I often wonder to myself what is it that makes me a cat person and why the very sight of a swishing tail, the complexity of those beautiful hypnotic eyes, and the softness of their fur brings me to a melting point. The reality is cats have always been part of my life from early childhood naming my first ever cat Cindy, Smudge the most affectionate cat I have ever owned and Lizzie who came to replace the hole in my heart Smudge had left from Cats Protection. They say cats pick their owners and well Lizzie definitely picked me as when we first met she was stuck to me like glue until the day I said goodbye to her. It then took me two years before I was ready for another cat, inevitable really after joining Cats Protection in April 2018 as a Manager how could I be without one.
In late November my friend came into the shop needing help to find her daughters kitten a new home as he was not getting on with her other cats. It is quite a common issue for cats to not be ‘cat-cats’ as they are naturally territorial and it can be difficult to introduce a new cat when other cats are present. There are a whole host of problems that can occur when you are introducing a cat to a multiple cat home, and it is important to get them right from the very beginning. Cats being territorial can often fight over food, human contact, toys and much more; but for the new cat who in this case was a kitten it can create a lot of stress and anxiety as I was about to learn after agreeing to adopt Milo a beautiful 6 month old Bengal Kitten.
Cats have varied personality traits that often present themselves from a young age with research depicting a model to identify 52 personality traits in cats called ‘The Feline Five’. A team of researchers have written this research based at the University of South Australia.
‘The Feline Five’ has identified five factors:
- Impulsiveness: erratic and reckless behaviour
- Dominance: bullying, jealousy, aggression towards other cats
- Agreeableness: affection, gentleness, friendliness towards people
- Extraversion: vigilance, inquisitiveness, inventiveness, playfulness
- Neuroticism: insecurity, anxiety, fear of people, suspicion, shyness
American Veterinarian – JoAnna Pendergrass
Milo had come from a territorial household and as a kitten had not really found his true personality being neurotic, agreeable and an extrovert in parts. Milo showed his insecurities and shyness although there was a lovely agreeableness in him and a willingness to accept affection, love, gentleness and a sneaky playful temperament so trying to balance him in an overly dominant household was always going to be hard.
As Milo settled in to life in my household it became apparent that some anxiety issues had taken hold of him; I discovered almost immediately he would urinate on bedding and on soft furnishing and during the first few days of Milo coming to live with us I had to restrict his access to areas within my home. I am not averse to allowing my fur babies to sleep alongside me and it would break my heart to hear him cry outside my room. It just seemed strange that I was not informed of these issues and it did become apparent he had been doing it for some time prior to my adoption but I was not about to give up on him any time soon.
There is always a why; a reason for any situation we find ourselves in whether that is logical or illogical we do things for a reason even in the animal kingdom so my challenge was to find a way to help him overcome his little problem. First thing is first I needed to figure out what was going on in little Milo’s head and I am certainly not a Cat Whisperer by any means but I have learned a lot over the last few months on trying to solve this issue. Logically speaking where did Milo come from and why did he come to me? The answer was glaring me in the face as he had come from a territorial household and one where he felt intimidated and unsafe so my mission was to make him feel loved, and safe. I also did not want to prevent him access to me, as I feared this might make him more anxious. Whenever Milo urinated on my bed he urinated around me sometimes whilst standing on me so the answer was he was claiming ownership of me; and his territory. I had to make him understand he already had me; ‘hook, line & sinker’ to coin a phrase and he was showered with as much affection as he wanted under his terms as he was still a little anxious. I cat proofed my soft furnishings and although my home might have looked like a vision of shrink wrap heaven having covered my soft furnishings and bedding in decorating plastic it meant that I did not have to spend any more of my free time at the Laundrette.
The next phase now was to make his litter boxes more inviting so I discovered an interesting product called ‘Cat Litter Attractant’ which is very similar to a Cat Nip of sorts and the smell attracts them to the Litter Box. I also combined that with three different litter boxes with different cat litters in and one with a towel to research whether he preferred a different footing underneath his paws from soft, pellet or stone. The final step was to prevent him from going to the areas where he had sprayed in the past by eliminating the risk so I carefully washed the areas that I had identified and purchased a cat odour neutraliser with a lemon scent that cats dislike.
It took patience, perseverance, and a combination of control measures but I am happy to say Milo is as content as any cat can be ‘PURFECT’ shall we say. I was never going to give up on him as all it took was a little hard work and some time for him to overcome his anxiety, and to realise he had a happy home; now all I need to stop is Milo trying to play with my toes as I sleep at night…