Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I was wondering if you could throw some insight my way as you are such expurrrrts. Alex, who will be 2 in May, keeps annoying Puss, about 13ish, whenever Puss isn’t feeling well (he has liver, heart and thyroid problems as well as arthritis). I’ve noticed that the worse Puss feels, the more Alex tries to play-fight with him, which in turn, stresses Puss out more and makes him sick! Sophie-Mae, Alex’s twin sister, also helps break up the fights and she never plays with Puss because she knows how ill he is. Is Alex trying to be “top cat” because he can see that Puss is poorly and thinks that, as he is younger, stronger and healthier, it’s his turn to be boss? I try to help out as much as I can by stopping them play fighting (Alex would never purposely hurt Puss) , I make sure Puss knows he is still No.1, and I also give Alex lots of cuddles to show him I love him too. Is there anything else I can do?
Siouxsie: Well, Jen, I can tell you from experience that young cats certainly do go out of their way to give us extra-wise kitties a hard time. Bella’s always getting on my case! Look at that picture … see what I mean?
Thomas: Oh, come on, Siouxsie. Bella was just investigating the new fountain Mama got us for Crisp-mouse.
Siouxsie: Sure, but you know as well as I do that the worse I feel, the more she chases me all over the house.
Bella: Oh, come on! I’m still just a kitten.
Siouxsie: No, you’re not! You’re almost two — you should know better by now. … So, Jen, you can see that Puss isn’t alone in having to deal with a foolish kitten.
Bella: And Alex isn’t alone in having to deal with a grumpy old fart who never wants to play!
Thomas: Bella, you stop that! Siouxsie, you too! Anyway, an interesting factor in both our case and your cats’ case is that the young cat is bullying the older cat of the same sex. Like your Sophie-Mae, I don’t bother Siouxsie, so there clearly is some measure of dominance struggle at play here.
Siouxsie: Mama is pretty good about putting a stop to Bella’s antics, though. It gets tiring to run around the house growling and hissing at a kitten with boundless energy who doesn’t take me seriously when I tell her to back off.
Thomas: You want to be very careful not to do anything that might reinforce Alex in the notion that bullying Puss is okay. That means you have to avoid giving him any affection or attention after you’ve caught him giving Puss a hard time.
Bella: When you do give Alex love, make sure it’s at a time that can’t be even remotely connected with the bullying behavior. When he’s sitting quietly in your lap, for example, that’s a great time to dote on him.
Siouxsie: But if Alex starts getting cranky with Puss while he’s in your lap, tell him “no” very firmly and push him off your lap. If you do that consistently, Alex will get the message that if he bullies Puss, the affection will stop.
Thomas: Another thing you’ll need to do is help Alex get his crazy kitten energy out. Give him a couple of good, long, intense interactive play sessions each day. Get him panting, tire him out, and he’ll be more inclined to be calm for the rest of the day and not hassle Puss.
Bella: You could also do some gentle interactive play with Puss to help boost his confidence. Naturally, you’ll have to do this in a place where Alex can’t horn in and steal the play time from Puss.
Siouxsie: I know that when I’m feeling better and less painful, Bella tends to bother me less. Maybe you can work with your vet to get Puss on some cat-safe pain relief for the arthritis.
Thomas: Meanwhile, get Puss a nice, heated cat bed or two and help him get to his favorite places with stairs or ramps.
Bella: And make sure Puss lets Alex sleep in it … a lot
Thomas: Bella! What did I just tell you?
Siouxsie: You’re lucky I let you use my bed sometimes, Bella. Don’t push your luck.
Thomas: And Jen, keep on reassuring Puss that he is the top cat in your house.
Siouxsie: I know I appreciate it when Mama tells me that I’m Top Cat And Queen Of All Western Cats. Of course, I think I should be Top Cat And Queen Of All American Cats, since I’ve traveled across the whole country!
Bella: We all traveled across the country, Siouxsie.
Thomas: So, Jen, that’s pretty much it in a nutshell: Exercise Alex a lot to get his crazies out, don’t reinforce the behavior you don’t want to see, and do some gentle play with Puss to boost his confidence.
Bella: And don’t forget to ask your vet about safe pain management options to help Puss feel better.
Siouxsie: We hope this helps you and Puss, Jen. I know it’s hard for Mama to watch Bella pestering me when she knows I’m not feeling well.
Thomas: Good luck, Jen. Please let us know how things turn out!
