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Dinnertime Training for the Alpha Bully

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Disclaimer: This is not a request for advice. I am merely telling a tale about current dinnertime dynamics. I hope you'll enjoy!

The story:

It happened gradually, but one day I noticed that Ferris wouldn't come to dinner anymore.

He was still eating and drinking, and hadn't lost any weight, but when the kit's wet suppers were ready, I would call and call and call - and no Ferris. This was odd - Ferris is COMPLETELY food motivated, and for him not to come to dinner means something is really wrong.

I started to pay better attention to what was happening - tried carrying Ferris into the kitchen and put him in front of his food dish, but noticed that if he tried to eat, Max would literally shoulder Ferris out of the way and eat from Ferris' dish.

Ok, I thought, THIS cannot continue for very long.

I made Ferris a solid promise when I adopted him: That he would NEVER go hungry again, and that he would never have to scavenge for food. So to see that he was being forced to scavenge for food by eating the leftover wet from the other kit's bowls only after they were finished eating, well, that was completely unacceptable.

So about 4 days ago, I started a new dinnertime ritual. After preparing all four food dishes, I pick up Max's, and calling him, I head into the bathroom, where I put his dish down on the floor next to the sink on a little petmate half-moon mat, just for him.

The first night I had to carry him in and put him down, and although I gave him lots of praise, he did a lot of confused meowing after I shut the door on him. But shutting the door allowed me to feed the other kits in peace, without the alpha bully eating their food out from under them.

Ferris ate a tiny bit of his dinner, but was very wary, on alert for Max to come and take his food. After he'd eaten all he was going to, which wasn't much, I them let Max out, praising him for being such a good boy.

But part of me felt really bad, because I didn't want Max to think he was being punished for just being himself. I talked at length about this with a friend of mine, and she assured me that this wasn't punishment, it was TRAINING, and not to be manipulated by the little clownfaced alpha.

Evening #2, Max was really unsure about going into the bathroom to eat, but it's a room he does associate with good things, like watching the toilet flush and jamming his paw down the sink drain.

So I had to go pick him up and bring him in, but as I put him down in front of his bowl, I gave him TONS of praise, continuing as I shut the door behind me and went to feed the others.

Again, Ferris wouldn't come to the call so I brought his dish to him. He ate some, a little bit more than the night before, and when he was done, again, I let Max out, heaping excited praise upon him with extra scritches.

Last night was night #3, and this time Max came running into the bathroom with me as I brought his dish in - this is working so far, at least for him. Lots of praise, and NO meowing, although I heard him scratch at the door when HE was done eating.

This time, again, no Ferris coming to the call, so I sought him out and found him under my bed, and gave him his dish there. He shrank away from it, so I backed off and left him alone, and after a bit I peeked in to see he was actually eating.

I waited a while until he came out of my room licking his chops, and that's when I let Max out of the bathroom, again, with a ton of "good boy!" praise.

I am hoping that Ferris will start coming back to the kitchen soon, and that eventually I won't have to shut Max in, that he will learn that his bowl is HIS bowl, and that they'll all eat where and when they are supposed to without the little piggy bully shoving his way into Ferris' dinner.

Here's hoping this is the right solution!

Oh - and on a side note, Penny tends to sit in front of the closed bathroom door, facing it, when Max is in there. She just sits there, looking at it. I think it's kind of funny!
post #2 of 25
Thread Starter 
Max is totally down with eating in his "private" space. He comes running, makes no complaints, and finds ways to amuse himself before he gets let out again.

Last night Ferris watched me make dinner, but then ran into my room again when it was time to eat. However, this time he didn't hide away, and with a little bit of coaxing, settled down to eat on the floor just near the foot of my bed.

I think he's starting to get it that Max isn't going to bother him during dinnertime anymore, and every night there has been a little bit of improvement.

I think it's going really well so far!
post #3 of 25
Glad Ferris is coming back to eat with the others. And Maxie.... what a little devil you are!
post #4 of 25
Woohoo!!

And what does Penny think? Does she still wonder why she doesn't have a special place?
post #5 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jane_vernon View Post
Woohoo!!

And what does Penny think? Does she still wonder why she doesn't have a special place?
LOL, probably!

I do have to say, though, that since I got that cat wheel, she has gotten nicer and nicer to me. Just this week she has started calling for me and climbing into my lap for scritches!

I think we've passed an important point in our relationship. Hard to believe she'll have been with us for a whole year in May!
post #6 of 25
A year??? Really???

Wow, where has the time gone??

