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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Background:
A couple months ago DH adopted a short-haired orange tabby neutered male from the local shelter. We have named him Dusty. Dusty is a fairly large (over 10 pounds) and active cat and is about a year and a half old. He can put his front paws on the bathroom counter while his back paws are on the floor. Dusty loves to bite while playing and has a lot of energy. We believe his previous owner played roughly with him when he when he was a kitten. His previous owner took him to the shelter after he was grown and was too much to handle.

We have gotten Dusty to reduce (but not stop) his biting us by stopping play when he gets too rough and saying either NO or OUCH loudly when he bites. We have several toys that we use to play with him. Dusty has started to bond with DH.

A couple weeks ago, DH went to the shelter again looking for a companion for Dusty. Instead he found a small (maybe 4 pounds, probably less), young (9 months?) long-haired female that the shelter named Snowflake. She had been found as a stray and was not well. He adopted her but she was too sick to leave the shelter. At the shelter, she was put on an antibiotic and was well enough to be spayed Friday June 5th. DH brought her home Friday afternoon.

We are currently keeping the cats separated except when we are both there to watch them. Snowflake has the master bath and laundry room as her space for now. Dusty has the rest of the house except for the bedrooms, library, and train room. The door between the laundry room and the kitchen has a vent so that they can see and smell each other. They can also reach under the door. As a precaution, we have cut Dusty's claws fairly short and have dulled the tips of Snowflake's claws.

When they are together, Snowflake is mellow and usually ignores Dusty until he pounces on her. Then she either defends herself or runs to a defensible position (usually under the treadmill or a low table). Dusty seems to think that we brought him a new active toy. He starts by playing nicely but soon gets too rough. We are careful to separate them quickly when that happens. (We are especially careful as Snowflake has been spayed recently. She seems to be healing very well.) Usually DH will take one of the cats to the library with him while I have the other cat in the living room. We also sometimes put Dusty in the master bath/laundry room while Snowflake has the run of the rest of the house.

Snowflake does not seem to be afraid of Dusty. She is eager to be in the rest of the house. Snowflake seems to be happy to play with Dusty until he gets too rough. We are hoping that over the next couple weeks that Dusty will learn to play more carefully with Snowflake. Dusty seems to like Snowflake but possibly just as a toy or prey.

There are short periods of time while they are both quiet in the same room. They usually do not hiss or growl at each other. Snowflake has hissed at Dusty when he has been too rough. That has not seemed to have any impact on Dusty.

Questions:
Anything wrong with our approach?

Any additional suggestions on reducing or eliminating Dusty's biting in play?

Any opinions on whether two cats of differing sizes can learn to play together without one getting hurt? Snowflake is about a quarter the size of Dusty.
 

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Something that can work pretty well at times is an empty tin can (something like a soup can, not a flimsy aluminum beverage can) into which you put maybe 5-6 pennies. (I guess I should state that the can should be empty and cleaned and dried out, first? ;) ) Then the idea is that when the cat (or dog) does something you don't like, you toss the can onto the floor sort of near them (don't hit them with it!), preferably when they're not looking at you. The idea is that they then associate the annoying jangling noise of the can hitting the floor with the undesired behavior, but that it's not directly associated with you -- thus the attempt to toss it when they're not looking at you. This way they will hopefully avoid the unwanted behavior even when you are not directly monitoring them.

However, in this particular case I'm not exactly sure how confusing it might be to the smaller cat if you are only trying to provide negative reinforcement to the larger cat. Then again, in a half year or so, the smaller cat may have grown to the point where she can negatively reinforce the bigger cat by herself. ;)
 

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I think you're doing exactly the right thing.  Be very careful to watch them until Snowflake has completely healed, but I bet they'll be pretty much fine together after that.  I don't think Dusty thinks of her as prey, although a living toy might be accurate :)  Sounds like she is doing a good job standing up for herself, and Dusty will probably learn his limits with her before long.
 

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A squirt gun is effective too. Again don't let him see you shoot him. He does something bad, he gets wet...he will figure it out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
NogDog said:
Something that can work pretty well at times is an empty tin can ... into which you put maybe 5-6 pennies. ... Then the idea is that when the cat (or dog) does something you don't like, you toss the can onto the floor sort of near them (don't hit them with it!), preferably when they're not looking at you. The idea is that they then associate the annoying jangling noise of the can hitting the floor with the undesired behavior, but that it's not directly associated with you -- thus the attempt to toss it when they're not looking at you. This way they will hopefully avoid the unwanted behavior even when you are not directly monitoring them.

However, in this particular case I'm not exactly sure how confusing it might be to the smaller cat if you are only trying to provide negative reinforcement to the larger cat. Then again, in a half year or so, the smaller cat may have grown to the point where she can negatively reinforce the bigger cat by herself.
Thanks NogDog. I think I will do that when Dusty is biting DH (or DH could toss the can when Dusty is biting me). We won't need to worry about negative reinforcement in that situation. ;D

I am not sure how much growing Snowflake will do as she has very tiny feet and an adult body shape. However, at her current size, any growth will help. Even when she reaches her adult size, I suspect that she will be the smallest cat we have ever had.

BTackitt said:
A squirt gun is effective too. Again don't let him see you shoot him. He does something bad, he gets wet...he will figure it out.
BTackitt, unfortunately DH let Dusty see him shoot him with a spray bottle before we got Snowflake. (Dusty was biting DH at the time.) I will need to get a squirt gun and hide it from Dusty. Then when he sees that no one is near the blue spray bottle, that might help him associate getting wet with the bad behavior and not the spray bottle.

marianner said:
I think you're doing exactly the right thing. Be very careful to watch them until Snowflake has completely healed, but I bet they'll be pretty much fine together after that. I don't think Dusty thinks of her as prey, although a living toy might be accurate :) Sounds like she is doing a good job standing up for herself, and Dusty will probably learn his limits with her before long.
Thanks Marianner. After 35 years of living with cats, we were fairly sure we weren't doing too much wrong. However, we have usually adopted kittens or very young cats. This is the first time we have adopted a young adult (Dusty) with some fairly bad habits. It is the first time we have had such a size difference with young cats. Also, it has been over 15 years since we have had young, active cats.

