Service Cats: Reintegrating the Scared or Bullied Kitty
MeeeeeOW Welcome to another Service Cat Monday. We’re really excited today. We got some great questions last week, so we’ll be addressin’ some issues that can happen in any household includin’ those with Service Cats. So far, the sun is shinin’ here, so we’re gonna try to get our visitin’ caught up today. We welcome all your questions, comments and suggestions, so purrlease leave ‘em in the comments section, or send us an email. As with all our Service Cat postys, the followin’ will be written in human English fur translator and reader ease. Our trainin’ posts aren’t meant to be a step by step trainin’ manual, but rather tips, tricks and techniques used and/or developed by mommy throughout her many years of trainin’ animals, cats in purrticular. Trainin’ is all ‘bout Repetition and Rewards. And remember, Rewards don’t always have to come in the form of food. Mommy purrfurs the Love reward system when training any animal, including food motivated dogs. Ifin you’ve missed any of the posts in this series, you can ketch up by clicking the links below. Now, let’s get to the questions.
First, because it’ll only take a few sentences, we’ve been asked why mommy prefers “Love Rewards” over “Treats”. The answer is pretty simple. Mommy realized she might not always have a treat handy, when she needed the animal to perform a certain command, but wanted to be able to reward the animal just the same. And when she started training cats, she learned really quick that not all cats are food motivated. In fact, for every one cat that is, there are nine more that aren’t. Those of you in multiple cat households have probably experienced this yourselves. And besides, who doesn’t want a little extra loving?.
Our second question today comes from our sweet friends, The Tribe of Five at Feline Opines.net. Their sweet Jasmine had been bullied by a previous kitty in the home. Because of that bullying, she lives sequestered in her own part of the house now. When we read that comment, it made us all cry. We know several kitties that live sequestered for a variety of reasons, and it always makes us sad. Let me be clear!!! We know these kitties are well loved in their respective homes and aren’t being “locked away” or sequestered out of meanness or to punish them. Kitties should NEVER be locked in a room for punishment!!! For that matter, Kitties should NEVER be punished. Never the less, it makes us sad to hear about a kitty who doesn’t have the run of the house, and the companionship of all their family members whenever they want. Jasmine’s lady human is really sad about this too. The bully kitty is no longer in their home, but Jasmine is still terrified and when brought out of sequestering, fearfully runs back to her “safe place”. Some of the kitties go and visit with Jasmine in her “Safe Place”, but she doesn’t want to join them out in the rest of the house.
Their question was, Would our training help Jasmine reintegrate back into the family and the whole house? In a word, YES!!! But of course, anybody who has ever been owned by a kitty knows, nothing is ever that simple in a kitty’s mind. So, what and how can they help Jasmine? Mommy says the first thing humans should remember, is that kitties can smell about 14 times better than humans; and scent lingers. No matter how long “bully kitty” has been gone from the home, it is possible for his/her scent to still be present in the house. Mommy recommends deep cleaning everything possible to neutralize the scents in the home. It’ll be kind of like starting fresh. Mommy loves steam, because it’s basically free, can be used on most surfaces and also kills bacteria. Now that you’re starting over, you go back to the beginning and play lots of “Scent Me Up” with all the kitties.
Do Not wash your hands, face, hair or clothes until after you’ve spread your scent as well as all the kitties scents on everybody/kitty in the house. Mommy also recommends wearing something you can live without for a while, because you’ll want to leave those heavily scented clothes with the sequestered kitty afterwards. We love the “Scent Me Up” game and play it several times a day. This helps to form a stronger bond with everybody/kitty involved. Now we’ll be honest and tell you, we’ve not had any luck with those Pheromone plug ins, sprays, collars or drops, but many people have, so if you’d like to implement their use, feel free to try them out. We would be interested in learning in how they work if you choose to use them. Mommy did find a spot on called Beaphar Calming Spot On that worked somewhat on me. They come 3 spot ons to a box and each one lasts a month. (We’re not being paid for mentioning Beaphar, we’re just trying to offer helpful ideas).
The true goal here is to boost the self confidence of the bullied kitty. Mommy says you should make a small out of the way “Den/Hidey Hole” in the Living room, or whatever room the family traditionally congregates in your home. A carrier with the door off/open and towel over the top, is great. A closed box with a small opening cut out is also a good choice. A second “cubby” should also be placed in the sequestered area. Don’t forget to continue to play the “Scent Me Up” game every day. You can’t over play “Scent Me Up”, so have fun. Next you’re gonna want to swap sites and kitties. If at all possible, move the scared kitty in their “Cubby” to the open area and put the rest of the kitties in the “Sequestered” area. Don’t forget to close that area off, so scared kitty can’t get back in. Altho’ it sounds kinda mean, you’re forcing scared kitty to recognize there is nothing to be afraid of (anymore). The big bonus is that the other kitties are spreading their scent all over the “Sequestered” area.
A well adjusted, self assured kitty will have no fear
being in the middle of a room.
Whether scared kitty comes out of their “Cubby” or not, talk to them as if they were right in your lap. Hopefully, they’ll be there soon enough. Start with an hour and work your way up from there. If scared kitty likes treats or some kind of special food, or nip toy, give it to them while they’re in the congregation spot. If kitty’s still inside their “Cubby”, place the treats or food right in front of the “Cubby”, so they’ll have to at least stick their head out to eat. Same with the toy, place it right in front of the “Cubby”. And when allowed, give them lots of extra love. Do Not intrude on kitty’s “Safe Space” to pet them. Gradually allow one kitty at a time to join Scared kitty in the congregating spot. Mommy recommends when possible, that the first kitty should be laid back. Change out the scented clothing at least once a week.
Once scared kitty starts coming out of the “Cubby”, give them love and engage them with interactive play. Wand toys, feathers, mice, or whatever toy is preferred by kitty should be used. We’ve gotta tell you, those nip bubbles are great fun. Each kitty is different, so we can’t tell you how long this will actually take. But, remember, you must be consistent and do this every day. Work your way up to more and more play and feeding in the congregating spot and less and less fun and food in the “Sequestered” spot. If scared kitty hates getting their claws trimmed or brushing, make those the things you only do in the “Sequestered” area, so kitty associates the congregating spot with nothing but good things. And always remember, training is all about Repetition and Rewards. The pay off will be a smart, self assured happy kitty and home. We meowed a lot about the “Scent Me Up” game today. You can find the explanation/instructions in our Training Foundations post (link below).
Close da box so I’s can hide. MOL
We’re gonna call this a wrap. We do hope this helps some of you. And ‘member, you can ketch up on any posts you may have missed by clickin’ the links below. We’ve got some great things comin’ up fur ya’ this week, so stay tuned. We’ll be addressing another reader question next week, so mark your calendars. You don’t wanna miss it.
Till the next time……………………………………….Be Blest!!!
Luv and Hugs and Kitty Kisses
Deztinee and RaenaBelle