I look forward to seeing you all at Matilda’s annual celebration where I will be available for behavioral tips and Reiki treatments. Wear your cat inspired outfits. If you can’t attend, you can still bid in the Silent Auction. I have donated a phone/video consult with lots of MultiPet Toys. Orion has requested that his robotic cats accompany me as his surrogates.
“Our cat Leia bit our new born baby on the head,” said Paul.
He went on to say that when they arrived home with Baby Miles, he let out a wail. Leia freaked out. She attacked her companion Yoda, bit Baby Miles on his head and went after Paul’s wife Allison.
With their studio apartment, space was at a premium. The two cats were now at Paul’s parents. No way, did they want to give their cats up, so they contacted me for a phone consult.
“Paul, let’s schedule the consult for when you visit your parents. With the combo of speaker phone and the link of music that I’ll send you, your cats will feel included and more confident as their session proceeds.”
The following evening Paul and Allison hung out with their cats as we did the consult, while Paul’s parents took care of Baby Miles. Leia and Yoda had resumed their usual chummy relationship. Yoda, five years old, usually calm and friendly was adopted as a kitten. Leia, three years old, was very vocal and often demanding. She’d been in a previous home and was returned to the rescue group at several months old when Paul and Allison adopted her.
The Ripple Effect — Serial Attacker
Leia was shocked and rattled by the baby’s cry. Her fear turned to fight, and she became the serial attacker. Fortunately, her ripple effect was nowhere near critical. But this was thin ice, a slippery slope and prevention was the solution. “ So how shall we forge ahead?” said Allison.
Leia and Yoda’s Treatment Plan
Record or from YouTube, play the sound of a crying baby. Comfort and praise the cats while their link of music plays in the background. “Tell them they’re okay and so is Baby Miles.” This will start to create a positive association.
Acknowledge Leia verbally whenever you interact with Yoda so she doesn’t stuff her angst and later attack Yoda or whomever is available when she relives her feelings of rejection and out of control (e.g. “Right Leia" or "We’ll feed or brush or play with Yoda for you”). No, she won’t understand your words but she’ll feel in control of the attention.
Thank and continue to thank your parents for provision of their home for the happy transition. Their understanding has certainly been the tie that binds.
Play their music link continuously to reinforce the good feelings from this consult. The more relaxed they feel, the better they’ll react to their changed situation.
Purchase two transparent cat enclosures or collapsable tents that the cats can hang out in “on arrival” when they return to your studio apartment. Remember to include their creature comforts, litter box, food, water, toys. This is not a punishment but a safe space. When a cat is startled, safety is usually found under the bed, a closet … Less is more.
Always verbally acknowledge Leia and Yoda whenever you interact with Miles — even if you think they’re unaware. A cat’s radar is infallible.
A sense of humor will act to relax you and your cats. Whenever you say something that’s light and easy, your body language relaxes, whereas it contracts when you’re mad or agitated. Your cats are very sensitive to your body language and tone of voice.
Leia and Yoda would remain at Paul’s parents house for the next couple of weeks as Paul and Allison would be out of town for several days, but they would visit the cats in between.
Paul and Allison’s Update: Leia and Yoda Made Amends.
The cats are getting better. Life at my parent’s house in the suburbs is seemingly great for them. The two of them are getting along well again — after employing your advice. They seem to have made up. My parents have been sticking to your advice, playing the music, being sure to acknowledge the cats individually as much as possible. We have been traveling back and forth from Brooklyn with the baby (Miles Alan) about once a week and spending the night with them and my parents. The first time we visited, the energy was a bit weird, aggressive and stressful. We kept them separated from the baby in another room mostly but continued the acknowledgements. The cats seemed okay with one another while the baby was around.
Tolerance — A Monumental Break-through
The second, third, and 4th times the cats have warmed up — getting used to the idea of the baby. We no longer need to separate them from each other or keep them in a separate room from the baby. Of course, someone is there or Miles is in his crib that is baby-secure. We are still a bit wary of Leia. We trust Yoda almost completely at this point, and Leia is beginning to ignore the baby more and more each time we see them. Her tolerance has grown.
Yoda in drag
Re-Introduction And Integration
We plan to bring them back to Brooklyn next week, after one more visit to my parents this weekend. Do you have any advice for the re-introduction to their home and their baby bro? Thank you Carole! Hope you are well.