We were surprised at how quickly Snowflake recovered from the surgery and anesthesia. Also, we did not need to keep her away from her stitches. I am not sure if that is due to her age, her temperament (very mellow), or veterinary improvements over the last 15 years. Even if Dusty starts behaving more gently toward Snowflake soon, we won't leave them alone together until after she is completely healed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Update: Dusty and Snowflake are getting along. It is still too soon to leave them alone together but they play together fairly well.

Dusty cries in the morning until we let Snowflake out so that they can play. Snowflake growls and hisses to let Dusty know when he is getting too rough. However he sometimes does not listen to her. He does pay attention when we use the spray bottle.  ::)

While they each have their own food and water dishes, they have eaten together from the same dish. Snowflake is eating as if she is trying to make up for growing time lost when she was a stray. She still weighs about 4 pounds while Dusty weighs over 14 pounds. (Weighing cats is not easy.  ;D)

As soon as Snowflake can consistently make Dusty stop, then we will feel comfortable leaving them alone together. It would help if Snowflake would grow a bit bigger.  :D
 

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You know guys, I could use some advice too... Three weeks ago, we took in a outside cat... His name is Andy, and he has been to the vet already... Here's the thing, we have 3 other cats... Sunny, Opie, and Sally... Opie and Sally don't get along with Andy... Sally goes after Andy, and Opie tags along with hissing and howling... Sunny tries to get along with Andy, however Andy is now challanging Sunny... Whenever Sunny is sitting on a stool, Andy goes after him, trying to scratch him with hissing... Andy has been staying in my room for the past 3 weeks... Got any advice for me?
 

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Whenever I've added a new cat to the mix, I've found that they work it out themselves.  I've always stayed out of it unless an animal was in danger of being hurt.  They need to know what is/isn't acceptable behavior though so that's where I come in (stopping the loud fights in the middle of the night usually)  As for Andy challenging Sunny, cats do that.  Andy has to find his place in his new family.  Sunny with either challenge him back or accept Andy as Andy wants to be accepted.  I had two cats that never got over challenging each other but they could still curl up together and take a nap.  I've had it take several weeks for cats to settle down so 3 weeks doesn't seem like a long time to me.
 

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"Snowflake is eating as if she is trying to make up for growing time lost when she was a stray. " <g> My daughter has a stray that was the same way. She referred to her cat as the Golden Garbage Disposal. She got over that, but it did take awhile.
 

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Snowflake is going to be one tough fighter.  I think its a matter of time before they find an equilateral approach to each other.  Dusty will get accustomed to having another cat as a partner eventually, and will ease off a bit me thinsk.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Hi MagicalWingLT,
I agree with imallbs. Let them work it out on their own when you are around but be there ready to intervene if it looks like one will get hurt. We were using the spray bottle/squirt gun approach and would have used the "pennies in a tin can" if spraying the larger cat with water had not worked. However, with two cats against one, you might need the help of a second person (or a bucket of water  :eek:) if the cats are truly fighting.

Is Andy staying in your room all the time or just at night and when you are not at home?
 

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I am so glad your 2 kitties are doing better together.:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
kevindorsey said:
Snowflake is going to be one tough fighter. ...
Kevin, I am not sure if Snowflake will be a tough fighter but she is already a clever one. When she knows that Dusty is likely to attack or when she wants to sleep, she either goes under furniture where she has more mobility and Dusty cannot use the leverage of his size or she goes to the top level of the cat tower so that she has the high ground.

Tippy said:
"Snowflake is eating as if she is trying to make up for growing time lost when she was a stray. " <g> My daughter has a stray that was the same way. She referred to her cat as the Golden Garbage Disposal. She got over that, but it did take awhile.
I am glad to hear that her eating is not unusual. I never expected that when we added such a small cat to the household that it would seem that the cat food requirement would more than double! Not only is Snowflake eating as if there was no tomorrow but Dusty is eating more (probably to make up for the extra energy he spends playing with/chasing her) as well.

bookfiend and Sugar, thanks for the comments. They are doing fine. Last night was their first night together.

About the only remaining problem is that Dusty want to groom Snowflake's face fur more than she wants. She growls and tries to get away. He holds her down and bites her head from the side. She gives up and puts up with it. The size difference is close to that of mother cat and kitten. Once, early on, Dusty was carrying Snowflake the same way a mother cat carries a kitten.
 

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His parenting behavior is not abnormal, especially if she seems like a baby to him.

We had a kitten literally drop out of the attic space, old military housing and feral cats gotta love it.  She was 4 weeks old and wild.  Our cat was 13 at the time, he took to bathing her and doing the lick thing to ensure she went to the bathroom.

Eventually though she snapped and he stopped.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Sariy said:
His parenting behavior is not abnormal, especially if she seems like a baby to him.

We had a kitten literally drop out of the attic space, old military housing and feral cats gotta love it. She was 4 weeks old and wild. Our cat was 13 at the time, he took to bathing her and doing the lick thing to ensure she went to the bathroom.

Eventually though she snapped and he stopped.
Thanks, I won't worry about his parenting behavior. (Other than cleaning up where he is getting rid of his hairballs of course. ::) It does not help that she appears to be a Himalayan and has long fur. ;D)
 
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