M. Rosenthal addresses cat spats in the house after a new cat is introduced and a food-focused Lab who has started pulling on walks. Advice and vetted product recommendations for our furry friends’ health and happiness.
Dear Cathy: I have a sweet, 10-year-old cat named Sunny. I thought it might be a good idea if she had a companion. I found a beautiful male Siamese at the Humane Society who is 7 years old. It was love at first sight for me, so I adopted Lucky and brought him home.
Lucky is terrifically shy. I gave him free roam of the house at night, keeping Sunny in my room behind closed doors so he could explore and get used to things. During the day, the food dish gets emptied and the litter tray has deposits, but we can’t coax him out for anything. Sunny growls and hisses whenever she sees him.
Sunny and Lucky have had some confrontations, although they are lessening now. She hides in her cat condo for hours. I think she is depressed because at night, when she and I retire behind closed doors, she wants lots of love and play time, none of which she gets during the day. He, on the other hand, watches her like a hawk and knows exactly where she is every minute. If she scurries into the dining room, he positions himself somewhere in the living room to keep his eye on her. If she goes into my bedroom, he is right there too.
I don’t know what to do. I really like him, but she is my first cat. I hate to think about taking him back to the shelter, but I don’t want her to be terrorized for the rest of her life. Do you have any ideas about how to get them to be more compatible? I’m 83 and have a difficult time running to the other side of the house to break up a fight.
– Sheila, Tucson, Arizona
Dear Sheila: Cats are very territorial and have spats in order to establish their territories. Sunny is losing some of her space, while Lucky is trying to establish his place in the home.
I am heartened by the fact that you said things are improving. It can take many months for cats to establish their boundaries with each other. Once they do, things should settle down. But there are a few ways you can do to help move things along.
First, keep two to three litterboxes in the home. Cats have been known to block their housemates from getting to the litterbox when there is only one litterbox in the home.
Second, while I appreciate you reassuring Sunny with love and attention behind closed doors, you are reinforcing that good things happen when Lucky is out of sight. Instead, brush, love, and play with Sunny when Lucky is around so she learns that every time she sees Lucky, something good happens to her. The same for Lucky. When you see him laser-focused on Sunny or ready to chase her, distract him instead with playtime. It’s important he learn that good things happen when Sunny is in the room as well.
Finally, buy a feline pheromone collar for each of them to wear and consider putting pheromone plug-ins around the house. These synthetic pheromones mimic a mother cat’s scent, which can calm stressed felines and improve their relationship.
Hopefully, these things will help them get along better going forward. It does, often, take a few months for new roommates to get along.
Dear Cathy: I have an 8-year-old female yellow Labrador retriever who is a great dog. Lately though, walking her has become more of a prowl for food. She pulls hard to get to food on the street or to where there is a scent of food. Sometimes, I have to really yank her hard to get her away from something not good for her. I also worry I’m hurting her when doing so. Any advice on how to get her to stop pulling?
– Barbara, Oceanside, New York
Dear Barbara: Invest in a Gentle Leader or Halti head collar to immediately stop the pulling. Then, work on training her to heel. It’s easy. Say her name, followed by the word “heel.” Tap your thigh and step off so she follows you. Use a reward word like “bingo” when she does, always followed by a treat. If she pulls even a little, reverse directions and repeat the process. The goal is to get her to always pay attention to you and where you are going.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist, and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories, and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.
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