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A Patient Story, Troubled Tom and the Behavioural Puzzle of Multi-cat Households

Did you realise one of the many skills our nurses possess is an understanding of feline behaviour? Our Head Nurse Kelly went the extra mile for our patients, building on an interest in all things feline to study for her feline behaviour diploma. Here Kelly shares with us one such case study in the complicated world of feline frustrations.

Around April 2019 I saw Tom the cat for a nurse consult. Tom’s owner was concerned about his hostile behaviour towards his furry friend Tara (at the time 3 cats were living in the household). Tara and Tom never saw eye-to-eye. Tom would bully Tara, attacking her when she used the toilet, blocking her from her resources and in general making her life a misery.

Mrs Brown was forced to contact me at SimplyCats for advice. I had just recently completed my behaviour diploma and was excited to be able to put my new knowledge to the test. So, I asked the owner to complete a questionnaire and draw me a floor plan. These are important to determine what type of behavioural advice an individual household will require.

As it transpired, some resources needed to be moved and more resources added to the environment. Tara was bullied particularly in the hallway in between territories (Tom and Tara's crossover). I asked Tom's owner to move Tara's litter tray because this was in Tom's territory. He spent most of his time downstairs, whilst Tara spent the majority of the time in an upstairs bedroom.

All the cats were fed together. Although this wasn't contributing to the problems, it was advised that this would need to be stopped. Potentially this could cause conflict for resources and make hostile interactions between the cats worse. I advised that Tara should have resources upstairs which would prevent her from having to come downstairs until hostilities were resolved.

Mrs Brown added in resources to ensure that each cat had their own, plus an extra for choice. This would alleviate tensions with competing for litter trays, water and food bowls etc. I also recommended all cats had access to enough resting and hiding places to retreat to if feeling particularly threatened.

Time had passed with minimal outbursts. Unfortunately, tensions grew high again and relationships became fraught. As is often the case with complex feline behaviour issues relating the multicat households, after an initial ceasefire anxiety levels soon crept up again. Old behaviours began to re-emerge and it was apparent further intervention was needed. So, the owner had no option but to separate Tara and Tom (who now lives with her daughter). Tom was enjoying the bachelor life so much, he could come and go as he pleased. It was purrfect. That was until he found a new love interest and he has since been besotted with her, he can't do enough for her and really enjoys her company.

It should be noted that first aid behaviour advice doesn't always work, and on occasion, a referral to an accredited behaviourist must then be discussed with the owner. In some instances like Tom's case, separation is a valid option to reduce conflict and improve the cat's overall quality of life.

If you would like to book a behavioural consult with Kelly please contact the clinic


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