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New cat chasing resident cat

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Hello everyone,

This is my first new post here, and I'm so happy to find this site (I'm sure my vet is too because they're probably tired of getting my anxious phone calls to answer questions).

Three weeks ago, I had to put my 19 year old baby, Bud, to sleep because he had either a stroke or a brain tumor. I have another cat named Pumpkin who has been with me (and Bud) for 7 years. He's 8 years old, domestic short hair, ginger and white, neutered. Bud was very dominant, but Pumpkin fit in because he's not really. Pumpkin is VERY loving, sleeps with me every night and lots of the time when I'm watching TV or reading he's with me and lets me kiss him on the forehead and cheek and likes to cuddle a lot (until he gets overstimulated and slaps me, but I've learned to see that coming). Pumpkin and Bud weren't buddy buddy, but they definitely tolerated each other with only the occasional play spat (circling each other and staring, they never hurt each other).

Five days after having to put Bud to sleep the vet gave me Aspen. She's a very confident 2.5 year old long-haired mostly white little girl with orange tufted ears and a big fluffy orange tail and blue/lavender eyes. She's very friendly with people, loves to be groomed and likes play time and being petted, but spends a lot of time on the screen porch alone watching the birds and squirrels. I took her because Pumpkin's a cat that seems to like other cats and I thought he'd be lonely in the house all day by himself.

I didn't take it slow with the introduction like I should have because of my own impatience so I kept her separated in my bedroom for 1 night and then let her out into the rest of the house that morning. For about three days she hissed at Pumpkin but it never escalated into a fight or chasing. He seemed very curious about her and would approach her meowing and chirping. She would hiss when he came within 2 feet of her but would stop when he backed off.

After three days I finally saw them approach each other without her hissing and they even smelled noses (and bottoms tentatively) so I thought everything was going to be great. Up until the time that she no longer hissed I kept her separate from him when I wasn't home.

Well, for the last 4-5 days of so, she's been intermittently chasing him. It mostly looks like she's playing but I'm not sure, and he runs (albeit not too far away) and once she stops I see him follow her wherever she's going at a distance so I don't think he's too overly scared, but when she chases him he looks confused. I'm not sure why since he used to chase Bud's sister, Velvet, mercilessly so you'd think he'd recognize this behavior in Aspen.

Usually she'll see him across the room, hunch down and start wiggling her bottom and then take off after him. Pumpkin is sometimes not paying attention until she gets right up on him and then he runs a distance and she usually stops for a second but then she'll start up again as if she's stalking him (peeking around and under furniture looking for him before she chases). I'm glad that he doesn't run completely away, but he looks confused and wary after she does this. I'd hate it if, since he was here first, he became really nervous in his own house.

As far as I can tell there's been no injury to either of them, but just this morning she did it after he had come in from outdoors and he shortly requested to go back out, perhaps to get away from her (an aside - he's back in now after about 30 minutes outside). That concerns me to. When this isn't going on, they are often out on the screen porch together coexisting peacefully.

The first time it happened was right after I had a handyman here to put in cat doors for the first time, so the vet said it might have just been displaced aggression, but since then it happens with no provocation at all. The first time it ended in hissing, so I separated them for the day while I was at work and let her out in the evening and everything was ok including an episode of nose smelling between the two.

Do I have anything to be worried about? I just don't want Pumpkin to be afraid in his home and to become depressed or anything. I wish he would just chase her back, but it doesn't seem to be in his nature or maybe because he's older. Is this just Aspen still acting like a kitten? Her demeanor when she's doing this seems partly playful and partly aggressive. Do you all think this is likely to escalate?

Any advise would be appreciated.

P.S. While writing this, I heard growling from the screen porch and discovered that the neighborhood bully, Hobbs, was on the other side of the screen and he and Aspen were staring at each other. She was very excited with her tail thrashing back and forth. Pumpkin went out there (although I tried to get him not to) and so did I to referee. She came towards him but they initially just briefly smelled noses. Then he went further into the room and she went towards him and became a little aggressive and lunged at him. He jumped up on his little bench where he likes to sit and she left him alone, but again, he's looking at her with a very wary look in his eyes. Please help. I like her very much so would hate to have to give her back at this point.
post #2 of 16
I sounds to me like she is just playing. The butt wigggle is a sure tell! Coco and Toby have been together for a full year now and they still haven't gotten their play signals worked out. It will be clear to me that one is chasing the other just in play but the chasee acts like he/she isn't so sure it is play. Your two haven't been together very long, give it some time. As long as they aren't fighting I wouldn't worry.

