I have 3 cats. 2 males and a female tortie. She, Scully the tortie, used to be the top cat. She was the undisputed top cat. All the cats lived peacefully together, no fights for about 6 years.
A few years ago, we were moving and the house was all full of boxes and everything was probably stressful. There was something that fell, scared a cat, who lashed out at another cat. A fight ensued. Scully got a claw to the eyelid. She is fortunate it stuck in the lid and not in her eye. We had to carefully remove it from a freaked out cat. The other cat was still trying to get at her even when my husband had her up out of reach.
Fastforward 3 years and 3 dogs later. I don't believe Scully's feet ever touch the floor. She is generally huddled on the kitchen counter. We do have the "cat bathroom" where there are litter boxes and where we feed them off limits to dogs. We have 3 cat trees, 2 in the living room and one in the kitchen so they can be with us but be above the dogs, without being on the kitchen counters.
The two males take turns intimidating her and just being general pests to her. Going up close, rubbing faces on nearby furniture, just general intimidation tactics. She freaks out..hisses and spits....she gets chased by cats...which in turn excites the dogs (JRT mixes) who think it is great fun to chase the cats and in particular her, because she is always the one who runs.
I'm so tired of breaking up fights and having to deal with her on the counters. I love Scully and do not want to give her away but at this point, I think she would be happier in a place as an only cat. She is very affectionate when she is not terrified for her life.
On the other hand, I wouldn't just give her to anyone, so i haven't found anyone up to my standards yet who I would trust to take her.
What can i do in the mean time? We don't have a small house so it doesn't seem like territory is necessarily the issue.
I was thinking of finding a way to give her access to the basement without letting anyone else there. But she likes to be around everyone, i dont' think she would want to be "the basement cat". But it would give her an option when she needs to get away.
Litter boxes haven't been a problem. Never anything on the floor. Cats all eat together out of one dish.
Have you tried Feliway diffusers? Or a few drops of Rescue Remedy in the cats water dish?
Unfortunately, it's often one traumatic incident that will completely change a cat's behaviour. Having a claw stuck in Scully's eyelid did it for her, and it seems she has lost the confidence she once had, and is fearful, and with good reason. I agree that she isn't the happy cat that she once was, and likely a home where she's the only cat would restore her confidence. In the meantime, I would try and keep her in a separate room from the other two cats, or if there's one who will behave with her to keep her company from time to time. It doesn't help now that she runs in fear and has the dogs after her too. Because she wants "to be around everyone", you could have her in a large dog crate. That way she can observe, be part of the family and be safe from harassment.
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