Feline Territorial Aggression & Separation Anxiety.

TERRITORIAL AGGRESSION/SEPARATION ANXIETY

By Catnips: Your one stop feline shop for sitting, grooming and behaviour consultations

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 in general cats’ do not get lonely if they are the sole pet.

MOST cats love human company and love being the sole cat in the household

MOST cats love human company and love being the sole cat in the household

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.

Kittens will annoy the hell out of an older cat who just wants peace and quiet in their old age

Kittens will annoy the hell out of an older cat who just wants peace and quiet in their old age

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 and two frustrated, confused and unhappy cats.

 

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 listed on my page “How to introduce two cats”.

 

Finding the right cat for your resident cat can be a match made in heaven, if the introduction is done correctly

Finding the right cat for your resident cat can be a match made in heaven, if the introduction is done correctly

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 had plenty of space for both cats and followed the proper introduction 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.

 

A cat will try to intimidate an 'intruder' into his territory if he is not used to much human contact apart from his owners

A cat will try to intimidate an ‘intruder’ into his territory if he is not used to much human contact apart from his owners. This type of behaviour can escalate and the cat would not hesitate to defend itself or just attack what he sees as a threat in his own space.

One cat I sat began to stalk me and try to intimidate me on every visit. It is very difficult to look after a cat that hisses, stalks, or goes into full 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.

 

Signs of Feline Separation Anxiety can be peeing outside of the litter tray when the owner goes away, disinterest in eating, excessive crying,

Signs of Feline Separation Anxiety can be peeing outside of the litter tray when the owner goes away, disinterest in eating, excessive crying,

A cat can also suffer from separation anxiety and be very fearful and depressed when their owner goes away for longer than the usual work period of 8 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.

Once any medical issues have 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 a cat-sitter and arrange for some pre-sits, with you present, to try to win the cat’s trust before you leave and to get the cat used to another person in their space. This is also great for timid/shy or aggressive cats. If you decide to do this make sure toys are on hand so the sitter plays with the cat and stays for at least an hour. Try to reassure your cat that the sitter is a friend and encourage plenty of stroking and sniffing of the sitters natural scent.
  • 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. Sometimes I leave the TV on low too.
  • 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. House sitting is becoming more popular in the UK.
  • 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 your departure less stressful for the cat by making some changes to the normal routine. Prior to leaving and upon returning home, you should ignore the cat – it is the removal of your 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. It is worth a try!

For the aggressive cat use a toy as a distraction when you first enter the home. It’s a good ploy if the cat is ‘stalking’ you ready to pounce. Soon it’s focus will be on the toy and not you! Well, that’s the theory!

For the sitter: 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 prob 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. Even with an aggressive cat it can learn to tolerate you until the owner is back but at least you will leave on your last day with all limbs intact.

Last but not least the cat owner should be totally honest with their chosen sitter and explain that the cat may get depressed or act aggressive so that the sitter can make an informed decision on whether to take your cat on. A sitter going into a cats’ territory armed with the correct information can make a world of difference.

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

Good luck!!

By Catnips: Your one stop feline shop for sitting, grooming and behaviour consultations

Advertisements

About Anita Kelsey - Cat Behaviour Consultant

Anita Kelsey holds a first class honours degree in Feline Behaviour and Psychology (work based BA Hons) and runs a vet referral service dedicated strictly to the diagnosis and treatment of behaviour problems in cats. She is also a qualified cat groomer and specialises in grooming aggressive or phobic cats. Anita writes for Your Cat Magazine and is on their experts panel answering readers questions on cat grooming. She also advises on feline behaviour for the CFBA (Canine and Feline Behaviour) magazine as well as being a full member. Anita is based in Notting Hill, London but consults all over the UK as well as international requests. She lives with her husband, a music producer, and two Norwegian Forest cats, Kiki and Zaza.
Aside | This entry was posted in FELINE BEHAVIOUR ADVICE, PAST POSTS and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Feline Territorial Aggression & Separation Anxiety.

  1. Marketa says:

    Great Article

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s