I understand your concern about Pumpkin though. I tried to adopt a cat once that turned out to be quit territorial. She kept poor Zara cowering under a cabinet all the time. With her it was obvious that she wasn't trying to play. I had to rehome her. I really don't think you should be thinking along those lines yet. It can take several weeks, even months for cats to get used to each other.

Good Luck!
post #3 of 16
Thank you for giving such a thorough description of what is happening. It is very helpful indeed!

I've experienced the wiggle butt and somewhat "stalking" behavior you describe, in some situations with foster cats with my cats (like Pumpkin, pretty laid back). I know it can be very intimidating for the cat who is getting relentlessly stalked and stared-down. Does it seem to you like both, or just play aggression?

In my situation I ended up separating the foster cats in question from my cats. These were two separate situations and in both cases the foster cats were male, younger, very nice cats but just too alpha.

You mentioned you have playtimes, and it is good that you are doing this for them. Involving both in play together and reinforcing togetherness and healthy play with treats when they are close to each other will help them accept each other too.

I am wondering if there is any particular time where you see Aspen doing her stalking, i.e. first thing in the morning or in the evening after dinner and before bedtime (when most kitties want to play). If so, maybe you can preempt it and schedule a playtime with both cats (before the stalking starts) calling them by name and inviting them to stalk a peacock feather or string on a stick that you pull away. I am thinking Aspen may chase it through the house. There is a fishing pole device with a toy on it too that could work. Also a laser light sounds like a good toy for Aspen.

Also, if I were you I would continue to closely observe this behavior and assess if it is a true pattern - a favorite game that Aspen has picked up along the way in a different life, and likes to play at Pumpkin's expense. You mentioned a combination of play and aggression. I have seen this too and I know what you mean. If you feel it is out of control, i.e. you are seeing Pumpkin really stressed (he meows and wants to climb up to higher things or leave the house for long periods, or he begins to leave his poo uncovered in the litter box, etc.), you might want to try sounding a blaring horn or some other event disruptor when you see Aspen in action. The tricky part is that the cats cannot know that it comes from you.

On the bad side it will scare Pumpkin more, but on the good side it will negatively reinforce Aspen's behavior. You will need to be consistent. I would only do this if the other interventions do not work.

Two things to keep in mind: First, if you do the playtime intervention it has to happen before Aspen goes after Pumpkin or else she will attack or stalk him whenever she wants a peacock feather or toy. Second, you mentioned putting Aspen with you in your bedroom initially. You need to make sure Pumpkin retains his first place in the pecking order so that Aspen sees he is number one. Also it is important for Pumpkin. So I would make sure Pumpkin gets the bedroom if there are separations, make sure Pumpkin gets the first treat when they are distributed, make sure they are both in the play sessions and use both their names equally. Otherwise Aspen will take your lead. She does sound like an alpha kitty so it will come naturally to her.

I hope this helps. I think there may be a behavior specialist on the forum currently (haven't been here in a little bit so I'm not sure) and if so you might want to look at the forum areas for it and see if you can post there too.
post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 
I'm glad you considered my post "thorough" because I was worried it was way too long.

Thank you both for the very helpful (and reassuring) responses. I haven't really noticed a pattern to when she does this, seems to be when he comes around her at very variable times, sometimes she just ignores him, sometimes they smell noses and sometimes she chases. When she does the wiggle butt thing, I feel like it's pretty obvious she's playing, but some of the time she doesn't do this - she just sees him and goes after him, sometimes staring him down first. Fortunately all she's done so far is to sort of rise up on her haunches and gently slap him with her front paws. I don't even think she's really using her claws. But, you can tell it gets on Pumpkin's nerves at the least and makes him really nervous at the worst, but he keeps going back to wherever she is right away, so he must not be too freaked out yet (but him getting freaked out is exactly what I'm trying to avoid).

Unfortunately, Pumpkin is not much of a player, so he doesn't repond to playing with the feather like Aspen does. He'll sit there and watch, but doesn't join in and when I try to play with him alone, he trots away (he's such a chicken). So the play sessions are with Aspen only. He also isn't very motivated by food, so giving them both treats together isn't really an option. He's really a strange cat.

Just to clarify, when I kept Aspen in my bedroom, I slept out on the sofa with Pumpkin (something I often do for some reason anyway). It's easy to give him the most attention because he comes and requests it. She does a little, but not nearly as much.

