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Dominance and Territory Issues

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Some background information: I rescued a cat (Matty) from a neglect situation about 3 weeks ago. He's 9 years old, and a fairly large (16 pound) neutered male cat. While he's super cuddly most of the time, he's also a real scaredy cat due to his former situation. I have been slowly introducing him to my resident cat, Maddox, also a large neutered male cat. Maddox is 4 almost years old, I adopted him about a year ago, and he had the run of the condo. Maddox is a huge cat (23 pounds). When he stands next to Matty, his shoulders are at least an inch higher than Matty's.

When I got Maddox, he was in a community room at the shelter, so I know he can get along with other cats. And he seems to be getting along with Matty pretty well so far. Or, at least they usually sit around together and ignore each other. They're only allowed to hang out together while I'm in the condo, and I shut Matty in his safe room when they're fed (or Maddox will eat all his food), when I go to work and when I go to bed at night.

However, Maddox doesn't like when Matty comes out of the safe room into the rest of the condo. Matty's only tried it a couple time so far, and it usually ends with Maddox chasing him back into the safe room. Maddox has also been taking to biting Matty on the throat, which I understand is a dominance issue. A lot of the time Matty calmly submits to this, but sometimes he fights back and then there's a lot of screaming and all out brawling and it ends with Matty running away somewhere to hide. When either of these things happen, I kick Maddox out of the safe room, and shut the door.

A friend said I should just let them battle it out, but I'm scared Matty will get hurt. Maddox is literally a whole other cat bigger than Matty.

Is there something else I should be doing? Should I just let them fight with each other when dominance/territory issues come up? Am I just delaying the inevitable?
post #2 of 6
Originally Posted by tenorgirl33 View Post

I kick Maddox out of the safe room, and shut the door.
Hope you're kidding about the kicking thing.

You are right that it is a dominance/territory thing. But you have the advantage as they consider you the alpha because they behave when you are around. Next time Matty goes out of the safe room, if Maddox gets aggressive put him in the time out. Let Matty roam but not Maddox. If on the other hand Maddox behaves, then reward him. You are telling him that it's okay that Matty is out of the safe room. In time, Matty may no longer need a safe place and you can let them be together alone.
post #3 of 6
Sounds to me like you're doing this right. But there are some things you can do to help the situation.

1) Remember cats learn best by positive reinforcement. So praise Maddox a LOT when Matty's around and he's not attacking him or ignoring him, etc.

2) Buy some Feliway. It'll help everyone feel a little calmer.

3) Don't ever intervene physically to stop Maddox attacking Matty. Best to startle him out of it, easily done with a loud noise. We use coins in an empty can.

4) Get Maddox to associate Matty with things he loves and vice versa. This takes a little time, but is worth it. Get some rags (preferably washed without fabric softener). Rub Matty all over with a couple, rub Maddox all over with a couple. Put a Matty-scented towel under Maddox' food dish. Put a Maddox-scented towel under Matty's food dish. Give each of them "alone time" play - at least 10 minutes a day. Whatever they love. At the end of the session, put treats down on a Matty scented towel for Maddox, &etc. You get the idea.

We just had to adopt our seventh rescue, Billy (almost two). Our alpha, Lazlo (now seven), who has never had a problem with any kitty we've brought in, decided he did NOT like Billy. Thankfully he doesn't attack him, just yowls at him and rushes him. But Billy is a total "subservient" kitty and will NOT stand up for himself. Outside he was the most pathetic thing, and mostly had his tail between his legs. Same when we brought him inside. BUT... he loves other cats. He keeps trying to headbump all our cats, who are all pretty independent and think he's nuts. It is now 7 months later, and Billy is still trying to headbump Lazlo! We have focused on praising Lazlo up and down for not yowling at Bill when he's near, feeding them treats when Billy gets near and Lazlo doesn't try to stare him down or yowl at him, and we give Lazlo 5-minute "time outs" in the bathroom when he growls and lunges at Bill. We say "Lazlo, you don't need to be nice to Billy, but you at least need to ignore him," and we just pick him up and put him in the bathroom for five minutes, and don't look at him or anything, but just open the door when the five minutes is up.

It has worked. Lazlo more or less stopped yowling at Billy a while ago, though every once in a while he would still lunge at him as late as a couple of weeks ago. But yesterday, in fact, at dinner, we found Lazlo grooming Billy's head when they were all gathered around waiting for me to get their wet meal of the day ready (they free feed dry food, but we give them wet food for "dinner." ).

So yes, keep their interaction supervised for now. But work on the positive reinforcement with praise, treats, perhaps new toys that Maddox loves - let him think having Matty around is a total party! Get the Feliway, and work on the scent swapping, working off stress with play... and when necessary, give Maddox time-outs. You never know when things will change - it could be a couple of weeks, it could be a couple of months.

And OH! I almost forgot something really important - if you don't have a lot of vertical space, think about it. Consider building or getting some cat trees (you can build them pretty easily by of pyramiding rubber maid containers, cutting holes in them so they can get around inside of them too, and put kitty beds and scratch mats and stuff in them). Vertical space often really helps reduce the displays of dominance. And, of course, it gives kitties lots of fun space to run around on and play on. If you're handy, or know someone handy, it's not difficult to build and put up stuff like this yourself: http://www.katwallks.com/customerphotos.htm

It'll work out! And thank you for rescuing Matty. We have our own previously abused little girl - though she's been with us 6 1/2 years now, and she's 7 years old last month. (Her name is Spooky, but she is no longer Spooked by anything! ).

post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys!

I don't actually physically kick Maddox out. He's not phased by squirt guns or coins in a can (we tried those to keep him off the table), but he doesn't like the sound of canned air, so I usually blow it near his butt, and he runs out of the bathroom. I have a Feliway diffuser, but it doesn't seem to be working. It might just be that there's too much space for it to work (I have 14 ft ceilings). I think I need to try the spray...

I'll definitely work on the positive reinforcement.

I'm really happy I have Matty. I had been asking the guy (friend of a friend) to give me Matty for a couple weeks, and he was hemming and hawing about it, even though he obviously didn't really want Matty. I happened to be down there one day, and Matty went to the bathroom on the couch 4 or 5 times that day, and the guy said, "Just take it." Luckily enough, I had Maddox's carrier in the car, and I whisked him away. He seems much happier with me, even though he has to deal with Maddox.
post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 
UPDATE: Maddox spent a fairly good amount of time grooming Matty last night, while Matty purred away. This morning, Matty came all the way to the living room, and Maddox chased him back toward the bathroom, but didn't hiss at him, swat him or get in a fight with him. Both were sitting calmly in the bathroom when I got there. Progress!!
post #6 of 6
aw that's great progress! guess she just needed some time to adjust. i'm sure he give Matty more and more room as time goes on. nice to hear a happy ending!
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