Thats great that the cat wheel is working out well

What does Ginger think about all the food arrangements and the bengal assertiveness?
post #7 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jane_vernon View Post
What does Ginger think about all the food arrangements and the bengal assertiveness?
Ginger is generally deferred to by all as the female alpha. Even though they know that she's a bit of a chicken - she tends to run from confrontation.

Max loves to jump on her to make her scream (he gets a kick out of it) but he does leave her be at dinner.

Ginger has been fed in a special place on top of the kitchen counter since we moved into this apartment in July, and it's working out well - plus she's smart enough now to stay at her bowl and eat as much as she can before she walks away from it, since each kitty that came after her has tried to steal her food.

And Max has really never bullied Penny for her food, either, though he'll eat from her dish when she's done and has walked away.

I think it's a guy thing, him bullying Ferris like that - standard cat group behaviorism, with the beta male being forced to wait until the alpha is done before being allowed to eat.

I know that Ferris was acting accordingly, but I did promise him that he would never go hungry or be forced to scavenge, so that's a promise that I plan to keep.
post #8 of 25
I started doing something similar several months ago with my two... Jack was bullying JoJo for her wet food... so to emphasize JoJo's alpha status, she got fed first, next to the dry food, and then Jack was around the corner down the hall... where they couldn't see each other (he bolts his wet food, she eats slowly) ... when we switched to the current meds (getting distributed in the wet food), I had to watch her... things started settling down... I brought him back out... now SHE'S bullying him... so back down the hall...

I'm glad Max is learning at least the first step to the process... Given Ferris' former life, I can understand his behavior... he's bouncing back beautifully, though... give that sweet orange boy a few kisses for me.

A.
post #9 of 25
Good news Betsy!

You're very inventive in ways to get everyone to co-exist peacefully.
post #10 of 25
Reading this makes me so glad to have two kitties that don't bully each other for food. They have their own bowls right next to each other and when they get their tuna juice treats, the both take a side of the plate to lap it up. (Although Tiger does take up a bit more room due to his size and fluffy fur, lol!)
post #11 of 25
Your kitties are so funny - they all have such different strong personalities! I'm glad it's all working out.

After Lily accidentally bumped her lip while trying to take a treat from DH she wouldn't trust us to handfeed her treats anymore - it's taken us about 4 months of "training" to get her to trust us again! I'm glad Ferris is able to eat fresh wet food again!
post #12 of 25
I'm so glad that its working out!

It makes me very happy that I can put down my boys 2 bowls next to eachother with no fuss
post #13 of 25
We do similar, as Radar isn't comfortable eating with Jacob nearby. Radar would come into the room for food, but only because he's hungry and he'd be looking over his shoulder the whole time - and that's just not fair. So Jacob eats shut in the bedroom and Sonic and Radar eat in the sitting room and Jacob isn't allowed out until the others have finished. Jacob now goes to the bedroom as he knows that's where his dinner will be taken.
post #14 of 25
i had to do something similar when Firefox was still teensy - because big brother Chip & big sister Cable would try to eat her baby food!
took a while after she got big enough to be fed with the others for her to get used to a new place - 'cause i stopped feeding her in the bathroom once she was big & brave enough to eat with the 'big cats'!
post #15 of 25
Thread Starter 
Ferris has always amazed me with his leaps and bounds in moving forward with trust and love. He seriously has one of the sweetest personalities in a cat ever, IMHO.

Last night Max put up a little fuss at being shut into the bathroom, as he was in there a bit longer last night than previous nights. So we had a lot of meowing, more like yelling, really. I just told him to quiet down and eat his dinner like a good boy.

The reason why he spent more time in the bathroom last night is because I decided it was time to try putting Ferris' bowl in the kitchen when it was ready instead of going to find him with it. I called and called him, and then put his bowl down and went into the other room to watch TV while they ate.

I peeked around the corner every few minutes, and at one point I saw Ferris heading into the kitchen.

He was still really skittish, but he ate in his regular spot last night!

He still didn't eat that much, and of course Max cleaned out his bowl for him as soon as he was let out of the bathroom (the food from someone else's bowl always tastes better, I guess, even if it is the same!)

Max is still an overgrown kitten, and I think that this behavior may fade out as he matures - but then again you never know. He is a nutty little bengal, after all.

Regardless, Ferris is coming back to the kitchen already and it's not quite been a week yet, so I know I've made the right decisions with this new routine - a couple more weeks and it should be smooth sailing.
post #16 of 25
Thread Starter 
Tonight Ferris ate in the kitchen again.

BUT - he ate all of Penny's supper and not one bite of his own.

Max ate a whole 5.5 ounce can of wet in the bathroom (I'm thinking, feed him a bit more, he's got that crazy high bengal energy and he'll just burn it off, right?)

