Ask Lyle - A New Cat is Terrorizing My Sister and I!
I really need help, I am so sad. My name is Lily and I live in a great home with my sister Kitty. I’ve lived here since my humans rescued me at 4 weeks old, and my sister Kitty joined us three months later when she walked into our backyard and I allowed her to stay (she’s pretty cool). Things have been great for three years, but for some reason my humans came home with a “brother” for us, Rocky in September. It was ok at first because he hid under the bed and didn’t want to come out at all. Then, he hid in a closet which was really good for us. But something happened. After Christmas he decided he wanted to take over the house and my humans! And it feels like he has.
He chases me and twice he fought with me. One time he hurt me, so I’m really scared. Mom and Dad do a good job at keeping me and Kitty safe now, but I feel better when I stay upstairs in my human’s bedroom with the door closed. I come out with Mom or Dad’s supervision to eat, and I can play with Kitty at night (she stays in the kitchen during the day and she feels the same way I do). Rocky has his own bedroom where he sleeps at night (btw what cat sleeps at night?)
How do I make him go away so I can enjoy my home and my humans again? I want to be free. I want things back to the way they were.
Worried my humans don’t love me anymore,
Dear Lost Lily,
I'm glad you wrote in to me because I am sure I can help you out. It sounds like you and your sister had a pretty comfortable thing going when your brother was introduced into the mix. I know how hard it can be to adjust to a big change.
It does seem like Rocky is being a bit of a bully, but remember that he is also in an unfamiliar situation and just trying to find his place in your home. As you know, cats act out of instinct when they feel threatened, and this is especially true when it is a question of territory.
The good news is that there are many things your humans can do to help with the process. All of the tips below have one thing in common—helping all of the cats associate good things with each other.
Nice to Meet You (again)
Because you are having such problems with your new brother, it might be a good idea to just start fresh with a complete reintroduction. Have your human segregate you and Rocky (probably putting him in his room) for a few days. She should then give both of you treats on either side of the door, so you can both have a positive association with each other without the threat of violence. Continue this for a few days and then see how everyone is feeling. Need more tips on reintroducing cats? The American Human Society has some great advice!
Share the Love (and the Scent)
After everyone has settled into their separate spaces again (with favourite places to sleep established), your human can work on integrating your scents together. Jackson Galaxy has some helpful tips on how to do this. Once that process is working its magic, your human can judge what the best time to introduce you all again (possibly when everyone is sleepy and happy).
The Family that Eats Together...
Usually isn't very happy when it is a family of us cats. Everyone should have their own food bowl, and their own eating area if that is feasible in your house. Getting enough to eat can be a major stress for a new cat, and it might be a catalyst (ha!) for aggression. Making sure everyone has access to their own food and water is one way to reduce that stress.
Litter Boxes Galore
The more the merrier is the rule when it comes to litter boxes for new cats. The experts say you should have 1 litter box per cat + 1 extra (so 4 in your house), which can seem like overkill to humans. Even if it is just a temporary solution until everyone feels more comfortable in the house, this is another way to help bring the stress level down. More litter box problem solving tips can be found in this great article by our Cat Psychologist!
Reinforce good behaviour
This seems like a standard piece of advice for cat owners, but you would be surprised at how often humans forget to do just this. Our humans forget that what they see as negative attention might be very positive for us. I love to meow at the door of my house. I just like to hear the sound of my own voice and I like others to hear it too (including the neighbours!). My Momma used to come over to me, pick me up, and then say something to me I didn't understand. It was so great! I got a hug, she would come see me, and I knew I was on the right track. Lately, she just leaves the room when I meow, and I don't get any response from her. I found out that if I go visit her and sit near her feet, she is more than happy to pick me up for hugs and attention, so I am going to do that more than the meowing. It's all about finding ways to meet a cat's needs that works for everyone in the house.
Those are some good places to start. It's important for your human to remember that Rocky's stress level will affect how he acts with you and Kitty. Anything that can be done to reduce that anxiety will pay dividends around the home. Also remind your human that extra hugs, pets, scritches, and loves can go a very long way to helping everyone know they have a place in a forever home.
I can't promise that things will go back to the way they were before Rocky showed up, but I can say that in time, with these tips, you will find you have a whole new family member to love. It will be worth it!
Thanks for writing in and please keep in touch—let me know how things are going!
If your cat has a question for Lyle. just write him at asklyle(at)moderncat.com, and he will be happy to answer them. Don't forget to include a photo of the cat who needs advice so that we can post it with his response! Follow all of Lyle's adventures on Instagram, @Lylestagram.