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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I am 13+ years old (I don’t know exactly). My name used to be Eubank before my new mum brought me home from a cat shelter where I was ugly and unwanted, now I am loved and wanted but still ugly! My mummy has written to you before, but I thought I would ask if you have any ideas on why my friend Sable keeps on ambushing me and stopping me from using the comfy places in the house, which we have the run of. She is nearly 5 years old and was the first cat in the house. I only came here in June this year. I have an autoimmune disorder and keep losing my skin and fur, but I am not too bad really on good but bitter tasting medication.

Sable has now stopped me from sitting in front of the gas fire when Mummy puts it on for me, and she tries to stop me going upstairs, where I like to drink from the second big bowl of fresh water Mummy leaves for us. We eat mainly from our own bowls, but do change over and and eat from each other’s bowl what is left from each meal. Sable also hates me using the two covered litter trays and I leave these to her, but Mummy has given me three ordinary trays around the house and still Sable tries to stop me using these, my OWN trays! She keeps rearranging the grain in the tray and piles it up into a messy mound, when I like the grain nice and flat. I rush out of my basket, rush to one or other of my own trays, I rush to drink and eat and feel I have to rush back to my basket in case Sable pinches it, though Mummy has given Sable her own basket identical to mine–which I will use if Sable takes mine. After all, Sable can only be in one basket at a time!

Everything, except Mummy’s lap, Sable tries to stop me using. She does not bite, scratch, hiss or really do anything nasty at me, but she is making me a bit uncertain and jumpy now, and she does like to take my tail in her mouth when I am on Mummy’s lap, but she does not actually bite it. Mummy even bought a Feliway diffuser and left it on all the time, but it made little or no difference.

With my disorder I don’t have a great deal of strength, and when Sable jumps on me it often makes me fall over. Do you think Sable is being nasty to me or is she just mischevous? Sable is in excellent health in contrast to me, but I don’t like confrontations and don’t want to strike back, though I have a few times, batted Sable gently with my paw. I LOVE sitting on Mummy’s lap and Sable hates being cuddled, so at least it doesn’t appear to be jealousy. What do you think? Will time and patience ease things? I just want to be friends with Sable, who is a very beautiful girl and my Mummy says I am her beautiful boy.

~Solomon

Thomas: I’ll take first comment with this one, gang. I sure know what it’s like to be the new cat in town, so to speak. When I first came to Mama’s house, Siouxsie used to hiss and swat at me, and it made me scared too. I was smaller than Siouxsie at the time because I’d been very sick while I was at the shelter. And even though I was feeling better physically when I came to my forever home, I was still quite heartbroken about losing my previous human companion. (He got really sick and had to go away to a hospital.)

Dahlia: I’m so glad your Mummy adopted you and gave you a forever home! A lot of people are hesitant about adopting sick or elderly cats, but “special needs” cats need loving homes at least as much as healthy and young kitties. But still, it’s hard coming into a new home, especially when you’re sick and not as strong as the other cat.

Siouxsie: That having been said, it sounds like Sable’s behavior is a combination of mischief and territoriality. The playing behavior–jumping on top of you and holding your tail in her mouth–is probably her way of showing she wants to be your friend. But stealing your basket, keeping you away from warm spots and messing up your litterboxes are more territorial behaviors.

Thomas: Sable is trying to show you that she’s the Top Cat in the household. But she does need to give you a bit of a break. In order to stay as healthy as you can, it’s important that your stress levels be low. And it’s hard not to be stressed when you’re worried about being ambushed at the litterbox or your favorite comfy places.

Dahlia: Maybe your Mummy can help you feel more comfortable about your situation by giving you one room that’s just your own. She can put your basket and one of your litter trays nearby, so that you don’t have to rush to the box before Sable can get you. She could even give you your own water dish in there. That way you can have a place where you can get your rest and see your litterbox and other necessities.

Siouxsie: Since you don’t seem to have trouble eating together, your Mummy can keep your feeding station where you’re used to it.

Thomas: Your Mummy doesn’t have to lock you in your room or anything. But it probably would help you to have one place you could claim as your own. If Sable has a favorite room, maybe that can become her room, and she can have her own bed and litterbox and water dish in there. Then maybe the two of you will be able to share the rest of the house without so much conflict about whose territory is whose.

Dahlia: When the two of you are in the shared territory and your Mummy is with you (maybe petting you on her lap or something), she can keep a “thing on a string” toy handy. When Sable comes along looking to ambush you, she can distract Sable with the toy before Sable does something to scare you.

Siouxsie: She can also have regular daily play sessions with you and Sable, so that you learn to play together in a less nerve-wracking way. Maybe she can use two Things on a String, one for each of you. I understand you’re kind of weak with your disorder, so your Mummy needs to make sure the play isn’t going to exhaust you to the point where you don’t enjoy it anymore.

Thomas: Your Mummy should keep those particular Things on a String in a closet or drawer when she’s not using them, so that when she takes them out you both know it’s time for a special play session.

Dahlia: You may think this is kind of strange, but we cats respond well to positive thoughts and affirmations. If your Mummy tells you over and over again what a strong and brave kitty you are, you may actually begin to feel stronger and more courageous. It could even help your condition improve. Doctor Sarah told Mama to do that with me, because I was so tiny and runty when she first brought me home: I was five months old and I only weighed three pounds. It worked, too, because now I’m a big girl (six whole pounds) and I can do a good job defending myself from Siouxsie’s swats. In fact, I even like to chase Thomas around sometimes.

Siouxsie: Don’t think I couldn’t kick your tail if I wanted to!

Thomas: Of course, this also goes for Sable. Your Mummy could have a talk with Sable and frequently reassure her that she’s still the Top Cat in your home. Mama’s always telling Siouxsie that she’s the Top Cat and Queen of All Eastern Cats. It’s really helped Siouxsie in her relationship with Dahlia and me, because she knows Mama respects her place in the household.

Dahlia: Your Mummy could also tell Sable how kind she is to accept another cat into her domain, and that she needs to be gentle with you because of your venerable age. (At age 13-14, you’re the human equivalent of 80 years old!) In case you’re curious about how cat ages compare to human ages, we’ve got a chart here.

Siouxsie: Gosh! I’m going to be 70 this year! I am very spry and strong for a 70-year-old, though, and don’t you two forget it!

Thomas: We hope this helps, Solomon. Please write back and let us know how things go.

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