I've been brushing her and then him (he doesn't even really like to be brushed, but he let me do it today), and I think I'm going to step up this scent mixing thing. I'm really worried that I introduced them too fast and that is what's causing this problem.

The bullhorn sounds like a good idea, but this is a cat who when I had the handyman come over the other day watched him as he used the power drill, power saw and vacuum without even flinching from only a few feet away, so I don't think it will scare her and probably will scare Pumpkin more.

My main concern is that Pumpkin not become uncomfortable in his home. She hasn't hurt him yet, and I hope she doesn't because I'd have to give her back to the vet, and I do like her, but Pumpkin's my baby and comes first. I just wish kitties could get a long like dogs do.
post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
Oh, and mschauer, I just saw that you're from Houston. That's where I did my residency (and where my sister still lives) and is Pumpkin's hometown. He showed up at my door one evening and jumped in my lap and the rest is history.
post #6 of 16
Originally Posted by Ethiope View Post
Oh, and mschauer, I just saw that you're from Houston. That's where I did my residency (and where my sister still lives) and is Pumpkin's hometown. He showed up at my door one evening and jumped in my lap and the rest is history.
Then he must be a very fine fellow indeed! He obviously did the right thing in adopting you.

I hope everything works out for you. It really sounds to me like Aspen is just playing. She and Pumpkin may never be friends but given a little time hopefully they will learn to peacefully coexist. I hesitate to suggest this because it could just compound the problem but maybe Aspen needs a playmate other than Pumpkin. Maybe your vet has another cat that Aspen lived with before you got her? I can tell you, three is a great number for kitties!
post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 
I don't think she has another cat that lived with Aspen. Aspen ended up at the vet because she ate the Easter basket grass and developed an intestinal blockage and a very bad infection. Her owners were going to put her to sleep but the vet encouraged them to just turn her over to them and they did the surgery and have been looking for a home for her......then I came along.

Do you think in a situation like this the outcome is always bad? Could they develop even a friendship over time?
post #8 of 16
I think that the two cats are just playing and that if Pumpkin wants her to leave him alone that he will give her a sharp slap and be done with it. Cats, like all other animals will let another know when they are being rude or too aggressive.

They will be just fine.
post #9 of 16
That's great about you staying with Pumpkin. He knows he is the main kitty.

I agree with mschaur on the possibility of a third cat. We added a cat after our second one had more energy than our first kitty could handle. It worked out really well and indeed adding a third cat is amazingly easy if you are careful to get a good match between your two kitties.

In your case because Aspen is so alpha, I would look for one who can slap back and no hard feelings. It doesn't have to be a dominant or alpha personality, just super confident with high energy.

You do run the risk that Aspen likes this game of predator and will continue (new cat or not) so long as Pumpkin behaves like prey. Even though this may be play behavior from Aspen, the thing you need to watch, and what motivated you to post, is how it is affecting Pumpkin. I think you are right to continue to keep a close eye on it, all the while making sure the kitties do not see you and respond to your reinforcement unless you choose to reinforce.

If it continues and Pumpkin continues to be freaked out and reacts with the stress behaviors I mentioned earlier, or others, I would think about another disruptor if the bull horn does not work (it has to come out of the blue). Other things that some cats do not like are the sound of rustling plastic bags, the rattle of loose tin foil, and the ever-popular water spray bottle. On water spray it will be hard for them not to see it coming from you, but you may get lucky.
post #10 of 16
We recently introduced a new cat who sounds a lot like Aspen, right down to the physical description (although our Marlon is a red boy). We've been having a lot of the same issues as you. Marlon is very playful, and doesn't seem to grasp that enough is enough. We were very worried for a while because he bothered our original cat, Audrey, so much, and she spent a lot of her time avoiding him or hissing at him.

Things are progressing at this point, though. Audrey is better at standing her ground, and Marlon is calming down a little bit. Basically, since they weren't trying to hurt one another, we let them work it out. When Audrey seemed overwhelmed we would separate them. We also monitored her eating, litter use, etc., to make sure she wasn't stressed out. We keep a close eye on the situation, just in case, but we're pretty sure that with a bit more time they will work things out.

