Dear Doctor - February 2016
Frisky kitten vs. older cats
Q I need suggestions on making the transition of a nine-month-old male kitten into an established household of two adult cats. An abandoned stray that I found, Stormy has been neutered, received his appropriate vaccinations and tested negative for feline HIV and leukemia.
I have been keeping him separated from my older cats in the hopes that he will eventually calm down. I give him access to half the house at least two times a day for exercise and for one-on-one play with me. I put a Feliway diffuser in his room about a month ago, hoping it would calm him down — but he still chases and jumps on the other two cats. They really do not like his aggressiveness and I don’t want any serious fighting to develop. The adult male does not want to fight and the female just wants to be left alone. Stormy does not growl or hiss, but I am not sure how much of his behavior is strictly play.
Any helpful hints would be greatly appreciated. I know that you’ve suggested Hogmate in a previous letter, and I was wondering if that or something else could deter his aggression toward them.
A Dear Nancy: It sounds like your newcomer is quite a handful. It may be that even if you engage the classical approach of introducing them all gradually across a closed door and then a screen, he may still be more rambunctious than your resident cats can handle without stress. Perhaps if you let them in the same room together for short, supervised sessions with plenty of distractions around — e.g. food, treats, toys — then the newcomer may become less excitable around his new housemates and may generally settle down. Nothing is guaranteed, mind you!
Hogmate — an aerosol spray containing the pheromone androstenone — might work (rubbed onto the rump of the female every other day) if sexual aggression is involved (the young male chasing, pouncing on, and biting the neck of your female cat). It may even help reduce aggressiveness if sexual aggression is not involved — but that’s a long shot.
One can hope that the newcomer’s “aggression” is merely play and that the others cope with it during his remaining kittenhood by removing themselves from his reach. To facilitate their ability to take care of themselves, you should provide plenty of places for them to run to, hide in, or escape to — including boxes, cardboard tunnels, and/or an elaborate cat condo/cat tree). In time, things may work out for them all. We certainly hope so!
Nicholas Dodman, BVMS
Animal Behavior Clinic Director
Cummings School of Veterinary
Medicine at Tufts University