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My Pet World: When introductions between cats aren’t going well

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

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.

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