I don't know if it would be helpful or not, but my thread about this ongoing process is called Another Intro Thread.
post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone. Over the last few days she seems to be chasing him more and more and it doesn't seem like playing (even though she hasn't hurt him). For instance, this morning when he walked by her at about 2 feet she lunged at him and made him run. The thing that I can't stand is that he's asking to go outside a lot more and when he's walking around he's hypervigilant looking everywhere warily as he walks hoping that she won't pounce on him. She's also chased him out of the screen porch a couple of times. The thing is that he always comes back to where she is, so he doesn't seem completely terrified, but I don't like him feeling this way since he was here first. There's been no more of the wiggle butt stuff, this looks a lot like "just leave me alone." He does have a way of following her which is when she sometimes does this, but that just says to me that he does want a companion. With that said, I talked to the vet today and we're going to try Elavil to see if we can decrease her aggression. Pumpkin does that petting-slapping aggression thing which animal behaviorists now think is actually a dominance thing so he does have some dominant tendencies (he has no trouble hitting ME). So the vet thinks that he's more submissive than her but not submissive enough, so she keeps trying to assert her dominance to get him to leave her alone and he just won't do it. I must admit I'm right at the point of taking her back to the vet and getting another kitty I think will be more compatible with him because I want/need a peaceful household and the reason I got her was to be a companion to him. I'm going to a place called Wendy's Feline Friends on Wednesday where she keeps over 100 cats that need homes in a free-living type of arrangement where they're exposed to other cats, dogs, and people/children and she seems to know a lot about which of her cats seem to be the type that like and want another cat or not. I know this isn't fullproof because the two individual cats may not like each other, but I think it may give them a better shot. I'm not worried about Aspen if I do this because the vet will keep her until they find her the right home. It makes me a little sad because I do like her, but my first priority is my little Pumpkin.
post #12 of 16
I think you are doing the right thing. You are front and center and in the best position to assess what is happening and how it is affecting your Pumpkin. It is also very good that both you and your vet care enough to make sure both kitties have the best home possible. There is nothing wrong if it is not a match. Sometimes things just don't work out.

By the way, your vet sounds very insightful with the dominance competition possibility. I never thought about that, but that could have been what was happening when some of the fosters were stalking my main boy cat.

Good luck and let us know how it works out with another kitty! It sounds like you might want to look for a submissive female.
post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 
Actually, Wendy of Wendy's Feline Friends seems to think that another younger male may be a good companion for Pumpkin. And, he did seem to really like my Bud (the one I just had to put to sleep) at first, following him around like a lovestruck teenager, with Bud looking back at him like he was irritated. It was quite cute. But after awhile when Bud didn't seem as interested in him, the relationship turned more to peaceful tolerance. Eventually, (4-5 years after they first started living together) I finally saw them lay close to each other with parts of their bodies touching without anyone getting upset. But, by then Bud was pretty old and over it, and even that was him being a bit dominant because he would want to lay next to me where Pumpkin was so he would practically lay on him, then Pumpkin would try to squeeze between me an Bud so he could be closest. Flattering but not very comfortable for me.

It still breaks my heart to take Aspen back and I still think I'm praying for a miracle, but if tomorrow I go to Wendy's and fall in love with the perfect kitty, it may not be so hard. I'll keep you all posted.
post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 
I still have Aspen and I'm going to keep her, but she's back at the stalking/chasing thing again after a week of not doing it. She's not doing it as much (maybe once every other day or so) and Pumpkin runs but comes right back. I think she's playing because she never has her claws out and just kind of lightly swats at him when she reaches him. But, she may also be asserting her dominance. It does appear to make Pumpkin nervous, but like I said, he can't be too bad because he comes back. I was hopeful that it wouldn't start up again, but unfortunately it has.

I do have a question. I was considering calling this cat behaviorist whose books I've been reading, but her fee is $250 or more for 60-90 minutes. That's a lot, and I don't want to pay it if this is something that only I'm making a big deal about or that will resolve on it's own, perhaps once Aspen gets a little older. I even thought of getting another younger cat so Aspen will have someone to play with, but I'm not trying to stress out Pumpkin anymore than he already is. Anyone have an opinion about this?
post #15 of 16
I think it would be worth the money to have a consult with the behaviorist. I did this once myself when I had a problem with one of my cats. I had to fill out a very detailed questionnaire about both cats, my house, the problem- basically a ton of background information. It turned out to be a useful experience.
post #16 of 16
Thread Starter 
Did she actually come to your house or was it a phone consultation? This one would be a phone consult. Did it end up fixing the problem you were having?
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