But when I let him out of the bathroom, he immediately went and scarfed down the rest of what Penny had left of Ferris' food.

Oh my head, these overgrown kittens are certainly keeping me on my toes!
post #17 of 25
lol Teddy is an only baby. He eats when we eat lol. I could just imagine him if we got another cat. He would assume its all HIS food - even if it was split into 2 bowls lol.
post #18 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by GingersMom View Post
Tonight Ferris ate in the kitchen again.

BUT - he ate all of Penny's supper and not one bite of his own.

Max ate a whole 5.5 ounce can of wet in the bathroom (I'm thinking, feed him a bit more, he's got that crazy high bengal energy and he'll just burn it off, right?)

But when I let him out of the bathroom, he immediately went and scarfed down the rest of what Penny had left of Ferris' food.

Oh my head, these overgrown kittens are certainly keeping me on my toes!
I'm having a mini version of this problem with my two. Suddenly Stan has developed a ravenous hunger for anything in Bella's bowl. I know it's just territorial because the same amount of food put in his bowl will be sniffed, psuedo-buried and left

that you get it figured out...I'm currently playing musical chairs (food bowl addition) in my house...
post #19 of 25
Scratch was doing the same thing to 8-Bit for a while, and all we had to do was say, "Scratch! Wait!"

For some odd reason that got though to him, so now he sits behind 8-Bit and waits for him to be done.

As a side note I'm a huge sheep fan, so I'll have to go check this out.
post #20 of 25
Thread Starter 
Last night's dinnertime went a little smoother still.

Ferris was more visible during preparation and ate his dinner in the kitchen again, from his own bowl this time.

I heard less noise from Max, he did better than the night before. He ran connected to my right heel as I brought his bowl to the bathroom. And he scarcely noticed as I shut the door, as he was too busy chowing down to care.

Just under a week and it's already becoming the routine. Feliway is up and running in two rooms again and Ferris is acting more relaxed again.

So we'll continue like this and soon it will be a non-issue; Ferris is eating dinner when he is supposed to and I am proud of all my furkids.

Here is the lesson in my dinnertime training tale:

The trick to having very well behaved and loving kitties is to be firm but gentle in developing boundaries for them, being consistant and loving in reinforcing those boundaries. Use redirection rather than discipline and give them lots of positive attention.

Pay attention to their body language at all times, and learn to speak their language as best as you can, and they in turn will learn to communicate well with you. Understand why it is that they behave the ways that they do, and you will know how to respond to best meet their needs. So that they can meet yours.

These are the things my four dear little cats have taught me. I only wish I had been this wise when my daughter was a little one!
post #21 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by GingersMom View Post

Here is the lesson in my dinnertime training tale:

The trick to having very well behaved and loving kitties is to be firm but gentle in developing boundaries for them, being consistant and loving in reinforcing those boundaries. Use redirection rather than discipline and give them lots of positive attention.

Pay attention to their body language at all times, and learn to speak their language as best as you can, and they in turn will learn to communicate well with you. Understand why it is that they behave the ways that they do, and you will know how to respond to best meet their needs. So that they can meet yours.

These are the things my four dear little cats have taught me. I only wish I had been this wise when my daughter was a little one!
I wish all cat owners were as intuitive as you are. If everyone that purchased a kitten from us was like you, my contract would be one page and the phone calls and emails would just be about comparing funny stories.

Congrats Betsy!
post #22 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kai Bengals View Post
I wish all cat owners were as intuitive as you are. If everyone that purchased a kitten from us was like you, my contract would be one page and the phone calls and emails would just be about comparing funny stories.

Congrats Betsy!

Awww, thank you, Nial - that was a really nice thing to say! It made me feel really good.
post #23 of 25
Thread Starter 
Forgot to post this update earlier:

Feeding Max more wet food in the evening (he was getting 2.75 ounces now is getting 5.5 ounces all for himself) seems to be easing up his need to devour the rest of everyone else's dinner.

I guess his energy levels are just THAT much higher than the others? He's still basically a crrrrazy kitten at 13 months old, so I'm not going to worry that he's being overfed at the moment.

Ferris is happily eating in his old place in the kitchen with no more bother from that pesky Max. I feel badly that it took me a couple of weeks to notice and make the changes at feeding time, but I think Ferris forgives me!
post #24 of 25
WTG Betsy!!! Things will be back to normal soon. Well, as normal as it gets anyway,
post #25 of 25
Awww so glad Ferris is back to himself

Riley was spoiled on not finishing his meals all at once, because he could always go back in a few minutes and nibble and now that we are fostering Sebastian he has discovered that his leftovers disappear
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