I live in a multi-cat household, and one cat (Brando) bullies the quieter cats in the house. Brando knows he is doing the wrong thing, so this behavior often takes place when I’m not in the room, but I hear and see the results. Brando was abandoned as a kitten and may still be dealing with issues related to that, but he has lived with me for nine years. How can I get him to be less aggressive and learn to share his space (and my lap) with the others? —Jean Fritz
Kittens who are either the sole survivor of their litter or are the only kitten in a litter (singletons), as well as those who are not acclimated to other kittens and miss the rough-and-tumble play of littermates, often develop into cats who are poorly tolerant of other cats. Because this situation has been going on for such a long time, you may wish to discuss with your veterinarian the possibility of using Prozac (fluoxetine) with Brando. However, there are some steps you can take to see if other strategies will work to make your home peaceful:
1. Bach Flower Remedies can be utilized in some of these cats. It is best that each cat have his or her own customized blend made by an apothecary who is familiar with these flower essences. Rescue Remedy is a readily available Bach Flower Essence that can be mixed in water. It is nonsedating and often provides some calming. Because the Bach Flower Essences have a high alcohol content, they should be mixed in water.
2. Several Chinese herbals can be used in these situations, too. Relaxed Wandered (Jin Wei Xiao Yao San) is frequently recommended. It is best to use herbs only under the supervision of a veterinarian who is familiar with their uses and indications. Acupuncture could be used as well.
3. Feliway diffusers. These diffusers contain a synthetic form of the feline facial marking pheromone. Cats rub their faces on objects (and members of their human and feline families) when they are relaxed. These diffusers are available in many pet superstores.
4. Counter-conditioning. This would require that you separate Brando in a room from
the other cats. You can then provide him and the other cats with increasing opportunities to interact. A harness on Brando could be used too. Sometimes using a hairbrush on all of the cats will provide counter-conditioning. Some cats are highly motivated by treats and toys, and these may be utilized as well.
One of my cats has a bad bathroom habit of urinating in the very back of the litterbox—not onto the litter in the back of the box, but on the back wall. I’m not quite sure why he aims there, but sometimes it drips down and outside of the box, which leaves a very smelly and messy stain. As cats aren’t easily trainable and it’s hard to catch my cats when they’re in the box, I’m not really sure what to do. They’re also very private and don’t like to be looked at when they’re going to the bathroom. Can you offer any suggestions? —Ilyssa Shapiro
Many cats prefer a standing position for urination, and cats with spinal, knee, or hip pain may assume such a stance to avoid discomfort. I would recommend ruling out these problems by having your feline companion examined and evaluated by a veterinarian.
If the cat box is the only place where this behavior is taking place, there are a few options. You can place one cat box within another so that the cat box that is used for urination and defecation is perpendicular to the second (and the second box stands against the wall). Alternatively, a piece of plexiglass or other barrier can be mounted against the wall, a plexiglass or other barrier can be placed within the box, or a covered cat box can be utilized. There are problems with the use of covered cat boxes, as they retain urine and fecal odors, present problems for arthritic cats, and often are not cleaned daily, as is recommended (given that wastes are out of sight of the guardian and out of mind). Cat boxes should be at least one and a half times the length of the cat, from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail. There are “puppy litterboxes,” available at most pet superstores and smaller boutiques that feature a lower entrance lip and higher sides and backs.
Dr. Michele Gaspar is Chicago’s only board-certified feline specialist and one of only 80 feline specialists worldwide. She writes topical articles about cat health and behavior for Feline Pine’s “Vet Chat” at FelinePine.com. Contact Gaspar at (773) 899-4047 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
* The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Tails Pet Media Group, Inc. Please consult your veterinarian before making any major decisions for your pet.