The Pivotal Moment
“Omg, what a family you are! The cat enclosures will keep Leia and Yoda calm and cozy.
Leia in whimsey land
Once they get used to their temporary digs, they can venture out for short intervals while Miles is out of their reach. Remember to acknowledge them and credit them for their choice of the best baby. After all, it is, was their idea to add Miles to your family. May Leia’s “princess demeanor” soften to include aspects of the cat nanny. Yoda, the giver, is on the short list to assume this role."
Avoid The Rabbit Hole
Time takes time, so slow and steady will avoid any slips that could trigger break- downs. Onward with break-throughs. You’ve had many so far!
I will continue to send distant Reiki for a healing paw print.
Eight years ago, my sister Gail found Orion on the web. So I flew out to San Diego, Gail met me at the airport and we drove to pick up Orion at the Chula Vista Animal Care Center. He was, allegedly, two years old, part Siamese, part feral, a voyeur of other cats but kept his distance.
So now, Orion, my cat of cats, is a “recovering feral” and my feline significant other, domestic partner.
“I have a client here in L.A. who desperately needs your help. Her three cats hate each other and they end up tinkling on her beds. Sooooo I told her about you. When will you be out here to visit your sister again?” This was a text from Dr.Julia Chiverton, at Veterinary Care Center, with whom I worked in New York when she was at Westside Veterinary Center.
Tommy's snooze spot
L.A. Home Visit
Three weeks later I made a home visit to Dr. Chiverton’s client. Yes indeed, Edith’s three cats, Sally, Tommy and Claude were at odds with each other. Their case history revealed that Sally and Claude’s incidents on the beds started four months ago when Edith took in two cats to foster — which she placed in a separate part of her house.
Sally in her favorite spot
First Cat of the Trio
Sally, now seven years old, was always emotionally fragile — from kittenhood on. She was Edith’s first cat and was not especially happy when Tommy arrived, a young adult cat, formerly abused and routinely scrappy with Sally and Claude. Aggressive with Edith when first adopted, he’s since become very mellow.
Sally's Separation Anxiety, Inter-Cat Hostility, New Cat Competition
The arrival of the two foster cats, coupled with Tommy’s aggressive behavior, threw Sally over the cliff. Previously, Edith’s mother had passed on, whom Sally had adopted as her surrogate mom. So now, Sally’s angst and discomfort catapulted. Her symptomatic behavior was to spray to communicate her stressed feelings to Edith. Her choice spot has been on the head board of a bed in one of the guest bedrooms
Claude’s Anxiety Attacks
Claude's snooze spot
Claude, eleven years old, a senior cat, was adopted six months after Tommy. Although not a lap cat, he will hang out next to Edith — love at a distance — fear of intimacy. As with Sally, his anxiety attacks started four months ago when the two foster cats arrived. His symptom of angst and discomfort has been to urinate near the headboard of the bed in the second guest room in which he usually frequents.
During their session as the relaxation music played in the background, I gifted the three cats with Multipet Toys to engage and energize them. Sally had a fun time under the bed, Tommy played on top of the bed while Claude appeared from the other guest room and chased the furry mouse about. Edith was particularly pleased with Claude’s enthusiasm. He usually didn’t show such exuberance. “A break-through” for Claude.
Treatment Program to Integrate New Coping Mechanisms
Boost Tommy’s morale with acknowledgement. Mention his name whenever you interact with Sally and Claude. Otherwise he feels rejected and resorts to “fight”. The more he feels “special” the less apt he is to strike out. Even though the two fosters are in a separate part of the house, Tommy must be acknowledged whenever you interact with them e.g. “Right Tommy” or “It was so good of you to accept them into our home”. Tommy’s abusive past and abandonment complex trigger his aggressiveness when he feels left out.
Place paper towels or wee wee pads in the litter box that you have on each bed for Claude and Sally. They seek out the bed because it is a soft surface — a comfort zone — that reminds them of their contact with their mother cat. The towels can be placed on top of the litter. If not effective, remove all of the litter. Continue to keep the other litter boxes that they normally use as well.
Praise them whenever they use the box and scoop the boxes frequently.
Affirmation — tell them they’re such happy and mellow cats.
