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rescued mama cat hostile/guarding: help!

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I'm seeking input on a problem. 2 months ago a pregnant, starved cat arrived here and that night had 6 kittens. I fixed up a box and put it upstairs, then we blocked off the stairs, so the kittens have been upstairs the whole time. The mama cat has fought almost continuously with our 4 cats who are 8, 8, 3, and 2 years old, keeping them from coming upstairs, and chasing them at other times both in house and out. Things started to calm down significantly, but now the kittens are venturing downstairs. Now mama won't even tolerate our cats being on the couch when the kittens are downstairs, a truce we'd negotiated.

I am trying to decide what to do. We love and adore our original cats. They are being displaced, and it's now the rainy season and will soon be very cold, which means that it will be more and more of a hardship on them that they don't come into the house much. I had hoped as the kittens got older that mama would calm down, but I see we're just moving into a new phase. Our original cats haven't been upstairs in their accustomed places for two months, and they are not real happy with things. I'm at wit's end with this.

We had planned to keep her and the kittens. My husband loves mama and wants badly to keep her, and I'm very attached to all the kits. We have a potential home for 2 of them, and we're wondering if fewer kittens in the mob would help our original cats feel less displaced. Mama is getting spayed on Monday. Any chance this might help things? Any other ideas? (I'm angry with mama and wish she could miraculously find a home, not very likely but I'm not going to put her in a shelter.)

Thanks for your time.

post #2 of 13
I think you will find an amazing mellowing in momma's behavior once the kittens are old enough to care for themselves. Moms are extremely protective and are like little violent attack machines when they believe there is a potential threat to the kittens. So, when the kittens are a little bigger she will no longer see the others as a threat and will no longer attack.

With that said, I think the best thing for you to do is to lock momma and kittens in one room for half of the day and then lock the original cats in the room for the other half of the day. This will give all cats some freedome and will eliminate the aggression. As long as they have food, water, and a litter box in the room they will be fine.

Good luck!
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thank you for your assurance that mama cat will calm down when the kittens are old enough to fend for themselves. Question: When will she consider that they are so? They are 8 weeks old now.

We live in an open-plan house which means the only doors are on the bathrooms. This is part of why we've had to negotiate a truce with mama about the other cats using the downstairs and her the upstairs, which was working until the kittens started going down there. And it still does work unless the kittens go downstairs, which is not very often right now. I'm wondering if I should close off the stairs again so the kittens can't get downstairs, even though I had wanted them to get to know the other cats. Maybe it's too early?
post #4 of 13
I think mom will also calm down a bit once she is spayed. It will take a few weeks, but the hormone levels drop quite a bit. The babies are also very young at 8 weeks. I am really surprised you havnt had any of them pee or poop all over the house. I would just keep mom and kids upstairs until they are about 10 weeks old. When they are 10 weeks(If you can, 12 is better) you can let the kittens be away from mom permanently.
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
Ok. I've put the barrier back up so the kittens can't get downstairs. Mama will still be able to get up and down but that situation was calming down before the kits started going downstairs too, so this might just be an important part of the answer, till they are 10 or 12 weeks old. Thanks.

Love the little critters. Only 3 of them have ventured downstairs so this is still a window of opportunity.

post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
About peeing and pooping: Mama cat would not toilet the kittens. I realized when they were a week old that she was not licking them at all. I got some advice from our vet's assistant and wound up toileting them myself, which meant until they got litter trained at 40 weeks old I was up several times a night. One of the kittens was the perfect little dear and took to the litter with ease; her example got the rest of them going on it. For the next 2 weeks they also used my dirty clothes pile to pee, but fortunately their urine was still basically scentless and by the time I realized where they were doing it and did laundry, there was not another problem with it. I lucked out on that one.

Another odd behavior of the mama is that from the earliest days she would carry one kitten off to my closet or other destination and nurse it alone for an hour or so, which is fine except she never once brought a kitten *back* to the box. I just got in the habit of counting kittens and checking the closet on a regular basis, and when the kitten in question was panicked and crying I would show it to mama and say, "see, you upset your baby!" and carry it back to the box, soothing it, and she did eventually stop. On one occasion she took 3 of them outside but finally showed me where they were after about an hour of my begging her to tell me. A few days later one was missing and it became clear it was outside; mama wasn't telling and apparently had warned the kitten to stay quiet because it took 18+ hours of calling every few minutes for the kitten to answer and crawl out of the leaf-covered drainpipe. She is closely bonded to me, that one.

We did of course then lock the cat door closed.

I haven't had a litter of kittens in the house for many, many years, and I don't remember that other mama cat doing odd things like this. I did get the feeling maybe this mama cat was trying to get rid of some of them, as she seemed genuinely overwhelmed by having 6, but on the other hand she clearly does love them, and now that they are mostly weaned she's having tons of fun with them.

Thanks all, for your input.

