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Are you having issues with your cats getting on?

In this blog I’ll share with you what we have been doing to integrate Max with Leo. From colour therapy to kind words, moving litter trays to bungie cords!

Integrating a new cat is hard work! I’m just going to put that out there straight away. I wanted a second cat, Leo shared with me he could cope with it and the universe made it so. However, my life has been turned upside down, and a little topsy turvy, with this huge change to our household.

‘Put them in a room and let them get on with it’. I’m sure you have either heard this from someone when talking about introducing a second (or maybe third or fourth cat), or someone has said this to you when you’ve been sharing that you are experiencing difficulties with the new edition.

THIS IS NOT THE BEST WAY FORWARD!

Sorry for the shouting capital letters but it’s true. Trust me! As a holistic cat therapist and cat behaviourist introducing another cat to the home is one of the main reasons people seek my services. They took a couple of days to settle the new cat and then let them into the home. It may have gone ok for a few days or weeks but then trouble starts to show with hissing, aggression and possibly physical outbursts.

That’s because cats can take a while to adapt to change in their environment. Sure, some cats will take the change totally in their stride (just like some humans), but most cats will need support during this period of transition.

A traditional cat behaviourist may advise to use scent work, introduce them at a door whist eating etc. And some of those tools are really valuable, I’ve recommended them to clients and had huge success.

With my boys, it’s been a whole other level!

Different strokes for different folks

When you integrate cats you can’t just look at the functional side of it all. Who’s sleeping where, placement of the food bowls and litter trays. It goes beyond all of that. You need to look at their energy, their emotional state and their personality.

Max – He’s very playful, confident and inquisitive.

Leo – He’s timid, shy, nervous and fretful.

How do I introduce these two gorgeous souls together? Slowly! We are going at the pace of the slowest adapting cat which in our case is Leo. Which also makes sense as his territory has been ‘invaded’, affected, smells different etc.

But it’s more than that. Leo is on high alert. He is walking past the interloper (Max) as he leaves the house and walks across our garden because the summer room, the extension where Max is currently residing, runs along the length of our garden. In fact, Leo has stopped using his cat flap at the moment, so we let him out of the back patio doors. Why? Because he needs support. He isn’t comfortable going out the flap, which is a small hole where he can see Max if he’s sitting on the windowsill of the summer room, and Leo probably feels threatened. If we let him out of the patio doors he can freely and quickly do an about turn and come back into the house to feel safe if he needs to.

This is a behaviour change for Leo and it’s one that I am aware of. When we introduce another cat we need to look out for these subtle changes. It will help us to understand what is going on in the hearts and minds of our cats.

Max is such a well socialised kitten. The rescue centre where we got him from did a great job with him. Sadly, he is losing that confidence with strange people because he is only exposed to me and my husband. He is desperate to be with other cats. Should I just let him loose on Leo? Of course not. I could do lasting damage to Leo’s mental and emotional health. So, I’m going to see how I can support this need of Max’s whilst also respecting Leo and his boundaries.

Colour therapy and bungie cord

Ok so I mentioned above that my boys are taking my learning to the next level when it comes to introductions. Everything I had in my tool kit, my behaviour box, is almost thrown out of the window. Why…because our set up and Leo’s current state isn’t allowing for the traditional introductions. This is why it’s crucial to seek the help of a behaviourist if you are having problems with your cats. You can work together to figure out the best way forward for everyone using the tools and set up that you have.

I had a friend of mine, Pam from Purrrfectly Holistic, perform an energetic check in with Leo. She found that he had emotional blocks, which she helped to clear, and it had an amazing effect on him. Within 24 hours he was more playful, engaging and affectionate. She advised that he needed solar plexus support, so I went on the hunt for a yellow anything! All I could find was a pale, yellow summer t-shirt, and when I put it on the bed look what I found later that day…

Colour therapy is amazing!

Now where does the bungie cord come in I hear you ask?!

Well, as part of the slooooooow integrations we are doing I need Leo to be exposed to Max’s scent in a safe and controlled manner. We have been bringing Max (and his litter tray, play tunnel and heated bed!) into our house at different points throughout the day and setting him up in different rooms.

For the first-time last week he was left alone in our spare room whilst I was on a call.

40 minutes later I couldn’t get into the spare room as he had ripped up all the carpet by the door ☹

My dad helped me to fashion a secure door system where the doors are slightly open, we have lino covering the carpet and a bungie cord wrapped around the door handles! Ah the things we do for (furry) love!

What happens next?

We continue to take it slowly. Leo can see Max, through the summer room windows and last night he saw him through the glass front room window. He ran straight up the stairs. Now the good news is Leo didn’t hide away under the blanket or behind the spare bed. I went upstairs 5 minutes later to find him sitting at the top of the stairs. HUGE PROGRESS! Should I just let Max wonder about the house? No. He will ‘torment’ Leo as Max is curious and inquisitive. Leo isn’t ready yet.

Remember we have to go at the pace of the slowest adjusting cat!

We will continue to support both boys in the best way we can. It may not be conventional, it may not be straight out of the behaviour textbook. But I know that when I trust my intuition, I listen to my boys and what their heart is telling me we can take one day at a time and soon we will be one big happy family. Now that could take days, weeks or months. I’m not going to rush Leo. I’m not going to put my agenda onto the boys. I will help them adapt, adjust and take this change at their own pace. After all that’s what a good cat mum does 😊

If you need help introducing your cats or dealing with behaviour problems please get in touch or take a look at my services:

Naturally Cats Services.

Together we can support you all, in the unique ways that you need, to have a happy family home.

With love,

Julie-Anne, Leo & Max xoxo

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