Whenever you visit the foster cats, verbalize your intention e.g. “I’m off to see Bob and Suzie,” so your three guys don’t resent your visits.
Let Sally tuck in with you at bedtime as the guys prefer to sleep around.
Their relaxation music should be on continuous play and catnip will help to ease their angst.
I told Edith that Sally and Claude might need an anti-anxiety drug to reinforce their behavioral program, and I would be sure to include this as a recommendation in my case reports to Dr. Chiverton. We wanted to have a behavioral program in progress before a drug was administered.
Bob and Suzie -- Foster Cats
Suzie can't take her eyes off Bob
As I finished up my recommendations, I told Edith that now we could visit the fosters. “We’re off to see Bob and Suzie,” I said to Edith’s cats, as we went downstairs.
Bob is a player
“What a sunny, happy room,” I said to Edith as Bob and Suzie checked out the catnip and toys I placed before them.
Unlike the trio, these two cats clearly liked each other. Although Edith hadn’t planned to keep them, now she wondered if one day she could introduce them to her trio. I told her that first her three cats needed to recover from their traumas. When they were stabilized, we could consider and plan such an integration. However, if a compatible home became an option for them, where they would be the only cats, that would be an ideal situation for this gentle, low key duo.
As we said our goodbyes, I told Edith that the prognosis was promising, but it would take time and repetition. “I’ll be in touch with their progress and any questions,” she said. “Dr. Chiverton has been a blessing with my guys, and thanks to her, you’ve been added to our team.” More from Dr. Chiverton
Vivian adopted Bialy, a two year old female, as a companion for Muffy, her four year old cat. That was about three months ago. But Bialy stalked and pounced on Muffy relentlessly.
Very Different Catsonalities
Muffy reaches for catnip pouches
When I arrived for their session, Muffy was sequestered in the kitchen, with a doorway gate so the cats could see each other without physical contact.
Bialy immediately claimed the toy I placed beside her while Muffy slowly accepted hers. Clearly, while Bialy was the mover and shaker, Muffy’s m.o. was to proceed with caution.
Bialy’s Attack Cat Syndrome and Female Rivalry
I explained to Vivian that Bialy’s attack cat behavior with Muffy was triggered by female rivalry and early kitten deprivation. When she feels threatened, she relives these traumatic memories, her muscle memory kicks in and she resorts to fight. Muffy when threatened resorts to flight.
Major Recommendations For Their Treatment Program
Bialy Belly pose
Place their food on either side of the gate so that they can have closer contact, with food as their focus instead of combat.
Tell Bialy she’s such a good teacher and protector of Muffy. This will slowly defuse Bialy’s tension and aggression and improve her interactions with Muffy.
Continue to sleep one night with Muffy and the other with Bialy, Tell them they can have their private sleep time on the alternative night.
As Bialy can climb and jump over the kitchen gate, they can hang out in their individual transparent, collapsible tents — with their creature comforts — when you’re not at home.
Muffy takes Bialy's cue
Vivian didn’t want to part with Bialy, but Muffy was her priority. I told her that it would take a few weeks for Bialy to change her paw print towards Muffy. As Bialy’s inner angst gradually defused, Muffy’s confidence would grow. This dual reduction of tension would lead to an amicable relationship.
Within the next couple of weeks Vivian was in touch with progress and questions. Was I happy when I received her latest update.
I'm thrilled to tell you that after 3.5 long months of worry and perseverance, thanks to the excellent advice and help you gave me at our session and on the phone, today was Muffy and Bialy's first time "alone and not separated" while I was at my office. I was nervous the whole day and even came home a couple of hours early to check on them But when I did, they both ran to the door to meet me. They were fine! I called them into the kitchen for a treat. They arrived together, almost bumping noses.
Bialy still stalks and pounces on Muffy occasionally while I'm with them. So we're not completely without drama, but through my ensuring that they both feel included and loved, with neither favored and with today's milestone, Bialy’s rivalry is getting under control and we're going to make it as a family!
Thank you so much, Carole. I was feeling despondent over getting them assimilated, but your methods and tips got me through it. I'm attaching a couple of pics of my babies.
“A happy cat and guardian makes me a very happy person”, I told my cat Orion, as I hugged him and emailed an update to Dr. Colby, at Westside Veterinary Center, where I’m in residence.