My youngest will be a year old the first of March and he loves to play fight with Matthew. When Matthew has had enough he lets Jake know by hissing and growling. Jake goes away and neither cat seems the worse for wear. My oldest cat, Bella, is 15 and she just watches all this and doesn’t seem to know why any cat wouldn’t want a nap instead of play fighting. Matthew is around 13. Jake never tries to fight with Bella and if Jake does get out of line Bella gives him a wack and a hiss.
When Sid came into the family he was full of energy and loved to pounce on my other
cats. The two girls hissed and cried like they were being killed but still did not hide from
him (I think they secretly enjoyed the attention). Sid tried to jump and wrestle with Buffer
but Buff is not friendly to other cats (he’s just my baby) so he let Sid know right away to leave him
alone. But Bitsy (my 16 year old) was frequently a target of Sid’s energy. Little Bit would let Sid
snuggle up to him, only to received arms wrapped around him in a wrestling hold. Bitsy would cry and
I’d scold Sid. Bitsy had very bad arthritis and I know these wrestling holds really hurt him. What a brave boy he was. I had to keep reminding Sid to leave Bitsy alone but Bitsy, even when it hurt, never avoided
Sid or snapped back. Bitsy passed in June and Sid’s gotten a bit older but he still chases the girls sometimes. I’m thinking Little Bit realized Sid was young and crazy and just forgave him.
Thanks for the advice. :) I have tried a lot of those suggestions, especially making sure I don’t encourage Alex’s naughtiness by giving him attention afterwards. Sometimes I’m not sure if Puss is playing with Alex so I’ve managed to create a couple of ‘safe places’ which is basically the bed, when I’m in bed and the settee when I’m in the living room. Puss knows to get up there when he doesn’t want to play, otherwise I (sometimes) -when I’m sure Puss is not feeling too bad, I let them have a little play … It’s hard to tell tho as Puss is a ‘screamer’ (and he doesn’t half have a set of lungs on him!!!) lol
I’ve tried playing with Puss but the last couple of years he hasn’t wanted to, partly, I think it was because Willow (our kitten who died a couple years ago) used to join in whenever we started playing and after he died, Puss was always expecting him to come running in, when he finally realised little Willow would never be doing that again, he kind of lost the will to play… Which is kind of when all his illnesses took a turn for the worse, they actually all started a few months before, when Willow had a nasty accident, then when he died… Grief does funny things to the body doesn’t it !! :(
Alex seems to have lost a little confidence (all I can think to call it) when it comes to playing now, it’s like, sometimes, he’s forgotten how to play !!! Since Sophie-Mae has come out of her shell a little, she is playing more which is great, as I was trying to encourage her to :) but Alex just stands there watching with a look on his face that is kinda cross between ‘I wish I could play’ , ‘how do you play that game’ and ‘I’m a bit too scared to join in’ but when I try to encourage him to join in, he just looks so … Lost and insecure !! -I’m working on that though, giving him lots of praise when. He joins in and telling him how clever he is (it works!!)
I’ve asked a few times for pain management for Puss but the vet keeps saying that the steroid inj is the best we can give him ATM as it is also helping his liver problems.
I’m looking into getting a heated cat bed for him but I’m a little strapped for cash ATM so he’ll have to put up with blankets and cushions for the mean time :) I do have an electric blanket that I put on for him when the weather makes him especially achey.
Sometimes, Puss lets Alex snuggle up to him on my bed, but that isn’t very often, I think Alex actually calms down the more Puss lets him snuggle ….
*sigh* my life would be so much easier if I had more energy and less health problems! but they say you only get dealt the cards you can handle (or something)
Hecky thump!!! I’ve gone on a bit there haven’t I !!!! Haha sorry !!!
Thanks again gang, for answering my question :)
I love reading your columns , they are informative and fun to read :)
I have a 4+ yr old ragdoll cat….got her when she was 10 mo from a breeder who decidednot to breed this particular cat….. should, have been a red flag for sure…we can’t touch her without an appt. she won’t allow brushing, which she badly needs, cuddling you name it. I waited & worked patiently for 2+ years trying to give her lots of space to come to us…..I am a cat lover & pretty good with animals, but I feel more like her maid than her friend. I came across a 9 mo old male & decided to try them out …in short, he is the perfect cat! Patient with Sasha, sweet, washes her face….even taught her to play….all is well, one year later…..everyone sleeps on the bed, happy,happy….until a few.months ago when Sasha started stalking Cosmo, running him off at night…. I wake & go get him, but now he’s almost afraid of her at night…please help…I almost want to givebSasha away!