Help with feline territorial aggression | feline separation anxiety

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By Anita Kelsey – Pet Behaviour Counsellor

Cats are very territorial and do not like new pets being introduced into their established space if they are the only cat in the household. Despite what people think most cats’ do not get lonely if they are the sole pet. Yes, they are social creatures and the bonds they form are strong BUT more with their human owners than pining for another feline companion. Having said that if you are buying a kitten it’s always nice to buy two so they can play with one another and bond right from the start.

People always make the mistake of thinking their adult cat needs a companion, whilst they are at work, and they rush into buying another cat or kitten. Alot of times this ends in tears with the established cat very displeased at the new arrival in their territory. Some people buy a kitten to keep an older cat company but of course they are both at different stages in their lives with the older cat wanting peace and quiet and not so interested in playing whereas a kitten will be full of energy and will be jumping all over the older cat causing tensions.

If you do decide to go down the route of getting another cat then try going to your local rescue centre who allow you to ‘foster’ a cat or kitten prior to adoption to see if the ‘first’ cat accepts the new arrival and always follow the ‘introducing a cat to another cat’ step by step instruction HERE. Try to match the cat ages and personalities. Some of my clients have bought another kitten, once their kitten has reached the age of one, and it’s gone great but they A: never rushed into the decision and B: they made sure they have plenty of space for both cats and followed the proper introduction to take place which is never a rushed procedure and is done with scent first.

As a cat carer I sometimes come across cats who turn extremely aggressive (with their owner away) once I enter their home to look after them. This type of aggression can be exacerbated by the fact that the cat does not see many people other than it’s owner and so anyone entering the home, especially strangers, are seen as intruders. It is very difficult to look after a cat that hisses or goes into attack mode whenever you try to feed it, or change its litter! Believe me.. it can send shivers up your spine and also be a miserable and stressful time for the cat. A cat can also suffer from separation anxiety and be very fearful and depressed when their owner goes away for longer than 24 hours.

So what can be done to ease the situation?

It’s important to be sure that the cat’s behaviour is not due to an underlying physical problem. For example, a cat which is urinating outside the litter box and/or doing a lot of howling may be developing a urinary tract obstruction or infection.

If this has been ruled out and you suspect that your cat falls into one of the above two camps there are a few things that can be done to try and ease the situation before you take a much needed holiday. First of all invest in Feliway diffusers which can be plugged into mains sockets around the home. It’s most effective to do this is at least 2 weeks before you employ a cat sitter. “Feliway diffusers are used to restore your cat to a natural balance. The Feliway diffuser is a safe solution of feline facial pheromone, which mimics the cat’s natural pheromones, creating a state of well-being and calm and is distributed around the house using a plug-in”.

If the problem is separation anxiety leave an item of clothing heavy with your scent, such as a pair of PJ’s or a much used jumper, so that your cat can sleep on it and feel re-assured whilst you are away. Hire the sitter for some pre-sits with you present to try to win the cat’s trust before you leave. Get a small radio and leave it on so your cat can hear voices or soothing classical music. You may laugh but classical music has a great effect on animals and alot of rescue centres have classical music playing outside the dog/ cat pens. Pay the sitter for extra time so that visits are longer on alternate days. You may also want to consider a house sitter instead so that someone is there a good part of the day.

Ensure the cats’ territory is stimulating. This can be climbers placed near windows so the cat has a great view of birds outside, catnips toys, interactive treat balls which makes your cat ‘work’ for it’s kibble and is a rewarding game, cat sitter DVD which has live critters crawling over your Tv screen and is hugely stimulating for the in-door cat.

Some behaviourists suggest It may be possible to make the time surrounding the owner’s departure less stressful for the cat by making some changes to the normal routine. Prior to leaving and upon returning home, the owner should ignore the cat – it is the removal of the owner’s attention that causes the stress, and therefore being focussed on the cat 100% of the time will actually worsen the problem rather than make the cat feel more secure”

Also, be honest with your sitter and explain that your cat may get depressed or act aggressive so that the sitter can make an informed decision on whether to take your cat on. Going into the cats’ territory armed with a toy as a distraction is also a good ploy if the cat is ‘stalking’ you ready to pounce.

Never force a cat to like you. Sit quietly in the same room low down as to not appear to be a threat. Treats always help. Make your movements slow. Allow the cat to smell your scent. This can be done, not with your hands.. as you will probably get a swipe from a fearful cat, but with a glove, hat, or any other small belonging you have on you with your scent all over it.

Patience is a virtue and eventually you will win the cats trust and they may start to approach you.

There is no such thing as a bad cat.. just maybe frightened or nervous and sometimes owners who need better information.

Recommended products: http://www.feliway.com/uk/

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Feline Territorial Aggression Consultation

If you have found yourself on this page and are a cat guardian, with a feline territorial aggression issues to iron out,  it’s more than likely that you will be seeking a cat behaviourist to visit your home as part of a cat behaviour consultation.

Why book a cat behaviour consultation with Anita Kelsey:

  • Anita Kelsey has been studying cats for years and is fully accredited
  • Currently in her second year at university reading for a BA in Cat Psychology
  • Vet recommended and referred
  • Full member of the Canine and Feline Behaviour Association
  • Friendly and approachable
  • Impeccable client references
  • Support always given.
  • Easy to talk to and contact
  • Based in Notting Hill, London but will travel anywhere in the UK
  • International clients welcome
  • Full public liability insurance
  • Emails answered within 24 hours and cat behaviour consultations always treated as an emergency and appointments given straight away
  • Day, evening or week-end appointments available
  • Anita is a natural animal communicator
  • Specialised cat groomer. Behaviour consultations connected to grooming available
  • Anita’s living and breathing passion is cats and she understands their behaviours and patterns more than anyone

PLEASE CONTACT ANITA, LONDON’S LEADING CAT BEHAVIOUR EXPERT, WITH A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE PRESENT ISSUE AND YOU BE GUIDED AS TO THE NEXT STEPS TO TAKE.

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