In case anyone is wondering, in California there is special funding for spaying and neutering stray animals and their offspring, in order to facilitate population control and to make it easier to do rescue work. So all the neutering and their first shots will be paid for by the state, which is of course a huge blessing. I don't know if the money is a private endowment or if it is publicly endowed.
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
I wanted to thank you for your previous input and to let you know that, despite my husband's attachment to the momma cat, we have found a (very) good home for her, because the hostilities with our existing and very precious cats simply did not appreciably improve despite all our efforts including employing an animal communicator to come here. I was able to talk with my partner about the fact that most of the experts agreed that finding a home for Momma was the best course, but I didn't do that until he became completely frustrated with our older cats' being displaced. Momma cat just left today to live with our wonderful landlord, and the kittens are now 11-1/2 weeks old. We plan to keep the kittens.

My current questions are: Is there anything in particular I can/should do to help the kittens adjust to the sudden change of no mama cat? Is there anything in particular I can/should do to help our older cats to understand that momma cat is gone and the kittens are now free to develop relationships on their own? Anything in that vein I should do for/about the kittens? Anything else occur to you that might be helpful?

All the kittens will be spayed/neutered when it's time. I'm expecting that to be early-mid January when they'll be 4+ months old.

Thanks again for your input. I'm not usually so nervous about cats but the arrival of momma/kittens has been a big change and while joyful, has been a stressor at times as well.

post #8 of 13
I am glad you found another solution for the momma cat. It was probably the best for momma and your cats as well.
With the kittens, at 11.5 weeks they will adjust fine. They really wont miss much having each other to play with. LOL, Nov 12th I finally let my momma out and the kittens stayed in the nursery. On the 17th of Nov my kitten had his 2nd kitten booster and came out as well. Holey cow did momma hiss at him and he had no clue who she was.
I don't think I would be too worried about the kittens and your cats now. They are all young enough that they will get the usualy hisses and spits and then the older cats will just let them know who's boss. I would do a few supervised visits with all of them before you let them roam all over the place. Without mom there, they wont feel such a threat.
Make sure and let us know how it's coming along!!
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
I've ordered a product called Feliway which will help take away the mama cat's scent. I know this will help my older cats. I brought two of the older ones in, one at a time, for a few minutes today. They left shortly, but it was a start. They have heard me tell them that the mama has left for good, but I'm not sure they believe it yet.

As for mama, I cried with joy when I found out she went off to her new home happily. The 2 times I had to put her in a carrier, she fought like crazy and hurt the skin on her nose thrashing against the bars of the door. Today, we gave up on the carrier and my husband just took it with him, along with mama cat. Her new owner picked her up down in town. My husband told me that he held her for a while and talked to her, telling her not to worry, she was going to a good new home. He lifted her up off his shoulder and she slipped herself easily into the carrier. Her new person, our landlord, called later, pleased to report that the 5-hour trip down to the city was a breeze, that she just slept in her carrier the whole time. She'll be the only cat with a 3-story house to patrol.

post #10 of 13
I am glad this worked out so well. Yippee!
post #11 of 13
What a wonderful ending to your story! (or should I say beginning?)

Its great that you were able to find a good home for Momma, hopefully now your other cats will be able to return to their "rightful" places in the home.

You're keeping all 6 kittens? WOW! If I'm counting right that will be 10 cats in the house....I'm jealous! :LOL:

Good luck, and let us know how things are going.
post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 
Yes, that's 10 cats At one point there were 7 cats here and all the cats were ecstatic because it achieved some kind of critical mass. I'm hoping now that mama has found her own place that we'll have something of that nature again.

It's interesting at one point I decided I was keeping them all because I was constantly worrying about who I would keep and I found that very upsetting. It was really interfering in my enjoyment of the kittens. But, one of the males is a (big-hearted) kingly sort, and I'm afraid he might wind up in conflict with our existing king of the house, Moon, who is 8 years old and big-hearted but nevertheless I worry about this. When I finally figured Rex out, which took a while because he has been the least physically mature, I realized he was already particularly bonded with one of the females and that he probably needed his own domain. Then I put that aside and decided I had to keep them all. Now I'm reconsidering.

Anyone have feedback about keeping a to-be-neutered alpha-male kitten when there's already an older (neutered) alpha male in the house? I'm seriously considering finding a home for the pair of kittens, together. The other two males in the group are betas and I'm sure Moon will enjoy them. Rex I'm less sure about.

Maybe I'm worrying for nothing?
post #13 of 13
You know, its really hard to tell until they are all settled and the kittens true personalities come out. We are a family of 11 right now plus the dog. I have trouble with my 2 Manx cats and beating the rest of them up. That is really the only trouble I have had. We have decided to only bring in kittens from now on because the transition is so much easier. If they seem to interact okay once they are familiar with each other, then it more than likely will be fine once they are grown.
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