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Ask the Vet...
Your chance to ask Dr. Mindy Cohan, VMD, our resident pet health expert, what's on your mind!
Topic: Incompatible Cats
Question from Vernay in Wilmington:
I have an older cat, Lucy. I'm not sure how old Lucy is, but she was already an adult when I got her in 2005. She's been the only pet for the past 7 years. Recently I added a kitten, Emjay, who really needed a home. The kitten was 4 weeks when I got him. In hindsight, I see that it was a horrible idea. Lucy seems stressed out by the kitten, who insists on jumping on her, hitting her tail and running, and just being an overall pain in the butt. It's been four months, and while I've seen some progress, I still worry about Lucy. She's lost weight, doesn't play much, and isolates herself more. She's a totally different cat. I feel so guilty and I didn't know it would be this way. I assumed she would want to mother the cat. They fight often and I feel that the kitten is lonely because he has no one to play with. I try to give them both my attention, but I know I show the kitten more. Is there anything I can do for my Lucy. Getting rid of baby Emjay is not an option, but what else
can I do? HELP!!
Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Introducing cats is always a risky endeavor. New feline housemates can become slow or fast friends. At times, however, harmony is never established. If finding a new home for Emjay is not feasible, I have a few suggestions.
First, try keeping Emjay isolated when you are not home. This will allow Lucy to regain confidence and comfort in her original domain. Allow Emjay his freedom while you are home to supervise interactions. You can secure Emjay with a harness and leash to ensure he does not physically hurt Lucy. A spray bottle can also be used to deter Emjay from pouncing on Lucy. Secondly, if you do not have climbing perches, add a few to your home to enable Lucy to have a safe place to escape from Emjay. These products are available in pet stores and through Internet companies.
Lastly, I recommend feeding the cats on separate sides of a closed door. This will help Lucy develop a positive association with Emjay. As less hissing or other stressful reactions are observed, you can slowly open the door to eventually allow the cats to see each other while eating. When the cats are together and Lucy is tolerant of Emjay, offer her treats or pieces of kibble as a reward.
Unfortunately, some cats never develop a compatible relationship. I am concerned about the detrimental effects on Lucy such as weight loss and chronic stress. Although Emjay might become less of a nuisance as he matures, you need to ensure that Lucy stays healthy. If the situation fails to improve, you will need to consider permanent separation of the cats within your home or seeking other living arrangements for Emjay. Good luck!
Posted October 15, 2012
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